WhatsApp is more of a curse than a convenience; I am convinced of this fact. It easily consumes my everyday life, from the moment I get up to the time I shut my eyes in transient demise. And in between as well, for diehards like me. For reasons of blood ties or for preserving good manners, it is impossible to block and hide from those I want to avoid.
I am just about to doze off when my cellphone farts and a flashing message tells me it is Mullah Mchungu, calling from Dar; I groan, ignore it, turn around and close my eyes. The flashing ceases and I smile at the fury the Mullah must be expressing now, cursing me. But my smile turns into a frown of worry. What if the old man is calling in an emergency? He does not usually call me at my bedtime. I sit up and touch the icon by his name in a hurry. He picks up in an instant, as if he knows I will call.
Mullah, are you all right? Did you call?
So you thought I was kicking the bucket, eh? Not yet, Baba, soon, but not as yet. I should consider myself lucky; even Ali does not respond as fast. Bless you.
Ali is his son in Orlando with whom he has a kabhie hot / kabhie cold relationship.
Yes, Mullah Saheb, I say resignedly. I should not have called back; I am sure I will lose an hour of sleep now. I silently curse the free WhatsApp again. What can I do for you?
Kisukaali, have you seen some of the clutter about the Khoja Identity doing the rounds on the Internet? All snug and haughty. How the Khoja’s progressed from India in their smelly dhotis and made it big time in Africa? Some clowns even made a slipshod movie at considerable public expense about the movement on the pretext it will motivate our kids towards Khojaism?
This guy always comes up with the most bizarre and controversial subjects to talk about; I am not interested in talking about Khojas at 11 PM.
Mullah, can we chat tomorrow, it is 11 PM here…
The man just ignores my plea and charges on.
I question people who do this, Kisukaali, and the people who keep quiet, including you. Now you listen to me, and listen real good, young man. You tell your audience there is no such thing as Khoja identity is Islam. As a matter of fact, Islam frowns on such backslapping. The Prophet (S) pined for an all-inclusive Ummah, period. All ethnicities, all colors, all breeds. Period.
We Khojas were and are as entrepreneurial as anybody from Kerala. Except we are Baniyas, we breathe numbers and money. The only credit I can offer my forefathers is their acceptance and sticking to Allah’s glorified deen from wandering Iranians. Not that this is exclusive to a Khoja, mind you. The rest is their good fortune to have connected with distant lands and moving there. Most of the remaining history is tainted, shameful – essentially exploiting the darker skinned people and making money off their sweat. The way we made the money will be severely tested and questioned on the Day of Judgment.
I am about to lie down again and let the angry Mullah vent himself out, but this last statement makes me stiffen and pause. No matter how insignificant the old mans opinion may be to the larger Khoja fraternity, I surely cannot let him get away with making such general sweeping statements. But I get no chance.
If you objectively study the earlier behaviors of Khojas, who migrated to East Africa, towards the Black owners and inhabitants of the land, all of us would want to hang our heads in bloody shame. Here are my allegations:
One. The Khojas merely aped the Whites and Arabs in putting down the Blacks, robbing them of their dignity and shortchanging their labors.
Two. The Khojas were and still are racist towards the Africans of East Africa and other non-Khojas. A non-Khoja cannot be buried alongside a Khoja or get married in a Khoja mosque in many global Khoja communities, till today. Anybody who denies this fact is a stinking liar.
Three. The Khojas exploited every legal and illegal avenue to loot their host country and her people, be it by mageendo means or finding loopholes within a flawed legal system.
Fortunes have been made on these methods, washed away by acts of piety here and there. Now, I am not saying Khojas were the only foreign settlers engaged in these misdeeds, but that is another story. Did the local governments create and perpetuate a climate conducive to such actions by the Khojas? Perhaps, but again, these arguments are not within the scope of my accusations on this debate. The onus is on us, the Shias, to be upright, uphold justice and morals of our Aimaas (A).
So while we try to self-glorify our so-called Khoja identity, we should seriously pause and critique the Khoja behavior in the lands they adopted as their new homes. And learn lessons from our past transgressions, instead of living in the dreams of a few aging populace nostalgic for an era of easy life. We should most certainly not be using public funds for this bragging exercise. It is wrong. Yes, the Khojas, especially from E. Africa, have done exceptionally well. But this is due to Allah given opportunities others have not been so fortunately blessed with.
The younger ones from the Khoja community of E. Africa, the educated ones, the ones who have progressed, are only now realizing the folly of creating divisions of Muslims or adopting a better than thou attitude and an upper lip. Even the Queen of England has learnt lessons from history and softened that rim, by some very royal and competent cosmetic surgery, I hear. If we are basking in our organizational skills, the Ismailis and Bohras have outdone us in many aspects. If it is our philanthropic accomplishments we are proud of, remember, khums is not your money to begin with. What are you going to do with the money you make anyway, take it to your grave?
The Mullah continues some more, but I am not paying attention. I do not realize I have ignored him and fallen asleep until I feel the discomfort prod of my cellphone as I turn for a better sleeping position.