Monday, 6 March 2017

Nothing to do with Islam but, it is all about the individual

When there is a perception over an individual or a large community across the world, it is not so easy to change in a short span. It takes decades for them to come out of the identity, be it a positive or a negative shade. So is in the case of the followers of Islam after the 9/11 attack at WTO towers in the USA. But, that shade has been rapidly fading out to nowhere in the present scenario claims some known faces. I recently had an opportunity to interact with award-winning story-teller and leading stand-up comedian Aman Ali from New York City on the sidelines of the meeting organised at Amir Mahal, the residence of Prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali. It was an enlightening session for me as I really went through certain eye brow rising facts during our conversation.

Firstly, his address at the meeting itself was on the subject, ‘Growing up as a Muslim in America’ in which he discussed about the change in the mind sets of people about Muslims across the globe and the positive vibes experienced by people belonging to the second largest holy faith of the world.

Aman told me that Islam was not new to the US as, "The oldest mosque of the States dates back to 120 years - sometime in the late 1920s. However, the Muslim population in the federal republic came way before that in the 1700s and so I would say Muslims have been in the US for over eight generations". Further he came up with an added fact that the oldest mosque was erected by pioneers from what are now Syria and Lebanon. It was built in 1929 in a small village called Ross in North Dakota. Aman has visited mosques and Muslims in all 50 states of the USA which he took it up as a trip during the month of Ramadan a couple of years back.

"The cemetery, with the star-crescent symbol on its gate and on many of its gravestones, hold the remains of a Muslim community that date back nearly 120 years. Up a slight hill stood the oldest mosque in the United States," Aman explained.

Aman, who has been to 28 countries and all the 50 States in the US, said, "I could only feel a complete positive reception for the followers of Islam throughout the world. There are a few idiots who are still offensive in their thoughts and words but, they need not be considered." He also said the identity of Islam has always been taught as a violent rebel.

Aman Ali seen in picture. Source:

"Why not a Muslim is given an identity of a celebrity like Mohammed Ali, Janet Jackson or AR Rahman who have made a change?", he queried. His perception could easily be understood from the tone of his speech towards this budding journo. At that time my crooked journalist mind tried to pull some words from him. I said if Aman was brought up in any of the countries from the South East or the Middle East and he performs such story telling or stand up comedy sessions, it would not go the way as now. He would have been struck in controversies, would have been asked to go to Pakistan and would be called a traitor.

For this, he reacted in a very mild and a smiling note. "There are stories of Muslims here in India that need to be told across the world. There are incidents where a lot of Muslims who had built temples for Hindus. There is AR Rahman and there are people like Abdul Kalam and Malala from the same region you have denoted", Aman said. I was not so surprised from this response, as I wanted this answer from him to tell out to this world.

Later, our conversation turned towards Trump. I asked him whether the current scenario in the US is likely unfavorable for Muslims. He immediately responded that it would not be a huge problem for Muslims in this unstable situation created in the United States of America after Donald Trump sworn in as President. "Yes, I agree that it is a stressful situation that is persisting in the country and we have to go through all these struggles. But that does not mean the immigrants will be sent out of USA," Aman said. I cross questioned how he was sure of it, for which Aman said, "There are a lot of Senators, bureaucrats, higher officials, judicial officers who are immigrants including Muslims. It is not possible for USA to make them all leave. So, it is not happening right now and I am sure of it."

Further added that, "In America, above all, the native people of the country are with the Muslims and other immigrants,". For this, he also came up with some justifying instances from the recent times. "When I recently went to JFK International Airport at New York. I could see a big revolt carried out by over 15,000 people supporting one Muslim family that was stopped by the immigration officials from entering the country. Finally, the Muslim family was allowed into the city out of the revolution. People’s power succeeded," Aman said.

From all this, I could only say that, it is not the identity of a person that leads to him to act, but it is he himself and external influences, who push his ideas towards the actions. Nothing to do with the identity obviously!!!

Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, March 3, 2017

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