& occasionally about other things, too...

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Of Hockey and Hijab

I don’t consider myself religious, although I’ve begun to shy away from describing myself as an atheist; agnostic perhaps better describes me and millions of others who don’t quite belong to the category of true believers (of any religion) and clearly abhor secular determinism as an idea of the past.

Secularism like democracy is a constantly evolving concept that takes different forms in different regions of the world. There is no right fix that can possibly be applied to everyone. As Sheema Khan explains, “To you your way, to me mine.”

In 1988, Sheema Khan “got religion” seemingly an affliction that turned this average Canadian Muslism of South Asian origin into a hijab wearing Woman in Muslim Dress (WMD).

Although everyone she knew didn’t react in quite the same way George Bush reacted when he heard that Saddam Hussein had WMD, they still couldn't figure what had gotten into her. They sympathised with her condition because they were convinced she was “brain-washed” and that she “had no choice.”

On the contrary, it was a personal decision that emerged from within as she tried to fill a spiritual void by relying on faith.

Khan explains she found secularism dissatisfying. “Many of us have experienced a purely secular outlook and found it to be thoroughly unsatisfying, for it fails to address the dynamic of one’s spiritual core. That inner voice, hidden to all except to the One who created it and who alone can respond.”

Of Hockey and Hijab Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman (TSAR Books) is a slim yet important contribution in understanding the Muslim mind.

Khan is a feisty, fearless woman and clearly a product of the Western society. She’s a patent agent in Ottawa, holds a doctorate from Harvard.

As with any one who has spent some time at such institutions, she’s intelligent and articulate; they inculcate everyone at Harvard with these qualities. Khan also has qualities that aren’t taught at Harvard: deep-rooted compassion, tolerance, empathy, understanding, patience – qualities that come from contemplation and looking inwards.

The essays in Hockey and Hijab touch upon several issues that are constantly being debated in today’s newspapers across the world.

They deal with the idea of Islam in a frank and non-didactic manner. Khan handles a range of topics right from global issues such the ‘clash of civilisations’ to Canadian controversies such as the horrific treatment meted out to some Muslims by the Canadian establishment.

In discussing all these issues, she adopts a candid yet non-confrontational style. While upholding the values espoused in Islam, she doesn’t mince words in focusing on the ills that beset her religion.

Khan’s style opens doors because her writing is sincere and straight from the heart. She doesn’t want you to change your views; all she expects is that you open your mind and free it of preconceived notions about her religion.

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