10 May The Peculiarities of Imran Khan
Imran describes his narrow escape: “it was a miracle I did not become an atheist. The only reason why I did not was the powerful religious influence my mother wielded on me since my childhood. It was not so much out of conviction but love for her that I stayed a Muslim.”
I have just recently read Latika Gupta’s account of what some mothers are doing to their children and so reading Imran’s sentence made me shiver. Imran just turned out be very lucky in having a pious and sensible mother but is it a good idea in general to be shaped by the powerful religious influences of mothers and to believe in something out of love rather than conviction?
Could it not be the case that mothers would pass on all their prejudices to their children and the children would subscribe to them out of love? Let us stay within Islam for the moment and imagine a Muslim mother saying that Islam is superior to all other religions. Quite possible. But the same Sunni Muslim mother at the same time might say that Shias are not really Muslims and need to be taught a lesson (or vice versa). Equally possible. Where does that leave us?
To range a little further, is it difficult to imagine a White mother saying that Blacks were not quite humans or an affluent mother saying that the lower orders need to be kept in their places?
The bottom line is that much as we love our mothers we cannot be fully objective about them and nor can we expect them to be fully objective about the societies they live in. When all is said and done, mothers are more likely to pass on the same bundle of prejudices that they picked up from their own mothers especially if they have never been exposed to any other viewpoints – half the mothers have never been to school in some countries of South Asia.
This is where the contribution of the public school system becomes absolutely critical. It is the function of the schools to ensure that the prejudices imbibed at the mother’s knee are neutralized before they have a chance to harden into lifelong attitudes. This is all the more crucial in societies like ours that are riven by innumerable fault lines along which mothers might have taught children to hate each other.
To get back to Imran Khan. What I found hard to understand was why, once he had found wisdom and become a good and tolerant human being, he had to go off on this crusade to prove that the East was superior to the West. I am sure he himself is responsible for this attitude and that it could not have been his mother who passed it on to him.
I keep puzzling over this great need to prove that one’s ways or inheritance are superior to someone else’s. It must be a powerful urge because one runs into it all the time. Have you heard people argue that Indian classical music is better that Western classical music? They are different, no doubt. But both have lasted over a thousand years and so both must be beautiful in their own ways. Would it not make more sense to enjoy the music than to try and prove the superiority of one over the other?
This is one human need that I have not been able to explain satisfactorily to myself. Is there a reader that can shed some light on the subject?