Monday, March 13, 2006
DANCING ON A SOCIAL DIVIDE
|VP Rubiya, and her loving parents|
his young Muslim girl from south India, along with her mother and father provide a valuable lesson in integrity, as well as an example of a problem I referred to a few weeks ago:
The system whereby the leadership of the mosque can be acquired by a clique, group or organisation (often with direct associations with things like Hamas), is an issue that normal Muslims need to be seriously questioning.VP Rubiya is a sixteen year-old with extraordinary talents in Indian classical dancing. She has won recognition from some of the top dance teachers in the country, who do not accept instructional fees from her and even buy her costumes. Rubiya loves classical dance, and is also able to earn money for her family through her temple performances. She has been dancing since she was three.
But the leadership of the local mosque has treated Rubiya and her family as outcasts, because somebody considers Indian classical dancing to be "un-Islamic." The family is paying a heavy price, merely because they are not accepted as members of the mosque. No blessing for a marriage, no place in the cemetary, and financial assistance to the family is diverted elsewhere. Yet her parents hold their heads high, fully supporting their gifted daughter who loves to dance. What wonderful people they must be. Her father gives the quote of the year, as far as I'm concerned:
"The parish doors might never open for us, but the world is not too small for the brave."I have no idea how mosque leaderships are customarily selected, but they seem to have inordinate power over their parishioners -- and certainly what gets preached to them. Recall the Pakistani Muslim cited in my earlier article (in the update) linked above. He had five mosques in his area, and didn't feel brave enough to ask any of the imams to speak against a Pakistani cleric's bounty for the deaths of foreign cartoonists.
There are plenty of normal Muslims around us, and in every country -- I'm sure of it. But there is an overwhelming inertia against any sort of reform, when no one can dare to challenge decisions of local imams. Muslims often point out that in Islam, there is no heirarchy of clergy or priesthood, no intermediary is necessary between the individual and Allah. Yet the extraordinary influence of these leaders who are supposedly "trusted scholars" and who control the agenda at every neighbourhood and village mosque, seems to be a major factor in holding back the more progressive trends among their people. At this rate, it really will take centuries for Islam to reform. Until that time, or until something comes along to change the dynamics, the world is not too small for the brave.