Devout and Liberal, Muslim and Musician!

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People tell me that I sometimes write angry blogs. They say I must tone down. They say, calm is good for your heart.

I agree.

Therefore, I’ve decided to write in a calm, peaceful, toned-down manner. I’ve decided not to use phrases or phenomena that might irk people unnecessarily.

Rather, I’ve decided not to use a language that might irk people unnecessarily. I can’t promise I won’t write on controversial subjects. But I promise that I shall try to put it in a softer, subtle manner.

See, I do it periodically, and then I get angry again. Especially when situation around me becomes too stressful.

But, leaders, thinkers and no-name blog writers can’t afford to lose their head. Because if they do, they do a disservice to the people they’re leading or making think.

In case of a no-name blog writer, losing head is even worse. They lose their head, and nobody even notices. A headless blog writer that nobody notices is no joke. Definitely no joke for the blog writer.

So, I shall not lose my head. I have a feeling if I don’t lose my head, my head won’t lose me.

Enough pun. Enough fun.

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Bade Gulam AliI was thinking while driving out to my weekend labor workshop on Long Island. Often these two things — driving and thinking — go together well. Especially when you’re away from the hustle and bustle side of civilization.

So, I was driving, and thinking of civilization.

I was listening to a beautiful Indian classical music on YouTube. It’s a Sitar and Sehnai duet played by two Muslim maestros named Vilayet Khan and Bismillah Khan. These are two household names in music-loving Indian families: Muslim or Hindu. The YouTube was playing a raga named Bhairavi, an early-morning tune.

Bhairavi soothes your mind. Its mood calms you down, just the same way a pleasant early morning is supposed to sooth.

(Bhairavi is also a Sanskrit word. A Hindu goddess is also called Bhairavi. Countless ragas these exponents mastered on have Sanskrit/Hindu names. To them, it didn’t matter. To me, it never even occurred in my mind before they cooked up and capitalized on the Hindu-Muslim chasm, for political benefits.)

If you want to listen to their beautiful instrumental duet, you can click on this link here. Make sure you’re a little away from the hustle and bustle side of civilization. Or, it may not have the same effect on you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Km6KA-LDHek

Now, I was thinking: does anybody outside of India know that Indian Muslims, devout as Bismillah or Vilayet Khan, are so liberal and artistic and awe-inspiring musicians? I mean, think about it: Muslim, devout, liberal, artistic and musician — say these words slowly…together! Don’t we often have this perception that Muslims — especially the devout ones — are fundamentalists and fanatics and against art and music and all? Isn’t that how America and its media portray Islam to us? Or, for that matter, any religions or faiths outside of the box?

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I grew up in a place where dogmatic-variety Islam took a 180-degree turn, and became liberal and secular. Here, contrary to what we hear about Islam, not just Muslim men like Vilayet or Bismillah or vocal genius Amir Khan or Bade Gulam Ali, but Muslim women such as Begum Akhtar, Parveen Sultana, Zeenat Begum and Shamsad Begum have been major public sphere singers — both in India and Pakistan. Then, in a very liberal Bangladesh (again, contrary to what we hear about this “poor” country), Muslim women such as Sanjida Khatun, Fahmida Khatun, Rejwana Chowdhury Banya, Laisa Ahmed Lisa, Mita Huq have performed and taught Tagore music. Runa Laila is a pop musician of world reputation.

In Bengal, epicenter of Indian secular liberalism, legendary musician Alauddin Khan, a devout, conservative Muslim who could play twenty instruments, mentored two world-famous musicians Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, the latter being his son. Ravi Shankar had married Alauddin’s daughter whom the mentor named Annapurna, name of a Hindu goddess. Annapurna, they say, was a phenomenal musician herself.

Alauddin was a genius, and was a mentor of a generation of genius musicians: both Hindu and Muslim.

How many of us know about it? Ask…calmly…why do we not know?

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I could go on and on. But you don’t have unlimited time, and I don’t have unlimited calm. I get carried away, and then get…you know what…angry.

I don’t want to be angry. so, I shall stop.

Just one final message before we adjourn.

Don’t fall for what they preach about Muslims. Know them well. There is a different world of Islam altogether.

They don’t practice fanaticism. They practice peace.

Peacefully, on this day of invocation of Goddess Durga,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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P.S. — I couldn’t let you go without mentioning another devout and liberal Muslim musician named Kazi Najrul Islam, the national poet of Bangladesh. Look him up. He was a Muslim. He was also a revolutionary. And a legendary musician.

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4 thoughts on “Devout and Liberal, Muslim and Musician!

      1. Hear duets by Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan. There’s also a documentary on Alauddin Khan that you can find on YouTube. It has some clips of the guru teaching his disciples.

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