The Lingual Bomb

Mohamedarif Suleman

(Nairobi, Kenya)

The subject on whether Majlises should be recited in English or Urdu was well participated. Netizen (Citizens on the net, you may say!) brothers and sisters debated and deliberated on this very issue for at least a month under the newly-founded E-Discussion Groups of Nairobi Jamaat’s Youth Stairs Sun Committee.

Arguments, before and against, we’re compiled and assimilated for the possible implementation by relevant sub committees, but the interesting part was how the subject was discussed and what directions it finally assumed.

The proponents of English had one basic argument that bordered around communication as a medium for comprehension. It was aptly argued that if the purpose of a Majlis was to reach out to the community youth then it was important that the language of their understanding was used. Equally true is the converse, whereby it could have been stated that if the language used by Zakireen is not understood by the youths, then what was the purpose of the whole exercise. A lot of praise was also shown towards brethren Jamaats in North America and Europe for the manner in which youths had integrated into society’s mainstream.

But when all was said and done, argued the proponents of Urdu, the questions turned back to culture and tradition. Language, it is commonly known as an important part of culture. And giving up language was tantamount to giving up on culture. It was appropriately cautioned that while our brothers, the Hindu community in the UK for example, was actually going back to their own language, we were not learning from their experience. The paradox was thus complete.

On the positive side, there were volunteers who came up and offered to arrange Urdu classes for the benefit of those who don’t understand. It may be very clear by now that, like always, the cookie had to crumble. Those who want English are prepared to give up their culture (although they dispute the fact that language has any connotation to culture (sociologists please explain), and on the other hand those proposing Urdu as a medium are surprisingly not proposing Gujrati or Kuttchi (which is our language).

So, what does it all sum up to? Some even argued that since language was a function of culture, adopting English would invite this foreign and mostly abhorrent culture to be fed into our society (not that we are not already experiencing this culture shock). It is tempting to ask what is behind this new drive to a new language. We have spoken English since time immemorial. But recently (Blame in on TV and the Internet), this has acquired mind blowing dimensions. As young parents, buoyed by the American portrayal of a fine progressive lot (which by the way is a product of their lingual finesse), and encouraged by schools to communicate in English for the betterment of the child, fall into this trap, or a quagmire. Little do they realize that when they do reach adolescent age, they will also be required to understand other languages. Why that room is blocked altogether in favour of one language will remain a mystery to all of us.

And yes, it may be said that communication is incomplete if an incoherent medium is used, but who made Urdu incomprehensible? Since when? And in any case, why should the sudden change in language lead to such horrendous implications? In the end, we just might have to continue using the middle path of time-sharing that has proven to be so popular recently. It may be more prudent for us to let nature take its course, while attending to the most basic questions of the role of parents and the preservation of culture.

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About the author

Mohamedarif is a marketing professional and educationalist with a penchant for writing as a hobby since childhood. As he experimented writing about sporting events at first and then current affairs, he quickly developed a skill for observation of his environment and began to write on reform topics, especially in connection with the community. To further feed his pursuit of writing, he founded several newsletters and bulletins at his school and at the Husayni Madrasah in the 1980's, all the time learning from others already in the field not just about writing, but also about pre-press and production processes. He was also the editor-in-chief of the Knowledge Magazine in 1995–1996. A decade later, importing a flurry of ideas into his new home, Nairobi, he first founded a two page community newspaper then became a regular writer of the Friday Faculty before establishing the Community on Friday, a fully fledged Madrasah magazine in 1996. And while his writing at the community continued, he simultaneously started writing for a business weekly, pairing in with his newfound role as a marketing professional. During his time in Nairobi, he wrote several speeches for sitting chairmen and presidents while also giving some himself, developing his concurrent role as a public speaker and trainer.

With changing times and a decrease in advertising sponsorship, as well as a fall in overall readership, Mohamedarif transformed this publication into an electronic blog. Thus was born the Community on Friday in its present format.

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