Sticks and stones, I can handle.
My faith requires me NOT to turn the other cheek. I'm no fighter but I can promise a good fight in a fair exchange when taken on by a boor.
I can handle words too. Call me whatever you like, even try to insult or denigrate my religion and faith, and it'll be like water on a duck's back.
I've been called all sorts of things. Some deserved. Some totally outfield.
And I've been accosted by hooligans a couple of times. Had a knife thrown at me once; fortunately, he was aiming through a haze of drunken stupor.
Doesn't bother me a bit. I feel secure in what I am, what I believe. I don't overly worry about the scorpions that plague these troubled souls.
Like I don't worry about it every time a dog barks at me. Sure, it happens. Sometimes, but not too often, mercifully. No, I don't drop down on my knees and bark back. I simply cross the road to the other side and carry on my way.
But one thing does bother me. It breaks my heart every time I hear it. It troubles me to no end. It even makes me weep.
When some people wearing the mantle of public office or religious authority -- feeling secure in being a member of some majority or the other -- start stirring up trouble by insulting, willy nilly, people of other faiths, any faith that doesn't conform or subscribe to their own narrow-mindedness.
It happened again the other day.
The motive was clear.
Amidst the silliness that has taken over Washington, D.C. in the general mental shutdown that has taken a strangle-hold on the US government, here's what one good soul came up with last Sunday (October 13, 2013).
Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, a conservative political advocacy group, is not known for being the brightest light in any gathering of people. Part of the much-challenged 'tea-party' crowd, he was addressing a veteran-led rally in the vicinity of the White House, when he declared that the country is being "ruled by a president who bows down to Allah," and is therefore "not a president of 'we the people' "
And he continued his tirade, by demanding "that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get off his knees, and to figuratively come up with his hands out ..."
Republican luminaries such as Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, were part of this swollen group of veterans protesting in and around the National Mall.
I won't get into the shenanigans -- they have become the hallmark of politicians of every ilk, every where. I have my opinions on the current goings-on, but they are not relevant to this article.
Isn't it but a word used for God -- the same God that Klayman and Cruz and Palin and the rest of them -- to whom they claim to pay allegiance?
Except, only, that it is in a different language. It emanates from another part of the world, and is more widely used by one faith group in particular.
I am not a Muslim. I am a Sikh. But I sometimes use "Allah" instead of God or Waheguru or Ishwar or Yahweh, as and when I feel like it. In fact, in my tradition, there are a thousand names ascribed to God. And more can, and are, added by any one who wants to, considering that we all acknowledge Him/Her to be I-N-F-I-N-I-T-E.
You could pen a new Ella Fitzerald and Loius Armstrong ditty out of it: "You like G-od / and I like Al-lah ..."
To insult or denigrate 'Allah' is in no way different from insulting the very same God you and I claim to follow, fellas.
Not that it matters to Allah/God. He can handle insults, trust me, and needs no allies or apologists.
But can you, who cannot see beyond your very noses?
It pains me because watching these clowns is like watching someone slapping himself in the face. It's self-abuse, no more, no less.
And do you think it is pious to insult another man's scripture, merely because it is not yours?
It is not the Sikh thing to do, I can assure you.
Nor is it, I believe, the Christian thing to do.
All you're doing is stirring up mischief, which I know you believe is the monopoly of the devil.
* * * * *
It is no consolation, however, that the likes of Klayman are not unique to America.
Straight across, on the other side of the globe, offering a mirror image, are another bunch of good souls in Malaysia, slipping up -- sadly -- on the same banana peel.
Three Muslim judges in the country's appeals court ruled last Monday (October 14, 2013), that the word "Allah" is indeed the exclusive bailiwick of Muslims. That is, people of other -- read 'non-Muslim' -- faiths may not use the word.
I don't know who is being the more foolish ... my neighbors south of the border, or the chaps in distant Malaysia.
Sadly, neither. Both qualify, but neither wins the prize. There are pockets of such ignorance in every nook and corner of the world, each outdoing the other.
It's in such moments of despair that I am reminded of poor Jonathan Swift -- novelist, satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin -- who must have been in similar doldrums when he penned the following line in his Gulliver's Travels in, essentially, describing ourselves:
''I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little, odious vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.''