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Either speak up & perish or say nothing & die anyway. I choose the first: RJ Sayema Rahman

Speaking at ThePrint's Democracy Wall event, RJ Sayema Rahman says her 'radio identity' isn't attached to her religion.

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Sonipat: Radio Mirchi’s Sayema Rahman, one of India’s most popular presenters, said she will continue to find ways of discussing political matters even though radio jockeys are often discouraged from talking about news on air.

“A lot of radio jockeys don’t get involved in discussing political matters, but we can’t stay away from being responsible citizens. I realised that my conscience is what makes me,” said Rahman at ThePrint’s Democracy Wall, a free speech initiative which was held at the Jindal Global University Monday.

“Either speak up and (perish), or say nothing and perish anyway. I choose the former,” the RJ added.

Rahman also said she would talk about religious divides by referring to stories of renowned Partition writer Saadat Hasan Manto or poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

“I’ll use their words to say what I can’t on air. There are ways to go about it, but I can’t settle for being a silent spectator,” she said.

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Radio taught me secularism

Rahman, however, said her relationship with her religion was a “deeply personal one that needn’t be exhibited to the world”, when asked if she was comfortable with being identified as a progressive Muslim woman.

“When I joined Radio Mirchi we were told our last name was ‘Mirchi’, and that’s when I imbibed the true meaning of secularism. My radio identity doesn’t have a religion attached. My Muslim identity is one I’m not willing to share, because it’s a very, very personal thing. Even my parents don’t know what my relationship with god is,” she said.

“On social media, I would rather my identity be Indian before anything else. The problem is that we’re trying to highlight what’s different about us all.”

She also pointed out how “hypocrisies” are often attached with labels. “If I sympathise with someone who seems to be a Muslim victim, I’m called an Islamist and a jihadist on social media, and if I sympathise with a victim who isn’t Muslim, I’m liberal and progressive.”

Radio will ‘never die’

Rahman was confident that radio as a medium would never lose relevance even if its reach has shrunk over the years.

“Radio is the first, biggest, and cheapest social medium,” she said, adding, “It creates a perfect world, because I don’t need to know a person’s name, what they look like, their caste or creed. You can influence people without knowing all that, and if you can connect with someone that way, you become their best friend.”

She, however, argued that the medium needed some reinvention.

Wrapping up the session, Rahman reiterated the importance of tolerance by singing a poem by Allama Iqbal titled ‘Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua’. She recalled how a headmaster in Pilibhit was suspended for asking his students to recite the Urdu poem.

“Prayers can’t be put into the categories of Hindu and Muslim — it would be the end of this country,” she said.

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  1. Sayema is a beautiful human being. So, @mirchisayema, you are not an Indian first. You are – and you are – a human first and then an Indian and then anything else. This comes out in all you express in your tweets and elsewhere. Power to you and be happy always. Blessings.

  2. Thank you girl for putting it up so beautifully. More power to you. We all talk about encouragement , lifting others but how many people actually do that without any biases.
    Agree .. first we are humans , then Indians and then may be Delhites , Mumbaikars … Religion is a personal thing – I may follow the learnings or I just read them coz it’s there. Why should we impose or comment on other people. Wrong doers are everywhere in all religions. Few are criminals , few unethical . Being a human , serving humanity is the ultimate learning from all holy readings .

  3. Why would the Hindus only carry the burden of secularism while Muslims will always be Muslims? Secularism survives in India because most Hindus are secular.

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