Religious fundamentalism primary threat to world peace

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With the Taliban coming into power, the issue of religion takes a prominent place. However, there is always a hesitancy in intellectuals and a silence in political circles to discuss the issue of religion and fundamentalism.

With the Taliban coming into power, the issue of religion takes a prominent place. However, there is always a hesitancy in intellectuals and a silence in political circles to discuss the issue of religion and fundamentalism. The Taliban philosophy, clearly taking the Sharia for inspiration, is a threat not only to Afghanistan but to the entire world. It will be hard times for us especially since India borders two hostile states friendly to Taliban. In a deadlock situation, the only hope for the world comes from India.

Dr SN Balagangadhara's thesis on religions and understanding the phenomenon in India would be a major input to achieve peace in the country (and in the world too). Most debates about religions in the country seem to degenerate into a verbal exchange of words. History and its 'facts' are inconvenient debating techniques and are hardly helping.

As Dr Balu says, there were never any religions in India but only traditions (sampradayas and paramparas in its widest form). The conversion of traditions to religions was a colonial exercise. It was not from any malicious intent at a larger level but they were trying to make sense of an alien culture from the ruler's perspective. They saw a variety of phenomena, practices, and philosophies across the country and constructed the religions of 'Hinduism', 'Buddhism', 'Jainism', 'Sikhism', and so on. There were even religious encounters too between a Buddhism of 2000 years and a Hinduism of 200 years!

The framework of all these experiential constructions were their own European internal debates between the Protestant, Catholic, and the Enlightenment thinkers. It is a long story but one of the basic driving forces in creating religions by the colonials was their own culture (rooted in religion) which believed that religion is a cultural universal. It was inconceivable to them that there could be cultures without religions.

Our Indian intellectuals swallowed the whole story which Dr Balu terms as 'colonial consciousness.' Only a few intellectuals questioned whether religions in the classic definitional mould of a single book, a single temple, a single doctrine, or a single messenger ever existed in India. Fertile intellectual minds sitting in the best libraries of Europe converted our traditions into religions with even 'inter-religious' encounters. Hinduism versus Buddhism was their legacy; Hinduism versus Sikhism today is a continuation of that legacy. These were like those which happened in the Middle East and the European world of medieval times.

Fundamentally, religions can never be a reason for peace. It divides the world into 'believers' and 'unbelievers.' Under the impact of secularism, the maximum a religion can achieve are 'tolerances and acceptances.' Traditions thrive on multiplicity of practices, rituals, philosophies with the fundamental idea of 'an indifference to differences.' The concept of truth is as robust as in religions but traditions say, 'I am true, but you are not false.' Religion, in contrast, is clear when it says, 'I am true and you are false.'

How did India deal with religions? They became traditions with a gradual indifference to other beliefs and yet pursuing their own paths. As is usual for traditional cultures, religions had cultural syncretism with the mainstream traditions and they lost their focus on an aggressive proselytizing drive too. Muslims and Christians singing the highest devotional songs to Indian deities without fear of losing their personal faith or persecution from the hard-core elements are some examples.

The Hindus also were never strong into implementing anti-conversion laws because essentially the idea of conversion with rejection of all previous beliefs does not make sense in a traditional culture. One can very well be a Hindu even if one does not believe in God and goes to the temple 'purely for its architecture.'

It is another matter that the words 'Hindu', Hinduism', and 'Hindutva' remain ill-defined in both our Constitution and law manuals even after so many decades. Using the words as a matter of convenience, the indifference to differences is the Indian solution to multiculturalism and not the ill-baked and inappropriate idea of secularism, a solution for the Christian European world at a specific time in its history. India's distorted political secularism became only 'appeasement' of 'minorities' rather than encouraging inclusiveness.

Unfortunately, as our traditions become more of religions, the capacity to absorb pluralism diminishes and fundamentalism arises. The so-called Hindutva and Hindu 'fundamentalism' is an outcome of such attempts to define traditions as religions with even core doctrines (like the supposed Hinduism claim that all religions are equal). The problem of India has been to convert traditions into religions by a continuous effort of our intellectuals, academia, and the politicians.

This conversion takes us from tolerance to intolerance, from an indifference to hate, from an acceptance to rejection. The Indian solution to the world is to make religions into traditions. We should be pursuing this path. This is not 'diluting' a religion as some might want to believe. It would be surprising if the Taliban can ever bring peace to anyone in the world.

— Dr Pingali Gopal, Warangal

II

Apropos Afghanistan new China colony, by K Krishna Saagar Rao. Taliban's second coming in Afghanistan, is indicative of strong regional and religious interests played out by Pakistan and China, to perpetuate their own agenda politically and economically, to exploit the sentiments and resources of the region. The swift takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban is attributed to ISI's direct role and support at every stage, by Pakistan. There were believed to be Pakistanis involved in the entire operation, along with jihadis; and truck loads of arms were returned to Pakistan, after the successful takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. There is a video by the Taliban in circulation on social media, intimidating India, not to bother Pakistan militarily; and to cede J&K to Pakistan as it belonged to Pakistan.

The spirit of Islamist jihadis is so high in the aftermath of the Afghan crusade that they are beaming with confidence to be able to conquer any part of the world with ease. The well trained Afghan army by the US did not fire a shot in defence and had meekly surrendered. The fact remains that 99% of Afghans are in favour of the 'sharia' law to be implemented in the country, which suits the Taliban excellently to jihadi designs. There is already an indication by Congress leaders like Natwar Sigh to suggest that the Taliban of today is a mellowed version of what the world had seen of it, twenty years ago in Afghanistan.

But the Taliban's bloodthirsty mindset and barbaric behaviour has not undergone any change at all from the fact that the jihadis are feverishly implementing these rules in Afghanistan as before, with vengeance. The women employees and girl students, who were assured of their jobs and continued studies, are now prevented by the Taliban, citing one reason or the other. A boy, who wore a white socks was brutally beaten up, and slashed with a knife on his back and private parts, because the while colour was the sign of the Taliban flag!. Such irrational and silly reasons are attributed to torturing people to no end.

There are seculars in India who want the Government to negotiate with the Taliban, in order to normalise ties with that country, like the MIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi and other Muslim leaders belonging to Samajwadi Party. Such mindset is indicative of their true intentions that they are waiting for India to become another Afghanistan, in future. The US has endorsed the presence in Afghanistan saying that the Taliban posed no threat to the US. But, India cannot afford to entertain such complacency, to be in a fool's paradise, as the Taliban have already reached the Indian doorsteps, to be mere 450 kms away, that separates India from Afghanistan.

— Venkata Narasimhan K R, Madurai

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