They’re saying prayers in public schools! And religious people are mad.
Mostly because this is in India and the prayer is “perceived as a Hindu chant.”
“The schoolchildren in the state will have to recite the ‘bhojan mantra’ before their midday meals. This will come into force from Sep 5 – Teacher’s Day this year,” says a notice from state School Education Minister Archana Chitnis.
The directive has stirred controversy as many Muslims say the imposition of such a chant is against the religious freedom of minorities.
The mantra is, “Anna grahan karne se pehle, vichar man mein karna hai; Kis hetu se is sharir ka rakshan poshan karna hai; Hey parmeshwar, ek prarthana nitya tumhare charnon mein; Lag jaaye tan man dhan mera, matr bhumi ki sewa mein.”
Translated into English it means: “Before eating, let us think why we have to nourish and take care of our bodies. Oh lord, this is a daily prayer to you that my body, mind and wealth be used in the service of the motherland).
It’s the Muslims in this case who are making the most sense:
“Asking children to recite the mantra before midday meals is unconstitutional. It is unacceptable not only to Muslims but also to other religious minorities,” said Irshad Ali Khan, member of the Majlis-e-Shoora, a Muslim body.
“We will urge the government to withdraw such a diktat.”
Muslim Tehwar Committee chief Ausaf Shahmiri Khurram also opposed the directive saying, “The order infringes the religious freedom of minorities.”
What can we learn from this? We’re all better off when religion is kept a private matter. If you want to pray to your god, go for it. But to enforce one prayer on everybody is a recipe for failure. First, because prayer won’t do jack for the students. Second, because it’s bound to make groups of people (children) unhappy or uncomfortable.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Christians trying to force prayer in American public schools or Hindus doing it in India — if you’re in the majority, that doesn’t give you the right to force your beliefs on everybody else.
Reader Emma adds one more point:
From some, Googling the word ‘lord’ (parmeshwar) should probably have been translated as Lord (with a capital ‘l’). Parmeshwar is apparently used in many Hindi translations of the Bible. So why are the Christians so upset?
(Thanks to Emma for the link!)