Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindus & Muslims take care of Kerala’s Jewish minority

Sarah Cohen, Kochi's oldest living Jew, 93 years old
Sarah Cohen, Kochi’s oldest living Jew, 93 years old

KOCHI: According to a local, the street was once home to as many as 11 synagogues. But now only the Pardesi Synagogue stands, believed to have been built in the 15th century. Visitors now pay Rs 5 for an entry. “We are doing what we can to ensure that the synagogue continues to be functional in view of the handful of Jews left here,” says Yaheh Hallegua, who is in her early 40’s, the youngest of the community. She works as the in-charge of the synagogue. A lot of tourists visit the synagogue, which is situated at the end of the Jew Street, which has over a 100 shops, mostly selling antiques and arts and crafts owned by Kashmiris.

“It is difficult to believe that there were thousands of Jews here until the early 50s,” says Sarah Cohen, 93, the oldest living Jew in the locality. A middle-aged Muslim looks after her, besides managing the household for nearly 15 years now, since the passing of her husband.

“Sarah is the most popular and well-known among the seven living Jews,” says Santhi John, a shop-owner and neighbour. “Both Indian and foreign tourists make a beeline to her shop because she is always happy for an interaction,” she adds.

K J Joy, the Hindu caretaker of the Pardesi Synagogue for over 25 years informs with pride that the blue-and-white-tiled floors were imported from China and the candle-lamps from Belgium and other countries.

“I pray for peace and well-being of the town; after all, it is the only place I have been associated with since my childhood. There is no question of me leaving my 150-year old house that was built by my ancestors. I would die here like just my husband and my grandparents,” Sarah adds.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: UAE Gurdwara holds iftar

Sikhs hold iftar for fasting Muslims
Sikhs hold iftar for fasting Muslims

DUBAI: Representatives of Al Manar Islamic Centre ended their fast on Monday evening at the Jebel Ali-based Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara during an iftar organised by the temple committee that represents 250,000 members of the Sikh community. The iftar followed a religious discourse where scholars exchanged ideas.

Both Sikh priests and Islamic scholars exchanged ideas on the oneness of humanity and existence of one God before a gathering of more than 100 people.

Surinder Singh Kandhari, chairman of the Gurudwara, told Gulf News: “We consider the month of Ramadan an excellent time to observe interfaith harmony and bond with the community. Our religion has taught us the importance of the oneness of all human beings and the important role that the community kitchen at the gurudwara plays in bringing people together to share a meal. Every day we hold a langar (free meal for the community) for 1,000 people at the Sikh temple and on Fridays for 10,000 people. This iftar, which has become an annual feature since last year, is an excellent opportunity for us to forget our egos and come together and share a meal with our Muslim brothers.”

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindu youth distribute sweets to Muslims on Milad-un-Nabi

MANGALAGURU: A few youngsters belonging to the Hindu community calling themselves ‘Friends of Bakrabail’ distributed sweets to the Muslim brothers on the occasion of Milad-un-Nabi a which marks the birth of the Prophet.

The Bakrabail village is situated near to Salethur at the Kerala border in Dakshina Kannada district. Every year during the feast, Muslims from the nearby Madrasas organise a rally, which convenes at Bakrabail junction. This year a group of youth called ‘Friends of Bakrabail’ showed their heartedness by distributing sweets and refreshments to all present at the rally. This act of showing communal harmony and brotherhood among different religion has been appreciated by all.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Australian Hindu fasts for Ramadan

Kartik Mohandas
Kartik Mohandas

BELLA VISTA: When Kartik Mohandas breaks his Ramadan fast he meditates while his Muslim friends recite Islamic prayers. “Fasting exists in most messianic religions. Navratri is a period where Hindus fast for nine days and hold festivities on the 10th day. So fasting is not specific to any culture.”

“I have only one phrase and it comes from a vedic [Sanskrit] text, vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means “the world is my family. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, they all had their revelations out in the desert after fasting. There’s got to be something to it, some experience that they went through.”

Read more: Communal Harmony
Read more about Fasting in Hinduism and Islam

Hindu Muslim Unity: Temple built next to Mosque by Muslim family flourishes for 200 years

Hindus and Muslims practice their faiths side by side
Hindus and Muslims practice their faiths side by side

Muzzafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh has been the house of communal harmony right from its existence. Here everyone believes in the age old ethos which has led to upsurge the traditional root of the country. One such instance is of Shah Alam Zaidi. Muslim by religion, Zaidi and his family donated a land for building a Hindu temple and a mosque adjacent to each other. Zaidi is famous among the people of the region, as he serves to the temple with utmost devotion and faith. During the occasion of Navratari he takes part in all the rituals performed in the temple. Built two hundred years ago this temple and mosque in its side clearly reflects the fact that the culture of communal harmony still prevails in the country.

Read more (video included): Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: 12 year old Muslim girl wins Bhagavad Gita competition

12 year old Maryam Siddiqui has won against 4000 competitors to win the Bhagavad Gita Champion League
12 year old Maryam Siddiqui has won against 4000 competitors to win the Bhagavad Gita Champion League

MUMBAI: Maryam Asif Siddiqui might have been a regular 6th Grade student but she’s not. The 12 year old from Cosmopolitan High School, Mira Road, Mumbai, recently won the Gita Champions League hosted by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

When asked what motivated her to participate in the competition she said, “I have always been inquisitive about religions and I often read up on them during my free time. So when my teacher told me about this contest I thought it would be a good chance to understand what the book is about. My parents too supported my idea of participating in the contest” Her curiosity was driven by the fact that she: “tried to understand what the Gita tries to tell us. The more I read about different religions, the more I have realized that humanity is the most important religion that we must follow”.

It’s no wonder that Maryam’s different thinking originates from her family and her father. “Our family believes that one needs to respect and accept all religions. No religion preaches hatred or wrong. However, there are some members who have misguided us. Before these have a bad influence on the children, we need to talk to them and make them understand what is right,” said her father, Asif Siddiqui.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: American gurdwara promoted interfaith relations in California

Stockton Gurdwara 1912
Stockton Gurdwara, circa 1912

At the turn of the century, several thousand Indians settled in regions like Northern California. It’s the largely untold story of the migration of Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims from pre-partition India from the late 19th century up until the passage of the Asian Exclusion Act (which was passed to limit Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Indian migration). At the time, about two-thirds of Indian immigrants in California were Sikh, and as a result, the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society – a gurdwara – opened in Stockton in 1911.

Because Hindus and Muslims in the region were still small in number, and unable to get the approvals to build any sites of worship, the Stockton gurdwara served as a place of worship for all three religions. While Hindu-Sikh co-worship was common in northern India for centuries, a place for all three groups in the United States was created by circumstance and sustained through interfaith bonds.

Over the next three decades, the Khalsa Diwan hosted Hindu leaders and Muslim leaders alike, including the Hindu leader Swami Yogananda, who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship and authored Autobiography of a Yogi. Moreover, it served as a meeting ground for those seeking to build support for the Indian freedom struggle, especially those involved with the Ghadar Party. Despite having different religions, Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus still felt strongly connected to India and identified strongly with Indian nationalism.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Related links:
Sikhism and Religious Unity
Sikhism’s 10th Guru on Unity

Hindu Muslim Unity: Where Hindus fast on Ramadan & Muslims ban cow slaughter

Mithi, rural town in Pakistan

MITHI: A small town where both Hindus and Muslims have lived together since the creation of Pakistan enjoys cooperation and harmony.

“I am a Hindu from Sindh, but throughout my life I have lived with Muslims and this is why during Ramazan, we fast along with them; and when it is Muharram, us Hindu boys lead the procession because this is the culture which Sufism has given us” one Hindu resident said

It is a town where Muslims, out of respect for Hindus, do not slaughter cows; and where Hindus, out of respect for Muslim rites, have never organised any marriage ceremonies or celebrations during the month of Muharram. Not only that, the Hindus of Mithi also happily participate in providing food and drinks for Muslims during Ramazan, and both groups exchange sweets on Eid and Diwali. The crime rate in Mithi is at two per cent and never has anyone witnessed any incident of religious intolerance.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Various faiths congregate to listen to RamKatha

Multi-faith leaders in prayer
Multi-faith leaders in prayer

RAJKOT: India has amazing diversity. What is even more amazing is how India embraces so much diversity. Showcasing this assimilative aspect of India, scores of people from different religions recently gathered to listen to Ramkatha or the narration of the ancient.

Renowned Hindu preacher Morari Bapu narrated the story in Rajkot city of India’s western Gujarat state. The event was attended by high functionaries of different religious faiths. The main objective behind organising the event was to bring together people from different religions under one roof. Members of about 58 different communities including Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs were present during the recital of the Ramkatha.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Indonesian Muslims honor Hindu day of silence

Balinese Hindus in prayer and silence
Balinese Hindus in prayer and silence

BALI: Once again this year, the people of Bali celebrated the Hindu Day of Silence, Nyepi, in remarkable harmony. Muslims and other non-Hindus on the island showed respect for the Saka New Year observance. Nyepi has four solemn restrictions: no fire, no working, no traveling and no entertainment or pleasure for 24 hours. Some refrain from eating and talking as well. Special rituals are carried out the day before and the day after.

The Balinese are always respectful towards their Muslim neighbours, a Muslim leader on the predominantly Hindu island confirmed. About 12% of Bali’s 3.5m residents are Muslim, government data shows. “We will continue to consistently tolerate and work together to prevent any possible conflicts. We will keep a good relationship,” said Mulyono Setiawan, head of the Bali regional board of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation.

“We urged Muslims in Bali and elsewhere not to disturb the celebration of Nyepi. It is an important Hindu celebration,” Mulyono told Khabar Southeast Asia.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Malaysian Muslims perform Ramayana puppet theater

Muslim pupeeters perform Malay Ramayana shadow play
Muslim pupeeters perform Malay Ramayana shadow play

MALAYSIA: There are literary and folktale versions of Ramayana in Malaysia. The Hikayat Seri Rama exists in both written and oral form, and the Wayang Kulit Siam is a shadow play from Kelantan on the border of Malaysia and Thailand (Siam).

The main purpose of the Hikayat Seri Rama is to show the ideals of righteousness, love, loyalty, and selfless devotion. This Malay version has combined elements of the Indian Sanskrit Ramayana with local traditions and beliefs to create a highly developed story which is enjoyed by many. The Ramayana in Malaysia is used more for entertainment and social education rather than for spiritual or religious purposes. Kelantan is strongly Islamic, but it is also the main base for the Malay shadow puppet theatre.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistani Muslims & Christians join Holi celebration

children playing Holi in Pakistan
children playing Holi in Pakistan

KARACHI: Screams of joy and laughter echoed through the Lakshmi Narayan Temple as the colours of Holi consumed those within. Muslims and Christians joined Hindus in celebrating Holi, the festival of colors.

Pakistan Hindu Seva Welfare Trust president Sanjesh Sunny Dhanja was happy to see the way the celebrations had transcended religion and had become an event for the whole community. “We made it very clear that everyone is invited, regardless of their religion, and it makes me happy to see how people responded.”

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Biryani Baba has fed over ten million

Biryani Baba has been feeding people for 40 years
Biryani Baba has been feeding people for 40 years

VIZIANAGARAM: Attaullah Shariff Shataj Khadiri Baba, popularly known as “Biryani Baba”, has been feeding biryani to the poor for the decades  in Vizianagaram and Cheemalapadu of Krishna district.

When assessed, this comes to  to be around one crore (ten million) people in the last 40 years. Mr Baba, 78, has continued the  legacy of his  guru Khadar Baba who  passed away 40 years ago.

Mr Baba, who shuttles between  Vizianagaram and  Cheemalapadu Dargah,  blesses the people who  believe in him and offers them anna prasada at  Langar Khana on the dargah premises.  Mr Baba himself participates in cooking the biryani.  Everyday, at least a thousand people eat in Cheemalapadu and Vizianagaram.

Mr Baba said, “I am just providing meals to the needy. With the help of donors and devotees, the programme continues smoothly. I don’t believe in  religion or castes, I  appeal to the public to help the poor. I believe that  service to  humans is equal to service to God.”

Read more: Communal Harmony