‘Arab World’s version of the Ice Bucket Challenge’, says a tweeter post depicting demonstrators in London. Another one with a picture of middle-aged woman holding a burning flag tweets: ‘Burn that flag! Kill the flagwavers!’. The #BurnISISFlagChallenge is trending world over and reached Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir. Till now displaying of Pakistani and ISIS flags and burning of Indian flag by fringe miscreants of Kashmir Valley used to be the news. Though ‘secular’ rhetoric blames the cultural nationalists for creating communal tensions, the reality is barbarism of the Islamic State and its affiliates are drawing flak all over the world. The growing attraction among the educated Muslim youths from America to Australia for such uncivilised version of Islam is a matter of conccern for them.
On the background of this outrage against global jihadism, a group of Muslims in a tiny but economically vibrant town of Lonand, situated in Satara District of Western Maharashtra, has shown the real character of Indian Muslims. They have completely shattered the fundamentalist version of Wahabi Islam propagated by the likes of Islamic State and Taliban.
Maharashtra has almost a thousand year tradition of Bhakti Movement. Varkari, literally means Pilgrim, walk around 250 kms along with the palanquin of Vaishnavite spiritual Gurus Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram, from Alandhi and Dehu to Pandharpur, to pay their respects to Lord Vitthal (reincarnation of Lord Vishnu). Like every year, the pilgrimage left Pune District and entered Satara District, where people were eagerly waiting the spiritual fanfare. As per the schedule the pilgrims were suppose to halt at Lonand for a night on July 18, 2015, which also happened to be a day of Eid-al-Fitr, a Muslim festival. A day before, Muslims of the town had a meeting and decided to postpone the Eid celebrations as a goodwill gesture. As animal slaughtering would not have gone down well with the pilgrimage, this move was remarkable. The pilgrims also reciprocated by performing special programmes to appreciate the solidarity shown by local Muslims.
What happened to the fundamentalist trait of political Islam after entering India? The ISIS/ Taliban version would say that they are not pure Muslims as they facilitated idol worship. Indian Muslims would explain that they have followed their dharma. After conversion to Islam, the way of worship may have changed, but the cultural DNA, of respecting all ways of worship and believing that those ways lead to the same God, remained the same. Muslims of Lonand showing such gesture was not an aberration. Each year they serve food to the Varkaris. There cultural connections are still deeply rooted in the Hindu way of life, which is not a religion.
There may be some exceptions likes of Menons & Dawoods but they are not the rules. Many common Indian Muslims face discrimination at the hands of Arabic Muslims when they go for Haj, as all Muslims from not only India but also from Pakistan and Bangladesh are regarded as ‘Hindi Muslims’. Still, Wahabism spreaded by organisations like Tablighi Jamaat is gaining ground in some parts of India is a matter of concern which Indian Muslims can address.
When the ISIS tendencies are prevailing all over the world and gaining maximum media attention, this small act of common Indian Muslims shows that the onus of restricting monolithic Caliphate of Wahabi Islam is on the Bharatiya Islam. It is the Indian way of respect and acceptance, and not just tolerance, of all ways of worship can pave the way for global peace and prosperity. We can all pray that ‘May Lonand Muslims replace ISIS’ as the inspiration for all and the spirit of dharma prevails over religion. Amen!