ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Fourth Estate: Lean Times for Shibboleths

In recent weeks two or three - or may be even four - shibboleths have been reported in the press that invite attention.

What is a ‘shibboleth’? The American College Dictionary defines it as: (1) a peculiarity of pronunciation, or a habit, mode of dress, etc, which distinguishes a particular class or set of persons; (2) a test word or pet phrase of a party, sect, etc; (3) a Hebrew word used by Jephthah as a test word by which to distinguish the fleeing Ephramites. A derived meaning is something that is worn out, has no more relevance in contemporary life and something to be discarded. In recent weeks two or three shibboleths have surfaced or, may be, even four, that invite attention.

One is the theory that Muslims constitute a separate state which was advocated by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, that ultimately led to the creation of Pakistan. Another is that Muslims cannot be admitted into the Bharatiya Janata Party and that BJP and Islam are fundamental antithetical. A third is that language is the basis of political unity and the fourth is that the Roman Catholic Church has the final say in Christianity. One by one these ‘shibboleths’ are being demolished. And it is about time, too.

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