'... as long as he doesn't stop me from mingling with my Muslim friends.'
'Tolerance isn't about making a show of your respect for another man's religion. Tolerance is about not interfering in other people's affairs as long as it doesn't infringe your own rights as an individual,' says Sudhir Bisht.
President Pranab Mukherjee hosted an iftar party at Rashtrapati Bhavan on July 15, and it was known that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not be able to attend, since he had a pre-scheduled meeting with the chief ministers of the north-eastern states at 7 pm on the same day.
Modi had to accord priority to an official engagement over a social event, so he chose to skip the President's iftar party and carry on with his work.
Instead of appreciating the prime minister's laudable work ethic, I am pained to observe that many learned individuals chose to lambast him for skipping a celebratory dinner.
A number of Indian Muslims have this habit of taking potshots at successful non-Congress Hindu leaders who don't join the spectacle of wearing a Muslim cap or embracing the Muslim citizens on Eid.
How is it that just because some people don't celebrate along with you, their non-participation takes away the joy of your celebrations?
Just as many of us Hindus don't find Muslims dressed as Santa Claus on Christmas distributing sweets and candies, we find no need for wearing the skull cap on Muslim festivals.
I do believe that most of my Muslim friends don't mind if I don't wear a skull cap as long as I feel happy for them in their hour of happiness. Just as I don't expect my Muslim friends to observe a fast during navratas and prostrate before Goddess Durga, my Muslim friends don't expect me to be breaking bread with them as they break the fast during Ramzan.
Just as my Muslim friends expect me to cook halal goat meat for them when I invite them to my house, I expect my Muslim friends not to serve me beef when I visit them.
Tolerance isn't about making a show of your respect for another man's religion. Tolerance is about not interfering in other people's affairs as long as it doesn't infringe your own rights as an individual.
Now coming back to Modi giving the President's iftar party a miss, I would like to say that if Modi had missed his appointment with the CMs of eight states, it would have been a dereliction of duty on his part.
Iftar, Dussera, Easter or Holi are occasions to celebrate privately with one's families and friends.
These are wonderful occasions and must be enjoyed by all individuals, but in their private capacities.
To suggest that the PM should have taken time off from a meeting where chief ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim had come from far away his detractors display their ignorance in matters of governance.
Even if the PM had allocated 25 minutes to each state, he would have ended up spending at least three hours with the eight CMs.
If Modi had reached the iftar party late, the Muslim intelligentsia would have lambasted him for showing scant respect for protocol. If he had come early and left after a while, he would have been blamed for showing up for the sake of showing up.
Modi's not wearing a skull cap, not attending iftars and not saying As-salam-Aleikum doesn't matter as long as he doesn't try to stop Muslims from wearing their skull caps, from hosting iftars and saying Wa-Aleikum-Salaams.
If Modi isn't mingling with Muslims, it is his wish as long as he doesn't stop me from mingling with my Muslim friends.
Iftars are a great way of meeting relatives and friends. But when they are used for political, business or diplomatic gains, they lose their divine character.
Sudhir Bisht is a published author and columnist.
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