My Name Is Khan

‘My Name Is Khan, I Can’t Enter A Mosque’

Every year around August, I used to see my Hindu brothers carrying the kaanwar (a wooden pole carrying two water pots on its ends) on their shoulders for several hundreds of kilometer on foot and marveled at their faith. I would often mention this to my friends and relatives too that such dedication is laudable. I also learnt that making theses kaanwars provided livelihood to many a Muslim family in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Since my childhood, I am moved by the idea of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood and wanted to set an example towards this goodwill.

So this year, I also decided to join the pilgrim on foot and went to Haridwar in the beginning of the Hindu month of Sawan. However, I decided not to wear any saffron clothing and retained my skull cap and beard to make my point. I collected the holy water of Ganga in my kaanwar, emulating my Hindu co-pilgrims, and began my journey back to my hometown in Baghpat. Throughout my journey back home, I drew applause and the same hospitality provided to my co-pilgrims.

At every rest-camp, people would walk over to me and commended my initiative to promote the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. The approval and appreciation for my act, however, ended once I reached my hometown. Things took an ugly turn. I was physically attacked by own community members and the assailants destroyed my kaanwar. I was called names, some even declared me a kafir, an apostate, who had no place in the vicinity. I was shaken but I held on.

I had reached my hometown on Friday. When I reached the local mosque to offer ṣalāt al-jumu’ah (Friday prayers), I was surrounded by a group of irate Muslims who thrashed me and chased me away. They threatened me not to return ever to a mosque. ‘You have maligned our religion… It is better for you to go to a temple and play the bells… sing kirtans…,’ they screamed at me.

I had never imagined that my own community members and neighbours will turn against me in such a violent way. More was to follow once I reached home. Another group of angry locals gathered outside my house. They first attacked my house with stones and later some criminal element in the crowd hurled desi bombs. I was terrified and rushed to the local police station after the crowd dispersed. The media too played up the incident and police arrested two persons identified by me and locked them up.

However, both of them got bail the very next day and confronted me with new threats. I was assured by the police that they have deputed some personnel in the locality and are keeping a watch. On their assurance, I again went to the mosque today (Monday) but I was disallowed to enter the premises and I was chased away. Have I committed any sin? I feel threatened, my family unsafe and ostracised.