Islam, unfortunately is one of the most misunderstood religio-cultural frameworks in the world particularly post 9/11 although the it has drifted away from the public eye, the Faith is still grossly misunderstood. As a non Moslem who has been raised in Oman i have been surrounded by Muslim friends through out my life. I have been fortunate to have resided in three culturally distinct parts of the Muslim World: South Asia, Gulf and South East Asia. What strikes me is that the common foundations of the Faith are shared universally but are practiced very differently in their regions. In the run up to Ramadan or Ramzan in South Asia i would like to contrast how Iftar or the meal at the breaking of the fast is practiced. The meal in the Bahasa speaking world would be rice based as i have been to an iftar in Singapore and i have been to many an Iftar in Oman- the meals are very different.
A Bohra Muslim Iftar is grounded in a Western Indian Ethos rather than a Middle Eastern one. Magreb Islam is very different from a Mashreq version in its cultural undercurrents. The attempt at monoculturalization of Muslims in the media is gross incorrect. A Bengali Iftar is Bengali and a Punjabi Iftar is very Lahori!
The attitude towards music is another aspect where various sub cultures differ. The ‘White’ Arabs of the Levant and the Berbers of the Maghreb has very rich musical traditions such as the Rai tradition. Remember Cheb Mami and Khaled?
Sufism holds music as a central part of meditation. Someone who holds a puritanical view might object but that is plural character of Islam which is not known in the wider world. Indonesian and Malaysian Muslims have been amazing ambassadors of Plural Islam; modern yet moderate.
Not to leave the Turks and Central Asian Muslims, the Muslim World is very diverse as much as the Buddhist, Hindu or Secular Christian nations of the West. The unraveling of the thesis begins….