Pakistan Today 30 July 2012 http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/?p=205827
In one of the smaller Burroughs of London where the Pakistani population is particularly large, the local council has issued a small booklet. This booklet, by means of quotations from the Bible and the Torah, explains how the practice of fasting in Islam is a custom rather than a religious requirement. The idea is to persuade the Muslims of that area to fast less so that the local NHS (the British National Health Service) is less burdened by cases of dehydration, exhaustion, etc during Ramzan.
Outraged? Well, that information is entirely fictitious (apologies to the NHS). It was conceived in response to a discussion about children up in certain areas of Pakistan where the Hindu population is particularly large. These kids sometimes get hurt carrying lighted candles during Divali. I suggested that the Pakistan government use the Hindu scriptures to highlight the fact that both Divali and the life of those who celebrate it are sacred in the Hindu religion; then to follow this by safety guidelines regarding the use of candles.
Outraged, the person spoken to exclaimed that our government should do no such thing. It should, on the contrary, use extracts from the Quran to ‘gently’ prove to the Hindu people that the festival of Divali is entirely baseless since there is no god such as Lakshmi; that if Hindus must use lights and celebrate Divali, they should replace candles with small battery operated torches.
I adapted this incident at the beginning of my column to illustrate my point that what’s good for the goose should be good enough for the gander. But, it never is.
So for those who cry ‘foul’ at religious discrimination encountered anywhere except in Pakistan, read on. No I’m not crying ‘wolf!’ again, it is the truth from this point on that: the British NHS has this year issued a beautifully illustrated and very useful booklet entitled ‘A Ramzan Health Guide: A Guide To Healthy Fasting,’ for the benefit of its Muslim population. (Can be accessed at http://www.communitiesinaction.org/Ramadan%20Health%20and%20Spirituality%20Guide.pdf)
It starts with a foreword signed by the Director of the Human Rights and Equality branch of the Department of Health, a Surinder Sharma, whose name suggests a familiarity with candles at Divali. Contact details follow, for the British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, the NHS Asian Tobacco Helpline, the NHS Smoking Helpline, and the Muslim Council of Britain in case of need.
|The NHS booklet|
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is also quoted further along the same chapter: ‘God has a right over you, and your body has a right over you.’
The booklet takes its Muslim readers step by step through the medical aspects of fasting, lists foods that are best avoided during Ramzan, and those that are of benefit, and explains why this is so.
In a chapter titled, ‘What you would gain from fasting’, it mentions a heightened consciousness of God, compassion and charity among other things that follow as a result of fasting, then goes on to explain the positive effects of fasting on health, and how best to fast if health problems are present. After another chapter dealing with Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), salient points of the booklet are translated into Urdu, Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, and other languages. Towards the end, there is a chapter with tips for healthcare professionals, explaining Ramzan.
Nowhere does the booklet presume to give religious advice, instead it refers the reader with questions to the religious leader of his/her community. What stands out is great sensitivity towards a minority population and its religious sentiment particularly in today’s environment, and a concern for its health and welfare.
Please find me one single similar example in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, any measure taken by its most caring government in its claimed pursuit of the well being of its minorities.
Then, (moving to the utterly ridiculous), compare this booklet for its sense of responsibility and sensitivity towards minorities in today’s environment with Maya Khan’s tawdry programmes, particularly the one airing a Hindu boy’s conversion in public…
Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘The care of human life and happiness, and not its destruction, is the first and only object of good government.’
…and of all public platforms such as television and other media.