A young Muslim girl from Mumbai has beaten out thousands of competitors in a contest that tests youngsters’ knowledge of the Bhagwad Gita, the Hindu holy book.
Maryam Siddiqui, 12, beat out more than 4500 other students to win the first prize at the Gita Champions League contest which is organized by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
Maryam told Indian wire service ANI: “I have always been inquisitive about religions and I often read up on them during my free time. So when my teacher told me about this contest I thought it would be a good chance to understand what the book is about. My parents too supported my idea of participating in the contest.”
ISKCON says the competition is organized with the aim of spreading the teachings of the holy book.
The Gita is believed to be the divine advice of Lord Krishna and is part of the historical epic Mahabharata.
Maryam’s triumph is being hailed across India as a beacon of hope at a time when communal tensions in the country are at an all-time high.
In her home state of Maharashtra, a ban on the slaughter of cows for beef – the primary source of protein for millions of Muslims, Christians and low-caste Hindus – was banned by the Hindu-nationalist local government.
A leading Muslim cleric told CNN IBN that it was a “matter of joy” that a Muslim girl had won first prize as “whether it is the Gita or the Quran, these are religious scriptures. Religion unites and not divides”.
His thoughts were echoed by Maryam herself, whose wisdom was evident when she told ANI: “Humanity is the ultimate religion.”
Click here to watch Maryam’s interview.