Friday, September 2, 2011

Political Iftar Parties

Wednesday was Eid, when Muslims across the world break their month-long period of fast in the holy month of Ramzan (Ramdan, in other countries). But that's not what I wish to discuss.

An unseemly habit during Ramzan is for politicians to organize iftar parties. Iftar is the time when a Muslim breaks his fast for the day and is usually accompanied with good food (relative to income, of course). However, that does not mean that the spirit with which the fast is undertaken ends after Iftar. The same values of humility and piety are supposed to govern an individual even after iftar.

Political iftar parties are an insult to this spirit. Most of the time, these politicians are Hindus who do not identify whatsoever with the values that Ramzan represents. The only reason they organise such lavish parties is to garner political brownie-points and votes. It's a different matter when constitutional office-holders, like Governors, host an iftar party: these are not political rather, they are a celebration of our diversity. But when petty local politicians call such parties, it is purely politics.

Another problem is the vulgar lavishness of such parties. As I said, iftar is not an end to the values that Ramzan represents. Iftar parties thrown by politicians tend to be mind-boggling in scale, with lavish meals and an assortment of entertainment. The tragedy is that a lot of this food goes to waste, even as millions of poor in this country go to bed hungry. Charity is one of the five acts that every Muslim is supposed to fulfill, more so during Ramzan.

And the biggest tragedy in all this is the way so-called influential Muslims join in these vulgar festivities, cooling forgetting that millions of other Muslims cannot even dream of the feast that they are eating. I'm not singling out Muslims alone here - nobody cares for the poor - but during the time of Ramzan you are supposed to care for them.

This Ramzan, a civil society group in Jaipur called for a boycott of all political iftar parties. Yet, several Muslims attended these, probably to garner political favours for themselves. This system needs to go and it has to come from within the Muslim community of India itself. Do not accept doles and words - press for action. Do not look for political patronage - look for emancipation. Be the change that you want to see.

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