Why I choose to be ‘communal’

Maverick: Why I choose to be ‘communal’

By Farzana Versey

Covert January 16-31

It ended in a rather unpleasant quarrel. He and I were both brought up in a liberal atmosphere where after the initial tut-tuts inter-sect and even inter-religious alliances were acceptable. Both of us lived what is called cosmopolitan lives. Our social meetings took place at ‘modern’ places, including pubs.

On one such day, as he tapped his glass of Scotch, he started discussing religion. He said, “I don’t give a damn about Muslims, they can do what they want, but the moment I hear anything against Islam my blood boils. I will not tolerate it.”

Seeing my impassive expression transform into some sort of disappointment, he asked me if I agreed.

“No. For me the Muslim matters more. People matter more. I do not understand your idea of Islam or that of others, which means there are several such ideas. So, which Islam are you talking about? The Holy Book? The Prophet? They do not need your support. Groups of people do.”

This brings me to the possibility of someone arguing that I am therefore ‘communal’. It is an interesting thought to not be religious but communal. We need to understand that on a macro scale. It is easy to say that there is nothing in common between a Muslim in Iran and a Muslim in Iraq, or a Muslim in India and a Muslim in Pakistan, or a Muslim in Saudi Arabia and a Muslim in Turkey, or a Muslim in Palestine and a Muslim in Bosnia.

One could further argue that if they are targeted in any manner it is due to their religious affiliation. True? Not entirely. Examples in societies clearly show that there are fissures within it. Nations may use the Shariah for jurisprudence but that is at the level of the ruling class.

Persecution and minorityism are the result of imperialistic religious attitudes – whether it is by Israel or America. These societies get away with it due to their superior position not in the ethical hierarchy but on the economic evolutionary scale. A rich sheikh just does not have the same legitimacy as a rich Jew; the former is seen as tautology, the latter as achievement.

Does it behove well then to invoke the name of god at all? Once we bring in god, then evil or good take on a moral dimension and there is more to these attributes than morality.

The paradox lies not in the ‘person’ of god but in the perception of godliness. If god created evil, then must god be evil? Does a carpenter who produces a flawed piece of furniture become a flawed carpenter? Carpentry may not be empowered with supra powers but a carpenter is a creator too.

The concept of god “doing everything” essentially means that the believer plays a subservient role. Many believers today may be considered ‘evil’. In some cases it is indeed true. Therefore, should we assume that such evil challenges godliness and has nothing to do with god? And isn’t that possible if we go by the theory of god as creation/imagination of the human mind?

To return to evil, is it a finality? Does it have shades? Can evil transform into goodness at some point in time? Then is evil really evil or a pretence at it? The same would apply to good.

Cain’s tragedy is greater than Abel’s for he suffered from pangs of conscience. Was he then evil? Or were his circumstances responsible for making him commit the act?

Can whole nations be considered evil because their governments have policies that are not for the greater good? Then must we include the people living in those societies within this limited paradigm?

God is what believers – and non-believers – make of her/him and that provides the attributes of good or evil. A creation takes on a life of its own outside the creator.

This puts religion, beyond the point of our understanding of it, outside the grasp of individuals. Human nature and suffering are more universal. My friend and I could keep arguing over it – for him the blood at Karbala takes precedence over what occurs under his nose. I choose to look at the congealed crimson in bodies of people who share the same space as I do.


  1. Communal people do not need to be religious. Look at the saffron brigade. They are communal to the core. And yet they know nothing about religion.

    Your friend does not spring to the defense of Muslims because he knows that many have strayed from the path. Yet, he springs to the defense of Islam because an ideal is being assaulted. Not difficult to understand at all.

  2. Milind:

    Let us differentiate between bigotry and being communal, in the larger sense I have talked about. If you take the example of the saffron brigade, they may not know anything about religion, but they use religion. And ALL religions have some reference to war - even if it is for victory of good over evil. It must have been a righteous fight in those times; now it is political expedience.

    "Your friend does not spring to the defense of Muslims because he knows that many have strayed from the path."

    I do not believe an individual, merely on the basis of her or his knowledge and affinity towards a religion, can decide who has strayed from the path. If he was upholding an "ideal", then the ideal includes empathy for humanity.

    I do not believe in such 'dehumanising' of religion where people do not matter.

  3. FV,
    Thanks for being back in action and doing what you best......cause an intellectual stir fry :)
    So, Here is my view and I may have shared pieces of it before ..so pardon the repetition ....if you see that ...Why is Religion a public property in the first place ...did all mystics start religion with an agenda from Christ to Buddha ,,,did they have an agenda or they were just too keen on their own spiritual journey ..they never intended this journey for "Mass Use" ...their experience is not repeatable, not scalable and not applicable to all ....it is a personal journey of the mystic and one may or may not relate to all of it ....let me take an example ....everyone falls in love and everyone has a love story ...can that be standardized and repeated .....can every kiss be described .that all Indians must fall in love the DDLJ way ....NO is the answer ...it would be like making an instruction manual on a KISS...There is NO One right way ...same applies to religion ...read Quran and relate to the Prophet Mohammed's journey and try relating to it and read Guru Granth to understand Guru Nanak's connotation...to me all religion followers have lost the the original thought of the religion by enforcing ways and norms ....when a Buddhist drapes the shawl in a similar manner ,,,it is same as trying the right angle for a kiss .,....look at the feeling and not at the transaction ......that being said ,,,there is a Huge Issue ....it is called Generalization ....we see people with tags ....describe a man , Tall. Rich, Music Lover and Christian ....One typical bucket ....same as woman ...fair , pretty, long hair and Muslim. Religion is a Tag , all bearded guys with short Pajamas are maulvis ????.....you look at one in the flight and you think ...where the hell is he going ...why is he in my flight ...why ...coz of 9/11....when people commit crimes and try to paste it on the cause of GOD, they tend to malign all people with that same Tag ....Names are best example of a Tag and unfortunately our Doggie tags (names) say our religion ....I cant be a Hindu Sajid or a Christian Iqbal ...why because the bugger label would get disturbed..........Moral of the story ...forgive people for ignorance that religion is world's best kept secret business idea and an illusion gone really wrong ....

  4. Manish:

    You raise extremely valid points and hilariously too!

    The problem is that people think like a herd and need something tangible to go by. While mystics had the luxury of a personal search,the 'realisation' of prophets becomes public property whether they wish it to be or not. Most such religious teachings were originally passed through the oral tradition and got diluted along the way.

    Re. Personal search isn't that one reason people do not emphasise the Kama Sutra due to performance anxiety. Although it works as marketing strategy.

    Any label attached to us is a choice.

  5. This is first time I am coming to your blog. Much of your analysis is good, but what matters most in Islam is aqeedah. It is like framework upon which the whole thought process is built.

    I'm sad to say the following was in really bad spirit:

    It is easy to say that there is nothing in common between a Muslim in Iran and a Muslim in Iraq, or a Muslim in India and a Muslim in Pakistan, or a Muslim in Saudi Arabia and a Muslim in Turkey, or a Muslim in Palestine and a Muslim in Bosnia.

    We have imaan as common and If u 'vent felt that brotherhood when you met muslims across the continents, u actually 'vent got spirit of it. I know many non-muslims in US/Uk who converted to Islam just by looking at this barrierless identity.

    About ur question since God created evil is he evil? LoL, a very lame one. he clearly says in Quran evil was created to test humans. Now evil has many things in it, top most being PROUD. The proud that human is independent of God and can live however he/she wishes and it MUST be accepted.

    A creation takes on a life of its own outside the creator.
    This is what exactly I spoke above. The idea that world is independent of God is biggest shirk in Islam.

    May Allah bless your friend. human society's existence depends on the ideology he lives and accepts by. If karbala was more important to him, he has spirit inspite of bein g in bar and drinking.

  6. You express such difficult thought process in words that makes people like me speechless.

    I can't figure out on which side of the fence, you stand?

    My favourite quote:

    "If you try to loose and suceed, what have you done ?."


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