Azam Khan as Ghafur

Azam Khan as Ghafur

Azam Khan as Ghafur

You’re just saying, Bhai’s just saying, Ami, Abu, Daada are all just saying. The only one not saying anything is me. But it’s only my life, right?
— Ghafur, in "The Domestic Crusaders"

Ghafur is an interesting child. He’s the youngest of three, and is away at college at a particularly malleable phase of his life. His sense of identity is slowly developing and he has been pondering what he really wants his life to be like. Having seen the battles between his parents and his siblings, Ghafur has quietly managed to avoid the spotlight until now. 

His declaration of what he wants to do in life couldn’t have come at a more significant time – it’s his 21st birthday and everyone in the family is present. Ghafur is a thoughtful, idealistic person. But he’s also a doer. He allows himself to imagine a better world where he is doing his part to achieve it. 

Ghafur’s Muslim identity was formed early, as it is for many of us. But it’s not till one’s late teenage years when we come to truly understand our role as a Muslim in society. As we enter adulthood, we are sometimes unclear of what role we will play. We doubt ourselves and question the motives of everyone around us. Are people really looking out for Islam? What is Islam? Should we care only about Muslims or everyone? Ghafur understands that intolerance for other cultures has gotten Muslims into this mess, and blames extremist groups specifically for charring the image of Islam globally.

Humans are complex beings, with their own unique genome, micro biomes in their stomach, and circumstances in life that shape their thinking, personalities and viewpoints. With over 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide and no ruling body like the Vatican, Islam is being left to be defined by how others view it. Just like a brand without active brand management. The best we can do, per Ghafur, is to continue to spread the right message, through media or through education, in the hope of making the overall sentiment towards Islam more positive.

Islamophobia is quite common these days with politicians constantly uttering soundbites that somehow make ‘religion’ responsible for the insidious intentions and sinister actions of terrorist groups. Just sitting and glaring at the tube will fill our mind with fear about Muslims, not unlike the climate in our nation during the years of McCarthyism or the Cold War, when citizens were told to prepare for nuclear attacks and hide in bunkers.

Ghafur realizes that shining the light on Islam will eventually lead to an awakening where truth will eclipse misinformation, and he wants to play an instrumental role in disseminating the truth about Islam. His parents, on the other hand, don't want Ghafur straying from the path planned out for him. They want him to secure his financial future first. Ghafur’s young age coupled with his low-key personality give him much time to dive deep into history and philosophy, shaping his intellect and guiding his decisions. It is difficult as the youngest child to muster up the courage to stand up to others. This play signifies the coming of age of a young Muslim who must find his own way. 

At times Ghafur must find the ideological clashes about Islam a bit unnerving, as he knows that upsetting one’s parents is not what a good Muslim does. But he’s ready to take them on. The challenges he faces are the challenges many Muslims face. Is it ever OK to defy our elders? Do we follow our parents and elders blindly or do we seek our own answers in life – akin to Joseph Campbell’s concept of a hero’s journey?

But, when all is said and done, the family is still where our heart belongs, first and foremost. No matter where the journey to enlightenment takes us, we must function as a family first, then a neighborhood, then a community, and so on. Each character in The Domestic Crusaders knows this to be true.

TDCBasab Pradhan