I have never learned to channel my anger, only to fear it, because when I get angry - I very quickly lose control. My limbs feel like they are spouting flame, and I want to destroy all that is in my reach.

Today, I am angry. I want to go up in arms and battle all the injustices of the world, all those smug, self-important people safe in their closeted world-views, dripping with contempt for anything that is different than their own. I want them to burn in my flame, and feel fear and persecution, feel the discrimination and worthlessness they so easily dole out to others.

Very quickly, I will feel the heat of my own anger - my own self-contempt for letting this emotion take over me, for wishing harm upon others; I will smoulder, in all likelihood, until dawn brings some peace.


Three pieces of news came to my attention today. One was not new at all, but rather a ten-year-old blog entry written by a young woman in Iraq. Another was fresh news as of yesterday, recorded by a newspaper, The Hindu, in India. Related to this was not really one piece of news at all, but a series of articles all hazily touching on similar events.
The topic? Religion and sanctity of faith.

This morning I opened up my Facebook wall and saw this on my screen.
Needless to say, I was enraged. My first response was to re-share the article. "I can't believe this is my country! What madness is this?" I typed, and stewed for about a minute. Then, I went back and deleted that post, and here's why.

First, there will always be idiots. I wanted to take to the virtual streets of social media and proclaim that either these people were not Hindus, or I was not a Hindu - there is no way that I want to be connected at all to people who make foolish statements of the sort made in this article. But the fact is - I am not a practicing Hindu, and while I'm Indian by nationality, I haven't lived in India since leaving college - almost 7 years now. I'm not really Hindu, and not really Indian, but am also still both - and so are these people. We *are* connected, however foolish they may be, and however hateful their actions seem to me, and however much I bemoan that my nation and my community must be associated with them. So there is no point in denouncing them.

Second, the emotion and motive which accompanied my compulsion to re-share was the very spirit I was finding fault with in these people's words and actions - it was malice and anger and outrage. Since I am against hate-mongering in general, it's only meet that I follow my own rules.

Third - nothing happens in a vacuum. The headline and blurb are confusing and possibly misleading in that they seem too simplified to have captured the whole truth. So I took to Google and searched for recent news on 'forced conversion'. I was surprised to find that this story was nowhere near the top, but found instead numerous accounts of forced conversions to Islam occurring in both Pakistan and India. This particular protest was in response to the 'alleged rape and forced conversion to Islam' of one 20 year-old in Meerut (skip the comments, unless you find ill-imformed and caustic internet wars entertaining - I won't judge).
As much as I rally and rage about a Hindu majority oppressing minorities, my real issue is with oppression, not with Hindus or minorities. Forced conversion, or misleading people in the name of religion (or anything else) is bad in my book, whoever does it and however they do it.
By sharing only one side of this story, I would be focusing attention on only one group of idiots (fanatics), and not on the others (abductors, rapists and possibly also fanatics).

Somehow, I felt this was all too complex a viewpoint for the fast-moving world of a Facebook wall, and chose to remove my own post to cause less social harm.

The last piece of news was from the blog, Baghdad Burning. The author, Riverbend, is a young woman in Iraq who blogged about the war and occupation in 2003-2004. I came across it first in the form of a book, then put the book down and went to the actual blog to continue reading. [Edit : this is surprising even to me, but I've read her blog before, at least in parts, as I just discovered while browsing my own archive. Wouldn't ya know.]
Her post on October 21, 2003 is about an incident in which troops, while performing a routine search on employees at a Ministry, mishandled one young woman's Quran. It was so horribly done that it sparked protests on the scene and elsewhere. In the case my use of this tame word, 'mishandled', is confusingly vague to you, let me quote Riverbend directly.

Today, one of the women who work at the ministry, Amal, objected when the troops brought forward a dog to sniff her bag. She was carrying a Quran inside of it and to even handle a Quran, a Muslim has to be 'clean' or under 'widhu'. 'Widhu' is the process of cleansing oneself for prayer or to read from the Quran. We simply wash the face, neck, arms up to the elbows and feet with clean water and say a few brief 'prayers'. Muslims carry around small Qurans for protection and we've been doing it more often since the war- it gives many people a sense of security. It doesn't not mean the person is a 'fundamentalist' or 'extremist'.
As soon as Amal protested about letting the dog sniff her bag because of the Quran inside, the soldier grabbed the Quran, threw it out of the bag and proceeded to check it. The lady was horrified and the dozens of employees who were waiting to be checked moved forward in a rage at having the Quran thrown to the ground. Amal was put in hand-cuffs and taken away and the raging mob was greeted with the butts of rifles.
For those of us who are not Muslims, or to whom this seems like a whole load of fuss for nothing, she translates rather beautifully -
You do not touch the Quran. Why is it so hard to understand that some things are sacred to people?!
 How would the troops feel if Iraqis began flinging around Holy Bibles or Torahs and burning crosses?! They would be horrified and angry because you do not touch a person's faith…

Or spit on your Vedas or throw chappals at your deities. This is universally applicable - you do not trample upon things that people hold dear and precious - you respect your fellow human beings whether you share their faith or not!

… and that's what civilization is. It's not mobile phones, computers, skyscrapers and McDonalds; It's having enough security in your own faith and culture to allow people the sanctity of theirs…
Is it naive of me, ten years later, to hold these same values in today's world?

Summer shower

There was a kind of camaraderie
while waiting under eaves
for the rain to stop.