Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The gentle cure for intolerance

(The following paper was summarized during the India Foundation’s India Ideas Conclave in Goa, 19-21 Dec. 2014. When it started, I felt that the topic was too heady for the audience, or at least for the intent of the organizers, so I quickly wrote a second speech comparing the Narendra Modi Government’s performance with the Hindu agenda, a logical topic for this conclave yet conspicuously missing. But the chairman of my session insisted that I speak about Islam, as this would match the other papers well. With this, he can hardly complain.)




This is meant to be an Ideas Conclave. It follows that I should not try to please you with diplomatic niceties or electoral platitudes. Instead, we speakers have all been invited to brainstorm about hard data and the mechanisms behind them, to think issues through and fearlessly go wherever logic takes us, and stir your intelligence with sharp and novel insights. This remains true even for such a touchy subject as religious intolerance.

Allow me to start with an anecdote. As you know, Mahatma Gandhi, whatever his faults, was a staunch Hindu. Yet, when I stayed at the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi, I sat in on a conversation in which these Gandhians were debating whether Hinduism should continue to exist at all. Some thought it could perhaps still correct itself, others wanted to cut out the cancer of Hinduism altogether. And indeed, it is considered normal to question Hinduism’s very right to exist. Hindus are perfectly used to seeing their religion belittled, accused and insulted day and night.

Therefore, it is nothing new if I apply a similar treatment to Islam. Indeed, in this paper I will argue that the answer to the question why the latest wave of “Islamist” atrocities has happened, is very simple: Islam. I will show that Islam itself is guilty. I have been given to understand that the two other speakers will advocate a different opinion on the same topic, so if you don’t like my point of view, you still have theirs to comfort you.


The Islamic State

Today, we get a rare show of religious intolerance in the form of the Islamic State. Even more than the Taliban, al-Qaida and Boko Haram, the new-fangled Caliphate represents our worst nightmare of Islam. Ever since TV brought its images of sensational events and acts of war into our very homes, we have not yet been treated to such explicit intolerance of a type we thought relegated to the past. While murder remains a fact of life, the formal beheading of (Yezidi and Assyrian) Infidels and of (Shiite) Heretics has become exceptional, a throw-back to the witches’ trials and religious wars of centuries ago. While exploitation remains a world problem, the actual taking of slaves to auction them off at the slave-market is eerily premodern.

To be sure, for Indians it is not such an otherworldly fantasy. Their republic was born in 1947 in massacres unleashed by the militants and supporters of the Pakistan movement, finally killing a million or so and putting many millions to flight, most of them Hindus (including Sikhs). Many of you will remember the East Bengal genocide of 1971, where officially 3 million, according to scholars at least a million, were killed, most of them Hindus. In sheer magnitude, this death toll completely dwarfs anything that the Taliban or the Islamic State have done so far.

The grim advantage that the Islamic State now enjoys, however, is the omnipresence of internet reporting, which they themselves promote with their youtube videos of beheadings and other atrocities. Uniquely in-your-face. Another sensational novelty is the official re-institution of slavery. Numerous victims of earlier rounds of violence have effectively been exploited as slaves, particularly as sex slaves (remember Pakistani General Tikka Khan in the Bangladesh war of 1971 justifying his soldiers’ rape campaign openly: “If we cannot hold East Bengal, we will make sure that the next generation of Bengalis consists of bastards”); but a formal institution of slavery, complete with slave markets and the official fixing of auction prices, that is truly a return to the premodern age. This we hadn’t seen in our lifetimes.

Countries around the world take an extraordinary interest in the onward march of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The reason is that some of their own youngsters go there as military volunteers, or in the case of girls, as volunteers to render sexual services to those warriors. Some come in the news because they have been recognized on internet videos as executioners or bystanders during beheadings; others because their death in battle is reported; yet others because they are disappointed and have managed to get back home. The authorities are very concerned with what these returning warriors might do in their homelands, or what the sympathizers who never left but who support the Islamic State might do.


What motivates the Islamic militants?

It is but normal that we feel an urge to do something about these atrocities committed in the name of Islam. Often our actions do not match our emotional revulsion, though. The initial talk of “bringing our girls back” in the case of the hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in early 2014 has petered out, and at this time they have not been brought back. At any rate, any thought of either remedying a condition that has just arisen, or preventing that it can happen again in the long run, raises the question: why do the mujahedin do all this?

For the mujahedin themselves, it is very simple: they do this in conformity with the commandments of Islam. If we take 11 September 2001 as a cut-off date, we have had since then hundreds of testimonial videos in which suicide-bombers and other terrorists set out the Islamic reasons for what they are about to do. When Mohammed Bouyeri killed Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, he not only added a death threat to apostate Ayaan Hirsi Ali on a paper pinned in Theo’s corpse, but also explicitated that Islam made him do it. Statements by terror movements such as Boko Haram, Hamas, the Taliban and Islamic State are very explicit about their Islamic motivation. The first thing Boko Haram did when it abducted the schoolgirls, was to forcibly convert them to Islam.         

By contrast, our politicians, both Indian and Western, assure us that these atrocities have extraneous causes and are foreign to Islam. Thus, it is said that these are unemployed youngsters, often high-school drop-outs, losers in our society who see risking their lives in military operations as a shortcut to becoming important or at least someone respected. Yes, that is the route to success or at least to a meaningful life which marginalized young men have always chosen. But then why do non-Muslims not do the same thing? Why do they settle for less than becoming beheaders? And why do we also find well-to-do Muslims among the mujahedin, such as the late lamented billionaire Osama bin Laden?

No matter just how exactly the politicians and their media allies beat around the bush, about one thing they are all in agreement: it has nothing to do with Islam. Out of the dozens of big names I could quote here, let me settle for the eloquent judgment of British PM David Cameron: the Caliphate warriors are “monsters, not Muslims”. And since these warriors only want to emulate the Prophet, Cameron’s words amount to saying: “The Prophet was a monster, not a Muslim”. Mind you, I would never say such a thing (indeed, even in the secrecy of my thoughts I don’t consider Mohammed a “monster”), but Cameron comes very close to asserting just that.

Unfortunately, Cameron and many of his ilk don’t respect Muslims. Personally, I take Muslims seriously: if they say Islam made them do it, I take them at their word. But Islam-lovers like Cameron or US Secretary of State John Kerry overrule the Muslim perpetrators’ own testimony when it does not suit them. They have invested heavily in a rosy picture of Islam, and they are willing to lie and even to kill for it.

Yes, they are ready to kill Muslims in order to uphold their delusion. Indeed, John Kerry has said, justifying the armed attacks on the Caliphate, that one of the US war aims was “remedying the distortion of Islam” which he imagined the Caliphate’s orthodox Islam to be. This leads us to the paradox that Islamophiles are ready to kill Muslims in order to defend Islam.


What must not be done?

Several false trails are abroad, are even popular, nay, even espoused with firmness and fanaticism, which are given as solutions for religious intolerance.

The violent approach is at any rate the wrong one. Islamophile Western politicians have, between them, killed hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali and Syria, all while making statements calling Islam “great” and a “religion of peace”. Their only justification towards the Muslim world is that they are merely killing “monsters, not Muslims”, a lie which no sane Muslim will swallow. What the Muslim world needs, is a thaw. The present polarization, aggravated by every new Western intervention, freezes men in their beliefs and prejudices. In order to grow, they need some peace and stability. By contrast, the Western interventions in Iraq and Libya have only destabilized these countries, engendered a plethora of warring militias, and enthroned sectarian rivalries culminating in the Islamic State.

Along the same lines, many Hindus who want to get out of the Gandhian stereotype of the “meek Hindu” fall into the other extreme, throw their weight around and try to act tough: “Muslims should be taught a lesson!” While I recognize that in emergencies, physical methods may be necessary (the Army’s defence of Kashmir, the police’s re-empowerment in the no-go areas that have come up in places like Mewat or Moradabad, the organized Hindu self-defence against the rise of Muslim aggression in West Bengal), they will not go very far and will soon land into abuses if they are not informed by a more fundamental doctrinal strategy. So, my focus is to inform an elite capable of understanding Islam as an ideological problem, essentially as a mistake, and then let these insights percolate to the masses.

We have no reason to go down the violent path. We make a clear distinction between Islam as an ideology and Muslims as human beings. They are its captives, its abductees, but of course they are people like the rest of us. (This distinction is always and insistently blurred by the Islamophiles who, no matter how thoroughly you refute their allegations, go on claiming that Islam criticism amounts to “spreading hatred against 2 billion Muslims”.)  Among your friends there are nice Muslims? Well of course there are, the indoctrination in Islam sits lightly on numerous nominal Muslims, who remain human beings after all, and only after that, succumb in various degrees to the doctrine in which they have been raised. Their goodness is part of their general human heritage and says nothing about Islam.

In physicist Steven Weinberg’s words, “good people will do good and evil people will do evil; but for good men to do evil – that takes religion”. Or in other words, religion is like alcohol: some drunken drivers reach home safely anyway, some teetotallers still manage to be a danger on the road, but for most people, alcohol will affect their driving negatively. In the case of Islam, more followers than in other doctrines are swayed by it into acts of fanaticism against others.



An intellectual approach which appeals to post-religious atheists and secularists is the line that “all religions are the same”, that they all equally lead to fanaticism and terrorism. This is obviously untrue, and I am confident that I won’t be contradicted by the numerous victims of Jain terrorism. Nothing in other religions compares with the wave of Islamic violence that currently affects dozens of countries.

Note also the potential for religions to develop, e.g. Christianity gradually renounced its practice of violent persecution and of slavery, which it voluntarily abolished after having imbibed the spirit of the Enlightenment. Or consider Hinduism, which in its early history developed the institution of caste, and more recently has started eliminating caste. But such evolutions are more difficult in the case of a religion closely bound up with a law system deemed to be valid until Judgment Day, as Islam defines its Shari’a. Thus, the Islamic world has never abolished slavery but was forced to do so by an outside world that had outgrown it. (The antics of the Islamic State show how this abolition has been but skin-deep.)

The converse approach is the idea that all religions are good, and true, and noble. And yes, even Islam, a very late composite of elements from existing religions plus a few personal innovations by the Prophet, has to contain worthwhile points. But the fact that no religion equals zero, doesn’t imply that they all evenly equal one. There may be equality before the law between human beings, but there is no conceptual equality between doctrines, nor spiritual equality between paths. Just as in science one theory may be plainly wrong while another one fits all the available facts, one religion may be a false trail while another, though still imperfect, may essentially be right.

In particular, the second of the two points of the Islamic creed, that Mohammed was the messenger of God, is demonstrably untrue. Most religions don’t think of themselves as true or not: truth is for philosophy and scholarship, religion is about devotion and surrender. Yet Islam insists on being the true religion, while others are false. Alright then, let us judge Islam in terms of truth and falsehood. There is nothing in Mohammed’s collection of messages, the Qur’ân, that couldn’t have been said by a 7th-century Arab businessman, including clumsy superstitions typical of the childhood of mankind. Some parts may be OK as literature, but there is nothing divine about it. If we keep this in mind, we have made a great stride out of the confusion arising as soon as the word Islam is uttered. 


What is to be done?

In the case of the Islamic State’s attraction of youngsters, even from India, authorities the world over wonder how to deal with it. We should not combat the consequences, viz. the youngsters’ involvement in jihad, but the cause of this involvement, their prime motivator, Islam itself. In every generation, some youngsters will not settle for a syrupy version of their chosen ideology but insist on the radical version. That radicalism is a normal phenomenon and need not be punished, unless they have committed war crimes, and in that case, they can be punished under existing laws.

The current crisis situation only highlights the more general problem how to undo the impact of Islam on its followers. But followers of Islam as such must not be punished either, nor persecuted or discriminated against. This is useless and counterproductive, as the survival of repressed religions under Communist regimes should teach us, and it just goes against what we stand for. Freedom of religion should of course also count for Muslims, let there be no doubt or lack of clarity about that.

But I do propose that Islam should be phased out, as should any delusionary belief. The violent aspects of Islam make this need more pressing, but ultimately it is of wider application. Indeed, I will draw upon my own experience as an apostate from Catholic Christianity. I am but a representative of a whole generation that turned Western Europe from predominantly Christian to predominantly secular. Changes of religion do happen, even on a collective and continent-wide scale. There is no reason why they could not happen in the Muslim world.

About the homecoming of Muslims from their exile, their thraldom to Islam, my thoughts are admittedly incomplete, and I am only making a beginning here. If all the secularists in India had not wasted the past decades with defending religions (except for Hinduism), but instead started deconstructing their favourite religions, we would have been a lot closer to a solution. But the guilt and at the same time the ridiculousness of the Indian secularist scene are topics for another occasion. Fact is, some work remains to be done, and I welcome input from others. Here, however, are a few stray ideas that may be helpful.


Ideas on apostasy from Islam

·         The first thing to do is that we ourselves are clear about the nature of the Islam problem. Before we can even think of telling the Muslims how we view Islam, we ought to understand it for and amongst ourselves. Just a few days ago, I saw a TV debate in which a BJP spokesmen called the Caliphate warriors “heretics”, implying that they do not represent the true Islam. Sometimes this can be excused as an electoral gimmick or a diplomatic platitude, to be expected among politicians. But I know from experience that most Hindus are serious about such pseudo-expert notions. As a wise Hindu told me, “the typical Hindu always thinks he knows everything about everything”, and so he will pretend to tell Muslims what “real Islam” is. In this case, he will tell the accomplished Islamic theologians behind the jihad movements that they have it all wrong and that these are “heretics”. On the contrary, all that the Islamic State makes headlines with, has been done by the Prophet himself, who started wars of conquest, took hostages, ordered rape, took and sold slaves, had his critics murdered or formally executed, and discriminated between Muslims, other monotheists and real Pagans. Everything the Caliphate does, can be justified if brought before an Islamic Court, unless the judges are willing to state that Mohammed’s behaviour was un-Islamic and illegitimate. You cannot find a single Islamic Court, Mosque or Madrassa where it is held that “Mohammed was wrong”. The typical Hindu attitude to Islam is “under-informed but over-opinionated” wishful thinking. So we will have to convince them and other non-Muslims about the true nature of the Islam problem first.

·         Telling Muslims what we think of Islam is intellectually quite alright, but humanly we have to keep in mind that it is delicate to offend people’s cherished convictions. It should only be done, as it were, in self-defence. There is no need to “attack” Muslims with your opinions, it is only when they themselves give you as valid their own (or at least, Islam’s) opinions, that you may counter them. Only when they take the initiative to call your religion false, should you respond by questioning their own. This is but a matter of politeness and sensitivity, but also a premise of the eternal dharma: speak gently, and only confront others with a harsh truth when they ask for it.

·         When we approach the Muslim community, let us keep in mind how Christianity imploded in Europe. Since the 18th century, an elite of freethinkers left the Church but had little influence among the masses. After the Industrial Revolution, a large part of the working class also left the Church. But the real breakthrough took place around 1970, a generation after World War 2, when education was democratized and nobody who had gone to school could take the defining dogmas of Christianity (hereditary sin as the cause of mortality, Jesus as sole incarnation of God, virgin birth of Jesus, salvation from sin and mortality through Jesus’ death and resurrection) seriously anymore. It was no longer cool to be Christian, the defining beliefs were ridiculed. As soon as enough people had left the Church, the force of conformism, of doing like the others, which had so far retained people inside the Church, now started working inversely. Those with little conviction, who had only gone because of the neighbours, now stayed away because of the neighbours. So now only a marginal percentage goes to church. This is what will have to be achieved regarding Islam.

·         The magnitude of the task should not be underestimated. Thus, the comparison with European Christianity’s implosion is valid but with the nuance that in Europe, the change in worldview was facilitated by the high degree of individualism, which was both intrinsic to the culture and reaching a new high in the post-WW2 welfare states. In Islamic society, family and community ties tend to be stronger, and they in turn tend to stabilize religious identity. Another reassuring argument among non-Muslims is that the oil wealth is finite, so that the financing of Islam worldwide by the Arab monarchies is bound to come to an end. Arabs oil sheikhs know this too, and they prepare to switch to providing solar power to cold and cloudy Europe from the Arab desert. Other scenarios may develop, and we cannot count on an implosion of Islamic finances to solve the problem for us. People like to believe anything that implies we do not have to actually do anything, but often wrongly.

·         In the case of Christianity, it is the young who have convinced the old. Numerous are the families I know, where the first one to stay away was a rebellious son. Then other youngsters rebelled, and finally their parents followed suit. Aged people who once were devout Christians, and who –- you would think -– would take consolation from their faith in their declining years, openly confide: “Oh, how they fooled us in our youth!” Similarly, we have to focus on the young Muslims, whose self-liberation from Islam will then start taking along most of the older people. As for the older ones who stick to their childhood beliefs: we will just tolerate that, as we always have, because it is impossible and undesirable to pressurize them out of their beliefs. Thoughts are free, opinions are perfectly permitted, so if people insist on believing that the voice Mohammed heard carried a message from God, well, let them. But such a belief should not be promoted. We should finally get serious about India’s Constitutional provision that requires the promotion of the scientific temper. If we expose the Muslim youth to the scientific way of thinking, they will become sceptical of the defining dogmas of Islam.

·         While in Europe, many people have left religion altogether, it will be said that Indians are a religious nation, and that the only alternative to Islam is another religion. Indeed, even in Europe, many ex-Christians dabble in various alternative religions, including elements of Hindu-Buddhism. Well, in the case of India, you already have every possible alternative in place. For Indian Muslims, the alternative religion is all around them. For most people, the Ghar-wâpasî (“homecoming”), the return to their ancestral religion, will do. Moreover, it allows for the introduction of positive ideas and attitudes: far more than a critique of negatives, these will convince Muslims that there is a better world outside Islam.

·         Now, more concretely, expose youngsters in their education and via the general culture to the demythologizing information about Islam. This can be done not so much by the media which Westerners use, such as Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum or Robert Spencer’s Jihadwatch, but the forums of ex-Muslims like faithfreedom.org by Ali Sina (pseudonym of a Canadian Iranian) or islam-watch.org by Ibn Warraq (pseudonym of a British Pakistani), or work by Anwar Sheikh, Taslima Nasrin, Afshin Ellian, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other ex-Muslims. Respond positively to the demand of Muslim youngsters to pay more attention in schools to Muslim thinkers, but then tell them the whole story rather than the streamlined hagiography, e.g. the racist judgment by Ibn Khaldun on Blacks, or the account by the Moroccan globe-trotter Ibn Battuta of slavery in the Delhi Sultanate, or the motto of the Algerian Berber singer Lounès Matoub (murdered in 1998 by jihadis): Ni Arabe ni Musulman , “neither Arab nor Muslim”. There is nothing intrinsically Islamic in our Muslims, nothing they cannot outgrow.

·         Muslims will ultimately have to do it themselves, they will outgrow their Islam in a natural process. But this process should not be hampered by any artificial hurdles we put in its way. Let us at least not give Islam the extra advantages that it now enjoys to prolong its existence.

(More controversial statements came about only during question time. My response there, and to some objections uttered afterwards, will be presented in a forthcoming contribution.)


Anonymous said...

What happened in Europe cannot be replicated in a similar time frame since it was a confluence of several historical and social influences unique to Europe, i.e. religious thinking was heavily criticized in schools; people were shocked by WW2 and many lost faith; the communist block tried to eliminate religion by law and social programming by the state; the 60s counterculture; abuses by clergy; etc. Those things barely affected the US even though they went through some the same social changes and have a similar cultural ethos (individualism) to Europe.

Why Europe abandoned Christ in mass had more to do with the nature of Christianity then with religion per se. The basic tenets of Christianity are illogical and easily made to look foolish. Only those people with a willingness to overlook that truth for one reason or another stay with it or convert to it.

In America the reason Christianity is still so popular is not because they necessarily are comfortable with all it teaches, rather it's because most of them inherently sense the truth of a God as real, but due to a lack of education and social comfort remain Christians, or convert to it.

Then there are the professional Christians and Christian academics. They are usually either exploiting people or try to make sense of the illogical teachings of core elements of Christianity by resorting to calling them various types of metaphors.

The world of Islam never went through similar historical and social synergies. Instead everything in Islamic societies reinforce Islam, i.e. schools, entertainment, intellectuals, and all other social norms. You can no more expect Islam to wither out by pointing out various logical reasons then you can expect Hinduism to wither away(albeit Hinduism is a much more varied religious landscape and doesn't present too many logical problems).

Islamic countries are engrossed in Islam and people are afraid to hear and what to speak of think of blasphemy. The ruling elites know how to use Islam to control the masses from rising up, and when that fails they can count on using harsh force since that is acceptable in Islam, especially against women.

I don't think anything can be done that will have any big effect. If Islam withers it will take place over a long period of time, it is simply to big and most of the people are too fearful or uneducated to even think of change.

I realize Islam wasn't the topic you wanted to talk about because it is a dead-end. There is only so much you can say, and little you can do when so many hold Islam sacred. But the idea that it can be changed by educating Muslims on the life Mohammed, that would only ever work on a very small percentage of Muslims, most will refuse to even consider any criticism.

In truth, as a Hindu teacher, I believe as Krishna teaches in the Gita, mama vartmānuvartante manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ. God determines everyone's destiny. This is God's world, whatever is going on is going on because it is God's will. In that the Qur'an was truth.

Vraja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I realized that the partial verse from the Gita I quoted is in fact part of two verses, I forgot two translate it and give the verse number, it was 4.11, and means that all people follow the path God lays down for them in all ways.

Gururaj B N said...

A paper which shows excellent clarity of thought with no woolly headed ideas. The idea that the Muslims are the hostages of Islam was perhaps, first mooted by late Sitaram Goel. The fact that irrespective of race, culture and nationality, (be it Indian, African, Chinese, Slavic or other Asiatic country) a Muslim conducts himself in this predictable manner shows that the common factor behind the conduct is Islam and not their nationality or culture. The problem is Islam and not Muslims. I am amazed at your boldness in tabling these thoughts and further publishing in this blog.

Shankar Sharan said...

Your paper is great, sir. I wish it could be published through out the English and non-English media. The rest would follow on its own accord.
Your point about giving the Muslim world peace and stability is novel and sensible.
In any case, forcing the Islamic representatives to answer in words, not in swords, would be the undoing of Islam. In such a situation they will see themselves the 'truth' of Islam. Sans sword Islam is indeed a joke!
True enough, the sayings of Muhammad has hardly anything which could not be told by anyone else in the 7th Century Arab. But to seriously examine and contemplate upon this the social environment must be calm and stable.
I have not yet finished your paper, so may comment more later.
Thank you, as usual, for sharing your insights.

pro_scribe said...

Dear Dr. Elst,

Here are the unquestionable facts:

1) The choice of the subject. It's always timely to discuss Islam. Please note that the reference here isn't Muslims, but Islam itself as you've advocated all along. I have personally been trying to promote the idea that `Muslims are the first victims of Islam' whereas `Non-Muslims are the secondary and tertiary ones'.

On sum, there is no dispute you are right in identifying the core of the problem, which even most of the Hindu Right fails to.

Small wonder, we're all fans of yours here. For your scholarship and more than that, your support of Hinduism is unquestionable.

That said, I must disagree with you on a matter of detail. Early in your address, you identified Islam's rigid nature as a part of its self-identification as a Nomocracy, i.e., a religion of the law. Who can contest that?

But then again, an idea of God couched in a legal (for want of a better term) framework isn't Islam's sole preserve. Judaism, with its Mosaic Law, predates that neat conception. And by all accounts, Mohammed fashioned his ideas more on Judaic legal than on Christian theological lines.

What has been left unexplored is the arrogance of Islam. No right-thinking person can think that even the ISIS, beastly its conduct as it is, can ever hope to establish a global caliphate. What, then, prompts the sheer arrogance and single-minded pursuit of Mohammed's ideals?

It's simply the early military victories of his and the early caliphs'. This, I suspect, fuels the sheer blind belief that Salafiat (adherence to the example of Mohammed and the early caliphs) brings military and worldly success (viz. booty, sex et al.)

My contention is, crushing military defeats will go a long way in prompting a rethink on part of the Muslim street. Now that creates a fresh problem of its own. Terrorism is always asymmetric, in that it remains marginal and without any hope of a victory in sight, while still providing no decisive victors or losers, as there is no formal defeat or surrender of a state or its army.

It's here that the problem becomes really difficult to solve. How do you inflict a decisive and demonstrable military victory to showcase the futility of those aims conceived 1400 years ago?

Sharma said...

Sir interesting and strange concept.
You say Islam is a problem and not muslims.But Muslims are muslim based on Islam, like a christian is based on Christianity and jews based on judaism.So then how to separate it?
Coming to the intellectual side i.e hindusim,
1.how do you explain a situation where Lord Ram went on war and a lot of people lost life on both the side becasue his wife didn't listen to him and crossed laxman rekha.And after the war he trew Sita out of the kingdom based on the rumor that she had a relationship with Raavn.
2.How do explain the fact that Shiv beheaded a kid because he wasn't listening and became violent.Will u follow this policy if a kid is arrogant and doesn't listen and will u just behead him?So isn't this a evil act?
3.Ganesh was made by parvati, if you can agree this then why can't Marry give birth to Jesus?
4.A kid who is not only arrogant but also harasses all the deity and Shiva is being made the god?Isn't this partiality?
5.You talk about rape, slavery and killing. Mahabaharat happened because two groups played a game and one group decided to treat their wife as a object?How do u explain this? Other group who also were part of same dharma wanted to rip apart the cloth of a woman?How do u justify this?
6.How do u justify 5 husband for a 1 woman, isn't this rape in the modern era?
7.How do u justify the Yadricchayaa chopapannam swargadwaaram apaavritam;
Sukhinah kshatriyaah paartha labhante yuddham eedrisham.Which means" Happy are the Kshatriyas, O Arjuna, who are called upon to fight in such a battle that comes of itself as an open door to heaven!" Krishna. Now how to decide which is the right war and which is the wrong war.Because like Muslims say that they will go to heaven if they fight for the just cause of religion similarly Krishna says a kshatriya will got heaven if he fights for the just war.SO how to justify that tomorrow if India becomes a Hindu rastra via Ghar vapsi then this kind of war to reach heaven will not happen???
8. Wat about the rape? How do u justify Manusmrti 9:14-18. which openly talks about woman as a object plus other verses which shows how woman was used a secondary object and how other Woman deity didn't object. Or like what Indra did with Rambha, Urvashi, Menaka, Tilottama and so on.So then like other so called religion you can easily say that the scriptures and Gods have given the reason to rape and that is why woman are also raped in India??
9.You talk about slavery, through out our history we follow the scriptures which has given caste as a legal tool to do slavery so like other groups it can be easily said that the problem is Vedas,Puranas,etc which give rise to caste system?
10.Today we are talking about abolishing caste system, allowing woman freedom etc..but most of these are against the our scriptures and there are sadhuji who will never allow it as they religiously follow the scriptures.
11.Last question we are more concerned about other religion and how to abolish it etcc but aren't we totally mixed with different concepts borrowed from other scriptures and rules like Hindu divorce law,there is not a single verse or proof in our scriptures or history that divorce is allowed infact the concept of seven rounds is to say that a husband and wife will never separate.So don't you think we are more confused and that is the reason the community is confused?

So i feel its a worldwide fashion to become a intellectual by criticizing others. Like Christian try to justify they are the best by talking against Hinduism ,Islam etc and Islam by talking against Hiduism , christianity. So similarly instead of resolving the root issues or clarifying wat is right in our script or wrong we are taking a easy way i.e become anti-christian or Islam or etc to show we are the best....

Sharma said...

If u see our history and wars we had before Aran invaders or Britishers then you will be surprised to know the way we killed each other and it was too big a number.

If tomorrow i change my religion or dharm because somebody is paying me or threatening me then it means i don't have firm believe in my dharm.So lot of real sikhs died but didn't convert similarly and other converted. SO if dharm is so pure and strong then no body can convert u.Today if a muslim or christian thinks he will benefit by coming to Hindusim them tomorrow he may go to other and vice versa...

Please first try to make people understand scripture of this land before we talk about others like as u say that religion of this land is one god worshiper and not many gods as being considered by all Hindus.So first solve this basic and various above questions.
Need is to do ghar wapsi of existing followers before u work on strategy to being others.....

Shankar Sharan said...

After your session at the India Ideas Conclave on 20th Dec. evening I asked both the Jordanian and Turkish politicians (they were together lamenting your speech on the veranda near tea stands), “But sir, Islam is not only a religion and merely God related affairs; it is also a functional political ideology, with laws, diplomacy, statecraft, punishments, etc. inbuilt in it. So, how can one take offense upon criticism of Islam and its Prophet, who was the architect of that ideology? After all, in politics people do criticize to any extent the leaders, thinkers and ideologies.” Both remained silent and did not answer.
I think, in your list of suggestions under 'what is to be done, this point could also be added. That either Muslims separate politics from religion, that is, make politics free of Islamic injunctions and precedents; or be tolerant to bitterest criticism of Muhammad and his doings which they consider inseparable from their sharia laws.
Muslims cannot have it both ways. That they will call every non-Muslim a ‘Kafir’, but non-Muslims cannot call Muhammad a murderer, promoter of rape, in short, a ‘papi’ (Sanskrit). If according to Islamic belief every non-Muslim is a kafir worthy of conversion to Islam or be killed or remain dhimmi; then according to Hindu beliefs a person killing, raping, tormenting hapless people is a ghor papi, fit to be decimated. The entire Ramayana and Mahabharata show no example of forgiveness to any adharma. Why shouldn’t Hindus follow it?
So, either Muslims secularize their politics or take all criticism in good stride. I think, this point can also be put forwarded to Muslim youths.

Vraja said...

Sharma, your comparisons demonstrate that you do not have a good grasp of modern or ancient Hindu or Muslim thought in regards to scriptures.

First off Hindus are not obliged to live their lives in imitation of the Devas in their respective lilas, Hindus are not told that if there is suspicion that their wife has been with another man that she is banished. Or worse. All of your complaints, which are mostly based upon a poor understanding of Hindu mythology and stories which have multiple recensions:

Ramayana is said to have around 100 versions, some of which the episode at the end with Sita do not exist; the story on how Ganesha got a head of an elephant is likewise told in multiple versions, not all have Shiva cutting off his human head before he gets an elephant head.

How is it rape if a woman has multiple husbands but not so if a man has multiple wives? That is like saying a woman who is not married but has multiple lovers is being raped by all of them; what is your point in blaming Sita for the war against Lanka in Ramayana? That does not in any way affect Hindu religious thought, it is just a story; the war in the Mahabharata did not happen because of a game of chance, as Krishna explains in the Bhisma Parva (the Gita) that he caused the war because he wanted to rid the land of an excess of unvirtuous people and install the rightful virtuous leaders.

In the Gita Krishna tells Arjuna that the warriors who die in battle for a just cause (dharma) will attain a higher birth - that is never the same as wars of conquest against nonbelievers or whatever other bigoted religious reason - which is what Islam promotes and then promises a sexual reward in heaven.

The manusmriti has been heavily criticized by scholars as heavily interpolated and untrustworthy as a source of authenticity. The reason for that is because there are so many dharmashastras and they have been deemed as "laws" which differs from the other scriptures which are not deemed as such, is that anyone in any kingdom throughout Bharatavarsha could have one interpolated or made up entirely, which is why there is so much contradiction in them. The Islamic conquerors especially would have been invested in changing Hindu views on women to match their own, and to change views on caste in order to sow dissension between castes to create an environment for easier conversion and rule, i.e. if they are busy hating each other they will not join against the Muslim ruling class and make it easier to convert those who feel discriminated against.

And we can see exactly that in the dharmashastras and manusmriti - for every place where you can find something objectionable against women or "lower" castes, you can find others which contradict them. So as a whole the dharmashastras are not a very authentic source since they are an untrustworthy source. Besides, unlike Islam, Hindus do not lead their lives on the basis of everything taught in the dharmashastras, which is hundreds or thousands of books. Whereas in Islam the life of Muhammad is the the basis for modern law - continued in next comment.

Vraja said...

Caste isn't like slavery, otherwise how are people born into "lower" castes becoming leaders of India in all areas from politics to business to celebrity to business? Just because some people abuse others because of caste, that isn't what the religion teaches. Abolishing caste is not against scripture, the caste system is a perversion of what is taught as the original varnashrama-dharma, where discrimination is not tolerated and your varna is not based upon birth but upon personal characteristics, and is not forced upon you.

Women are not mistreated by decree in scriptures, except in interpolated or bogus dharmashastras which have been changed or invented by people for their own agendas. Are women treated differently then modern women expect? Sure. But those books were written a long time ago in a culture where it was dangerous for women, they didn't have modern police forces with forensics to investigate crimes. Women were especially vulnerable to attack, rape, kidnapping, robbery, etc. So the culture of how women were treated was developed with that in mind in order to protect them from a much more dangerous environment then today. Anyways, in this discussion all of that is moot since we are discussing modern Islam and you are comparing that to a distorted version of ancient Hinduism, not modern Hinduism.

Modern Hinduism is a vast panoply of widely divergent views, there is no religious law that everyone must follow or suffer the effects of punishment by the official law establishment, which is what we find in Islam. The manusmriti is not upheld as the law of the land, or even at all by most Hindus, who follow other scriptures for the most part, which do not go into law, but are focused on spirituality. Nor is there a clarion call to conquer nonbelievers and kill them, or kill "blasphemers" or punish people who don't believe or don't strictly follow religious commandments or laws based on them. We are not comparing apples and oranges, we are comparing apples and swords.

American said...


One gentle cure is to empower and enable people to convert from Islam to Hinduism, with the following promise...

After you become a Hindu (a) feel free to change your mind and return to Islam or convert to yet another religion (b) feel free to read, reflect on, question and criticize every book ever written by any modern Hindu or ancient guru (c) If "caste system" stereotypes bother you, choose your own caste (d) feel free to discard your fears and all religious compulsions, pray when you want or never, adopt yoga if you want or don't, and so on (e) feel free to celebrate festivals, arts, music and pursue dharma, artha, kama and everything life has to offer, if you want to (f) feel free to ponder and practice, if and when you are convinced, the Hindu virtues of Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Daya, Daana, Damah and so on.

Naina Sinha said...
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