A quote credited as Anonymous says: ‘Every child is a different kind of flower, and all together, they make this world a beautiful garden.’ I couldn’t agree more, but at the same time I can’t help wonder, how does it speak for our society when these very flowers, beautiful and fragile as they are, start discriminating against each other on religious grounds – a subject they aren’t even equipped to comprehend?
If a mother has to start thinking whether the name she chooses for her child should establish their religious identity or not, it becomes a cause of great concern. Surely, every parent has a right to name their child without having to mentally run through its religious repercussions?
Unfortunately, in a country claiming to be secular, we as a nation are becoming increasingly divided over religion. While there is the strong political angle to it, Nazia Erum, the author of Mothering A Muslim, discovered the shocking reality of the religious segregation that has slowly, steadily, crept into the classrooms and playgrounds of India’s elite schools.
As she reached out to 145 families across twelve cities, over a period of one year, she realised naming her child was the least of her concerns.
Erum has researched extensively on the subject of this book. To begin with, she consciously chose to speak with Muslim women living in mixed localities rather than those from all-Muslim neighbourhoods. She documented personal experiences of urban, educated Muslim women and their families. In the course of her interviews she also met many ‘authentic Muslim women’ who seem to be missing from our society but are more than just a symbol. As she found out, this authentic Muslim woman could be your neighbour, your doctor, or your child’s school teacher. She is everywhere, in all her hijabi feisty-ness, as long as you care enough to pay attention, and she too is struggling to prove her identity in a community that is constantly judging her for how she practices Islam.
All these women made a varied collection of subjects, each with their own stories that had one thread connecting them. They were all fearful for their children who had been targets of Islamophobia and nationalism in school.
The author has presented a subject considered taboo in our society with a brilliant sensitivity. She highlights how conversations from our drawing rooms are growing roots into the minds of children as young as six years old, which in turn are becoming the cause of trauma and rampant bullying in school yards and classrooms.
It may be a harmless seeming remark when a student decides to call his Muslim classmate ‘Paki’ or ‘Terrorist’. But as the author discovered, it has raised alarming questions in the mind of the child labelled so, regarding his identity. It was disturbing to read how a parent did not reprimand their child for one such insensitivity and instead replied that it was in response to being called ‘fat’. What more can one say? And this was only of the many stories revealed in this book.
The experiences narrated are horrifying and heartbreaking, to say the least. Yet, many parents let it slip by, choosing not to report them to the school authorities, because it is something that happens and one has to learn to live with. The statistics presented at the end of the book clearly speak for themselves – not enough is being done. However, as the author points out, schools need to create a policy and parents need to sit up and take notice.
Mothering A Muslim is not an argument over religion. It is a conversation on the values with which children are being raised today. Children perceive actions more than words and unknowingly imbibe the sentiments of the elders around them. This book is a call to parents and teachers on the role they have as nurturers and educationists. For they are the ones who must rise to fight for what is right in the hopes of creating a better future for all of us.
Title: Mothering A Muslim
Author: Nazia Erum
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars
Available on Amazon.
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