Three boys who were expelled from a Malaysian government high school for wearing Islamic-style turbans had their appeal rejected by the country’s highest court. Malaysia is a multi-religious country, said the Federal Court judge Hamid Mohamad, and the education system has to mould the children into moderate Malaysians.
"I accept that the Prophet wore a turban. But he also rode a camel, built his house and mosque with clay walls and a roof of leaves of date palms, and brushed his teeth with the twig of a plant,” the judge said.
"Does that make riding a camel a more pious deed than travelling in an aeroplane?"
Talking of flying and planes reminds me of an old Hindu taboo. Hindus were not allowed to sail the seas. Crossing the "kala pani" or dark waters made them pariahs or outcasts.
One reason why Hindu soldiers revolted against British rule in 1857, along with their Muslim counterparts, was the sea voyages they were sent on to conquer Burma and Hong Kong and defend other overseas possessions such as Singapore. Hindus believed they lost their caste if they crossed the sea.
But there seemed to have been no such taboo in earlier times. Some of the ancient Hindu kingdoms maintained fleets and navies. The Hindus on the Indonesian island of Bali could not have arrived there overland; they had to cross the sea.
Hindus today are more likely to fly than sail across the oceans. They don’t even breathe the sea air, let alone get wet from the foam and spray of "kala pani". Their castes undefiled by "kala pani", they are no longer pariahs and outcasts. Instead, if they settle abroad, folks back home automatically assume they must be rich "non-resident Indians".