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Interfaith Dialogue (14 Mar 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Holi Is All about India’s Syncretic Culture; and, It Isn’t about Religion but about the Spring Season

By Saba Rahman

March 14, 2019


The ad has got the goat of the Hindu Right and evoked the charge of “love jihad” is also not surprising given the polarising times we are living in.


Does it make a Muslim communal in any way if she doesn’t celebrate Holi with her Hindu friends and acquaintances? She is often told: The Mughal courts used to be bathed in colours on this day; that the festival is all about India’s syncretic culture; and, it isn’t about religion but about the spring season.

These contentions are alright, but the answer to the question is a firm “No”. Reason: A Muslim has every right to choose not to participate in Holi or any festival and — still — remain secular. There is a mainstream assumption that a Muslim is a good Muslim only when she celebrates all festivals. Those who stay away are thought to be orthodox and unaccommodating. That assumption itself is communal in nature and gives no room for choice.

It would have been more progressive had the boy playing a Muslim in a recent detergent brand commercial — which is facing flak for being “anti-Hindu” — said that he doesn’t want to play Holi, and the other children had happily let him be. That would have sent out a stronger message of inclusivity, harmony and, most importantly, choice and consent.

This expectation of participation and conformity is not uniform, and is always guided by privilege. For instance, step into one of the many multi-storeyed apartments that dot Noida, Gurugram or Ghaziabad, and watch their residents celebrate Holi, Diwali and Janmashtami with gusto, more so now than earlier. They conveniently ignore Eid, while wearing secularism on their sleeves. Most of the schools where children — of the same age group as those in the detergent commercial — learn their values, forget Muslim festivals, while Hindu festivals are Indianised and Christian festivals secularised.

We are so used to living with such double standards that these erasures almost always go unnoticed. The ad ends with the girl telling the boy: “Baad Mein Rang Padega (you will be sprayed with colours later)”. But was that necessary? The boy’s exclusion from Holi festivities wouldn’t have torn apart the social fabric of the country. On the contrary, it would have only strengthened it.

There are hundreds and thousands of Muslims who do not take part in Hindu festivals. Likewise, Hindus are not expected to fast during Ramzan, nor does the entire community go around giving Eid Mubarak hugs. Neither action — nor inaction — disturbs communal harmony.

That the ad has got the goat of the Hindu Right and evoked the charge of “love jihad” is also not surprising given the polarising times we are living in. While kids in the ad are barely six-seven year-olds, the hardliners among the Hindus believe that the Muslim boy will make the Hindu girl fall in love with him and, later, force her to convert to Islam. Yes, that is laughable, and many, while responding to #BoycottSurfExcel, have rightly said that those behind the Twitter campaign can do with a detergent themselves.

Of course, the ad does not promote “love jihad”. But what it does, in its bid to promote the detergent brand with a secular theme, is perpetuate bad stereotypes, that too by using children, which is dangerous. Do the children — remember they are six-seven year-olds — already know there are Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs among them? Do they believe that Hindus and Muslims dress differently? Do they also know there are Hindu names and Muslim names? Isn’t that horrific?

Then, when have we seen a boy as young as the one shown in the ad wearing a pristine white Kurta-pyjama, skull cap in place, stepping out on Holi to go to a mosque? And, why show him as a Muslim at all and others as Hindus? Why tell them that Holi is a festival of Hindus and the mosque is where Muslims go? Shouldn’t children be kept away from religion/s and their many conflicts and stereotypes? Crucially, why couldn’t they have just featured adults in the advertisement and left the children alone?

Source: indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/surf-excel-holi-ad-hindu-muslim-5625178/

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/interfaith-dialogue/saba-rahman/holi-is-all-about-india’s-syncretic-culture;-and,-itisn’t-about-religion-but-about-the-spring-season/d/118022


  • Unless you re-write that book, there is no scope for Islam to earn a place in a multi religious environment
    By Madhuraj Patinhare Covilakam - 3/17/2019 12:31:51 AM

  • Blame game is part of Muslim culture especially to Hindu.

    Muslim should blame there are hardly any Muslim festivals that has any art and enjoyment,

    But I will share my participant as Hindu in Muslim festival like Tajiya( though it's Shia which Sunni hate tooth and nail)

    I am very much aware in my kids age we use to go see different Tajiya in different Muslim mohllas, our parent did not restricted us, not only that on last day there use to be Mela, which was organised by Muslims, we always went their, not seek Muslim girls which Muslim boys definitely do when they participate in. Hindu festivals or come to Hindu families as friend.

    Sultan Shahin can teach how to seek Hindu girls and than play victim card and bulky Hindus. 

    Ignore others values is fundamental behaviour of Muslims 

    Look at Sultan Shahin even he put article on Hindu festivals he has put the rivalry and hate. We will she what he will do in Muslims festivals a obviously something similar will happen to Muslim ethos and how much he covers it. 

    By Aayina - 3/14/2019 11:10:50 PM

  • Same in you Shultan Shahin you never miss Islamic festival like Ramzan as universal, but Muslims in Indian had done their best to  damage any Hindu festival, now it is not even Hindu religious festival. 
    By Aayina - 3/14/2019 9:12:03 PM

  • Don't force others to celebrate your festivals. At the same time do not be afraid to celebrate the festivals of your neighbors and friends.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/14/2019 11:31:46 AM

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