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‘Mothering A Muslim,’ had Nazia Erum in conversation with Arunava Sinha

By January 22, 2019No Comments

Source : The Hindu – LITERARYREVIEW

‘We think children are too young to channel hatred. We are wrong’


I delivered my daughter in February 2014, at the peak of the national elections. When I first held her in my hands and looked at her, fear clutched at my heart. As someone who has never worn her religious identity on her sleeve, has travelled around the world and always done what she wanted to, I suddenly felt the need to protect my child. And I decided not to give her a Muslim-sounding name,” said Nazia Erum, author of the hard-hitting Mothering a Muslim.

In conversation with translator Arunava Sinha on the first day of The Hindu Lit for Life, Erum discussed her book for which she has travelled to 12 cities and spoken to more than 200 Muslim mothers and children. The book is a disturbing account of how faith has become a topic of casual discussion and dispute among children in some of India’s most reputed schools.

“The knowledge of being the other was always there but there wasn’t so much hatred. I have grown up with films such as Amar Akbar Anthony, Doordarshan playing ‘Ek chidiya aneka chidiya’ and celebrating Hindu festivals. The changing milieu around us is extremely worrying,” she said.

When Erum set out to write the book, many people, including her cousin, felt that the situation is not so bad after all. “We are constantly in denial. We still don’t want to have a conversation on sex, homophobia, Islamophobia…What do you do when you hear a little child telling a classmate, ‘Yes, I am Muslim, but I don’t eat beef’; or when a Muslim boy in Bhopal, after being physically assaulted by a classmate, decides to befriend only Muslim children and takes to playing violent video games,” asked Erum. The abuse and fear, she felt, have become rampant, taking over classrooms, playgrounds and houses. “It’s alarming, how we have allowed things to happen. We think children are too young to channelise hatred. We are wrong.”

When asked by Sinha whether the secular past that she often refers to could have been just a façade, Erum said, “At least adults then reprimanded children for abusive behaviour. The mother of a Muslim boy told me her son’s friend called him a terrorist and when she complained to his mother, she said, ‘Because your son called him fat’. When a child is being pushed into a corner for his/ her identity, I don’t know where we are heading as a society.”

The book also talks about the changes within the Muslim community and traces the reasons behind them. “From how we were when I was growing up to what we are now, I can perceive the changes. We have even stopped laughing at ourselves, which we did a lot earlier. We wear nationalism on our sleeve for the world and Islamism for the community. It’s a tough balancing act,” said Erum.

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