The F Word: Surprising how we’re still caught up in ignorance

2010-12-07 13:37

I recently celebrated Eid-ul-Adha. The celebration is based on a story in the Quran which talks about sacrifice in the name of God.

The day usually entails sacrificing an animal (cow, sheep or goat) and the meat, once cleaned, is distributed to those in need (whether Muslim or not).

When I mentioned to an acquaintance that I wouldn’t be at work that day, they said: “Eid again?!” I was annoyed to say the least.

I have known this person for quite some time and couldn’t believe that they didn’t know that Muslims around the globe celebrated two Eids. (The first, to mark the end of the dry fast.)

On another occasion, an acquaintance wished me “Happy Diwali” (the festival of light, celebrated by Hindus).

My response? Thanks for the thought, but I am in fact Muslim.For years – at school and even at varsity – I encountered the assumption that all Indians are Muslim or Hindu and that being Indian means that you are part of either religion.

This is not so. For example, my father is Indian. He grew up Christian and his entire family is Christian.

At primary school, just after the 1994 elections, and in high school to an extent I could understand where the confusion may have come from.

Due to apartheid and the Groups Areas Act the divide between our forefathers was (wrongly so) part of life.But, as a product of democracy, I expect just a little more awareness of other people’s cultures.

To me, it’s almost like assuming that all African people celebrate the reed dance, or that all white people in South Africa are wealthy.

It’s a generalist mantra which in 2010 is unacceptable.

We work, play and live in a multi-faceted South Africa, so surely we should not only be embracing other people’s culture and religion but making a concerted effort to understand each other better?

I don’t live in lala land and realise that we will never fully grasp certain traditions and concepts if we have not been brought up with them.

I do, however, believe that asking a question to your colleague, neighbour or the person sitting next to you on the bus about their culture is certainly a step in the right direction.

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