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Monday, September 14, 2009

Much Ado About A Tuft Of Hair

Four and a half months ago, I wrote " Me Taliban " post in a state of absolute disgust. I could not fathom how such mindless religious profiling could be demonstrated from the highest echelons of justice in the country.

To his credit, Justice Markandey Katju later apologized for his ill-informed remarks and then a week ago, a modicum of justice and sense finally prevailed and the Supreme Court advocated Nirmala Convent to reinstate the student, Md. Salim, back to school. Shooting down the conduct of the school the Supreme Court termed it "ridiculous" and thereby upheld Salim's plea of being allowed to sport a beard in school.

However, this is just a moral victory against the abysmal racial and religious profiling taking place on a daily basis in this nation. Yes, Salim may have been allowed to sport his beard in school but there are many who face similar issues and are subjected to idiotic rulings stemming from deep rooted bias.

I can recount many similar stories without even striving to remember, yes...they are that common.

### A friend's cousin sister went to this convent school to undergo a course in teacher training. 2 days in to the course, and she was summoned by the Headmistress to her cabin and told in no uncertain terms that she would either have to leave the course or give up her usual dress. What was unusual about her dress, she was wearing a hijab. The fact that the headmistress herself was a nun, wearing an almost similar dress raises disturbing questions about whether the school discipline was at stake or was it something entirely different. 

### An MBA graduate filed an application for a passport. He had all his documents in absolute order. Yet three times in succession, his application form was rejected. Despaired yet undaunted, he filed a fourth time on which, some days later he got a call from the Passport issuing authority of the state himself to meet him in his office. there the man told him, "Son, just shave off your beard and your passport will be issued within a month. You see, the world is not afraid of mullahs and moulvis, it is afraid of young minds like yourselves who could turn to terror." Obviously, for the Passport issuing authority a bearded young boy with a certain name is evidence enough to considering him as a potential terrorist.

### An acquaintance working in a reputed international organization started keeping a beard for some reasons. Less than a week later, he was asked a series of questions by his manager ranging from "what prompted you to keep a beard?" to "are you undergoing some religious/philosophic education?". And finally, in no uncertain terms was told to shave off his beard as it was breeding a "sense of uncomfortability" among the  rest of the staff.

These are not mere exceptional incidences but are rather the norm which occur with disturbing regularity. Swept under the carpet mostly or usually labeled under "actions done to maintain the discipline" of the organization, such occurrences highlight the growing sense of intolerance with respect to symbols of a certain section of the nation.

There was this debate on NDTV moderated by Barkha Dutt where this ex army general kept on harping about how some institutions were above the rule of the constitution and should be allowed to formulate their own set of rules. He was of course referring to the army's explicit denial of anyone being allowed to sport a beard except if you are a Sikh. Now, the first question which arises is what's different between a Sikh's beard and a Muslim's beard. Why these different yardsticks. The second question which comes to mind is how the bloody hell does a tuft of hair on one's chin in any way affect his gun toting displays for the army. How can a beard be of any consequence in a profession which requires bravery, spirit, nationalism and professionalism. Hard to fathom.

Another growing belief is that of equating the beard to religious fundamentalism and terrorism in that order. For this belief I have just a couple of disdainful lines.

How many of the 9/11 bombers were bearded. Go check.
How many of the 26/11 terrorists were bearded. Again, go check.

I end this post with a sense of hope still in ,my heart that such blatant religious profiling can be exterminated from the very roots in this nation. The Supreme Court's verdict on the Md. Salim case gives me that hope and I would like to congratulate the Supreme court for it's logical and very needed observations.

I do wonder though, why so much ado about a fistful of hair:(
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8 eulogies: on "Much Ado About A Tuft Of Hair"

Piyush said...

hi saim..i knw and understand about the kind of discrimination that people have to face. but you have to understand that these people about whom you are talking as the perpetrators of discriminations are merely the ones who are the most terrified or answerable to others who are terrified. when people cannot find any reason about why are their near and dear ones no more with them. they hold on to any..believe me, ANY reason which they are offered. and the fear of loosing someone else as well is so great, that no amount of reasoning will help.
instead of complaining about the kind of discrimination a particular community has to face..we need to appreciate the tenacity which india as a nation has shown against communal tensions. nations have gone to war over much lesser than the kind of continuous bleeding india has suffered at the hands of terrorism. and the terrorists have deliberately projected a communal image, repeatedly targeting religious sites. i donot mean that this in any way lessens the sufferings of those bearing the burnt of bias. but i mean you have to give a thought to those terrified souls as well who only mean to ensure the survival of their own.

Anonymous said...

Assallam saim, that was a brilliant post..something i wanted to blog about specially after the fake encounter news breaking in and the ruling of SC overruling it's past decision...

it's funny how the same tuft of hair on one's face may be respectable or considered dangerous if the person is born in different religion....how the 2nd largest minority has suddenly turned to be a taliban group...and a school going boy is suddenly making his fellow classmate uncomfortable merely by sporting a beard...this is what nation is going thru.. purely double standard...

did i forget to mention that nun's covering is considered pious and religious...whereas the same scarf on a muslim girl is considered something as overly-religious, unacceptable a times even the girl is considered s oppressed....duh!!!

Sc did a better judgment this time..as per dear Katju Sir...i wish u get well soon...

@ Piyush...it's true that india is going thru a lot..and it's sad that how the terrorist are creating a communal problem for all of us ...i do understand the feelings of those who have lost their dear one's in hands of such unwanted incidents...

but i fail to understand that why only a certain community have to pay for it...Gujrat Roit, Babri Masjid incident, Malegaon blast, Kashmiri Muslism and Army are some incident i wont even like to mention...but for the sake of debate...my point may be clear if u can spare a thought for teh recent Mumbai attacks...did u really count how many muslims were also killed....

leave that..i believe that is something which we as a nation have to stand united against...but the fake encounters?? fake trials under teh name of suspicion?? the utterly bias discrimination faced on daily basis...and the long list which even that "taliban" minority living in this nation has to face...isn't that somehing whcih we can mend overselves..

i know ur comment was not against that particular community..but isn't it so, that we have to spare a thought and leave this biasness against that whole community...given that my above examples did mention non-muslim mischief makers...

i hope we are able to leave these petty issues and develop better as a nation.

Rane (The Orchid with All Shades Pink) said...

I mean when so many problems are creating so much of disaster i cant believe there is so much of nonsense prevailing yet.. damn it! authorities need to grow some sense instead of pointing towards the growing beard.


brocasarea said...

guess it has something to do with billadens face!!...and the root of this is in america who r stupid and too ignorant...!!

Arun Kumar said...

The worst thing about this is that even the well educated people give in to this racistic stereotyping... n a few political parties support this racism too... India sucks in that matter...
When r these people going to understand... "exceptions are not examples.."

Sach! said...

Seriously Saim u wrote a much needed post..I hope the voice falls on deaf ears! :/ Here we alwaz convince ourselves saying no matter how bad our country is its still best..but in my heart I am really waiting for the day I won't have such issues!

Onion Insights said...

Hi Saim

Racial profiling is unacceptable. Its not just about the hair, the need of the hour is that atleast the courts of law should ensure that basic rights of the citizens no matter what the race.

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