Today, a very strange thing happened with me. Something I had never ever imagined can happen to me. Like we never think cancer can happen to us or our loved ones.
I am travelling with my wife and two teenage kids in the villages and small towns of central Europe. We have been travelling in Europe almost every year. Despite being aware about the world politics, never did I realize that a lot has changed in Europe,in the last two years. Until,this trip.Something has changed in Europe. Maybe, a lot.
When I arrived at the hotels, despite seeing Indian passports, I was given leaflets in Arabic. For the first time in my life, I became conscious of my beard and my skin color.
I have always found Europe the least intruding place but this time I felt I was being watched, observed and judged. For the first time, I felt intruded upon.
But until this morning, I didn’t care much about it considering the sensitive times we live in. And I seriously do not blame anyone for not being able to distinguish between an Arab, a Sikh or a creative person like me. Even I can’t distinguish between a German and a French guy.
This morning, in a small town of Langernargen, on the German side of the Lake Constanz, when I was I was going for breakfast, a friend from Bhopal called. While talking to him, I never realized when I entered the elevator.Towards the end of the call, I said “chalomilte hain August mein… Inshallah!”(For someone who has grown in Bhopal, primarily a Muslim town, ‘Inshallah’ is part of regular conversation meaning ‘if god willing’). As soon as I finished the call, I felt some whispering behind me. I realized, an old couple was standing behind me, which I wasn’t even aware of. As soon as the elevator stopped on the ground floor and I started to get out, the old man pushed me with all his force that made me hit the mirror. I wasn’t prepared for this. Before I could make out any sense of it, the couple ran out and the man started screaming something in German.
I have never been hit or even pushed by anyone in my entire life. Normally, we have pre-determined and set reflexes for every action but this is something I had never anticipated. So, it took me sometime to comprehend it and then I rushed out of the elevator to confront him and find out why he did so. I saw him telling few people something in German and the only word I could make out was ‘Allah’. This is when I understood that he had heard me saying ‘Inshallah’. He refused to apologize to me and left in anger. Seeing this, one of the girls at the front office started apologizing to me for ‘such racist’ behavior of the German guy.
No, this wasn’t about racism. The old German didn’t push me so hard because he hated me or my race. He did so because he was scared for his life. He associated ‘Allah’ with terror. More so because ‘Allah’ was uttered by a man with a beard. Was it prejudice or real fear?
This is a sad commentary on world affairs and human civilization. On one side, we have conquered Mars and explored the hidden gems from deep oceans but at social levels we are terrified of each other. I don’t think in this century, at least, we will be able to trust each other. Again.
What has brought us to this?
Things happen slowly. Airports are living monuments of the trust deficit. If you smile at a person without any reason, he gets suspicious. The gentleman in the elevator was suspicious of ‘Allah’. He thought, maybe, I was preparing to blow up the hotel.
It’s only when everything settled down and I opened internet, I learnt that last night there was a terror attack in London where while stabbing young pub-goers, the knifeman said “… this is for Allah”. Almost all suicide bombers and other terrorists have been found shouting ‘Allah-o-Akbar’. People don’t understand language but they pick up common words. Allah is one unifying factor in alI terror talks. I fully understand that terror has no religion but I also recognize that now it’s almost impossible to differentiate terrorism from ‘Allahism’.
If Allah was an absolute truth than everyone should have the same level of faith in it’s concept. But it means different things to different groups depending on which school they went to. If you went to ‘School of Irrationality’, you will end up killing people in the name of ‘Allah’ or you will end up pushing people in the elevator, hearing Allah’s name. And if you are plain stupid, you may blast yourself off with many other innocents assuming Allah will gift you 72 virgins. Irrespective of your own virginity or perversion. Stabbing innocent pub-goers or blasting concert-goers is a perversion encouraged behind the shield of ‘Allah’. Allah has become the mask of savages. Allah has become the weapon to kill inncoents.
My rationality tells me that until we change this schooling, this terror of Allahismwill only increase from here. Slowly, the victims will become aggressive and in counter-defense they will take law in their hands. Like the old German in the elevator.Bearded people will get ‘Arabic’ leaflets. And smile would be perceived as a terror gesture. It will be Allah vs Allah.
I hope those who aren’t affected by this malaise, as yet, do not assume that this cancer won’t touch them. Whether you happen to be in Silicon valley or the valley of flowers. We all are victims. We are all terrified. As a reaction, some are killing, some are pushing, some are playing catalysts. Media and political leaders, of course, are the single largest beneficiaries. No news attracts more ratings than terrorism. No other issue guarantees votes more than Allahism. Media is busy making money whereas they should be fighting this war against ‘Allahism’. Politicians are busy securing power. At the cost of innocent and soldier’s lives. At our expense. It’s time for us to act.
I firmly believe this issue will ever be resolved by either political or religious leaders. It’s time for the creative people, good people, intelligent and wise people, corporate professionals, social celebs, entertainment celebs, specially from the Muslim community, to take leadership and force upon acomplete change in the curriculum of this ‘School of Irrationality’ and make us believe in each other rather than believing in “Allah’. We can help find the needy virgins rather than knocking at Allah’s doors. We, are more relevant to each other than Allah.
Until then, it’s not just the guns and the bombs that are going to kill people, but the minds and hearts will kill those who escape bombs. When I was pushed, I could feel a part of me dying. The part which trusts strangers. And I am sure the old German was also a dead man walking. What is a man if he can’t trust another man?
If Allah as a concept can kill people, I am sure Allah, as a concept, can also heal people. Depends where is the might of the world. We must do it. Because, we can.