Bring on the turkey

I use the tra­di­tional, slow­cook­ing method which re­quires a lot of time and at­ten­tion, but at the end of the process, I have a very ten­der, moist bird.

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Ir­fan Hu­sain

Last Fri­day, I helped my son cook a turkey in Karachi. As I was in Sri Lanka at the time, the guid­ance was by email, text mes­sages and phone calls. But by the end of the evening, Shakir had a lovely, golden brown, 8-kilo turkey ready (and emailed me a photo to prove it). His wife Sheila, a very good cook, had no need for in­struc­tions in cook­ing her bird. So they had lots of turkey to serve their friends at their Thanks­giv­ing party.

Frankly, I think the fowl is hugely over­rated as its meat is quite bland. But a large, prop­erly cooked turkey is very fes­tive, and its ar­rival at the ta­ble causes a stir, even among those with a jaded palate. I use the tra­di­tional, slow-cook­ing method which re­quires a lot of time and at­ten­tion, but at the end of the process, I have a very ten­der, moist bird. In par­tic­u­lar, good gravy needs care and con­cen­tra­tion. Hav­ing cooked more tur­keys than I care to re­mem­ber, I have got quite good at it.

This culi­nary pre­am­ble is not the open­ing of a col­umn about cook­ing, but about Thanks­giv­ing, and about hol­i­days in gen­eral. Amer­i­cans of all faiths mark the fourth Thurs­day of Novem­ber with Thanks­giv­ing, a day that com­mem­o­rates the feast pro­vided to the early colonists by Na­tive Amer­i­cans, and is mod­elled af­ter Euro­pean har­vest fes­ti­vals.

This is an en­tirely sec­u­lar hol­i­day, with no re­li­gious over­tones. In fact, my (Mus­lim) daugh­ter-in-law learned to cook a turkey from her (Mus­lim) mother while grow­ing up in Amer­ica. Given the na­ture of the hol­i­day, I was a bit taken aback to read a de­nun­ci­a­tion of Thanks­giv­ing on the New Trends web­site. A US-based we­bzine, this site re­li­ably con­tains ex­trem­ist views, but also some valid cri­tiques of Amer­i­can poli­cies.

In an ar­ti­cle called Thoughts on ' Thanks­giv­ing', Nadrat Sid­dique writes: "As Mus­lims, we are of­ten in the dif­fi­cult po­si­tion of hav­ing to re­spond to a greet­ing such as ' Happy Thanks­giv­ing'. Some Mus­lims feel it nec­es­sary to re­turn the greet­ing out of con­cern for adaab (Is­lamic eti­quette) … But words are pow­er­ful … and they can help per­pet­u­ate a myth … in which Na­tive peo­ple and White set­tlers feasted and ca­vorted in friend­ship. But Is­lam teaches us to stand with the op­pressed, against the op­pres­sor. As aware Mus­lims we should have to op­tion to po­litely de­flect the greet­ing, then briefly ex­plain why we do not cel­e­brate it. It is an op­por­tu­nity to ed­u­cate peo­ple, and do some myth bust­ing."

How ex­actly do you 'po­litely de­flect' a greet­ing from a friend or a neigh­bour? Do you say some­thing like "Sorry, but I can't share your hol­i­day be­cause it com­mem­o­rates the geno­cide of Na­tive Amer­i­cans, and cen­turies of op­pres­sion?"

But surely Ms Sid­dique should not be in Amer­ica at all if she feels so strongly about the Na­tive In­di­ans, and what was done to them. If she's ad­vis­ing her fel­low-Mus­lims in the United States to dis­tance them­selves from the hol­i­day cel­e­brated by the vast ma­jor­ity, should she not take this protest to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion, and sug­gest they leave the land of op­pres­sors?

Don't get me wrong: I feel strongly about the plight of Na­tive peo­ple in all the vast territories colonised by Euro­peans.

White colonists have an ap­palling record of vir­tual geno­cide in the lands and con­ti­nents they con­quered since the 16th cen­tury. In­deed, the his­tory of ev­ery coun­try in the Amer­i­cas, as well as of Aus­tralia, is writ­ten in blood. How­ever, this fact does not give Mus­lims the right to preach to Amer­i­cans or any­body else, given their own track record.

When Mus­lim Afghan and Cen­tral Asian tribes raided across North In­dia over cen­turies and es­tab­lished king­doms, they slew and en­slaved hun­dreds of thou­sands of Hin­dus and de­mol­ished count­less tem­ples. When the Arab armies swept into Per­sia and the Near East, they killed thou­sands of sol­diers and civil­ians. And the Ot­toman con­quest and coloni­sa­tion of the Balkans was hardly a blood­less af­fair.

These are some of the glo­ries of our past whose pass­ing so many Mus­lims mourn to­day. So we can hardly preach to oth­ers be­fore we con­front our own past. In­deed, Mus­lims con­tinue to slaugh­ter each other to­day in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pak­istan with happy aban­don.

It is the sanc­ti­mony in­her­ent in Ms Sid­dique's ar­ti­cle that I find so an­noy­ing. Given that so many Mus­lims in Amer­ica are hav­ing trou­ble deal­ing with the rise of Is­lam­o­pho­bia there, the last thing they need is a lec­ture urg­ing them to move fur­ther away from the main­stream.

Of course ev­ery­body is free to hold their own opin­ions, but choices have con­se­quences: peo­ple like Ms Sid­dique should not then com­plain of not be­ing ac­cepted as Amer­i­cans if they de­lib­er­ately spurn Amer­i­can tra­di­tions.

Other Mus­lims choose to stay away from non-Mus­lim re­li­gious cel­e­bra­tions like Christ­mas, Holi or Han­nukah. Frankly, I am puz­zled to see Mus­lims re­fus­ing to par­tic­i­pate in any­body else's fes­ti­vals: surely cel­e­brat­ing a nonMus­lim holy day should not weaken their own faith.

This en­tire con­cept of build­ing a wall be­tween Mus­lims and non-Mus­lims is badly flawed, and only cre­ates mis­un­der­stand­ings. My par­ents used to tell us how their Hindu and Sikh neigh­bours came to their home on Eid in Delhi be­fore Par­ti­tion, and how they at­tended Holi and Di­vali cel­e­bra­tions with their friends. Luck­ily, their les­son of hu­man­ity and tol­er­ance has been passed on to their grand­chil­dren.

In a world full of ten­sions and strife, we should be us­ing joy­ous oc­ca­sions as op­por­tu­ni­ties to heal wounds and build bridges to other com­mu­ni­ties. In­stead, re­li­gious big­ots of all stripes are urg­ing a greater dis­tance be­tween peo­ple and faiths.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.