Ruminating on Memory and the Cycle of Violence


     Post 9/11 Islam has been at the forefront of the global stage as a religion that is in a deep crisis and needs a reformation.  A religion that has been described as hijacked mistranslated and at times an uncivilized religion because of the extreme violence that has ensued from some fractions in almost every Muslim country.  In 2015, I visited Berlin, Germany where I met many Germans who were interested in my role as a Muslim woman teaching Islam and also directing a Holocaust Center.  Their questions came from shock and dismay at how I could possibly be entrapped in two very polarizing and extreme visions of the world, the most startling comments were how I could call myself a Muslim since I did not wear the hijab and why I was deeply committed to Holocaust education.  Awkward silence and brisk acknowledgements by the local Berliners became a stark message to me that somehow my identity was sterilized and my work on the Holocaust had been battered in the most apologetic country of European crimes during World War II.   These thoughts on my work and my Islamic identity and Muslims compelled me to think about memory.  How does one remember one’s tradition?  What moments in history are the ones that define us and those that do not?  David Rieff’s recent book on In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and It’s Ironies, asks the important questions of memory, tradition and ethics.  He further questions how and what we choose to commemorate, forgive and forget.  The famous phrase “Never Shall I Forget” by Elie Wiesel echoes throughout my work and in many communities but we have indeed forgotten or we choose to forget in order for us to retain something of our past.  What shall I Never forget?  The loss, the death and the need for humans to kill my identity.  An identity that lives within me and the world?  An identity that caused the murder of my people?  I am of Pakistani decent, a child of refugees who settled in Pakistan after fleeing India in 1947.  The promise of a new beginning for my grandparents and parents away from persecution remained engraved in their memory.  The schism between Hindus and Muslims, the colonial rapture of the British and the identification with Islam was the new promise of a pure future.  Genocide some call it, 2 million people died during partition, both Hindus and Muslims massacred one another in a war for land and identity.  Both sides claimed the other more brutal and ruthless as stories of pregnant mothers being slashed by knives circulated the brutality of such massacre. How do we remember these atrocities and why?