07 December, 2008

the true minority

Please read here,

an extract from Dr. Gunvant B. Shah's lecture at the Darul Koran Madrasa in Jambusar, near Vadodara, Gujarat, 16th November 2008.


04 December, 2008

The Problem with Islamic Terrorism- cross posted from my blog.

I am beginning to have a problem with Islamic terrorism. Don't we all? Not quite in the "they-invade-our-lands-kill-our-people-way" I mean that is heinous in itself- (And don't even for a minute think that I condone or even try to understand it). But this disliking Islamic Terror has more to do with the way that term is applied now. Very loosely. Very broadly and in a manner that encourages all those who are anti-Muslim to voice their ugliest stereotypes and innate racism- all in the name of trying to give voice to a peaceful dialog.

I am an atheist, so I have no special love for people who follow the religion of Islam- nor indeed for the Hindus, the Sikhs, the Bahai's, the Christians, the Taoists- nor the Buddhists and followers of any of the other faiths that might be there. But this lack of love is mostly for their idealogy. I do not subscribe to any and indeed the idea that people need an invisible being or beings or promises of hereafters to keep them on the straight and narrow is all very silly for me. But as human beings, I have no problems with any of them. As long as their particular blind belief is not shoved into my face and we can all live in peace and harmony and whatnot. I also find it horrible that I need to put in this disclaimer here- before I vent my feelings here.

I am beginning to have a real problem with the way, just after a terrorist strike- (the Mumbai siege is the closest one), mocking articles with "Religion of peace Strikes", or "Islamic terrorism" or even other pieces asking "moderate Muslims to speak out" begin to appear. It is irritating to hear of religious peace dialog and analysis on religious mindsets of people perpetrating these crimes. I am beginning to really get angry at how the whole issue of terrorism quickly gets sidelined in the invective poured out against "them" invisible, but at the same times acquiring the shapes of the minorities that one fears.

Because religion is not really a scary or dangerous thing. It is like a Kalashnikov- or a bomb. Basically harmless, unless used the wrong way. Maybe that analogy is not apt- religion is like nuclear power. A force that can be unleashed for good and also for evil- a force that needs to be understood. I know the evils that religious people are capable of. The misogyny, the child abuse, the abuse of power, the fleecing people of money, the creation of horror- but these are people who do these things. Not their holy books. Not their idols or prayer mats or shawls. And it is another set of people who very religiously follow the dictates of their faiths and their devotions to their invisible sky fairies and dedicate their lives to the service of their fellow beings. Again it is not the faith, but the person.

And the person is shaped by the place they are in. Buffeted by the mighty politic-cultural-economic-social winds, abraded by circumstance, molded by the pressure of the seen and unseen, felt and unfelt. Above all governed by their free will. Because the decision to pull a trigger or drop a bomb is only that- personal. Choice. Determined solely by the person alone. Exacerbated by tensions, by breeding, by education or lack of it, but in the end very personal. And rationalized in the name of religion.

Because that is what people do- try to find a nobler cause for evil doing. Religion, tradition, custom all make wonderful scapegoats. Formulated in the bronze ages in a very strange time, they have wonderfully archaic ideas- a veritable treasure trove for those who would like a roadmap for their evil. Religion on the whole is a stupid thing. And it has even stupider followers. Who do their best to justify their stupidity. And in all honesty separated from that particular religion or sect or group, these people would still be the same- in most cases. It is never the fault of that particular identity. It is the fault of the way that identity is manipulated, the way they are molded to behave in a particular way.

The problem with terrorism is that its victims are faceless and usually always innocents. The other problem is that the terrorists who perpetrate the acts are tools. The real masterminds rarely ever get caught in the line of fire. And the manipulation is done by a mere stirring up of discontent. Discontent against a group, a culture, a religion even a national identity.

And in exactly this way "Islamic terror" becomes manipulated to give rise to Hindu or Buddhist or Christian or maybe Jewish terror. Create walls, raise boundaries and break down bridges. "Terrorist rights" are scoffed at- forgotten is that at the core they are human rights. Totalitarian ideas and regimes arise- all by sampling giving human shape to the deadliest terrors of uncertainty.

Because the labeling is silly- it can also be one of several identities- Male terror thee aren't as many women terrorists- or brown terror- how many white or black people with Kalashnikov's and belt bombs do you see- or better still human terror- after all no other species carts around RDX quite like this.

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01 December, 2008

The Circling Vultures- cross posted from my blog

Actually there is nothing that can or will ever shake the somnolence of the “system” in India. I have felt this for a while, but now I am only more than sure of it. Of course I am referring to the Bombay bomb blasts ( hell, yes the city was named Mumbai in 1995, after another set of bomb blasts in 1993- somehow renaming and re-claiming city pride was more important that ensuring a more secure city- but I am an ordinary person , what do I know of political strategy). Well Bombay or whatever they will call it now had a spate of bomb blasts in 2002, then 2003 January, March, July, August, 2006 and finally a three day hostage drama that unfolded over a million television sets.

But of course these are always terrorist activities, unleashed to dampen the spirit of the Mumbaikars who set about rebuilding, as soon as one is over. And lately they have been joined by the Delhiites, the Hyderabadis, the citizens of Jaipur and wherever else. And in between when things have been peaceful for too long, the resilience is exercised by the communal and regional tensions that are incited in the name of an identity (which I would assume only someone very mediocre would want to associate with). And of course the outright “terrorist” activity, that of the hand grenades and bombs is put on Islamic terror, on Pakistan, on the foreign hand.

And it becomes an excellent photo-op for politicians. Because that is what they do. Attend photo-ops. Accompanied by relatives, sons, producers- after making embarrassing gaffes (though the statement, this is a ”minor” thing is not such a gaffe- considering the magnitude of what India is subject to- but I digress). With an incompetent (token woman) President- not that her predecessors have been particularly competent. And strangely shameless (what else can you call them) Home Ministers who resign probably because the foreign media starts to criticize them. And still the photo-ops continue. With regret expressing and “deepest condolences” to the families. It is an amazing tableau. And of late it has become more evident what a sham it really is.

Because the “citizen” reactions are of a very scary kind. “Those (insert religion/ region/ country here)”. “We are not buying anything from (insert country/ community/ region) because my husband said we should not support any of their business.” And so on. Just an excuse for everyone to vent out their ugliest prejudices and stereotypes in the guise of mourning the tragedy. And blame the “system”. Because Big Brother like it is omnipresent and yet, as anonymous. Also it is always “someone else’s fault” someone else’s problem- well maybe not.

What did we do to become thus. India shining, India growing, but India all the same? Why do we allow the circling vultures get closer, ever closer even as we struggle in the death throes of everything that modernity, sanity, normalcy would have us hold on to? And what did we do to deserve this?