Religious Terrorism – a struggle between the past and the future

Religious Terrorism – a struggle between the past and the future

- in NGI Blog, NGI Opinions
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Jama Masjid, the main mosque in Delhi IndiaJama Masjid, the main mosque in Delhi India

Before we get to the heart of the subject – the root cause of terrorism today, let us quickly review the terror attack on France in context, because many people are not feeling humanitarian enough without the addition of Kenya, Turkey, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to their sympathy list.

Any loss of innocent life is a loss for all of humanity. It is also a fact that more Muslims are killed by Muslims themselves, than by any other group. (One study shows that 11 million Muslims have been killed since 1948 by Muslim groups).

The visible transition from the medieval era to the modern one had begun in France in 1789. The French revolution signaled the end of monarchies, church-state rule, serfdom, feudalism and entrenched aristocracies transformed into democracy. Unlike the American Revolution (1776) which was more to free the nation from British Imperial rule, France’s liberation was into a rational, industrial, secular, and bureaucratic nation-state of the modern era. Both the Revolutions helped to dawn an era for mankind – an era of universal rights, equality before the law, trial by jury, freedom of speech and religious practice (or lack thereof) and the freedom of the press.  

From this perspective, France and America ushered in the free world. And last week’s attack on France, indeed is an attack on the free world. Liberty has special connection between these two countries – the iconic Statue of Liberty was gifted to the USA by France in 1886 (by the famed engineer of the Eiffel tower, Gustave Eiffel).

When it comes to democracy, equal rights, and freedom of expression, many societies are still stuck in the past. While many societies and religions have transformed, much of Middle East and some Islamic nations lag far behind.

We can argue forever that the West may be responsible for fomenting the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Pakistan and Al Qaeda and ISIS in the Middle East. Some of their policies may have encouraged extremist groups. But that’s today. What did the rest of the world do to be at the receiving end of the same fanaticism since the conquest started around 630 CE? What did India do to get punished, in the words of renowned American historian Will Durant:

“The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.”

But why? Because they refused to surrender to the ideas of ‘intolerance’, because they believed in freedom, because they believed in pluralism!

We know today how much India has contributed to our current civilization in terms of mathematics, astronomy, language, culture, and numerous other fields. In the words of Swami Vivekananda:

“The debt which the world owes to our Motherland is immense. Taking country with country, there is not one race on this earth to which the world owes so much as to the patient Hindu, the mild Hindu.

“In ancient and in modern times, wonderful ideas have been carried forward from one race to another. In ancient and in modern times, seeds of great truth and power have been cast abroad by the advancing tides of national life; but mark you, my friends, it has been always with the blast of war trumpets and with the march of embattled cohorts. Each idea had to be soaked in a deluge of blood. Each idea had to wade through the blood of millions of our fellow-beings. Each word of power had to be followed by the groans of millions, by the wails of orphans, by the tears of widows. This is what other nations have taught us.  But India peacefully existed. Here activity prevailed when even Greece did not exist… Even earlier, when history has no record, and tradition dares not peer into the gloom of that intense past, even from until now, ideas after ideas have marched out from her (India) , but every word has been spoken with a blessing behind it and peace before it. We, of all nations of the world, have never been a conquering race, and that blessing is on our head, and therefore we live….!”

So why did the ‘mild’ and ‘patient’ people of India have to suffer so much? One can make it easy for people to understand by some comparisons: Recall what the British did to Indians (‘kala aadmi’ slaves) remember what colonists did to the Africans in America. What the invaders did to India is more than the sum total of  the above plus what American settlers did to the Native Americans, what the Europeans did to the people of South America and manifolds of what the Nazis did to the Jewish people.

Is it an ideological and philosophical war? Is it a political war? Or, is it just a conquest of land?

Yes, all of the above, but more importantly, it is a struggle between the past and future; between the dogmatic Dark Age and free and enlightened worlds.

Generally, human beings tend to believe that ‘I am correct’ and ‘I know it all’ – that arrogance inflicts limited damage to us as individuals by limiting our scope and potential for ourselves and others. But when it comes to groups of people, not just belonging to a religious belief system, but ideologies such as communism – the damage is of a much higher magnitude! Ideologies of separatism inherent during medieval times bred belief systems, that only my god, book and prophet is true – yours is false. And since you don’t agree with it, it is my right to coerce you, bribe you or force you to be on my side or else, I’ve the right to eliminate you. Belief systems are acceptable as long as they do not take away others’ freedom and do no harm.

The current day so-called liberals in India may dismiss relating India’s problems with its past as propaganda or even religious hatred, but two foreign scholarly views draw our attention: (from the book: Negationism in India, Concealing the record of Islam by Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst, first published in 2002):

 “The Muslim conquests, down to the 16th century, were for the Hindus a pure struggle of life and death. Entire cities were burnt down and the populations massacred, with hundreds of thousands killed in every campaign, and similar numbers deported as slaves. Every new invader made (often literally) his hills of Hindus skulls. Thus, the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000 was followed by the annihilation of the Hindu population; the region is still called the Hindu Kush, i.e. Hindu slaughter. The Bahmani sultans (1347-1480) in central India made it a rule to kill 100,000 captives in a single day, and many more on other occasions. The conquest of the Vijayanagar Empire in 1564 left the capital plus large areas of Karnataka depopulated. And so on.

“As a contribution to research on the quantity of the Islamic crimes against humanity, we may mention that the Indian (subcontinent) population decreased by 80 million between 1000 (conquest of Afghanistan) and 1525 (end of Delhi Sultanate). [comment added by KB : In contrast in the name of ushering in an utopian era of the proletariat’s, between 50 M and 100 M people perished under various communist movements called ‘revolution’].

“But the Indian Pagans were far too numerous and never fully surrendered. What some call the Muslim period in Indian history, was in reality a continuous war of occupiers against resisters, in which the Muslim rulers were finally defeated in the 18th century. Against these rebellious Pagans the Muslim rulers preferred to avoid total confrontation, and to accept the compromise which the (in India dominant) Hanifite school of Islamic law made possible. Alone among the four Islamic law schools, the school of Hanifa gave Muslim rulers the right not to offer the Pagans the sole choice between death and conversion, but to allow them toleration as zimmis (protected ones) living under 20 humiliating conditions, and to collect the jizya (toleration tax) from them. Normally the zimmi status was only open to Jews and Christians (and even that concession was condemned by jurists of the Hanbalite school like lbn Taymiya), which explains why these communities have survived in Muslim countries while most other religions have not. On these conditions some of the higher Hindu castes could be found willing to collaborate, so that a more or less stable polity could be set up. Even then, the collaboration of the Rajputs with the Moghul rulers, or of the Kayasthas with the Nawab dynasty, one became a smooth arrangement when enlightened rulers like Akbar (whom orthodox Muslims consider an apostate) cancelled these humiliating conditions and the jizya tax.

“It is because of Hanifite law that many Muslim rulers in India considered themselves exempted from the duty to continue the genocide on the Hindus (self-exemption for which they were persistently reprimanded by their mullahs). Moreover, the Turkish and Afghan invaders also fought each other, so they often had to ally themselves with accursed unbelievers against fellow Muslims. After the conquests, Islamic occupation gradually lost its character of a total campaign to destroy the Pagans. Many Muslim rulers preferred to enjoy the revenue from stable and prosperous kingdoms, and were content to extract the jizya tax, and to limit their conversion effort to material incentives and support to the missionary campaigns of sufis and mullahs (in fact, for less zealous rulers, the jizya was an incentive to discourage conversions, as these would mean a loss of revenue).”

So, Islamist terror is nothing new to India. For the Islamist warriors there is an internal battle and an external one. One is with the ‘lesser Muslims’ and the other one is with the Kafirs, the non-believers. And this has been going on since the early 7th century CE. These were precisely religious conquests: Syria 637 CE, Egypt 641 CE, Mesopotamia and the Persian Empire 650 CE. By the early 8th century, all of North Africa and Spain to the west, and the lands of central Asia and India to the east was invaded by these forces and many of these lands lost their past culture and history for good.

And to put this in today’s perspective – read what French writer and journalist Francois Gautier has to say:

And ultimately the question is: Are the Muslims of today ready to accept Hinduism? Unfortunately no. For Muslims all over the world, Hinduism is still the Infidel religion “par excellence “. This what their religion tell them, at every moment, at every verse, at the beginning of each prayer: “Only Allah is great “. And their mullahs still enjoin them to go on fight “jihad” to expunge the world of the infidels. And if the armies of Babar are not there any longer, and if it is not done any more to kill a 100.000 Hindus in a day, there is still the possibility of planting a few bombs in Bombay, of fueling separatisms in the hated land and eventually to drop a nuclear device, which will settle the problem once and for all. As to the Indian Muslim, he might relate to his Hindu brother, for whatever he says, he remains an Indian, nay a Indu; but his religion will make sure that he does not forget that his duty is to ostracize the Infidel. This is the crux of the problem today and the riddle that Islam has to solve, if it wants to survive in the long run.

“Negationism means that this whole aspect of Indian history has been totally erased, not only from history books, but also from the memory, from the consciousness of Indian people. Whereas the Jews have constantly tried, since the Nazi genocide, to keep alive the remembrance of their six million martyrs, the Indian leadership, political and intellectual, has made a willful and conscious attempt to deny the genocide perpetrated by the Muslims. No one is crying for vengeance. Do the Jews of today want to retaliate upon contemporary Germany? NO. It is only a matter of making sure that history does not repeat its mistakes, as alas, it is able to do today: witness the persecution of Hindus in Kashmir, whose 250.000 Pandits have fled their 5000 year old homeland; or the 50.000 Hindus chased from Afghanistan; or the oppression of Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan. And most of all, to remember to BE ABLE TO LOOK AT TODAY WITH THE WISDOM OF YESTERDAY. No collective memory should be erased for appeasing a particular community.

“We will never be able to assess the immense physical harm done to India by the Muslim invasions. Even more difficult is to estimate the moral and the spiritual damage done to Hindu India. But once again, the question is not of vengeance, or of reawakening old ghosts, but of not repeating the same mistakes. Unfortunately, the harm done by the Muslims conquest is not over…”

More details:

I wish I could dismiss terrorism in India only as a Pakistan sponsored or supported venture. Yes, in most cases that might be the case, but it goes well beyond the Pakistani border – both Al Qaeda and ISIS explicitly want to destroy India. I would like to ask those who think the West is to blame for all these, what is India’s fault? India has giving the idea of ‘entire creation is one family’; India’s Yoga culture is a culture of ‘unity in diversity’. The first requirement in Patanjali’s Astanga Yoga is ahimsa, the second is satya and the last is moksha, the highest level of liberty.

So, what we ought to do? First, zero tolerance policy must be implemented by every nation. There must be better global cooperation against terror. Terror breeding places must be decimated proactively. Countries harboring, supporting and funding terror must be held accountable.

We have been living in denial for long time now, for a long term solution we need to come to terms. Time has come to accept the reality of history and we need to have open and perhaps politically-incorrect, uncomfortable dialogues and formulate plans to deal with extremism. Because this subject needs to be assuaged once and for all, or else the misunderstanding, mistrust and violence will continue for long time to come. For that, one needs to have an alliance with those who are suffering in various societies – be it in the West, Africa, Middle East or India. As a starting point, we can achieve harmony by reviewing the irrelevant and contentious ‘rules of the past’, speak up against any dictum which divides and spreads hatred and work with those who are willing to take the risk of change and reform. Time has come for people of all religions and the atheists alike, to say:  Enough of intolerance to others’, let us try to make a world friendlier to live together with diversity, difference of opinions and beliefs. We cannot impose beliefs on others; we must establish faith in humanity and liberty to live peacefully and progress as a civilization to newer heights. Else, this clash will continue and humanity will bleed and cry every day. The sad part is the world should instead be fighting challenges such as poverty, illiteracy and climate change. Drainage of world’s resources via religious terrorism must stop, after all it is a struggle between the past and the future where the present is giving us ample opportunities to reconcile and unite.

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