Saturday, June 17, 2017

Book Review: The Disabled God: Towards A Liberating Theology of Disability By Nancy L Eiesland

The Disabled God: Towards A Liberating Theology of Disability
Nancy L Eiesland
The bodies we inhabit and the lives those bodies carry on need not be perfect to have value. Bad things do happen, we know-to bad and good people alike-but so do good things. Life curses like life blessings are always mixed
-Nancy Mairs.

This is one of the academically exploded and theoretically well written books on disability studies. Nancy L Eiesland tries to read the Christian believing system in a more inclusive way. Accessibility is the core theme of her book. She considers Jesus Christ as a disabled God whose body was badly broken. This disabled God inspires the entire Persons with Disability and his broken body to make the Christianity a more inclusive and accommodative system hence she proposes a liberation theology which accommodates the persons with disability and creates spaces for  them through refashioning and re-theorising the social-symbolic order of the society to include liberation for all.

The body is vehicle for self perfection and the target through ritual of degradation of social exclusion. There is a deliberate attention to the body in order to prevent it from becoming socially erased or subsumed into notion of normal embodiment so the normal body is projected as the perfect body. This perfect body survives in a network of structures and systems which continually normalise the purity of the body.  Alms to the disabled body strengthen the purity of able-body-ness as persons with disability are help through strategies of paternalistic care to try to adjust like a normal person. It was not an able bodied god, but the disabled god promising grace through a broken body is at the centre of piety prior practise and mission. Here an attempt is made to re symbolise of some of our fundamental symbols. Disabled god represents full personhood as fully compatible with the experience of disability. Persons with disability must game access to the social symbolic life of the church and the church must game access to the socio symbolic life of  the persons with disability are prone to social stigmatisation, marginalization and exclusion that render them silent and invisible  and they are consider as object of pity and patternalisation. 

The dissonants  raised by the non acceptance of persons with disability and acceptance of grace through Jesus Christ broken body necessitates that the church find new ways of interpreting disability. The disabled have been named by medical and scientific professional  or by people who denied full person hood  and the persons with disability are imagined as less realistic less intelligent less capable of decision making less logical less self directional   than non disabled person. Capable bodies define the experience of the disable. She further brings to experiences of two persons Diane Bebries and Nancy Maries who recount their experience of painstakingly inhabiting their bodies and of disputing with society about their proper social place in the process they de-mythologize disability and the refuse to acquiesce to the societies stigmatisation. The alternative knowledge they relate about the bodies and the social relations reveal full bodied resistance to the dominant stereotypes of persons with disabilities and move towards a liberative theology of  disability hence they  teach the world the aesthetic experience of living  in a non conventional body.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Home Journey

It was at 12 at night when I got in at Calicut. Everyone had folded their eyes when I was back to my home town. I walked to the bus stand and caught a bus to Calicut University. Though it was night and alone I was, the whole city and the lonely paths wondered me a lot. It was as if I was traveling first time in a unknown country. Some birds still chirped and tweedled at night to welcome me to the home land. Nobody was there to speak, so I knowingly made a small fuss with the conductor, only to call back that was my land! Around 1.30 I landed at the University of Calicut bus stop. It was thick dark, and there were no autos to bring me home. From university I had to walk at least three kilometer through a paseo to reach at home. I preferred to take the air rather comfortably getting in an auto. I called mother and she strongly advised to catch any auto at any cost. But I wanted to walk in such a calm but frightening night. Dogs were horribly woofing from everywhere. Some dared to trace me! I kept two three concrete stones with me only to get some courage. Fist time in my life I walked alone in such a darkest night. Still I felt a warm feeling to meet my parents. I reached home around 2.15. The doors were open already in expecting me there. Mother served some hot dinner (rather a supper!) that time. She was waiting for me whole the day. I was feeling at home after a long time. Everybody cordially received me to the land. I tried to meet everybody. For a week I completely kept my books away and stayed with the parents. They were very happy to send me to the wonderland.

The following day I set off ‘exploring my city’ journey. I usually do a journey without any destination only to see my home place with wild eyes! That day too, I caught a bus to Kondotty. It was Rs. 5 from Vadakke Bazar to Kondotty. By the time, the government had slightly stepped-up the bus fare, but interestingly the government had extended the minimum fare distance, so I had to give five instead of four. I passed on at Kondotty. Next was either to go to Manjeri or Calicut. I waited for the first bus. Luckily it was to Manjeri. I jumped into it. I was observing what people had  newly constructed on the road side. I wondered the fast and sudden development my land was getting! Everywhere, construction was progressing, new buildings, houses, farms and other concrete forests were coming day by day. The greenness of country was gradually disappearing from the sight. When I reached Manjeri, I took another bus back to Kondotty.  I was sitting near the window watching outside. I was noting only the outside scenes. Suddenly an old man (sorry a senior citizen!) asked me to close the shutter! It was not a request but a kind of demand and command. I helplessly gandered at his face. There was no any sign of understanding and relief. Very politely with a very low tone and trying to make my facial expression gentle I said:
“Hey! Kakka! I am travelling this long journey only to watch these missed sights! Pls don’t ask me to close it down, it’s a request to you, and you can still have a seat other side”
Then he sat very comfortably a bit and whispered in my both ears,
“Son! I am travelling in this only to forget everything and close my eyes at least sometimes..! I don’t want to see the world anymore!”
He was trembling with anger. I did not understand anything. Again I explained:
“I am a pravasi, not an exact pravasi, but I am staying outside of Kerala. I am studying in Hyderabad, the Pearl City and I usually travel on this route only to see what changes my city gets every day, Pardon me if I disturb you by opening the window of the bus!”
He again eased his sitting and held my right hand mildly and asked about the stories of Hyderabad Nizam and Hyderabad. I explained what I could. For a long both did not utter any word. I looked outside and gazed my co-traveller’s face alternatively. He was looking straight and different emotions were flashing on his face.
After a long pause, he mumbled in my ear. “Our land changed drastically!”
True! Kerala is developing day by day and the signs of progress are reaching in every nook and corner.
I agreed and nodded.
“.....That’s why I take this way to go to Calicut everyday in this time!” He added.
I really could not understand what he was averring. I desperately looked his eyes. The silent communication passed my helplessness to him.
“I am travelling to Calicut everyday to forget my place and house. I reach to Calicut around 12.30 and I go to Palayam Masjid for Zuhr prayer. Then I sleep there to dream my childhood. Only when I am in this dreaming my mind gets sharp. That is the time when I am living here in this world. I am dead now; you are speaking to a dead man! But when I sleep I wake up to dream my childhood!”
Then he untied the stocks of endless history and stories he had to say, about his child, Mappila Rebellion, family, the good and better old days, and the nasty and cheating of the present time. It was not a discussion, but he was showering his unhappy to the world, to his family, children. I listened the wild expressions he made in his face. The gestures seemed he lost all trust to the present world. When bus reached at Kodangadu, I said I was getting off next stop. Then he stared at me and held my hands tightly. I was afraid his tight holding might break my hands! His mouth touched my ears and spoke to my eardrums: “Son! Now, first time in my life, I feel that those all good old days are coming back again!
I really did not know why he said so, but our conversation eased his anger and tension. I got down at Kondotty and went to Fish market, even our Mackerel was upgraded to the royal fish, now the poor only have sardine as theirs! But to my surprise every sardine was screaming to save them from there, people changed suddenly their taste and everyone began to think they were part of the rich!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Review: Belief or nonbelief? a confrontation; by Umberto Eco and Carlo Maria Martini

This book is a dialogue between a self- acclaimed secularist, Umberto Eco and a catholic scholar priest, Carlo Maria Martini. Umberto Eco, the author of the labyrinthine novel, Foucault’s Pendulum is not a closed skeptic in a strict sense, but he is more a man marked by a restless ‘incredulity’. He is not an anti-religious ex-Catholic, but is a one of those mature sages who is not interested in refuting believers but in illuminating genuine difference and finding common ground. Carlo Maria Martini, the other hand is interested in frank and unfettered dialogue with any kind of people. He usually addresses ‘the believers in non-believers and non believers in believers. It becomes a matter of interest among the public when both come together to share some of their ideas on some complex matters. The  copies of the book were sold out when it published first time, which shows the interest of the readers to know what happened when two big wigs in their own area of interest come together to lock the horn! In his first letter to Martini, Eco addresses his as ‘Mr’ instead of any of the respectful and hierarchical name, and he explains why he addresses him so. Calling by name is an act of homage and of prudence. Usually in French, people are addressed by their own name, so it’s an act of homage, and secondly both scholars come together as free men and representative of the people, so Eco does not want to keep any kinds of reverence. This book is a compilation of four three letters by Eco to Martini on specific issues. Firstly Eco asks about Apocalypse. People are compelled to live in a shadow of fear in the spirit of bibamus, edamus, cras moriemur (eat, drink, for tomorrow we die) because of the presence of religious believes. 

Vegetables sacrifices to preserve animal life and we are horrified at the idea of slaughtering an animal, but eat their flesh, we never squash a caterpillar in the park, but kill a mosquito when it comes to suck our blood, so what is the value of living being according to the religion? If a monkey is taught how to read and react, could it be recognized as human being and asserted all the human rights? What is the status of women in a religious set up? For all his questions in another letter Carlo Maria Martini explains from a religious platform. Though the book is fascinating, it loses its continuity. The letters were written in different time, and very different topics, so the reader may not be more interested to engage with the discussion. It is very passive discussion, that Eco asks something, and Carlo Maria Martini replies. It seems that there is not much interaction between each other.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Book Review: Mappilas of Malabar: studies in social and cultural history by S.M Muhammed Koya

This book also is one of the earlier writings on Mappilas. SM Muhammed Koya focuses on how Mappilas succeeded in making marriage links with Arab traders. He argues that the circumstances both in Arab and early Malabar were almost same. The Muta' marriage and Beena marriages were everyday facts in both places, and both share common characteristics.  This book is a good reference to those who want to know more about the earlier Mappila lives and the indigenous Mappila marriage relations with Arabs. Mappilas are the Muslim community of south west coast of India. In medieval time, 1/5th of total population of Malabar were Mappilas. They are basically a trading class. In interior place they involved in agriculture also. Ali raja of Cannanore was the only Muslim royal dynasty in Kerala. Mappila followed matrimonial way of inheritance of property and lived in joint family. The Mappilas were generated by Arab trades and mariners through their unions with local Hindu women. They involved in mut’a or temporary marriage. Spread of Islam on the Malabar Coast happened very different from how Islam spread in other regions of India. In Malabar and Gujarat, Arabs were warm welcomed. 

The major argument of Sufi influence is not applicable in Malabar region and also spreading of Islam did not use any kind of political means. It is a counter argument against the claims that Islam first reached in India by the inversion of Muhammad bim Qasim in 711. The conversion in Malabar Coast was rather a calm movement which used marriage and trade relations with the locals. There is another story of prosylitisation in Indian which shows how the religious tenets were deeply diluted. Earlier conversion happened by Sufis who basically followed Sunni school of thought. In 833 Shia tradition with Ismayileets sects was introduced. Their approach to the conversion was different. They converted both Sunnis and Hindus with permitting myths and practices of the precious beliefs. And to preserve ancestral deities. Theirs was not a pure monotheism but later by 1363 this ismayilates were converted to Sunnism by Sunni Sufis.
In Malabar region conversion to Islam was not a serious thread to Hindu rajas. Only the Bramhinical Hinduism feared it. The lower caste converted to escape degradation and to occupy new social position and also they expected civil employment with Muslim. The first mosque in India was built up in Cranganore. Instead of adopting a new architectural style Arabs followed the existing temple architecture. There are different opinions for why Arab traders constructed mosque in earlier times, some say the mosques were constructed for converting Malayalees and to some others, these were for establishing mosques for the traders.

Rulers were instrumental in promoting conversion. Zamorin encouraged fishermen to change their belief to Islam because he needed more mariners and sailors for protecting his land from enemies. The existing social order prevented Hindus to cross the sea. In his order to the people he decreed that in every fishermen family in the country.  One or more of the mail members should be brought up as Muslims. The population of Muslims among the fishermen communities of Calicut coast is an evident for this claim. So the lower class, for a high social position, Nayar and Thiyya women for marrying Arabs and, fishermen communities by the order of Zamorin converted heavily in Malabar cost. The main reasons for conversion in Malabar region were immigration, inter marriage, missionary activities, the support of the zamorin and personal advantages. Sufi influence in the increased conversion was less evident in Malabar region.
Arab trades in Malabar Coast existed before the advents of Islam in Arabia. The pre Islamic Arabs had settled in Chaavil, kalyan, and Suppara. It was primarily commercial in natural than cultural. Arabs had colonies in south India. The sea trade was left to foreigners as the Brahmanical Hindus were temperament allergic to the sea and left such ‘vulgar’ business. Arabs monopolized the trade until they were ousted by Portuguese in 15th century. Balhara dynasty in the north and the Zamorin of Malabar were most partial to Arabs they allowed Muslims for building up most, practicing religion and intermarriage. The Mappilas or indigenous Muslims of Malabar coast originated as part of and on going process of peaceful communication and economic relationship between Arabia and Kerala. 

The native women were married to the Arab trades through contractual marriage which is temporary in nature. The nature of settlement, distance and trade encouraged this contractual marriage not only did Muslim from outside settle down in this area but even the natives inhabitants began to embraces Islam. Usually Arab boats were coming to Malabar Coast in July/ august and they would lived in December/ January. They would stay in a place for 30 to 49 days. They involved a short term marriage relation with the native Hindus for 4 months. There is no evidence to say that Arabs brought their wives with them. Social organizations of both the early Arabs as in Malabar the marital system in pre Islamic Arab was almost same. Mother right in Arabia was very prevalent and by tribal rule the women was not allowed to leave her kin but could entertain a stranger as her husband, at her own place. The man either settled down permanently with his wives’ tribe, or visited his wife occasionally. In Malabar, Nayar community kept the system of polyandry, matrimonial, matrilocal and the children born of such union belonged to the mother’s tharavaadu and inherited from the mother. The husband was a visitor to his wife’s place and children had no tie with him. The marriage is temporary nature in which the contracting parties agreed to lead together in the house of the women for a stipulated period of time and for which the man has to pay an amount mutually agreed upon bride prize this is a marriage for pleasure. In Nayar, Thiyya and Mukkuva societies the property was inherited in the female. The marriage was matri local. Inter marriage was not restricted to the members of the caste or sub caste alone. So Arabs could easily marry the local women. Even after the system was prohibited it was practised in Malabar region.
Mappilas of south Malabar followed the matrilineal way of inheritance which is visibly just opposite of what Islam asks them to follow. There are two theories for how Mappilas stated to follow these ways. In Kolathnadu (North Malabar) Mappilas were obliged to conform to the general practice of the country. Secondly it is argued that this way Mappila got with their relation with the Nayars.  From the Nayar society the Mappila life was influenced the customs of family life, dress habits, marriage practises like tying the tali, paying dowry to the bride groom and purifactory ablution after birth. Within matrilineal Muslim community, there are theoretically two endogamous castes. The Brahmin /Nayar converts’ class could be divided as Kirigans (aristocratic class). The other Muslim matrilineal caste group is Islams who were the converts from Thiyya. Mappilas are followers of Marumakkathayam before Islam came here. Converts should retain the rule of inheritance to which they were previously subjects and the heads of new religion should encourage conversion by making the changes as carry and agreeable as possible to the new converts.
Marumakkathayam is an important aspect and the best example cultural assimilation among Mappilas. Here the property is handed over in female line and a Karanaver is given to look after the common property. The traditional Islamic belief and matrilineal is a paradox and it is only practiced in Malabar. Social institutions like matrilineal system were unhampered by excessive interference from outside and this particular circumstances did not contradict their faith. The prevalence of polyandry, marumakkathayam and other similar customs made it possible to have a distinct identity which is different from the traditional belief.
If we study the system in Arackkal dynasty, it can be easily understood the close relationship with the existing circumstances and cultural assimilation. The terms like ‘Arakkal swaroopam’ is very much similar to the denotations which were common to all other kingdoms ruled in Kerala that time. The power rested in the hands of the oldest female member of the family and she would be renamed as ‘Arakkal Beebi’ Ali Raja wanted to preserve the marumakkathayam practice in tact and independently of outside interference. He made a friendship with Ottoman Empire and set this traditional system of matrilineal succession recognised and ratified by the ottoman who adhered to the tenets of Islamic Shari‘at. Matrilineal and the joint family system have now broken. The decline of matrilineal, joint family and polyandry ended and epoch. The Mappila succession Muslim personal law of 1937, shareeath act, the Mappila Marumakkathayam Act1939 were some of the administrative interventions which resulted Mappilas to go a more homogenised Muslim platform.
Islam was instrumental in initiating social changes Mappila with a distinct personality of its own customs and culture seemed a more medieval society. Nercha lost its old glory. The existing practises of customs like ear boring ceremony circumcision and various cultural practices which are associated with these special occasions are fast disappearing. Mappila culture is a mixture of Indian and Arabian tradition and their origin reached to the pre Islamic Arabia. Their historic specification made them special language culture, religion, and social life. Cultural assimilation was one of the noted things in Mappila’s history. Caste system, some elements influenced by Hinduism. Peaceful co existence of heterogeneous religious group in it is term, called for and brought in a climate of religious tolerance. Which against facilitated the harmonious growth of Islam. The Marriage of Hindu women to the Arabs, large number of converts religious formed the cultural specificity of Mappila and instead of a universal Islam view they cultivated a locally rooted tradition.
The cultural impact of Mappila to the Kerala culture is very influential. Several trade names came to Malayalam from Arabic language. The Arabic words when introduced into Malayalam have undergone some considerable changes phonetically and semantically depending on phonetical habits of Malayalam language. In Mappila songs Arabic Malayalam was evolved and came into prominence. The impact of the new language -Arabic-Malayalam-was very reachable to the society. It was taught in primary religious education and Mappila songs were written in this language. The first Quran translation was written in Arabi-Malayalam by Arakkal Mayin Kutty.
Mappila songs are the specific genre of Mappilas. The themes are Religious topics or history of Islam, anecdotes of prophet’s life, love/ romance, satire and heroism. Many of the earlier mappilappaatu were written by anonymous authors. It could further be categorized into Kissapattu, Uhudhupattu, Malapattu, Padapattu. Muhyuddhin mala by Kazi Muhammad in 1687 is one of the oldest form mappilapaattu. Kunjayeen Musliyar (Nool Mala) and Moyin Kutti Vaidhyar are other earlier important song composers. In 1907 Cheekkeri adopted pure Malayalam for his songs. Mailanchipattu, opppanapaattu, ammayipattu are associated with the marriage functions. Among the art tradition, Aravana is more associated with gulf/Persian art, Duffmuttu is an Arab tradition and Kolkkali has a close relation to the kalarippayattu and each player in Kolkkali is asked to be trained in kalaripayattu. It is a martial play.
The style of architecture and construction of mosques are highly influenced by temple/local architecture. Unique styles of mosque architecture are different from that of Mughal architecture. These were built in perishable wooden building and without any visible minarets. In those days, mosques were constructed in/ near temple sites and the masons and carpenters were mainly the lower caste Hindus. Their available model of architecture was the temple architecture. Mappila houses were built in ‘naalukettu’ style. They adopted a locally comfortable dress and food manner.
The lives of mappilas are mixed with some social and cultural patterns. Saints are venerated and jarram nerchas are celebrated. The annual offerings on the occasion of the saints’ death anniversaries are celebrated with great zeal. Festivals resemble the rites of Hindu temples. Different annual offerings in different places are done with a procession of caphrisoned elephants, Nagaswaram, Panchavaadhyam, sword play, dance, drum beat and Kathaprasangam. The nercha culture is a best example for folk culture and cult worship.
The arrival of Portuguese dismantled the trade monopoly of Arabs. The coming of the first Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama was read as the extension of crest Vs cross war in the Middle East. And it augmented the Portuguese Muslim revelry. He had religious and commercial motives and to break the monopoly of Arab trade from the coast. Gama’s missions were aimed at Christianity and spices. Conquest, commerce and conversion were his objectives. The king of Malabar welcomed European because the sea trade was very important to him. The Arabs made ceaseless attempts to prejudice the mind of the king against the Portuguese. Their strange mercantile behaviour of accepting goods more than double the value and giving excess weight on all the salt alarmed the foreign Muslim all the more. Zamorin in the beginning helped the Portuguese as he did for any foreign traders, but when Pedro Alvarez Cabral impolitical bombardments of Calicut reverberated for over a hundred year along the cost and on the Indian Ocean. In these years Portuguese moved to Cochin and Kannur. The Portuguese was hostels only to the Muslims and their faiths and not to the Nayars and unbelievers to the Malabar. Kunjali Marakkars were the hereditary admirals of the Zamorin. After a while the Portuguese sailors succeeded in making alliance with Zamorin when they captured Chaliyam in 1571 and Zamorin allowed a space for a factory to be open to Portuguese despite the strong protest of Mappilas. So In 1595, Muhammad Kunjaali Marakkar of Kottakal challenged Zamorin by declaring himself as the ‘king of moors’, and he was described as the reformer of Islam, lord of Indian seas. With a joint operation by Zamorin and Portuguese defeated Kunjali in 1600 and he was killed.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Book Review: Offence: The Muslim Case By Kamila Shamsie

The latest example of Muslim offence is Kamal Haasan’s Viswaroopam. When some Muslims leaders were showed its preview they felt offended some part of the movie, so they filed a petition to ban the movie. The next moment, the Pandora’s Box has just broken, and from every corner, furore came to condemn, not the movie, or part of the movie, but the offended Muslims! Most of the critics of offended Muslim cried the freedom of expression, creativity and all other hells. This book primarily asks why the offended Muslims are always projected to the fore. Taking the example of Pakistan and its history of offended Muslims, she tries to find out the changing nature of ‘declaring offence’ in Pakistan. Those who protested vehemently in 1990s are not so offended by the same issues, but instead new forces come forward to condemn and protest to new offences. This book is an historical journey and exploration of earlier Pakistan and new Pakistan. Taking the protect against the offence felt by Muslims in Pre-Independence days of India (Pakistan too), as a case point, she argues that the same strategy is maintained in the latest scenario also. There were cries of Jihad during 1857, but the landscape shifted afterwards. The sudden cry after the 1857 was an intellectual discourse for accommodating to security with safe guards for the defeated and demoralized Muslim community. Syed Ahmed Khan took the mantle and started some reformations. Keeping this idea in mind, he declared that Jihad is not applicable in the case of British rulers, but he was strongly defending Islam in other matters when he engaged the issue of Urdu language Vs. Hindi.

When the word offence of Muslim comes to our mind, we have certain pictures already there as the protest against Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, Danish Cartoon, Toddy bear called Muhammad etc. Interestingly always the opposite side of the offence will be the US or western country. Kamila asks that why has the violently offended Muslims become such a prominent figure. So the mainstream media propagate that Islam lends itself to violence.  So along with the offences, there are a number of terms emerged related to the offended Muslims such as hardliners, non-hardliners, moderate Muslims, secular Muslims etc.