Archive for 'Religion'

How Bohra Muslims Set Themselves Apart

Posted on April 26, 2011, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, Religion.

MUMBAI, India — Covered from head to toe, the women stood separate from the men and in many ways acted out traditions common to all Muslims.

They prayed in Arabic and beat their chests. Thousands of Dawoodi Bohra Muslim women cried as their leader, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, spoke on the occasion of his 100th birthday at the Saifee Mosque in Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar.

But rather than wearing black burqas, like other religious Muslim women in India, these Bohra women wore hot pink.

They also wore deep reds, forest greens, bright blues. Every color imaginable, it seemed — except black.

Some say that’s no coincidence.

The traditional costume, called a rida, worn by Dawoodi Bohra women represents one of many ways this community of about 1.2 million people differentiates itself from other Muslims in India, say sociologists and historians.

India’s 161 million Muslims tend to be a marginalized minority with lower education and income levels than the country’s Hindus and Christians. There is also long-standing prejudice against Muslims by those who perceive the community as violent, poor, socially backward and sexist. This can cause discrimination against Muslims in everything from housing to jobs.

The Bohras want none of that.

Continue reading and see the slideshow at GlobalPost.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Mixx
  • TwitThis
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Blogosphere News

No Comments

Mumbai’s Jewish Culture: Small but Unique

Posted on October 11, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, Religion, travel.

I’m going to be writing for the NYTimes.com’s travel blog. Here’s my first piece, with photographs.

With at least seven synagogues, each with its own unique design and history, Mumbai has no shortage of Jewish sites to visit. But given the city’s tiny Jewish population, trying to get a Shabbat minyan at each poses a bigger challenge.

Sitting in the office of the Magen Hassidim Synagogue (8, Mohomad Shahid Marg, Agripada; 91-22-2309-2493), Abraham Samson and Daniel Soloman Waskar, the synagogue’s president and manager, recalled the community’s golden years in an interview conducted before the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During the British era, the synagogue, with its high ceiling, upper level for women, hanging eternal light and tebah (the Sephardic term for the bimah, the elevated central prayer area) would become so crowded that people would gather at the door.

Beginning in the 1950s, though, most of the city’s Jewish community left for Israel or the West. Mr. Samson and Mr. Waskar rattled off each member of their family and where they now live. “Now from my family,” Mr. Samson said, “nobody’s here.”

Continue reading at NYTimes.com.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Mixx
  • TwitThis
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Blogosphere News

No Comments

Ahead of Ayodhya Verdict, Mumbai Slums Still Rocked by Riots

Posted on September 23, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, Religion.

MUMBAI, India — Mehtab Sudhan stands by the welding shop, at a small, dusty crossroads in Jogeshwari East, a suburb of northern Mumbai.

He points to a mosque where men kneel on rugs and pray to Allah. A man in a white skullcap sits on a nearby stoop, reading an Urdu-language newspaper.

“This is the border road between Muslims and Hindus,” he said. “This side Muslim,” he nodded to the right, and then to the left over where a stage was set up for the Ganesh festival. “This side Hindu.”

When Sudhan was a child Jogeshwari East first was integrated, and Hindus and Muslims came together peacefully. Then the riots in 1992 and 1993 changed everything.

Sudhan walked down the road to a dirt clearing where a cat ate out of a dumpster and a baby goat stood nursing its mother. This was the spot where Sudhan’s brother, a Muslim, was shot dead on Dec. 7, 1992, the day after Hindu fanatics demolished the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in northern India.

The destruction of the mosque, which many Hindus believe to have stood at the birthplace of their god, Lord Rama, triggered riots between Hindus and Muslims across India — most notably in Mumbai, where large sections of the city burned. About 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, died and the violence, some of the worst since partition, helped usher India’s main Hindu nationalist party, BJP, into power.

This Friday, nearly two decades later, the Allahabad High Court will issue a long-awaited verdict to determine land ownership rights of the Ayodhya site. Much of Mumbai — though, notably, not all of Mumbai — is on edge.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Mixx
  • TwitThis
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Blogosphere News

No Comments

Ganesh Goes Green

Posted on September 16, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, India, International, Religion.

MUMBAI, India — At a line of stalls in Mumbai’s Matunga East, men sit on wooden stands and others crouch underneath, their hands working fast as they tie flower after flower together to make garlands of every size and color combination.

On another street, men and women line up down the block, waiting to buy incense that will be used as an offering. Mumbai is geering up for Ganesh Chaturthi, a celebration of the Hindu elephant-headed god Lord Ganesh and one of the city’s most elaborate festivals.

But all is not merry. As the festival has grown in popularity and become modernized and, some would argue, commercialized, its traditional practices have developed into a strain on India’s environment. The state government for Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, and local NGOs and activists have responded with a campaign to give Ganesh a makeover — of the green variety.

“It’s an effort to make the whole festival eco-friendly because it results in a lot of water pollution at the end of the day,” said state environment secretary Valsa Nair Singh.

Read more at GlobalPost.

Follow Hanna on Twitter @Hanna_India.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Mixx
  • TwitThis
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Blogosphere News

No Comments

For India’s Jews, Passover Is a Balancing Act

Posted on April 1, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, India, International, Religion.

MUMBAI, India — As our rickshaw whizzes down a dark alleyway, I can just make out a Star of David painted on a shop’s cement wall. The Kosher butcher in Thane, a northeastern suburb of Mumbai, specializes in mutton and chicken. In a land where most consider cows holy, it rarely sells beef.

We turn left and arrive at the synagogue, ready to celebrate Passover. We have been delayed, but the seder has not begun. (“Indian time” and “Jewish time” mean the same thing — late.)

Built in 1879, Shaar Hashamaim is one the oldest synagogues for India’s Bene Israel Jews. Legend has it the community, considered one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, arrived in India 2,000 years ago when a boat of Jews fleeing persecution in the Galilee got shipwrecked off the Konkan coast. Seven couples survived, and multiplied. Like Jews the world over, the community acclimated to the local culture while maintaining its own traditions and rituals.

Continue reading on GlobalPost.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Mixx
  • TwitThis
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Blogosphere News

No Comments

Murder of Muslim Lawyer Angers Community

Posted on March 18, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Crime, India, International, Religion.

MUMBAI, India — When Shahid Azmi was 15, police gathered outside his home in a slum area of Mumbai. As he, his brothers and mother huddled inside between the bed and cupboards, his older brother Arif recalls, police stoned the home and fired shots over the windows.

Shahid had a front-row view of Mumbai’s 1993 riots in which mobs of Hindus burned down homes, destroyed businesses and killed hundreds of Muslims as police looked on. His brother said Shahid also saw officers storm a Muslim home in their Shivaji Nagar community, drag women out of the apartment and try to rape them in the street. He witnessed an officer tell a Muslim neighbor to run, only to get shot by another cop.

Another brother, Khalid, recounts Shahid’s life as he sits in Shahid’s former office in Mumbai’s middle-class suburb of Kurla. Shahid had become a lawyer, representing Muslim Indians he considered wrongly accused of terrorist charges.

Last month, three armed gunmen entered this office and shot Shahid dead at point-blank range. He was 32.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Mixx
  • TwitThis
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Blogosphere News

No Comments

Caught Up in Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday

Posted on March 7, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, Religion.

Last week, I went with my housekeeper to her very poor community in eastern Mumbai to see how Muslims here celebrate the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. We intended to wait in her neighborhood until a procession of trucks carrying screaming, chanting young men and children made their way around the city and then ended up in her community, where we would greet them. Instead, we climbed into the trucks and went along for the ride.

Read my GlobalPost story on what it was like to celebrate the holiday as a Jewish American.

MUMBAI, India — My housekeeper arrives at my apartment early. As she cleans, she rushes me to get ready. She tells me I should wear Indian dress today. “There will be a lot of men, not good,” she says. “You know, men’s eyes …”

I put on a salwar kameez, show it to Chandbi and she nods in approval. I go to slip on my flipflops, and Chandbi’s face turns to horror. “You look nice in Indian dress,” she says. “You are going to wear those?”

I change into leather sandals, and Chandbi puts on her headscarf. We catch a rickshaw to go to her home in Parkside, a poor community in eastern Mumbai, to see how the anniversary of Prophet Mohammed’s birthday is celebrated here.

Continue reading here.

Go here to see my photographs from the festival.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Mixx
  • TwitThis
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Blogosphere News

No Comments

Mumbai Parsis divided on intermarriage

Posted on January 3, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, India, International, Religion.

My first article for GlobalPost from India has been published. It’s a profile of the Parsi community here.

MUMBAI, India — A group of about a dozen young Parsi professionals gather around a table at the Parsi Gymkhana or social club at Marine Lines in Mumbai. They drink Pepsis and snack on toast topped with akuri, a spicy mixture of scrambled eggs and tomatoes, as they wait for others to arrive.

“What’s up, homies?” says 23-year-old Peshotan Kapadia as he makes his entrance. Sporting a goatee, jeans and T-shirt, Kapadia — like the rest of the group — looks like a typical modern young adult.

But despite the modern scene, the group’s underlying purpose is a reflection of their traditional beliefs: to foster marriage between young Parsis.

Continue reading and see the photos here.

Follow me on Twitter here.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Mixx
  • TwitThis
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Blogosphere News

No Comments

Powell Takes a Stand Against Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Posted on October 19, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Media, Religion.

Colin Powell devoted almost two minutes of his seven-minute explanation for why he has endorsed Barack Obama to denouncing leaders in the Republican party and others who have spewed anti-Muslim hate speech throughout this campaign.

It’s a shame that it has taken this long for such a prominent Republican politician to weigh in on this issue. For about two years now, we have been hearing the word Muslim used as if it were a slur or accusation. Obama has been labeled a Muslim by his critics, who operate on the assumption that Muslim Americans have no right to run for the presidency of the United States. I blogged about this issue last Saturday, and all week other commentators have discussed the issue. And now a man in power (well, a man who used to be in power) has spoken up. As Mr. Powell made clear, the line has been drawn in the sand: Enough!

Good work, Mr. Powell. That was one large step toward redeeming yourself.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Mixx
  • TwitThis
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Blogosphere News

1 Comment

Is Muslim The New Queer?

Posted on October 11, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Politics, Religion.

The U.S. presidential election has led to fairly significant debate on black-white race issues as well as gender politics. This campaign has triggered passionate hatred for Muslims and Arabs in this country, and yet that form of racism and prejudice has barely been discussed.

Just yesterday an elderly woman at a campaign event with John McCain rambled into the microphone about how she doesn’t trust Barack Obama and then said, as if it were her kicker, “HE’S ARAB.”

McCain took the microphone back, shook his head, and acting like he is suddenly better than gutter politics, said something along the lines of, “No, no, Mam. He’s a decent, family man.”

What?! That old lady did not say Obama is a terrorist. She did not say he is a murderer or a rapist or a drug dealer to little children. She said he is “Arab.” And yet, McCain automatically understood her point and equated “Arab” with “bad man.”

Similar things have been happening on a regular basis throughout this campaign. Every time people spread emails and rumors that Obama is Muslim, they are not trying to inform voters of the man’s religion. They are saying, Don’t vote for him because he is Muslim. Every time some religious-right radio talkshow host uses Obama’s middle name of Hussein, he is saying, Don’t vote for Obama because he is Muslim.

Obama has on occasion said that it shouldn’t matter if he were Muslim or not. But he has not done that enough. Usually, he just denies it, as if being called Muslim were an accusation. Wouldn’t someone who wants to run on a mantle of hope and bring this country forward on race relations say over and over again, “There is nothing wrong with being Muslim. Muslims have the right to run for office. Muslims are not all terrorists.”

When people accuse Obama of being Arab, he should similarly say, “There is nothing wrong with being Arab. We have many allies in the Arab world.”

Step back a moment and think again about that old lady at the McCain event yesterday. Imagine her instead saying that she doesn’t trust Obama and…. “HE”S JEWISH.” Or she doesn’t trust Obama and … “HE’S CHRISTIAN.” Or she doesn’t trust Obama and …. “HE’S POLISH.”

And then, imagine the man running on the Republican Party ticket to be president of the United States say, “No, no, no, he’s not Jewish. He’s a decent, family man.”

Yes, of course, there is still plenty of hatred against Jews out there in the world. But a Republican presidential candidate would never say that because there would be a backlash from the Jewish community, and probably (hopefully) from many other communities.

So where’s the backlash now? We hear a lot about this election getting “uglier” and politics getting “dirtier.” We discuss those voters in the South or rural PA who say they’d never vote for a black man. So why don’t we hear about the ongoing racism against Muslims and Arabs that has been coming out in this campaign?

I am Jewish and grew up learning about the Holocaust and the apocryphal story of the Danish king who wore the Star of David when the Nazis tried to round up the Jews. As the story goes, all the Danes then wore the Star of David, thereby protecting the real Jews from being sent to concentration camps. I grew up hearing stories about the German families who risked everything to hide Jews in their basement. And, of course, about the families who stood by and did nothing. To them, we said Never Again.

Now, in post-9/11 America, it is the Muslims and Arabs who are the object of racism. While there are so many Americans who are quick to correct the facts and make sure the public knows that Obama is not Arab or Muslim, where are the people speaking up and saying that the Arabs and Muslims are not evil, bad people? How come now almost nobody is saying it’s not OK to hate?

Rather than correcting these lies by proving that Obama is Christian, we should be denouncing them. And, like the story of the Danish king, we should all be willing to say, I am Arab, I am Muslim.

This was cross-posted on the Huffington Post.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Mixx
  • TwitThis
  • Reddit
  • Technorati
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Google
  • Blogosphere News

4 Comments

« Older Entries