A blog by Sara Surani

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This piece was inspired by Lawrence Ziring’s “Politics of Language in Pakistan: Prolegomena 1947-1952” and Rafiqul Islam’s “The Bengali Language Movement and the Emergence of Bangladesh.” I created this piece to illustrate the influence language has on one’s identity. On a mirror, I transcribed the word “identity” in four languages: Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and Arabic. Each language represents a different tradition, and correspondingly, a different identity. I used a mirror for the surface of this work in order to show how the language one speaks is one reflection of one’s cultural identity. However, language is not just a reflection of one’s identity, but also a way by which society can label an individual. There is no way to look into the mirror without one of the four languages tainting your reflection. The only way to blur the authority of the language labels is to tilt the mirror towards a source of light. If you do so, then the words will appear to blur together, and the source of light (in this case, a chandelier) will be the main focus of the reflection. Similarly, the only way to escape the stigma of miscommunications due to different languages is to “seek a source of light” and open your heart and minds to understanding alternative points of view. However, just because someone has an alternate point of view, it doesn’t mean that they are wrong. Likewise, just because a language is spoken or written differently, it doesn’t make the language more or less “Islamic.” By this standard, what is “Islamic”? Is there a right or wrong language? Or is language a spectrum—the closer to Arabic, the more “Islamic” it is? The more “right” it is? If no language is right or wrong, then how can Islam have a right or wrong? Is Islam a box that can be checked if the language you speak corresponds with the tongue of the majority? Is Islam a prototype that can be duplicated by brushing the strokes of your pen a certain way? Is Islam a quintessential experience for the soul that can only be achieved through specific criterion for communication? Regardless of the answers, we must seek to find light through awareness and understanding in order to blur the miscommunications that seek to label and distance us from one another.

December 9th, 2015 at 11:57 pm