Of course, one can get trolled for just about anything on social media. When you add a celebrity and any kind of religious thought or practice into the mix, the troll armies tend to band together to regurgitate their bile and their venom en masse. So it has been with Mohammed Kaif – reviled first for performing the Surya Namaskar and then for the seemingly unpardonable sin of celebrating Christmas.
The popular former Indian cricket player posted this picture of himself and his family on Facebook – Christmas décor in the background and him in a Santa cap. However, this did not find favour with many commentators. Some said that such a celebration was ‘haram’ in Islam; while others asked why a Santa cap and not an Islamic cap. Some called him half Muslim, some said he had converted to Christianity by virtue of his celebration. Some went so far as to say his very existence became meaningless because of this and warned him of impending doomsday.
Earlier, Kaif had tweeted pictures of himself performing the Surya Namaskar; a physical activity he recommended as a complete, comprehensive workout that required no equipment. Fellow cricketer Mohammed Shami applauded him for this. However, others instantly gave this a religious overtone and reviled him for such an ‘Un-Islamic’ practice.
For many of the frenzied voices of hate and incomprehension, there were those of sanity and sense as well. Many of the commentators welcomed the celebration of the festival of a different faith by Kaif, based on the central premise of humanity being the greatest faith of all. Other commentators welcomed it based on our belief in secular Indians; who not only respect other faiths but also embrace their observances for the way that they unify and strengthen us; making us uniquely Indian. It also bears recall that the Quran mentions Jesus, the son of Mary as a prophet and describes him as one who submits to the will of God.
Earlier for the Surya Namaskar controversy as well, there were equal numbers of sane voices of inclusivity, as there were intolerant, abusive voices who reacted. While some said that Surya Namaskar is a fitness related activity rather than religious practice, others wondered why doing the Surya Namaskar would make one any less of a Muslim. In fact, it is a widely held view among practising Muslims, that the performance of Namaz entails assuming several positions akin to yoga.
Truth be told, my friend and fellow fauji wife Sumaiya Arafaat speaks about this in her blog post entitled Is Yoga Fundamentally a Religious Activity? She speaks of yoga as being a spiritual activity which, if it entails genuflecting of any kind; can be for the devotion of anyone; be in Allah, Jesus, Ganesh or Krishna. She calls out to Muslims who hate yoga and points out that several poses of Islamic prayer are akin to yoga asanas, and that the joining of the middle finger and thumb are similar to the yoga mudra.
To this I add one more point – so what if yoga is a religious practice? Adopting what is good from another faith does not make one any less an adherent of their own! Doing yoga doesn’t make anyone a lesser Muslim. Wearing a Santa cap or decorating a Christmas tree does not make anyone less of a Hindu. Celebrating Eid and Diwali does not make one any less of a Christian. Celebrating all of these festivals does not make me any less of a Parsi; it just makes me more of an Indian.
It is these voices of reason and joyful acceptance that we need today in our society and our political discourse. We need political and religious leaders from all faiths to embrace our diversity and not indulge in narrow exclusivist agendas that seek to divide and differentiate. We need more and more people to appreciate Mohammed Kaif – and tell all Indians Merry Christmas - It's Meri, Teri and Hum Sab Ki Christmas.
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