Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sing We Our Praise of Idolatry

Today while I was running in the park, I listened to a PRI's The World story about a popular Indian song, "Vande Mataram," and recent Muslim opposition to it. Some clerics have issued a fatwah against singing the song, as the first line is about bowing down to the motherland. This is interpreted as idolatry by some (but not all) Muslims, particularly since "Motherland" is considered a goddess by Hindus. Disregarding the theological arguments for a second, I think it is healthy for any patriotic movement within a country to have a vocal opposition. If all Indians fell lockstep into beatifying their country, that could lead down the slippery slope to regarding other countries as inferior, and thus ready for conquest. Descriptions of the song reminded of other jingo-esque jingles, including some of the songs I sang (the videos are not of me, just a representative of the songs) as a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. A friend who was not in the fraternity pointed out to me that most of the songs were basically saying "look how awesome we are, we are the greatest group of guys around." Which implies that anyone who is not a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia is not awesome. These kind of songs are great morale boosters, but they also strengthen boundaries between "us" and "them". So it is good to prick those boundaries with opposing viewpoints from within the "us".

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