Divided we stand We need a unity that accommodates divisions – respectfully

Last Sunday Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, besides hosting an Iftar party, arranged a session inviting people of different sects and schools to the same platform. It was heartening to see members of many parties urging on unity amongst Muslims so that confrontations (which in some cases lead to violence) are avoided. Any attempt which aims at reducing the level of intolerance in the society is welcome. So is this.

A point that needs to be explained in a bit wider perspective is that of `Unity’. UNITY never means UNIFORMITY. The mere presence of differences (religious, communal, social or cultural) in a society must not cause panic. Differences are pleasant, if we take them in the meaning of variety. The same differences are ominous when we take them as emphatic declarations of our superiority as a chosen people. One kind of difference is to be nourished the same way as the other kind is to be fought against and eventually wiped out. A monolith in any form (religious or political) has always proved dangerous. God alone is (and likes to be) one. Irreducibly one. We are humans, we love to be many. Colourfully many. 

We have no dispute with different groups adopting their own ways of worship, expressing their allegiance to their own schools of thought as long as modes are tolerably decent and unobjectionably trouble-free. No issues till all cling to their respective banners, our problem arises the minute they claim an edge over each other. Worry is not their existence, but their mode of action. The centre of the whole mess lies in our approach towards religion. When ideologies turn competitors, violence is inevitable. We don’t need a religion-incited, but a religion-inspired society where not just believers, but disbelievers have a place.

We must prefer natural heterogeneity to a coercive unity. The harmony we achieve by tugging people of multiple approaches towards a single and solitary belief system will be essentially fake. The bonds of such unity are too tenuous to hold people together. Let’s not forget that God’s rope (Hablillah) is not for God’s believer’s alone. We can’t cast out even atheists, not to speak of those who don’t belong to our own version of belief. Faith, after all, is like imagination. No one knows who is imagining what. And no one can decide as to whose faith is firm and whose mode perfect. We are humans first, Muslims then, Sunnis or Shias and Hanafis or Shafis inconsequentially next. Such classifications are endless and (in certain matters) pointless.