By Priti Raichura
I?m a British-born Gujarati who appreciates the freedom and opportunities open to me. But I encounter many cultural and religious dilemmas. On many occasions I have experienced people questioning my beliefs, customs and lifestyle as a Hindu. I have had to explain myself many times and been treated with contempt.
I am concerned that some politicians who have been claiming that only one rule should apply to all communities, regardless of their background. Surely, in this day and age, people recognise the diverse population and diversity of many beliefs practiced here. Although most British-born Hindus describe themselves as British, they also have other identities dependent on the communities they belong to. As a Hindu, I strongly believe in ahimsa, which means to refrain from violence to any living creature. Therefore, my choice of who to vote for on May 5 will be strongly influenced on their policies related to abortion. Although I respect that abortion should be a matter for the individual and her circumstances, I would certainly not encourage it. The Hindu way would be to choose the action that will do least harm to all involved: the mother and father, the foetus and society. Hinduism is therefore generally opposed to abortion except where it is necessary to save the mother'slife. According to the doctrine of reincarnation, a foetus is developing into a person, but it contains a reborn soul and should be treated appropriately. I believe very strongly that the period in which a legal abortion is allowed should be reduced. If a child can survive, independent of its mother, to destroy it is indefensible.
When Tony Blair insisted he did not want to end up with American-style politics ?with us all going out there beating our chest about our faith? he failed to acknowledge that most people'svote will be influenced by their beliefs. Being so diverse and flexible, Hinduism has enabled Hindus to settle in Britain and still practice their faith. Fusing Western and Hindu cultures has been less traumatic than it may be for other faiths. Hindus have tended to assimilate into different cultures and adopted much of the host community'sculture to integrate into the society. Therefore, a party'sattitude to integration of communities and tolerance will play a big part in helping me decide who I will vote for. We are fortunate to live in a multi-cultural community, and any party that fails to appreciate the contribution made by people who have migrated here are simply threatened by the success of such communities.
(Hindu Youth, UK Leicester-Chair, Hindu Council, UK representative www.hinducounciluk.org)