A beard is definitely a matter of identity!

Humra Quraishi. Dated: 8/10/2018 12:14:55 PM

"I have every right to look a Muslim but, then, I could be attacked by Right -Wing goons prowling around with perhaps the sole objective to hound a Muslim."
Last week's incident in Haryana's Gurgaon, of a teenaged Muslim boy, Jaffaruddin, subjected to not just communal onslaught but also forcibly pushed into a saloon and his beard shaved off, left me shaken. After all, this incident cannot be viewed in isolation. This entire summer the Muslim population of Gurgaon was apprehensive and worried of offering the Jumma namaaz/ Friday prayers. What, with Right-Wing goons all set to hound them. In fact, in a couple of places they were openly attacked. As Muslims had confided: it gets difficult to walk down on the streets of this suburb, if you happen to "look like a Musalmaan"! Bearded Muslims with a skull caps on, could be thrashed and abused by the RSS wallahs …that's why Muslims are walking around in small groups and seldom alone. There is fear amongst the minority community and this fear is growing by the day.
Yes, communal polarization is worsening to such an extent that one has to think a hundred times before venturing out without, with one's identity intact. And why on earth should I be sacred to show my identity? I have every right to look a Muslim but, then, I could be attacked by Right -Wing goons prowling around with perhaps the sole objective to hound a Muslim.
Till about a couple of years back, this hounding was limited to communal taunts. I recall one of the humiliating experiences I went through when the manager of a department store in Gurgaon threw away the green-coloured carry bag clutched in my hands, saying words along the strain that green is the colour of Muslims and Pakistanis so its dirty! 'Chee, chee!'
Mind you, if one were to greet on the streets of this suburb, with the Muslim greeting -'As - salaam - Alaikum' or 'Walai- Kum - Salam' (may peace be on you ), pedestrians will stop and stare at you …un - moving focus on you. Perhaps, I'm a sari clad Muslim woman so spared. Not sure of the treatment meted out to me, if I was a bearded Muslim man with a skull cap on.
If one were to focus on the so called beard issue, though in Islam there is no compulsion at all, but, yes it's definitely matter of one's choice and also of one's Muslim identity.
Few years back when a Muslim school boy of Madhya Pradesh moved court because his school authorities came in way of his growing a beard his family hired one of New Delhi's top most lawyer to fight his case. Somewhat surprised, I asked several young Muslim men why make beard such an issue; fighting a legal battle for a beard ? I was told what might appear as a non- issue, is an issue for them, "Why should the authorities decide on our behalf; allow or not allow a beard! It is about the freedom or option to grow a beard or whiskers or a moustache or side-locks! How would you feel if you're told you cannot plait your hair but chop them off! Why are only Muslim men targeted on this rather harmless thing as sporting a beard! Sikhs also grow beards! Why these double standards!"
And when, with the Supreme Court ruling, two petitioners, who happened to be personnel from the Indian Air Force, had lost their case of keeping their beards, a majority of Muslims commented it was question of identity for them. They argued, "If men from other minority groups are allowed to keep their identity symbols, like the Sikh are allowed to grow beards and wear the turbans, then why not an Indian Muslim ? Though its true that in Islam there is no compulsion to grow a beard but a large number of Muslim men have begun doing so, as part of their identity!"
And, when at the very start of 2017, news reports stated that the University of Mumbai pulled out a Muslim student from a boxing competition because he refused to shave off his beard, there was an outcry - Shouldn't the authorities have put forth the rules right at the very onset so that there are lesser chances of students feeling discriminated against? As I went through the facts to this particular case it was obvious that the student, Sayyad Imran Ali - a second-year B Com student at GR Patil College in Mumbra, who is also a national-level taekwondo and kick-boxing player and runs a martial arts training centre in Mumbra - reached University Sports Pavilion in Marine Lines, all too well prepared to compete.Its then that the university officials told him that he won't be allowed to compete unless he shaves off his beard. They cited a rule by International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA), which prohibits beards, moustaches, body piercings and accessories during a bout. But the young student who sports a goatee, said he was unaware of the rule as this was his first competitive boxing. Also, he had been participating in kick-boxing, karate and taekwondo competitions at the state and the national level for the past 7 years, without his goatee coming in way.Shouldn't the AIBA rules ought to be told to the participants not on the last day but well in advance, so that they could decide between the beard or box!
With this growing sense of getting pushed to the wall, there is not just scare but a strange feeling of getting ripped off one's identity. Day after day, the situation is worsening in the country, especially in the BJP ruled States. Perhaps, what could be expected when pracharacks and maha- pracharacks are the political rulers who have the RSS agenda tucked close to their hearts. Not really shocking and nor surprising, as the RSS 'literature' makes it stark clear that the Muslims are the real enemy and need to be 'settled' or thrown away!
*(Humra Quraishi is a freelance columnist based in Delhi and is currently a visiting Professor in the Academy of Third World Studies in Jamia Milia University).



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