For twelve-year-old Maryam Siddiqui, there is one God who is addressed by different names. Being a Muslim didn’t stop her from topping the Gita Champions League contest organised by ISKCON. In fact, not only is she well-versed with the Quran, she has also read the Bible “to acquire knowledge of all religions”.
A student of Cosmopolitan High School Mira Road, she stood first among over 3,000 participants at the contest organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in January. This test evaluates children on their knowledge of the Gita. She referred to the material provided by ISKCON.
“This was the first time that I had attempted to read the Gita. We were also shown CDs in school to help us understand the book better. I read it for a month and then gave an objective test. I have also read the Bible,” said Maryam. She developed an interest in the Bible because of her friends. “When I used visit them, they used to tell me stories behind different festivals celebrated by them. This got me interested in the Bible,” she added.
The most important teaching that has stayed with her after reading the Gita is that “you should always do the right thing and have the right faith,” said Maryam, adding that she also shares her knowledge with her three younger brothers.
“I believe that there is one God but we call him by different names. My parents have played a big role in making me realise that we should respect all religions. We even celebrate all festivals,” she added.
Her mother Farhana Asaf Siddiqui feels that exposing children to knowledge of all kinds is very important. “In order to break free from religious discrimination, it is important for children to have an understanding of all religions and be sensitive towards them. This is especially important if we want to put an end to riots based on religion.”
Maryam’s father feels knowledge of religions should be instilled at a young age. “This is the right age to expose them to all kinds of knowledge and to shape their thoughts,” said Asif Naseem Siddiqui, who is the editor of a magazine.
Her teacher Sapna Brahmandkar said, “Every year, this exam is conducted in schools across the city. Since this subject is new to her, she asked me to explain it to her. I took some classes also. She grasped it quickly and always cleared her doubts. It is because of her hardwork that she aced it.”