Thursday, October 28, 2004

The news from Toronto

There is a controversy brewing in Toronto these days. Or rather a few controversies.
The first is the incident with Dr. Misri, and the second, the remarks of Younus Khatrada, both accused of anti-semitism, with the former also being investigated for hate crimes. And as always, except for a few heated letters to the editor in various newspapers the muslim community lies silent... well, thats not quite true either.
Pakistani-Canadians are busy in another heated exchange, this time on an internet forum. An Urdu website that launched a few weeks earlier VoiceofToronto.com, advertised in a few urdu-language weekly newspapers that they are holding a debate and a poll. The question that is igniting their passions and rage is:
Should musical nights and melas be organized in the holy month of Ramadan?
The framing of the question is questionable at best, and an eerie reminder of the question posed to the public by a late General to extend his rule on the land of the holy. An arrangement of words, such that the holy is pitted against the unholy, the good and the bad clearly separated. Havent the zealous heard of voting with their dollars? Can it not be solved with individuals deciding for themselves that they will not attend music nights in Ramadan, refusing their money to the attendees, and hence, killing the money machine altogether? Can letters not be sent to the sponsors to convince them that this is not the way to spend their advertising budgets?
And why is a damn mela more of a community issue than the hateful remarks of religious leaders? Or are we too scared, too unconcerned of the yet-another-accusation-against-Islamists?
Why should I be surprised? or disgusted? History is bound to repeat itself. If our elder generations are trapped in a spiral of authoritarian behaviour, relentless dogma and wishful thinking, why should I, even bother to mention all this?
Its a question that I find myself trying to answer these days. The premise of existentialism is that those who do not wish to be helped, can in fact, never be helped. Maybe I should stop caring, give up on the old, and pin my hopes on the young. 'They are past the age where they can change', I can convince myself. Or maybe 'They have never experienced true democracy, debate, dissent and the concept of living with a difference of opinion is alien to them', I can certainly reason well enough. But reason, as Iqbal kept reminding us, is good for the 'how' of the later stages, not the 'why' or the 'what' of the early ones.
Am I, like my predecessors, too willing to give up on the improbable? Scared of the enormousness of the task, will I too, criticize all plans indiscriminately as being partial, and mock efforts to bring change?