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Spiritual Meditations ( 5 Dec 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Every Religion Has Two Versions: One Spiritual, For Life As A Minority, Another Predatory, For Life As A Majority




By Sohail Arshad,

6 December 2012

Religion was supposed to humanize the savages in course of time. The early man was a two-legged animal with all the animal instincts. Hatred, avarice, aversion to law and order, destructive mentality and love of human blood marked his nature and behaviour. Religion aimed at reforming him, shielding him from the ignominy of bestiality, elevating him to the heights of divinity, leading him from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. Modern civilized world owes more to religion than to politics or science.

However, the most intriguing aspect of the followers of almost all the major religions is that they do not stick to the principles and spiritual values of their respective religions and their interpretations of their faiths change according to their political conditions. Religion to them has become a political tool to further their narrow political interests and in pursuance of their interests, they most often become savages and indulge in bloodshed and mayhem in such a dastardly and heinous way that even the most savage beasts would be embarrassed.

The Muslims all over the world have been continuously criticized and vilified for their militant and terrorist interpretations of Islam in Muslim majority countries. They do not give the minorities their dues as envisaged in the Quran and the hadith.  But in Muslim minority countries, Muslims are seen as pragmatic and moderate believers who do not harbour sectarian or communal feelings and try their best to assimilate the cultural values of the dominant community to live peacefully with their non-Muslim brethren. Hijab, blasphemy and other issues do not become an issue of life and death for them. Their protests are peaceful and always they take the legal path for the redressal of their religious grievances.

Last year, Bharti Singh and Shekhar Suman allegedly made some blasphemous remarks on the Kalima taiyyeba in a reality show. Though the religious feelings of the Muslims were hurt, they did not resort to un-Islamic and unlawful protests. Instead they took recourse to law and the accused apologized. Therefore, the matter was settled there. In a Muslim majority country, say, Pakistan, the issue would have been blown out of all proportion and would have caused a lot of bloodshed with mullahs issuing death sentence to the accused and the minority community in general would have been terrorized and persecuted.

Exactly this happened when a minor Christian girl Rimsha Masih was accused of blasphemy though later it turned out to be a frame up and the High Court acquitted her. Even then her entire community was threatened and her house was destroyed.

However, this double standard in dealing with religious issues and settling disputes with the minority community is not the wont of the Muslims alone. Almost all the major religions have the same attitude and aggressive mindset in societies where they are in majority.

Another aspect of the majority community in any country is that they suffer from an imaginary sense of insecurity. Not only the Muslims suffer from the feeling of ‘Islam khatre me hai’ (Islam in danger) in Muslim majority countries like in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia but the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus suffer from the same feeling of insecurity about their respective religions in their own countries. They create a halo of victimhood around their existence and thus find a way of justifying their persecution of the minority community. Therefore, it seems that people have two versions of religion: one for practicing in a country where they are in a majority and the other for practicing in a country where they are a minority.

The most recent example of this kind of dual religious behaviour was witnessed in Myanmar where the followers of Buddhism carried out cold-blooded massacre of the Rohingya Muslims during which even the children were not spared. It was surprising and at the same time very disturbing to think how the followers of Buddha could commit such a heinous crime in the name of religion. The reason behind the massacre was the same feeling of insecurity among Buddhists aka ‘Buddhism khatre me hai’ (Buddhism in danger) though Buddhists form around 89 % of the population. If such violent form of behaviour is demonstrated by the followers of Islam, it could be attributed to the radical interpretation of the Qur’anic principle of jihad or historical traditions of Islamic  battles but how could one explain such violent behaviour from the followers of Buddhism whose teachings do not sponsor or support violence. It is also unfortunate that the Dalai Lama or Aung San Suu Kyi did not condemn it.

The same can be said about the Christians who are a peaceful community with constructive and pragmatic approach to religion in minority societies like in India, Bangladesh or the Arab or African countries. They follow the biblical principle of turning the other cheek when slapped. But they are in the grip of Islamophobia in societies where they are in majority. Even their pastors indulge in Quran burning and exhort others to.  Shariah, hijab, mosques and minarets constantly make them feel that if they did not cope with these, they will one day be dominated by Muslims in their own country.

The Jews have their permanent justification of victimhood with the tragedy of holocaust. Jews who wear their victimhood as a minority community in all the countries other than Israel, have given the same treatment to Muslims in Israel where Muslims are not allowed to participate in governance or serve in the military in the same way minorities were treated as dhimmies in initial and medieval Islamic countries or treated in today’s Pakistan. And more importantly, though the term love jihad is not applied to interreligious marriages between Arab Muslims and Jews in Israel, it is strictly prohibited due to the same feeling of insecurity so much so that it is considered an anti-national act. According to a 2007 opinion poll, more than 50 % of Israeli Jews believed that inter-religious marriage was an act of national treason. The municipality of PitaTikva has announced an initiative to provide a telephone hotline for friends and family to report Jewish girls who date Arab men as well as psychologists to provide counselling. 

In similar vein, there are groups like Ram Sene or Bajrang Dal in India who patrol the towns to stop Hindu girls from dating Muslim boys. Some Hindutva groups claim to fame is that they proudly kidnap Hindu women legally married to Muslims and return them to their Hindu parents. Hindutva forces raise the issue of interreligious marriages between Muslim men and Hindu girls and call it love jihad whereas the truth is that love is invariably a two way affair. There are hundreds of Muslim girls who have married non-Muslim boys but they do not see that as a existential threat. These forces also exaggerate the birth rate of Muslims to create the impression that with this rapid growth rate, the Muslims will surpass Hindus in numbers and turn India into a Islamic country.

Such imaginary fears and feeling of insecurity among the followers of religion have been the cause of major strife and perpetual acrimony and confrontation among different communities. And this will continue until we burn the majority version of our religions and follow the minority version.

Sohail Arshad is a regular columnist for New