Sunday, July 13, 2008

You can't be both Hindu and Muslim

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Islam and Hinduism's blurred lines

This BBC news story report on a community in Rajasthan that follow both Hindu and Muslim traditions. They are nominally Hindu, but follow three Muslim practices (circumcision for the newborn male children in the community, eating halal meat and burying their dead). They have done this without conflict for hundreds of years. However, tensions are rising because there is a feeling that one must be one or the other, not both. Consequently, there are people who are "converting" to one faith or another. This is crazy.

Whenever categories are formed, there is always something left over at the end. Geoff Bowker and Susan Leigh Star wrote about this in their book "Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences." They described the miscellaneous categories as "residual" and they are unavoidable. So this elimination of the hybrid Hindu and Muslim can be seen as an effort to reduce "otherness." The impetus comes from both outsiders who don't understand or want to co-opt people to their causes, and from the people themselves out of a desire to reduce ambiguity. It's often difficult to live with a queer label that challenges basic notions about how the world is organized.

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