It was about three years ago when the infamous tableeghi jamaat (missionary faction) rang my door bell and humbly invited me to join them in congregation.Without pondering too much on the possible implications of my actions, I decided to give it a try. They inspired me, and I started spending more and more time with them, and soon, I fully ‘converted’.
Since I come from a so-called ‘moderate’ family background, my conversion was greeted with sheer hostility. According to my uncle, I now look like a part of the Taliban, as I now sport a beard. To these ‘liberals’, my conversion was of prime importance and how I began to behave like a maulvi (cleric) was the top agenda of every family gathering, every dinner, lunch and even wedding.
Despite the fact that they didn’t have the slightest clue about my conviction, my family and friends lectured me for long uninterrupted periods of time trying to ‘convert’ me back to what they thought was normal. They quoted misinterpreted hadiths, saying that there is simplicity in religion and I shouldn’t make my life miserable.
My life was far from miserable
Had I raised my voice against their ignorance, which I did, they would have questioned my faith and said that religion preaches respect and tolerance towards to those older than one. As for my friends, sadly enough, I lost many of the ones who were bred in a similar intellectual upbringing. As I was now a maulvi they naturally assumed that I was ‘narrow minded’, ‘intolerant’ and very different from them.
People used to criticize me when I jogged around the neighbourhood with beard, which to me isn’t a big deal, but their ‘broad-mindedness’ apparently, could not tolerate it. People around me began (and continue) to make ridiculous assertions (aimed at me) such as:
“The tableeghis are hand in hand with the Taliban.”
“They will indoctrinate you and make you into one of them.”
And the one I hear most often is:
“The FBI will break into your room and kidnap you at night.”
Fortunately for me, none of the above predictions have come true yet. People have even mocked and ridiculed me by saying
“You were behind that terrorist attack, weren’t you?”
All this slander, simply because I have a beard. I couldn’t have been bothered, and hence ignored them.
I remember walking with the tableeghis on the weekly gasht, in which we humbly invite people towards Providence. I rang the doorbell and the person in the house without bothering to come out to greet us, yelled from the patio of his house in a cynical and displeased tone:
“Oh, aa gaye nay khudkhus bambaar.” (Oh the suicide bombers are here.)
People reluctant to join us went to the extent of altering their voices and telling us that ‘so and so isn’t home.’ They didn’t seem to have the slightest bit of courage to come out and say that they didn’t want to join us themselves. Now that’s what I call intolerance, but hey, aren’t we, the tableeghis, the only intolerant people around?
Accusing men, who committed the crime of growing a beard, of being intolerant is their norm, while women who choose to cover their modesty are deemed to be oppressed. Such inconsiderate and prejudiced assertions couldn’t be further from the truth. I find these ‘pseudo intellectuals’ and ‘pseudo liberals’ to be as narrow-minded and intolerant as any any fascist ideologue out there (such as Bal Thackery or Mussolini) whom they claim to despise.
The only thing on these peoples’ agenda is hatred; this is their sole dedication. They hate men with beards, however, ironically, they never seem to tire of calling themselves ‘liberal, tolerant and progressive’.
Should I, then, blame these people for being who they are, or should I respond in kind to their hate-ideology? Maybe it is their lack of adequate education that compels them to act this way. They do not seem have the slightest clue about Islam – the political Islam, the judicial Islam or the financial Islam. They, perhaps do not know that the endless contributions to the fields of science, medicine, and philosophy have been made by men who were maulvis.
As Sir Thomas Arnold said:
“Those who accuse the Muslim scholars of lack of originality and of intellectual decadence, have never read Aveross or looked into Al-Ghazali but have adopted second hand judgments.”
When people say that I am part of the Taliban just because I have a beard, when they hurl accusations at me about being a terrorist, when they treat me as their inferior, I wonder if they are aware that it is they who are ignorant and intolerant.
Let me take a stab at educating people here and let me make something adequately clear: Yes, I do have a beard, yes I pray, and yes, I am a Muslim. This does not make me a terrorist, nor does it make me part of the Taliban.