Living with Hindus for about last one and a half year and very first interaction in our lives with non-Muslims made us to write about Hindus life at IBA. The curiosity and love to learn about culturally and religiously different persons around ourselves fascinated us. Also, when we take Arabic courses with our Hindu fellows, we feel inquisitive about what do they think when they study the translations of Quranic verses and Kalmas which are purely Islamic. We were curious to know whether they take interest in learning about Islam (intellectual curiosity) or do they study such courses for other reasons? Question like ‘how do Hindus feel when they say Insha-Allah’ further builds our interest in this subject matter.
This is an ethnographic paper on ‘Hindus life at IBA’. The paper will throw light on how Hindus feel as a minority in IBA; is there any difference in living life as a minority in IBA as compared to the life outside; what are the major concerns they don’t feel happy about; what’s their take on studying courses like Arabic and SEPI and other important issues. The methodology we use for this paper includes online survey, participant observation and personal interviews. After putting in all the collected information, we will analyze the information and try to explore the factors that play their role in all the responses that we received. At the end, we will conclude all the received information by linking it with our own opinions as well as connecting the dots with the ‘Grand narratives’ like agency, individualism, humanism and secularism.
The information we received has its three sources. Firstly, we conducted online survey and got 20 responses. Secondly, we also use the participant observation as we have been living with Hindus for last one and a half year. Living with them also gives us the exposure to observe them, to come to know about their views about different subject matters and how do they act in different circumstances? Thirdly, we had interviews with 3 of our Hindu friends at IBA Boys Hostel.
The most surprising of the finding for us was that 50% of the Hindus at IBA have been approached by the Muslims to convert to Islam. One of our respondent in an interview said that the person who approached him to convert to Islam first made him close friend, took him to meals and they went to Saddar Bazar and shopped together. Then one day in Saddar, the evangelist asked him to respect Azan and leave the worship of idols and join Islam. After getting unsatisfactory response, the sweet friendship of the evangelist became insipid.
The attitude of the evangelist if looked into a purely religious context, can’t be said any sort of attack or threat to the Hindu. What the evangelist did was he gave an invitation to convert the person who was religiously different from him, and he did all this quite progressively. The evangelist did not harm the Hindu or didn’t force him to convert to Islam using the rhetoric of ‘majority is authority’. If the same attitude of the person is looked into the context of today’s ‘agency’ of an individual, it can be said somewhat coercive. Agency is defined as the capacity of an individual to work independently. So, if one belongs to such school of thought, one can’t indulge in personal matters of an individual. Religion is personal in today’s world of free market (capitalism). ‘Secularism’ is no application of religion in public affairs. Hence, in this capitalist and secular world, one doesn’t indulge in other’s matters and leave them as they are or as they behave.
Hindus are a minority in IBA, so they have some issues like every minority everywhere has to deal with. Being open, it is true to say minorities have to struggle for their rights and complete freedom no matter what part of the world they belong to. So, Hindus at IBA also have some concerns. Three most significant of them include less holidays during religiously and culturally important days, mess issues during Ramadan and religious preaching when they take courses like SEPI (socio economic philosophy of Islam). At times, Hindus at IBA have to take exams during their festivals like Janam Ashtami, Diwali, Holi and Riksha Bandhan. If they are given holidays and they went to their places, they demand they have to sacrifice for their studies which they don’t want to. They want IBA to be closed or at least no study on Diwali or Holi days just like it happens during Eid days. They want mess to be opened for them during Ramadan as majority at hostel is Muslims and they keep fast. They say food is not even available outside hostel (in restaurants). One of the respondent came up with the thought that they have to bear with Muslims as they are minorities and he personally has no issues with the mess closed during Ramadan. This person was looking a bit scared during the interview and we found his approach pretty diplomatic. Diplomatic approach is preferred when an interviewee tries to be on the safer side or tries to show himself as a liberal and broad minded person. What in fact processed in the brain is a sort of fear. A fear of being a part of a minority. A fear of being religiously and culturally different. A fear of not being independent. This is the same fear that restrains them acting freely, as 65% of our respondents in the survey opted for this when asked about any hurdle that demotivates them from moving forward.
When the respondents were asked about their thoughts when they take SEPI and Arabic, majority (47%) opted for they have no interest in socio economic philosophy of Islam and they just study it because it is relatively easier than PLE(philosophy, logic & ethics) and 26.3% went for the other option. Only 26.3% opted for that they have intellectual curiosity and they want to know about Islam. The question that rises here is if Muslims learn about Islam (religion) philosophically, economically and socially at IBA, why Hindus can’t learn about Hinduism. In a business institution, if Muslims, in a way learn about Islam, why can’t Hindus? We know there would be many factors that become hurdles in practically allowing all of this to happen or even if they don’t, it would be difficult to manage the faculty who would teach Hinduism and a certain type of chaos is expected to happen. There are Muslims at IBA who would love to learn about Hinduism because of their intellectual curiosity. The chasm again that indulges in this matter is that of being ‘different’, being a part of ‘minority’ or being the ‘other’.
One of the reasons for majority (47%) Hindu students having no interest in SEPI might be the preaching of Islam by some of the teachers. Few of the respondents claimed that some teachers literally preach Islam and always try to prove Muslims and their religion superior than non-Muslims and any other religion. Preaching is a sort of pejorative in the today’s so called ‘secular’ world, but when a teacher at one of the elite institutions does this, this can be something that would be unacceptable even to some Muslims.
One of the respondent felt like if someday a temple is constructed in IBA for Hindus, it could be a perfect example that Hindus are fairly treated. It is least probable that this would happen because of some reasons. One of them being that Hindus don’t practice religion (Hindus we know and interviewed).
Now coming to the socialization part, Hindus say they don’t face any hurdle while socializing (making new friends) at IBA. 70% of the respondents say that they just mingle with Muslims and never even thought of about the religion of their friends. 20% say socialization for them is a little bit difficult, it’s never going to be easy to interact with someone who is different (ethnically, religiously, and culturally).
When asked about making long lasting relationships with Muslim boys/girls, 60% of the respondents said straight no. They said they make Muslims friends and never even thought of having a Muslim spouse. When asked in detail in interviews, they said their families would never agree even if they would love a Muslim girl or want to marry her. Families play a pivotal role in searching for spouses in south Asian countries-they are usually collectivist countries. When families are considered important, it is easy to assume cultural, social, religious norms would also be important. In these religions, to our knowledge, Hindus consider it appalling because of their cultural and religious norms to marry a Muslim. Muslims also prefer Muslim spouses. These are the factors that might be considered significant and therefore majority of Hindus don’t even think about this.
Another surprising finding for us was that there was not much difference found between life as a minority at IBA or outside of it. We assumed that there would be more freedom, comparatively, at IBA, but the respondents came with the notion that they feel the same both in and outside IBA. They have issues at IBA as well as outside IBA-issues that minorities usually have to deal with (Ramadan, holidays, suppression of culture and their religion in some places). Hence, to assume that one is more secure religiously and culturally if one studies in an elite institution, (institutions that claim of protecting freedom of speech and ‘other’s’ rights) is not so true. One would be behaved the same way as one is treated outside, according to our respondents.
Taunting and threatening is rare in IBA regarding religious differences. Though a couple of people faced that. One person was told strictly during a discussion that he’s Hindu and he should not cross his limits. The entire event was kept confidential by the respondent. Another person claimed that he, at times, is kidded by some of his friends to join Islam. For instance, if he needs a favor and he goes to his friend, the friend would demand a convert to do him a favor and then would laugh and say “I was kidding. Never mind’’. Now, if the behavior of the person is think of into a psychological context, one can say the demand for conversion, even though in fun, existed somewhat in the unconscious and sub-conscious of the person. This is not anything new. Whenever we live with the ‘others’, such things can come into minds.
When asked about why do Hindu students say Arabic phrases like Alhumdulillah, Masha-Allah, Insha-Allah, their response was they are used to it and they don’t take it literal. They just say it as their Muslim fellows do it and nothing else is behind this. So, they adopted this because they live among Muslims.
Hindu students at IBA, according to them, have never faced any discrimination in the program office or during IBA elections with the exception of 2 years before, when a squad of students opted for driving the election campaign in antagonism against a Hindu candidate. The squad tried to exploit the religiosity of the IBA students to get their candidate selected. This tactic, though, never proved successful and the Hindu candidate won by a heavy margin.
In general, we can say Hindus are pretty happy in IBA considering all the methodology we used to collect all the data- participant observation, online survey and personal interviews. Though they have some issues that, in a way, all minorities have to face. This is because of the sense of ‘otherness’ that always prevails. Otherness can be defined in any way depending on the context. For instance, other can be a person different in religion, race, ethnicity, culture, geography, ideology and the list goes on. Other can be even our father or brother or sister having different thoughts regarding different subject matters. If human beings who live in the same house have differences in opinions and likings, and have to tolerate each other to construct a peaceful society, how can we assume that minorities are fairly treated at some place? What is good to say is minorities are treated fairly at some places as compared to some other places.
We, human beings, actually like the person or object that is attached to us in one way or the other. We emphasize more on the sense of ‘otherness’ because of the excessive use of justice, freedom of speech, liberty, secularism and other such concepts by the West (specifically America). If we look into a particular direction, can’t we smell exploitation and suppression of the local cultures, for the interest of the Americans? The so-called global culture actually suppresses local cultures, languages, ideologies and markets, and locals have to bear with what is somewhat theirs and somewhat not.
If we look into a bigger circle that informs us about the ‘mind control’ theory of the Americans, we will come to know of a totally different world. In simple terms, Americans control minds and they exploit every person. No one is free of being tracked or have agency. Though they claim of providing agency to human beings.
It really doesn’t matter what the West says about liberty and protection of rights of the minorities, what matters is to look at their attitude towards ‘others’. Attitude of the West towards veil is a perfect example of it.
This is the difference that probably will always remain. The fool’s paradise created to illicit the world is mere deception- the main purpose is to fulfill certain political, cultural and economic interests.
What we can do as students at IBA is treat Hindus fairly and with tolerance. We have a duty to never belittle them or ever make them feel like they are different. At this level, what the writers of the ethnographic paper can do is submit an application to the registrar to make them know about Hindus concerns. Also, some persons we interviewed and surveyed looked a little anxious and unfree. The responses and answers we received in survey and interviews might not truly depict their original perspective. There is always a probability of being diplomatic. Otherwise, in general the responses were quite open as people expressed their concerns regarding holidays, mess, SEPI and temple.
If we would have given more time, we would have arranged thorough interviews of Hindus at IBA and even people in the staff. We could go outside IBA like Karachi University and interview Hindus over there. Then we could use the comparative approach of Hindus life in and outside IBA.