Saif Ali Khan: Intermarriage is not jihad, it is India

India is a mix and to deny this is to cheat ourselves of our inheritance, writes Saif Ali Khan.

Written by Saif Ali Khan | Updated: October 16, 2014 10:24 am
When Kareena and I married, there were similar death threats, with people on the Net saying ridiculous things about “love jihad”. We follow whatever religion or spiritual practice we believe in. When Kareena and I married, there were similar death threats, with people on the Net saying ridiculous things about “love jihad”. We follow whatever religion or spiritual practice we believe in.

I am the son of a sportsman, I grew up in England, Bhopal, Pataudi, Delhi and Mumbai, and I am more Indian than any Hindu or Muslim I know because I am both. I wrote this piece not to comment on the masses or the problems of communalism in India and its villages, but because this is an issue that concerns my friends and their families.

It wasn’t peacefully accepted by anyone, initially, when my parents wanted to marry. The royals had their issues; the Brahmins theirs. And, of course, extremists on both religious sides issued death threats. But the marriage still happened — the fact that my grandmother also had to fight to marry the not-as-wealthy and therefore not-so-suitable nawab of Pataudi might have helped things along. We grew up on real-life romantic stories about our elders marrying for love and not worrying too much about tradition. And we were brought up to believe that god is one, with many names.

Source: C Y Sasikumar Source: C Y Sasikumar

When Kareena and I married, there were similar death threats, with people on the Net saying ridiculous things about “love jihad”. We follow whatever religion or spiritual practice we believe in. We talk about them and respect each other’s views. I hope our children will do the same.

I have prayed in church and attended mass with Kareena, while she has bowed her head at dargahs and prayed in mosques. When we purified our new home, we had a havan and a Quran reading and a priest sprinkling holy water — no chances taken!

What is religion? What is faith? Does a perfect definition exist? I don’t know. But I know doubt. I’m intrigued by the politics of doubt. Doubt gives us faith. Doubt keeps us questioning what keeps us alive. If we become sure of something, then there is a danger of becoming fanatical.

Religion needs to be separated from a lot of things. Our religions are based on fear. The Old Testament spoke of a Promised Land for a people, but there were people already living there. The problem is still burning today. There have been too many atrocities committed in the name of god.

I know good people are scared of marrying their daughters to Muslims. They fear conversion, quick divorces, multiple marriages — basically, it suits the boys a bit more than the girls. All this is undoubtedly outdated. A lot of Islam needs to modernise and renew itself in order to be relevant. We also need a loud moderate voice to separate the good from the evil. Islam today is more unpopular than it has ever been. This is a great shame to me, as I have always thought of Islam as the moon, the desert, calligraphy and flying carpets, the thousand and one nights. I have always thought about it as a religion of peace and submission. As I grew older, I saw religion twisted and used so badly by men that I distanced myself from all man-made religion. I choose to be as spiritual as I can be.

Anyway, I digress. The good news is that no one needs to convert from their religion to get married. The Special Marriage Act, when applicable, is the paramount law of the land. If you marry under this, it is upheld over any religious law. It is truly secular.

The fabric of India is woven from many threads — English, Muslim, Hindu and many others. A major concern in today’s India is that we keep deleting our past. To say Muslims don’t have a role in India is denying their importance and contribution. It is like saying women don’t have a part to play in India. Why do we need to deny Islam? It’s what we are. We come with our mix. To deny this is to cheat us of our inheritance. I don’t know what “love jihad” is. It is a complication created in India. I know intermarriages because I am a child of one and my children are born out of it. Intermarriage is not jihad. Intermarriage is India. India is a mix. Ambedkar said the only way to annihilate caste is intermarriage. It is only through intermarriage that the real Indians of tomorrow can be truly equipped to take our nation forward with the right perspective. I am the product of such a mixed marriage and my life has been full of Eid and Holi and Diwali. We were taught to do adaab and namaste with equal reverence.

It is sad that too much importance is given to religion, and not enough to humanity and love. My children were born Muslim but they live like Hindus (with a pooja ghar at home), and if they wanted to be Buddhist, they would have my blessing. That’s how we were brought up.

We are a blend, this great country of ours. It is our differences that make us who we are. We need to get beyond mere tolerance. We need to accept and respect and love each other.

We are most certainly not a secular country. The intention was to become one and our Constitution has provided every framework to make that possible. But, more than six decades on, we have still not separated religion from the law. To make matters worse, different laws apply to different people, making it impossible for us to think as one. There are different laws for Hindus and different laws for Muslims. This is bound to create trouble.

I think we should have one law for all Indians, a uniform civil code, and we should all think of ourselves as one nation. All our religions must come later and be by the way. Teach our children about god and his thousand names, but first we must teach them respect and love of their fellow man. That is more important.

I stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy first, then Santa Claus, and finally, I really don’t know what I feel about a personal god. But I believe in love and in trying to be good and helping the world. I don’t always succeed and then I feel bad. My conscience is my god, I think, and it tells me that that one tree in Pataudi near which my father is buried is closer to god than any temple, church or mosque.

Saif Ali Khan is an actor and producer

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  1. F
    Farah
    Dec 22, 2016 at 7:26 pm
    Sad to know that one does not understand what he is born into and has to take refuge into (inter) everything. Very poorly written . When you are a star of a certain caliber then you must research before you write !
    Reply
    1. T
      Tasneem Fakir
      Dec 23, 2016 at 8:18 am
      Saif..love the simplicity and clarity of your thoughts. I echo them FEARFULLY. We live in a trap of having to be part of the majority, to conform to a society that has stopped questioning. I have taught my children to be good and kind and respect all living things. They are godly and they are spiritual but they are not ritualistic and our dogs and cats and birds and their well being is part of the wider scheme of how we wish to live our lives...
      Reply
      1. M
        minal
        Dec 24, 2016 at 9:13 am
        My admiration for Saif Ali Khan Pataudi has increased manyfold after reading this article. Kareena u have made a exceptionally good choice.
        Reply
        1. R
          Raj
          Dec 22, 2016 at 9:30 pm
          Saif, Congratulations on the new born. You and Kareena have full right to name your baby whatever you want and live your life the way you want. Nothing else matters. There are haters everywhere. If not your baby they will find something else or someone else to hate. Enjoy the parenthood. Peace.
          Reply
          1. J
            Jaya
            Dec 24, 2016 at 4:06 am
            Very well said , Saif! Thank you for this article.
            Reply
            1. J
              Jibin Jose
              Dec 24, 2016 at 2:24 am
              You have rightfully abstained from commenting on the child's name. Truth to be told, it is not all the concern of anyone, but a very very private matter. Thanks for the article.
              Reply
              1. S
                Sohail Hashmi
                Dec 23, 2016 at 9:58 am
                I don't think Saif has any problem understanding what he was born into, both his parents grew in fairly enlightened families, Sharmila's more than the Pataudis, but what is more important is that he and Kareena have not bothered by ic dogma and it is this that is more important. what you are born as is not so important, what you do with your life and what you grow up into is what makes all the difference. The less role religion plays in the affairs of this world and sticks to the hereafter, the better it will be for religion and for this world.
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                1. M
                  Mr. Murari
                  Dec 25, 2016 at 11:50 am
                  Just curious... what religion is his lovely sister's husband?
                  Reply
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