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Invite them in, for God’s sake

Also, besides mullahs teaching Muslims to live at theological peace with Hindus, the custodians of saints’ shrines could rethink letting women in close to the grave.

india Updated: Oct 10, 2008 22:42 IST
Renuka Narayanan
Renuka Narayanan
Hindustan Times

Isn’t it time we rose above past events and their wretched consequences? And what can a majority community do to make a minority one feel welcome? What can India’s second largest majority community do as their bit towards a genuine peace process? The biggest gesture I can think of is, please let us welcome each other properly to our House of God. Churches and gurdwaras have something to give Hindus and Muslims here.

Also, besides mullahs teaching Muslims to live at theological peace with Hindus, the custodians of saints’ shrines could rethink letting women in close to the grave. In small but significant steps? Perhaps have ‘Ladies Only’ hours at certain convenient times so that homebound women can properly visit the pir they cherish? It would be a huge positive signal to the public.

Likewise, I think civil society itself should nicely persuade Hindu temples to welcome those of other faiths. Let’s keep ‘foreigners’ out just now by all means, it will be too much to handle in one go and anyway, we have to sort ourselves out first, including letting women in at certain temples. But why can’t a Hindu temple let in non-Hindu Indians without making them sign odious slips that they’re actually Hindu? That’s how foreign researchers get in: most respectfully and politely, I’m sure, but who cares, their interpretations are usually not of much use to a believing and/or homeworked Hindu, are they?

A Hindu truly needs nothing but the Name of God. Going to a temple is more like having a place to go, where we can formally prostrate to God and enjoy the festive beauty of the space - if it’s a nicely maintained temple, that is. Since Hinduism is the hugest presence in India, don’t you think it’s our emotional duty to not be exclusivist but to welcome everyone in? They don’t have to kowtow or make offerings either, just see the arati, enjoy the flowers and sweet smells and eat heartily of prasad. Let’s trust people of other religions to behave in a mannerly way, just as churches and gurdwaras trust us. Politely worded ‘Do This/Do That’ boards would silently help.

And while we’re at it, let’s overhaul and circulate a ‘Panchsheel’ of temple maintenance and behaviour. The Acharya Dharmasabha, convened by Swami Dayanand Sara-swati of Chennai/Haridwar could manage this so easily: No plastic bags and noise pollution. Crowd control. No VIP tickets. No dirt and disorder. Dustbin manners.

Meanwhile, don’t you think in your heart of hearts that it’s demeaning and diminishing for Hindus to be paranoid? It’s like we still haven’t gotten over our history. We are a majority community with a minority mindset, which is bad news for everybody because ‘we’ set the national tone.

Whatever our religion, we can all profit by this Qur’anic ayat in which a person who incites another to violence is compared to Satan himself: Surah Fussilat 41:36 says clearly, ‘And if (at any time)/An incitement to discord/Is made to thee by Satan/Seek refuge in Allah/He is the One/Who hears and knows/All things.’ The theme of this Makkan surah is that the basis of faith is God’s power and goodness and the fruit of both is man’s healing. Troublemakers of every creed, quit India.

First Published: Oct 10, 2008 22:41 IST