Tolerance – Where do we stand?

A great havoc was created in the past years when questions of India’s tolerance were brought to the forefront. A lot many Indians were of the opinion that ours is a very tolerant country. I don’t think it would be an overstatement to suggest that these were people belonging to the majority population. If you were to ask any person from a marginalised community, any foreigner or any person abroad about their views on whether or not India is a tolerant nation, the answer would be a straight ‘no, and that they believe that Indians have a low level of tolerance’.

There are many facets of a nation that is perceived as intolerant all around the world. Although our country is growing at a pace faster than most developing countries, the international image of India is still rooted in intolerance. The global market still accounts India for being an intolerant nation. What is the credibility of these opinions though? Do we as Indians feel like we are intolerant?

I’d like to talk about the recent developments in our everyday discourses to prove just how must we demand in the name of intolerance and how we choose to never label ourselves as being it. A Bollywood singer first spoke of this and now the recent controversy on an actress coming out and saying that Azaan prayers shouldn’t take place at 5 AM, made it an ugly situation for her, for expressing her views, which by the way were not against a religious community, but had to do with the timing of the prayers, and how they were a hindrance to people who have to get up early anyway or people who go to sleep around dawn. Her point was that she chooses to do her own prayers in the privacy of her own house, without the use of a loudspeaker which inevitably would disturb everyone around her. She wasn’t against Azaan prayers at decent hours, just against the use of loudspeakers early in the morning. And that waking the whole neighbourhood at 5 AM due to one’s religiosity is not ideal.

A lot many people took an offense at these statements calling it their right to pray, which stands extremely true. She and the singer were at the receiving end of many ill words. Is this not intolerant? They expressed an opinion a lot many of us have had. Back when I was a kid and couldn’t tell that the Azaan prayers are offered by a particular religious group, I still didn’t want them to be sung on a loudspeaker so early in the morning, basically because it meant I had to get up for my kindergarten soon. The problem is not the prayers, or the with the religious community, the problem is the timing of those prayers, and that too particularly the wee hours of dawn.

A lot of Muslims got extremely angry and took those comments as an infringement, not their rights. The actress and singer were abused rampantly on social media. My point here is, that they expressed an opinion, and while you may disagree with it, you can always justify yours with a  peaceful talk, without abusing the other person, simply because they didn’t abuse you, your religion, or your right to pray. If any other developed democratic country were to allow for Azaan prayers to be offered over loudspeakers at dawn, you think the people in the neighbourhood would allow it? Please keep it in mind that this is not a religious issue, this is a civic sense issue.

Also Read: Explained: The Naga Insurgency

If Hindus start offering the same prayers at dawn over loudspeakers, I’d still hold the opinion that it is not civil to do so. Like the way crackers used to burst during Diwali, which wasn’t the case this time due to Supreme Court restrictions. So many people took offense at their right of celebration being infringed upon, because their kids couldn’t celebrate Diwali the same way as them, without the crackers. A highly educated author came out to show how he didn’t think the SC court’s restriction was right. The restriction is in light of the extremely high levels of pollution in the city. India has just been voted as the country with most number of deaths owing to pollution. And people got upset because they couldn’t contribute to the destruction of the environment, causing more deaths, and because their children couldn’t burst crackers. Has everyone forgotten about global warming? About leaving a better planet for our kids?

Why do we using religion to support our baseless traditions? And when someone finally gets the guts to speak out against these traditions which serve no religious purpose what so ever, they’re abused, trolled and made to feel like utter shit. That’s how intolerant we are. Our right to freedom of opinion although, constitutionally exists, to use it for its due purpose is a whole different story.

Also Read: Judging people is so 20th century!

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