Hindu Muslim Unity: Indonesian Muslims perform Ramayana ballet

Javanese perform Ramayana
Javanese perform Ramayana

BALI: In Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, this Ramayana ballet, performed in the Javanese style—a finessed form, associated with slow and deliberate movements—has been running continuously since 1961. In 2012, it was anointed by the Guinness Book as the most continuously staged performance in the world

“We are not just Muslim,” said Sotya, who was playing Janaka, Sita’s father, that evening. “We are people of Java. Here we learn Hindu and Buddhist stories, too.”

Temples in honour of Vishnu and Shiva are scattered through the islands, words from Sanskrit make appearances in the language, and names from the Mahabharata and Ramayana dot establishments and shops across cities. Still, in modern-day Indonesia, Hindus account for less than 2% of the population.

What is this culture that everyone in Java speaks of? In the nation’s most populous island, syncretism is locked into the DNA. It is bizarre for the Javanese to think of their religion and their cultural history as incompatible; Hindu stories are part of their legacy, even though their religious affiliation might lie elsewhere.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim NGO gives scholarships to Hindu students

MUMBAI: The NGO, Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra, gave out scholarships amounting to INR5 million to students from Class VI to graduation level as well as engineering and medical students from various schools and colleges in Mumbai.

Since the NGO’s establishment, it has always worked towards the betterment of the society, by providing any sort of help, that too without any form of religious discrimination. People belonging to any of the communities are free to seek help from the organisation.

According to the press release, the scholarships were given to 400 students of which 50 were Hindus. The cheques were handed over in the presence of Maulana Mustaqueem Azmi, state president of Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra, Gulzar Azmi, president of its legal aid cell, Maulana Halimullah Qasmi, secretary and Congress MLA Amin Patel.

“This is not the first time that we have extended scholarships, we have given it earlier too and would continue to do so,” the release quoted Gulzar Azmi as saying, while speaking at the function organised to hand over scholarships.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Vandalized Toronto temple gets help from Muslim community

Vandals threw rocks at mandir to cause damage
Vandals threw rocks at mandir to cause damage

TORONTO: A group of Greater Toronto Area Muslims is raising $10,000 to help repair Kitchener’s Ram Dham Hindu temple after it was vandalized on Sunday. The online fundraiser was inspired by a highly successful campaign to raise money for Peterborough’s only mosque after it was set ablaze over the weekend, says Arshia Lakhani.

“As Muslims we are quickly realizing that these hate crimes are not just affecting our community; it is not just our mosques being burned, or our people being attacked. This extends to all visible minorities who are victims of hatred,” the group wrote on its gofundme page.

“This is a time to show that love and solidarity between communities speaks louder than hatred. Please show your support.” The temple was vandalized when someone sent five stones crashing through two of the building’s windows.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Mughal art depicts Krishna

Krishna and devotees at Govardhan Hill
Krishna and devotees at Govardhan Hill

History shows that many Muslim artists have produced exquisite paintings of Krishna. Centuries after they were created, connoisseurs delight in these enchanting revelations of skill and artistry.

The Mughal influence is visible in the Vaishnava devotional paintings, temple carvings and iconographic expressions. The supremacy of Krishna and the bhakti school was maintained by the Vaishnavas in the midst of an overwhelming Mughal influence during this period.

In the Mughal School, there was a considerable crossover between Vedic devotional themes and Persian style illustrations. After the Mughal Empire collapsed, Krishna leela scenes again proliferated in miniature works of artists under the patronage of non-Muslim states of Rajasthan, and from 1750 onwards, their work branched out into many wonderful schools of devotional art.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindus join Shias for Muharram procession

Muharram procession
Muharram procession

TRILOKPURI: Setting a precedent for communal harmony in the Capital, the Muharram procession in Trilokpuri saw the participation of both Hindus and Muslims. Members of the “Aman Committee” formed by the local police in the area had on Monday volunteered to lead the procession.

The gesture of solidarity was in response to the “jagran” day, when the Muslims had helped with prasad distribution.

A member of the Aman committee, Hans Raj said: “This is a message to the anti-social elements. Hindus and Muslims live here like brothers and we will continue to live in peace. No outsider can create fissures between us.”

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Salaam Shalom Shanti Peace in the UK

7 hills, 7 faiths: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Judaism
7 hills, 7 faiths: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Judaism

Balaji Temple in Tividale near Birmingham was founded to meet the social needs and the spiritual aspirations of a large number of Hindus in the UK, especially in the Midlands. At the time of its opening in 1999, this was the largest temple of its kind in the UK.

Parsis stand on Zoroastrianism hill in Balaji temple complex
Parsis stand on Zoroastrianism hill in Balaji temple complex

Today, the temple is being visited by people from all over the country and from abroad.

The temple complex includes seven Faith hills created to represent seven major faiths in the United Kingdom and India. Seven hills on the site are to show our respect to seven major faiths and to reflect the seven peaks of Shri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India. “Unity is divinity” is the motto of the temple and relevant for interfaith work. Lord Buddha’s statue, carved by a local sculptor, was installed on one of the hills in May 2001. Faith hill representing Christianity bears a plaque with an inscription “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself.”  

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim family celebrates Navratri 30+ years

Zubeida & Mohmmad Tahir
Zubeida & Mohmmad Tahir

MUMBAI: Mohammed Tahir and his wife Zubeida, main organisers of a local Navratri festival, have been celebrating since 1983.

Tahir said that his wife had dreamt of the Goddess and the couple has since been setting up a makeshift temple every year dedicated to Goddess Durga. “Every year, the temple has a different setting. We have made replica of the Balaji, Vaishno Devi Temple in Jammu, Kedarnath and Badrinath,” said Tahir.

Zubeida said the temple was for everyone who believed that all religions taught different paths to reach the same God. “It is for everyone who believes in the unity of religions. We all celebrate it together, be it Hindu or Muslim. In fact people from various religions and regions come here,” said Zubeida.

Mohammad Tahir, 61, is a labour contractor and has been to Vaishnodevi temple 15 times. “I wanted to keep a Bhandara like that temple and asked the goddess for strength to replicate it in my area. People have been very helpful and have donated a lot of groceries. Over 700 people are fed here daily, after the evening Aarti. Till date, I’ve never had to ask for funds. They just come.”

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Ram Rahim Nagar, a town named for religious harmony

Residents say they keep a 24-hour vigil during disturbances to prevent any mischief by 'outsiders'
Residents say they keep a 24-hour vigil during disturbances to prevent any mischief by ‘outsiders’

Ram-Rahim Nagar has a population of over 20,000, of which 60% are Muslims and the rest Hindus – a delicate demographic composition that has remained undisturbed for the past four decades despite major riots in 1969, 1985, 1992 and 2002. The slum stretches roughly half a kilometre in the densely populated textile suburb, and was originally known as Gulab Bhai no Tekro, or Maharaj na Tekra. It was inhabited mostly by migrant workers from Banaskantha in north Gujarat, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

After the 1969 riots, the slum-dwellers decided to keep away anti-social elements and came together to form a welfare society called Ram-Rahim Nagar. The year was 1974, and the men behind this initiative were the late Ghazi Bhai and the late Kashi Maharaj. “They were security guards at a textile mill. They finalised the name — Ram-Rahim — as a tribute to the fact that a Hanuman temple and a dargah stood cheek-by-jowl at our slum. Nurturing mutual respect and communal harmony ever since has helped us withstand every communal riot that hit Ahmedabad,” says Kanhaiyalal Parmar, a resident.  “People here are not concerned with mandir-masjid because they know they will be the ultimate sufferers in the event of communal disturbances.”

Ram-Rahim Nagar has not experienced  riots ever since the Ram-Rahim Welfare Committee came into existence.   The committee comprises 21 members headed by a chairman, a post that   rotates between a Hindu and a Muslim every year. If the chairman is   a Hindu, his deputy is a Muslim, and vice-versa. Members are drawn equally   from the two communities.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Ram Kathas in Urdu

depiction of Sita
depiction of Sita

LUCKNOW:  This one’s all set to be an unconventional exhibition. The culture department of Uttar Pradesh government will host a four-day exhibition featuring Urdu “granth” (religious texts) depicting Ram Kathas – the story of Lord Ram as told in Ramayana — from October 14 to 18 this year. A government order was issued through the state’s web portal on July 22. The order says it will focus on “urdu granthon mein ram katha ka chitran” (depiction of Ram Katha in Urdu religious texts). The order, issued by special secretary to the department of Culture, Ram Vishal Mishra, to director, department of culture, Anita Meshram, has also sanctioned Rs 47,000 towards making arrangements for the exhibition.

 

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslims make space for Ganpati parade, Hindus silent for Muslim prayers

Hindus hold Ganpati parade on left, Muslims perform namaz on right
Hindus hold Ganpati parade on left, Muslims perform namaz on right

MUMBAI: Unlike usual Ganpati processions, this Ganpati procession in Mumbai maintained silence until the Friday afternoon Namaaz concluded, while the Muslims reading Namaaz made way for the procession to pass conveniently.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Yearly Ganesh festival held inside mosque

GOTKINDHI: In a classic example of communal harmony, members of the New Ganesh Tarun Mandal in Gotkhindi, a small village in Walwa taluka of Sangli district, have been installing the Ganesh deity inside a mosque in the village for the last 31 years.

The mandal members, both Hindus and Muslims, are also equally proud of the fact that villagers have never objected to the move. In fact, the Muslim villagers offer namaz at the mosque and then follow it up with an aarti for Lord Ganesh. Similarly, Hindus can be seen celebrating Eid with equal zest.

Subhash Thorat, one of the founders of the New Ganesh Tarun Mandal in Gotkhind says, “Our village is small and in 1979, the facilities here were very limited. There was no pandal or tin shed like we see in the Ganesh festivals now. So we installed the idol out in the open. But on one of the festival days, it started raining heavily. We wanted to shift the idol to protect it from the rain. That’s when our Muslim residents came forward and asked us to shift the idol inside the mosque.”

That was 31 years ago and every Ganesh Chaturthi, the idol gets installed in the mosque. “Even after all these years, we don’t set up a separate pandal during the festival. The move has helped strengthen Hindu-Muslim bonds in the village,” says Thorat.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Bihari Muslims donate land for world’s largest Hindu temple

PATNA: Muslims in Bihar, in a stellar demonstration of communal harmony, have donated land to help build the world’s largest Hindu temple which will have the capacity to seat a staggering 20,000 people. “Muslims have not only donated land, they have also provided land at a nominal rate for construction of the world’s largest Hindu temple. Without help of Muslims, it would have been difficult realise this dream project,” Acharya Kishore Kunal, secretary of the Patna-based cash-rich Mahavir Mandir Trust that is undertaking the ambitious project, told IANS.

Kunal said that more than three dozen Muslim families have their land in the middle of the proposed location of the temple and some Muslims families have land along the main road that connects to the project site.  “Some Muslims donated lands and others helped and supported us to purchase their land for the temple. If Muslims had not come forward, the temple project was sure to have got delayed…”

“The temple will be earthquake proof (since it) is near the Nepal border,” Kunal said. He said the Virat Ramayan Mandir will be taller than the world famous 12th century Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, which is 215 feet high. The complex will comprise 18 temples with high spires and its Shiv temple would have the largest Shivling in the world, another distinction.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Bhakti and Sufi traditions unite India and Pakistan

Sufi Muslim offering prayer in Rajasthan, India
Sufi Muslim offering prayer in Rajasthan, India

The Sufi and Bhakti tradition in Pakistan and India are two such trends from within Islam and Hinduism respectively, that are focused more on the unity of humanity as a whole, overcoming sectarian divides.

The saints from these traditions had massive appeal among people of different religions and they were away from the centers of power, unlike the clergy. We have seen rich traditions of people like Kabir, Tukaram, Narsi Mehta, Shankar Dev, Lal Dedh, clearly from within the Hindu tradition, while Nizamuddin Auliya, Moinuddin Chishti, Tajuddin Baba Auliya Ajan Pir, Nooruddin Noorani (also known as Nund Rishi) coming from a clear Sufi tradition and Satya Pir, Ramdev Baba Pir, having a mixed lineage, where Bhakti and Sufi themselves are deeply intertwined.

Sant Guru Nanak did try a conscious mixing of the two major religions of India. He traveled up to Makkah to learn the wisdom of Islam and went to Kashi to unravel the spiritual moral aspects of Hinduism. His first follower was Mardan; and Miyan Mir was the one who was respectfully invited to lay the foundations of the Golden Temple of the holy Sikh Shrine. Guru Granth Sahib has an inclusive approach to religious wisdom. No wonder people referred to him as, ‘Baba Nanak Sant Fakir, Hindu ka Guru Musalman ka Pir’ (Saint Nanak is a saint for Hindus and a pir for Muslims).

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Hindu Muslim Unity: American Hindu and Muslim help empower women in Afghanistan

 Sunita Viswanath & Naheed Bahram
Sunita Viswanath & Naheed Bahram

Women for Afghan Women started in 2001 as a grassroots, volunteer-driven effort to help Afghan women and girls find justice for brutal conditions imposed by the Taliban, who ruled over most of the country at the time. Since then, a small staff and a committed group of volunteers have provided the gamut of services – including crisis management, human rights advocacy, legal services, and domestic violence counseling – for Afghan women in New York and in Afghanistan.

More than 15,000 women and girls have been helped through the organization’s efforts, and more importantly, they have become a voice for women who otherwise have been silenced or marginalized due to pressure from or stigmas within their own community. While there have been many setbacks, founders Naheed Bahram and Sunita Viswanath say that the small victories continue to push them towards their goal – a fully equitable and empowered Afghan women’s voice.

Bahram, whose Muslim faith inspires her social action, says she is buoyed by her commitment to her “sisters in need” and the ongoing effort to fight injustice and inequality. She says she can see the growth and the change in each woman the organization has helped, including “the smile on their children’s faces as they score the highest grade in the class despite being in the country for less than a year.”

Similarly, Viswanath says survivor stories continue to inspire her, and ties her Hindu faith with an ongoing commitment to social justice. “The teachings from my Hindu upbringing — of oneness of all beings, all peoples, the whole universe — require me to live my life as seva or in service to the most marginalized, disenfranchised, those whose rights are the most violated,” says Viswanath, who is also a founder of Sadhana, a coalition of progressive of Hindus.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: real life Bajrangi Bhaijaan story

KARACHI:  An Indian woman stuck in Pakistan since she accidentally crossed over as a child has drawn attention as a real life example of “Bajrangi Bhaijaan,” the film starring Salman Khan that has made waves in both countries. Geeta was nine when she crossed into Pakistani territory. Personnel of the Punjab Rangers took her to a social welfare organisation, the Edhi Foundation, in Lahore. She soon moved to a home in Karachi.

After spending some time at an Edhi Centre in Lahore, the girl was shifted to a Karachi shelter where Bilquis Edhi, a philanthropist known as ‘The Mother of Pakistan’, named her ‘Geeta’ and became quite attached to the girl. The shelter home’s staff have created a separate praying room for her, adorning it with colourful posters of Hindu deities.

“She is a devout Hindu and has even put up colourful posters of Hindu deities, and an earthen lamp on the table,” Human rights activist and ex-minister Ansar Burney told PTI.

“This is the Ganesh that I got for her from Nepal,” Faisal said pointing toward one of the figurines.

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Additional Link: Facebook page on Geeta’s case

Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindus & Muslims take care of Kerala’s Jewish minority

Sarah Cohen, Kochi's oldest living Jew, 93 years old
Sarah Cohen, Kochi’s oldest living Jew, 93 years old

KOCHI: According to a local, the street was once home to as many as 11 synagogues. But now only the Pardesi Synagogue stands, believed to have been built in the 15th century. Visitors now pay Rs 5 for an entry. “We are doing what we can to ensure that the synagogue continues to be functional in view of the handful of Jews left here,” says Yaheh Hallegua, who is in her early 40’s, the youngest of the community. She works as the in-charge of the synagogue. A lot of tourists visit the synagogue, which is situated at the end of the Jew Street, which has over a 100 shops, mostly selling antiques and arts and crafts owned by Kashmiris.

“It is difficult to believe that there were thousands of Jews here until the early 50s,” says Sarah Cohen, 93, the oldest living Jew in the locality. A middle-aged Muslim looks after her, besides managing the household for nearly 15 years now, since the passing of her husband.

“Sarah is the most popular and well-known among the seven living Jews,” says Santhi John, a shop-owner and neighbour. “Both Indian and foreign tourists make a beeline to her shop because she is always happy for an interaction,” she adds.

K J Joy, the Hindu caretaker of the Pardesi Synagogue for over 25 years informs with pride that the blue-and-white-tiled floors were imported from China and the candle-lamps from Belgium and other countries.

“I pray for peace and well-being of the town; after all, it is the only place I have been associated with since my childhood. There is no question of me leaving my 150-year old house that was built by my ancestors. I would die here like just my husband and my grandparents,” Sarah adds.

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