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When Soha Ali Khan visited the Golden Temple, her personal religious beliefs were questioned. Every individual has the right to religion, to choose how and where they worship.
When Soha Ali Khan chose to visit a Ganesh Puja ceremony, at a pandal recently, and the Golden Temple in Amritsar, she was attacked on social media by some, who questioned her faith and loyalty to Islam. She wrote back a smart repartee, suggesting that India was secular and one’s choice of going to a temple didn’t make her a non-Muslim.
Soha’s exchange with the masses on social media, opens a can of rather interesting worms.
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Primarily, the freedom of religion that is inherent in an individual, gives them the right to choose what, how and where they worship. And so, what you choose to follow remains your choice. No one can truly define why religion came about, or ascertain with watertight proof that each religion came about, in the way that we recount that it did. And yet, for years and years, religion has come to define our relationship with the unknown and the yet unseen force that defines our lives, albeit with a smattering of randomness.
A cursory perusal of most of the world’s religious texts ultimately suggests, that one’s religious views are one’s relationship with this unseen force, call it what you might, and as much as they suggest ‘different’ paths, they ultimately dovetail into the same idea. If Soha chose to go to a temple, it doesn’t automatically check a different box and suggest a shift in her religious inclinations. If religion is really all about labels and checking boxes, then we’re going about it the wrong way. There is a thin red line between faith and jingoism – and transcending that line comes at a very heavy cost.
In a bit of a big-picture angle, what happened with Soha also hints at the patriarchy that props religion and one’s right over their religious choices and inclinations. For instance, there have been many mainstream male actors that have been seen visiting places of worship specific to other religions, celebrating festivals specific to other religions, and even professing interest, belief and respect in practice, in the values of other religions.
One seldom hears these questions being asked of a man, or even being thrust upon the male actor’s views or choices. The substantial part of this remains that a woman is forced to bear the burden of social expectations and fall in line with them, and any elective opinion or choice on her part is seldom welcome – if not wholly dismissed or called in question.
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