Mr Bakr should have been more sensitive to people’s religious sentiments

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to the missive from Mr Abu Bakr ‘The people generally supported in silent complicity the excesses of this or that party’ (SN, July 7).  In the last few paragraphs, the writer made what are considered to be vicious, derogatory and mocking remarks about the religious beliefs of Hindu Guyanese and the importance of grains in the diet of Indians. Many Indians I have spoken with over the last few days in Guyana are disturbed by Mr Bakr’s comments which they find to be very insulting and hurtful. Other Guyanese are also shocked into disbelief that Mr Bakr, an African-Guyanese Muslim living overseas, would pen such irresponsible comments. It is offensive to religious sensibilities.

A person’s belief is between himself (herself) and his (her) God or Goddess and no one has any right to denigrate one’s belief. People have their own form of worship and if it requires offering grains (dhal, wheat, channa, rice, etc) to please the gods, then it must be respected and not ridiculed and people should have access to these products to make their religious offerings or to supplement their diet.

May I instruct Mr Bakr that Hindus pray from their heart and they don’t seek material things but pray for the welfare of all. They serve fellow humans – service to man is service to God – which is a basic tenet of Hinduism. Hiduism is all about making offerings not receiving.  So they are not looking forward to a visa from their prayers.

In penning “…his [Indian] growth was stunted by dhal deprivation in the early days of his youth,” Mr Bakr is being flippant and dismissive of the importance Indians and others place on grains in their diet.  My Philosophy professor taught me that flippancy is the fall-back of those who know the validity of an argument but simply refuse to acknowledge that validity, and that is the case with Mr Bakr here.

In stating that “… Ganesh consistently ignored his supplication for the reason that the offering was rice, not wheat, thus delaying by five years the date on which his papers came through,” Mr Bakr displays ignorance of the cultural-religious role of flour which has been adumbrated by a number of letter writers as well as the concept of karma (responsibility for one’s actions) in Hinduism. His comment is a vulgar mockery of Sri Ganesh.

There is a rich philosophical thought in Hindu supplication and it should not be taken lightly or dismissed as a joke. Religious practice and flour have nothing to do with one getting a visa to settle overseas. If the banning of flour affected everyone, why pick on symbols and concepts in Hinduism?  Mr Bakr should not have inappropriately dragged Hindu deities to advance an argument. It is a cheap and tasteless mockery of Hindu beliefs, customs, and traditions to make reference to Lord Ganesh (and it is Lord Ganesh, not simply Ganesh). He used a revered Hindu God frivolously. May I remind Mr Bakr that the fact that Indians were forced to use substitutes (in Quran Sharif, Jhandi, Christian service), does not negate the policy of discrimination endured by Indians and others in the nation.

In writing, “…ninety per cent of the banned and restricted products were destined for puja or Quran Sharif,” Mr Bakr is reading what he wants rather than what was actually written.  I never made reference to percentages in my writings on the food ban.  But dhal, channa, alou, flour, onion, garlic, black eye, etc, that were banned, are used in offerings. Though not banned, the unavailability of ghee, agarbatie, atar, and other incenses also affected worship by Indians.

Mr Bakr also made reference to his former government’s and party’s Know-ledge Sharing Institutes. Mr Bakr needs to re-educate himself about how the KSI was used as another instrument to discriminate against Indians and political opponents.

In conclusion, what Mr Bakr penned is a blatant disregard for people’s religious and cultural beliefs and he should have been sensitive to the religious sentiments of people.  If he did not understand Hindu symbols and concepts, then he should not have made reference to them and the sarcastic remarks should not have been published.

Hindus take their worship seriously and respect those of others. They don’t belittle the spiritual doctrines of other faiths or hurt worshippers. May I remind Mr Bakr that since 9/11, Arab and South Asian Muslims have borne the brunt of endless jokes and stereotypes.  In NY, my Black Muslim brothers are looked upon with suspicion for unjustifiable reasons. So he ought to know better than to poke fun at Hindus. We all need to work together to eliminate the mockery and ridicule of the sacred. No faith, should be ridiculed.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

Editor’s note
The publication of the reference to a Hindu deity in Mr Bakr’s letter of July 7 was an error which slipped through for which we apologise.

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