No Room for Extravaganzas

Muslims in India do not lack resources. What they lack is a mission statement and a vision for the community. It is tragic that some nouveau riche Muslims make ugly show of pomp and pageant by spending their money on marriages, while the projects like schools, libraries, media and hospitals suffer from paucity of resources.
Two months ago, the marriages of two daughters of SA alias KK from the non-descript village of Baraut under Baghpat district became a talking point in the entire western region of Uttar Pradesh. While one of the brides was seen off in a helicopter—hired at a whopping bill of Rs. four lakh—the other was taken away in a cavalcade of elephants. Yet another marriage party from Moradabad, in the same region, was taken to Masjid e Nabawi in Madinah in a chartered plane for Nikah ceremony. What a travesty of the Holy Prophet’s teachings who was insistent upon making the marriages simpler, easier and least expensive. Little did the Moradabad tycoon realize that he was solemnizing the Nikah of his daughter in the holy precinct of the mosque of a Prophet who was himself opposed to wasteful ostentation. That the news is emanating from western Uttar Pradesh is more distressing. It is the very region where the community harbours maximum illiteracy and poverty and is the den of the extremely dogmatic clerics. This was however, not the first time that such an ugly show of opulence was witnessed. It is rather becoming an order of the day for rich Muslims in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and several other metropolises in South India. Not long ago, a Muslim family from Udaipur split the marriage ceremony between the royal city of Udaipur and Bali islands and flew a full contingent of five hundred friends, relatives and guests to the tourist paradise in the Pacific. And if the Urdu newspapers have to be believed, former BSP minister YQ of Meerut, squandered Rs. 6 crore on the engagement ceremony of his daughter. It is the same minister who had announced an award of Rs. 100 crore for the head of writer Salman Rushdie and does not bat an eyelid while declaring himself to to be an Ashiq e Rasool, or the cherisher of the Prophet’s manners.
The elites of the society set precedents. What they do, others follow. It is where marriages in the rich households need to be made simpler. Marriages are of course, private affairs, but are social occasions. It is where the legal intervention becomes difficult. But governments are duty bound to act when social mores suffer damage due to private highhandedness. Some regulation seems to be quite in order to restrain people from indulging in extravaganzas. Perhaps the one-dish marriage regulation of Pakistan may be worthy of emulation for Indians too. We have had some marriages in Bangalore where guests were served with a menu card before they entered the dining hall.
But while the official regulations would regulate all the marriages, the Muslims must think of their own priorities. They have few people gifted with enough fortunes. They need to place their resources from where social dividends are expected rather than looking for individual name and fame. Social sectors such as mass education, higher education for those who are talented, hostels in urban areas, scholarships, endowments for medical assistance, hospitals, blood banks, ambulance services and mass housing are immediate needs of the community. Investment in social infrastructure will ensure empowerment of the community and secure their future. Currently, raising of a vibrant middle class should engage our attention. Its absence has allowed the clerics and the politicians to hijack the leadership. Both are exploitative and are leading the community to the abyss of darkness. Their regressive prescriptions continue to mislead the community. Coming into existence of a sizeable middle class would give rise to a vision for the community in the contemporary context. It is the middle class that ensures dynamism and propels the communities forward. The ingredients that go into its making are modern education, a keen eye on the future, wide exposure and willingness to change and reform. The civil society too takes root in the middle class. It exerts pressure on the people to change and government to enact progressive legislation.

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