Are you also a victim of forced religiousness?

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Public-address-system Before all the maulavis and pandits initiate a fatwa or look out notice for me, let me quickly talk about the most sought after but the secret concept of our culture – ‘forced religiousness’. Though this time too, I have again ordered few more helmets and safety nets but these precautionary measures might not be very helpful as religious leaders are far more powerful than Chinese helmets. Kya bolu, Itni maar padne wali hai—fir se.

By the way, if you have been busy since last few days and were unable to keep a tab on social media channels (chances of which are very bleak though), let me tell you why singer Sonu Nigam was trending. One morning, the singer was apparently woken up by the sound of Azaan. Disturbed by the loud music he took to twitter to show his angst in a series of tweets. Sonu initiated an online war against the early morning call for prayer sent out from mosques on loudspeakers.

“God bless everyone. I’m not a Muslim and I have to be woken up by the Azaan in the morning. When will this forced religiousness end in India.”

“And by the way Mohammed did not have electricity when he made Islam.. Why do I have to have this cacophony after Edison?” he continued.

According to Wikipedia, Azaan (also called Adhan) is the Islamic call to worship, recited by the muezzin at prescribed times of the day. Adhan is called out by a cleric from the mosque five times a day, traditionally from the minaret, summoning Muslims for mandatory worship.

In modern times, loudspeakers have been installed on minarets for this purpose, reads the description of Adhan in Wikipedia.

While Sonu Nigam was busy in recording the morning  for his next tweet, a cleric announced Rs 10 lakh reward to anyone who can shave singer’s head.

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The singer as cunning as me was already prepared for the counter effects. The only difference between his strategy and mine is that I ordered helmets to save my head and he shaved his hair to show his head.

As Sonu Nigam foiled the cleric’s plans, people got sufficient fodder to discuss the matter and raise questions on his complaint. Some supported him, some rebuked him. Whatever the case, he continued to carry a hashtag on twitter.

While Sonu kept on engaging social media users, the whole drama helped me raise my favourite question once again. Are we liberally religious or religiously liberal?

In my other column (The perfect parade of gods – It happens only in India) when I said that Religion, Politics, Corruption and Cricket (RPCC) flow in equal proportion in our blood, I truly meant it. We are made more of religion and less of love. And there is no dearth of proof to prove that.

The madness for religion scores very high when it comes to testing Indians. A little piece of land, be it a mosque or mandir is sufficient to boil our blood and kill a few fellow Indians. And if one day we don’t have a piece of land to showcase our love for our religion, we have animals to fight for. So basically we keep our hands busy in proving our loyalty to religion.

And if somehow any of us like to raise the voice against the cultural or religious practices, we fear to face action by religious bodies which are supported and sponsored by different levels of government.

Since my childhood, I have been disliking the religious practices and exercises which barge into other fellow being’s comfort zone. But then I couldnt voice my opinion. And now when like Sonu Nigam, I have the freedom of expression, I fear of various fatwas which may be issued in my name. And just to inform you, I love my hair very much.

Jokes apart, I believe there is a fine line between the public practice of religion and our private lives and we need to draw it very soon.

No one can dare to stop you from practising your rituals but at the same time, you don’t hold any right to directly or indirectly force somebody to indulge in your practices. But this doesn’t seem to apply in Indian societies where our public, as well as private lives, are ruled by religion. The religious interference in our lives is not just occupied by Islam but by all other religions as well.

Think about the times when you have been stuck in traffic caused due to Nagar Kirtan or Ganesh Chaturthi. If not this, you must have a memory about Mata Ki Choki or Jagran held in your neighbourhood where all the bhajans were well tuned on latest Bollywood numbers. There are other dozens of examples which prove religious interference in our lives and that we have been accepting it all throughout our lives.

It’s high time the government and the legal houses should give us the right to decide if we want to indulge in any religious activity or we want to sleep tight. For other reasons as noise pollution as well, use of loudspeakers in any religious activity should be completely banned.

Yashica Jalhotra has recently bought Bluetooth loudspeakers and plans to play a religious prayer at full volume. She will rate the sound quality on the number of tweets her neighbours will write to complain against her loud music. Send your complaints, I mean love to her at [email protected]