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Fostering a scientific temper – Hard Secularism

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At the time of the Ayodhya crisis, the Indian Left advocated “hard secularism” as the only solution. This would mean outlawing Hindu parties, imprisoning Hindu leaders, and bullets for the Kar Sevaks.  In the past month, the Americans have been trying out this hard secularism in Afghanistan: eliminating Islamic fundamentalism by bombing the already tattered remains of Kabul and Kandahar.

But the results of this approach were not altogether satisfying.  For the short term, the Americans could at least congratulate themselves for having killed this many mothers and maimed that many children.  But even they cannot fail to realize that in the long term, their bombs will prove to be the seeds of more jihad fervor and better-equipped commandos striking at even larger targets than the World Trade Centre.  The destructive religious fire is not quenched with violence.

Therefore, let us explore a different secularist strategy, hard like stainless steel, yet gentle and bloodless.  It must strike at the root of the problem.   Now, crimes have their root in the minds of their perpetrators.  In the case of the attacks on the WTC and the parliament building of Srinagar, these minds were filled with zeal for Islam.  The perpetrators, especially those who sacrificed their own lives in their line of duty, were not evil people.  On the contrary, they were brave and full of devotion to what had been instilled in them as the true religion.

Then what was it that made them cross the threshold from the subjective goodness of their moral feelings to the objective evil of their acts?  The answer is: their mistaken beliefs.  With Socrates, I am convinced that evil ultimately stems from ignorance, from false beliefs.  It is up to us, secularists, to make sure that future generations grow up free from such beliefs, or at least to equip them with the scientific temper that will allow them to identify and weed out wrong ideas.

Recently, an example drilled into the public consciousness was the question of the history schoolbooks, and whether these should inform pupils of the fact that the Vedic seers ritually ate beef.  Should we not rather, in order to spare certain religious sensibilities, misinform them that the taboo on beef existed since all eternity?  Of course not: it is better to let them know that despite the current Hindu taboo on beef, kine were ritually sacrificed (and tasted) according in several Vedic rites. Every secularist will agree with that.

Likewise, all schoolchildren should learn the true story of Mohammed as related in the sources and certified by scholars.  Granted, Mohammed did preach and practice war against the Infidels.  To that extent, the lessons learned by the Taliban in their Madrassas were true enough.  But they should also learn a more problematic truth.

When Mohammed had his first “revelation”, his first vision of the archangel Gabriel, he himself was convinced that this was a morbid hallucination.  Or in the terminology of his day: that he was possessed by an evil spirit.  He even considered committing suicide in order to spare himself the life of a mental patient.  His wife Khadija managed to calm him down, and he got used to the recurring hallucinations, which he interpreted as messages from God to His prophet.  But except for a few followers, his contemporaries saw through his claims of prophet-hood.

A dozen times, the Quran itself mentions in passing the skeptical reactions of the Arabs, who called him “ghost-possessed”, “a madman”, at best “a fanciful poet”.  Later on, they were forced to submit to Mohammed’s military power, but they had understood correctly that Mohammed’s “revealed” utterances were the products of his own brain.  Every Quran reader endowed with the scientific temper can see for himself how the Book contains strictly nothing that indicates a Divine origin, nothing that was beyond the mental horizon of a 7th-century Arab businessman vaguely acquainted with Biblical lore.  So, the belief that Mohammed received Divine revelations laying down the law for all mankind and valid till Doomsday, is a mistake.

The whole division of mankind in the Faithful and the Infidels, division which led to the Partition, to endless riots and to cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, is based on a false belief.  We can spare ourselves these ravages if we instill the scientific temper in ourselves and our children.  Initially, this may encounter resistance, for some people will feel offended in their most cherished certainties.  Yet, experience teaches that before too long, it comes easily.

The Egyptian Nobel-winning author Naguib Mahfouz has testified how in his youth, his countrymen looked upon Islam as quaint folklore, good for elderly people who were soon to take it with them into the grave.  Nobody had forced this skeptical attitude upon them it came naturally as soon as modernity had made it available.  Admittedly, Islamic belief has staged a great comeback since then.  But the clock will swing back, it always does.  Already, many people in the Muslim world voice their doubts, some outspokenly at the risk of their lives, others discreetly.

Speaking for myself, I can say I understand the resistance and the initial pain which Muslims feel when confronted with a reasoned refutation of their beliefs.  At the same time, I also understand and welcome the feeling of liberation which follows the grudging admission that these beliefs are unsustainable, and that the skeptics were right all along.  I have gone through these stages myself when I outgrew the Catholic Christian faith in which I had been brought up.

This was not at all a matter of “hate”, or some such term of abuse with which some will try to criminalize my rejection of Christianity.  I still value Christian art, Christian music, Christian philosophy, and some of the virtues instilled by a Christian upbringing.  Only, I have had to reject the defining core belief of Christianity, simply because it is untrue.  Jesus was a cult leader with a high opinion of himself, but he also preached some of the nobler ideas from Judaism as well as from the ambient Hellenistic philosophies, some even borrowed from Buddhism.  His sayings include lucid observations (“to him who hath, shall be given”), practical wisdom (“give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”) and mystical ideas (“the Kingdom is within you”), apart from wild self-centred claims and outlandish predictions of an imminent Doomsday.  His record was mixed, like that of most men.  But the point is: he was definitely not the Redeemer of mankind from original sin, he was not the Messiah who came to restore David’s kingdom, and he was not God’s only-begotten Son.  The core doctrine of Christianity, like that of Islam, is a mistake.

The new generations of this country should not be kept in the dark.  They should learn about Vedic cow slaughter, about the findings of Bible scholarship, and about the insights of psychology into the process of Quranic “revelation”.  This will contribute mightily to the prevention of religious fanaticism.  Secularists of the world, unite for the critical study of religion in every Madrassa.

Source credit: From the website of Dr Koenraad Elst  http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/fascism/secularism.html

 

 

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3 Ahmadi Men Sentenced to Death in Pakistan on Charges of Blasphemy; Minority Communities are increasingly facing the Heat in the Country

“Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. Rights groups say the controversial blasphemy law has often been abused to settle personal vendettas and disputes.

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Pakistan-protest
Pakistani students of Islamic seminaries take part in a rally in support of blasphemy laws in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Hundreds of students of Islamic seminaries rallied in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, urging government to remove blasphemous content from social media and take stern action against those who posted blasphemous content on social media to hurt sentiments of Muslims. The placards, in center, in Urdu language are reading as "Authorized Institutions immediately take action on the incidents of blasphemy and remove blasphemous content on social media". (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed) (VOA)

Washington, October 15, 2017: A court in Pakistan’s Punjab province has sentenced three men of a minority religious group to death on charges of violating the country’s controversial blasphemy law.

Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmed and Ehsan Ahmed were found guilty and convicted by the trial court Wednesday for insulting the prophet of Islam.

The men were tried under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, commonly referred to as the blasphemy law, which recommends either life imprisonment or the death penalty for anyone found guilty of deliberately insulting Islam.

The men were arrested in May 2014 in a remote village in Punjab province after residents filed a complaint with the police and accused the defendants of tearing down a religious poster.

Four men were arrested at the time. The fourth man, Khalil Ahmad, was shot dead by an angry man while in police custody just a few days after the incident.

Saleemuddin, a spokesperson for the Ahmadi community, told VOA that the charges against the defendants and the court’s verdict were unfair.

“The convicted men were trying to take down a poster, which had anti-Ahmadi slogans and text that urged the community to socially boycott the already persecuted Ahmadi community,” Saleemuddin said.

“We will challenge the trial court’s decision in high court,” he added.

Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, but Pakistan’s state does not recognize them as such and labels them heretics. There are more than a half-million Ahmadis living in Pakistan under the constant threat of persecution.

The Ahmadi community “is one of the most mistreated communities in the country. They have had been a target of blasphemous charges, sectarian violence and target killings,” said Mehdi Hasan, a prominent human rights activist in Pakistan.

ALSO READ Military Dictatorship Always Halted Progress in Pakistan, says Pakistan Prime Minister

Ahmadis ‘a threat’

The death sentence for the three individuals came just a few days after Muhammad Safdar, a prominent member of the ruling party and son-in-law of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, publicly denounced Ahmadi community members as a threat to Pakistan and urged the country’s institutions not to hire them in the military or the civil service.

Safdar’s remarks stirred a debate in the country on the issue of minorities and their rights.

Pakistan Minister of the Interior Ahsan Iqbal, without mentioning Safdar by name, denounced the anti-minority rhetoric coming from politicians.

“It is tragic to see hate speech against minorities in National Assembly. We believe in inclusive Pakistan. Pakistan respects all minorities,” Iqbal said in a tweet.

Abuse of law

“Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. We’ve seen several incidents where angry mobs killed those accused of committing blasphemy without giving them a right to face the trial,” human rights activist Hasan told VOA.

Rights groups say the controversial blasphemy law has often been abused to settle personal vendettas and disputes. Due process is often ceremonial, the rights activists add, and decisions are often informed by the growing religious intolerance in the country.

Even if courts do drop charges against defendants, mobs and local residents attack them, and law enforcement authorities look the other way in most cases, the activists charge.

blasphemy
Members of a Pakistani civil society demonstrate April 22, 2017, in Karachi, Pakistan, against the killing of Mashal Khan, a student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan. Police say the lynching of Khan, falsely accused of blasphemy, was organized by other students who saw him as a political rival. (VOA)

Social media posts

Nadeem James, a Christian, was sentenced to death last month in Punjab after the court established that he sent a blasphemous poem to a friend via WhatsApp, an instant message application.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a recent report said 15 people were arrested on charges of blasphemy in 2016, including 10 Muslims and five members of religious minorities.

In April 2017, Mashaal Khan, a journalism student, was accused of posting blasphemous content online and was beaten to death by fellow students at Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan’s government is being criticized for strictly enforcing the blasphemy laws.

In April 2017, the government used newspapers and mobile phone services to warn its citizens not to post or upload any blasphemous materials on social media.

The government has also reportedly encouraged people to report those who violate the blasphemy law. (VOA)

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Ahmadiyya Sect of Pakistan is the Most Persecuted Minority in Line of Fire

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Pakistan Minority
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community dig graves for victims in Chenab Nagar. voa

Islamabad, Pakistan October 11: The son-in-law of Pakistan’s recently ousted prime minister lambasted a minority that human rights groups consider one of the most persecuted in the country.

Mohammed Safdar said members of the Ahmadiyya sect are a “danger to this country, this nation, its constitution and its identity.”

Speaking in the national assembly, of which he is a member, Safdar demanded that Ahmadiyyas, along with the minority Bohra community, be barred from joining the armed forces of the country because their “false religions do not include the concept of jihad in the name of God.”

Safdar is the son-in-law of Nawaz Sharif, who was forced to resign from premiership in July after a court ruled against him in a corruption case. Sharif alleged that the ruling was a conspiracy to remove him from power by the establishment, a euphemism for the country’s powerful military.

A member of Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, Safdar is married to his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who has been widely reported in the news as his potential successor.

In his statement Tuesday, Safdar also demanded that the name of the physics department of the Quaid e Azam University in Islamabad be changed. The department is named after Dr. Abdul Salam, an Ahmadiyya who is also one of Pakistan’s two Nobel laureates. The other one is Malala Yousufzai, who became the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize for her activism in favor of girls’ education.

“If the name of the department is not changed, I would protest here every day,” Safdar said.

His outburst in the assembly followed days of uproar by the opposition parties over a minor amendment in the election law that was deemed to be pro-Ahmadiyya. The government declared it a clerical error and reinstated the original draft of the law.

Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan face a peculiar dilemma. They insist they are Muslims, but the country’s constitution declares them non-Muslims. Officials say Ahmadiyyas are welcome to all the rights afforded to other minorities in the country as long as they do not call themselves followers of the Islamic faith. Ahmadiyyas, on the other hand, insist that doing so would go against their religious beliefs.(voa)

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‘Religion’ in India- Types and its Connection to Country’s Civilization

The Ancient religions of India are Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

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Religion
Ancient Religions of India.

India’s economic and political strata in today’s world have reached a great level, but that is still not what the country is known for. The country is known for its diversity and religions because the term ‘religion’ in India is not just a system of belief and worship, but a way of life too. Since ancient times, it has been an integral part of its culture. For the citizens of this country, religion pervades through all the activities of life- from cooking chores to working and politics. The religion we follow plays an important role in our upbringing as well. Our conditioning is done based on the principles of our religion. India is a home to many religions- Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and others.

How old is the Indian civilization?

The Indian civilization is around 4000 years old, with the existing Indian religions growing in that period. The antiquity of the religions in India begins from the Harappan culture. It’s a secular country which respects all kinds of religion and culture, but during the ancient times, when the Human civilization was developing, there were three main religions native to India- Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The predominant religion during this period was Hinduism, which is said have originated in the Northern India.

Religion wise Indian Population:

  • HINDUISM – about 82%
  • ISLAM – about 12%
  • CHRISTIANITY – about 2.5%
  • SIKHISM – about 2%
  • BUDDHISM – about 0.7%
  • JAINISM – about 0.5%
  • ZOROASTRIANISM – about 0.01%
  • JUDAISM – about 0.0005%   (stated by adaniel.tripod)

Hinduism

Religion
Brahma                                                                                                                                                          Pixabay

Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. Its followers worship several deities. Unlike the other religions, this religion does not have one teacher. Its followers, the ‘Hindus’ believe in a supreme divine spirit called ‘Parama Brahma’. The concept of Parama Brahma states that Brahma is omnipresent.

Hindus believe in vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means the whole world is a single family. They also believe in Sarva dharma Sama Bhava, which means all religions are equal. The practice follows the ideas of mercy, charity, compassion, benevolence, non-violence and mercy. It believes the concept of ‘Bhakti’ or devotion.

The sacred writings of Hinduism include the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Upanishads.

Also Read: The history and development of Indian Handicrafts

Jainism

Religion
Lord Mahavira                                                                                                                                                   Pixabay

According to tradition, the founder of Jainism was first Tirthankara Adinatha. However, the religion was widely propagated by the 24th Tirthankara, Mahavira. He was born in Vaishali, Bihar, who belonged to the clan ‘Licchavi’. Mahavira was moved by the sufferings of people, and therefore, left his home at the age of 30 to seek the truth. He supported the teachings of the previous Tirthankaras, and added his own beliefs to the teachings.
He believed in the ideology of leading a good life and not doing any wrong. He did not encourage the practice of needing the help of God for everything.
Doctrines of Jainism:
  1. Ahimsa (Non-violence)
  2. Satya (Truth)
  3. Asteya (Non-stealing)
  4. Brahmacharya (Chastity)
  5. Aparigraha (Non-possession)

Buddhism

Religion
Lord Buddha                                                                                                                                                    Pixabay

Buddhism is a religion which consists of different kinds of beliefs and practices based on the teachings of Lord Buddha. Buddha’s name was Siddhartha. He was the son of the Shakya clan’s leader. It is believed that Siddhartha made three observations, which changed his life:  a feeble old man; a person suffering from disease; and a dead body being taken for cremation. This propelled him in finding the true meaning of life. He left his home at an early age and attained ‘enlightenment’ in Bodhgaya.
He also prescribed the four noble truths and eight fold path.
Four noble truths are:
  • Dukkha (truth of suffering)
  • Samudāya (truth of the suffering’s origin)
  • Nirodha (the truth of suffering’s cessation.)
  • Magga (Direction to eight-fold path)

The eight fold path are- Right aims, Right beliefs, Right conduct, Right speech, Right effort, Right occupation, Right meditation and Right thinking.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at twitter @ImMeghaacharya.