Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Eid al Mubarik and the Festival of the Egg

Cultural ethnocentricity takes many forms. We all have it embedded within us.
Readers of my blog realize that much of my writing about Pakistan glosses over the country's very real problems. Instead my 'Pakistan Centric' writings focus on the country's under reported positives.
At times, cultural ethnocentricity borders on arrogance and even intolerance. Maybe I am just too sensitive about some things – including my name.
Undoubtedly, Imran is a Muslim name which is found extensively in the Koran. The Koran's third sura (chapter) is called titled, "The Family of Imran." According to the Koran, Imran was the name of the Virgin Mary's father – a woodcutter by profession.
A Chinese translation of a portion of the Koran

Imran's origins aside, a recent incident in the Gulf still disappointed me.
I arrived for a meeting and gave my particulars to the Arab receptionist. "Ah, Omran," she said. I smiled and repeated, "No, Imran." "We say Omran," and called my contact and pointedly said, "I have an Omran here for you." All the while looking at me with eyes suggesting 'Imran's an Arab name and learn how to write and pronounce it properly.'
As I have said before, if there is one thing I have a firm copyright on it is my name. I write, pronounce and use it the way I like. I do not need to justify its spelling or pronunciation to anyone.
No particular group holds a monopoly on my name, or indeed any name.  
Tell a Jacob his name is Yacoob, or a Moses he is Musa; tell a Turk that Sultan Ahmet mosque (the Blue Mosque) ought to be renamed Sultan Ahmed mosque. The list is endless.
There are many tell tale signs of individuals not paying attention to small details.
Receiving Arabic language newspapers at a hotel each morning because hotel staff assumes I am proficient in Arabic because I have an Arab name. Similarly, obtaining notifications in Malay from MUIS or other Malay organizations because a Singaporean Muslim is assumed to be proficient in Malay also resonates of a mono-cultural view of the world.
Not surprisingly, journalists make similar mistakes. A few days ago a CNBC newscaster reporting from Dubai repeatedly referred to the Muslim festival of 'Eid al Mubarik.'
Yes, as Muslims we describe Easter as the Festival of the Egg! Am I asking too much for reporters to do some homework before reporting to a global audience?
In the real world, it's the little things that give us away. Everyone can get the really big stuff right – the tiny stuff requires serious effort.

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