First it was ‘Fascist Sanghi’, then it was ‘Hindu Taliban’ and ‘Saffron terror’, and now finally we have ‘Wahhabi Hinduism’. The left-liberal brigade appears to be getting bolder and bolder or maybe they are simply executing a pre-conceived agenda considering how well they are in setting agendas and creating narratives.
Whatever may be the intention, the recent statements made by Amit Chaudhuri, author and academician, is significant in many senses. While speaking at the Times LitFest, Delhi on Monday, Chaudhuri said: “The BJP with its slow development of Wahhabi Hinduism is decimating the pluralism of the religion”.
Whether BJP is developing any kind of Hinduism or not, the fact that the criticism of BJP ended up in branding Hinduism as Wahhabi is not only incorrect and objectionable but it also clearly exposes the liberal hypocrisy.
Let us first understand what ‘Wahhabism’ actually means. Wahhabism which is also sometimes equated with ‘Salafism’ was basically an Islamic movement within the Sunni Islam that started in the 18th century and whose central call was for Muslims to return to their original practices. In other words, the Wahhabism believes in the literal and historical understanding of its scriptures and intends to implement them.
It is this literal interpretation and a call for original practices that has led to Wahhabi movement sponsoring various activities of violence and terrorism, the latest example being the Islamic State (ISIS). The Islamic Caliphate derives its legitimacy from the tenets of Islam and it strictly adheres to the Salafist or Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic texts. Thus, it justifies all its violence, mass murdering, practice of slavery, and other inhuman actions through Islamic texts itself.
The case is not very different from various Islamic terror organizations, including those that are active in India. Yet, the left-liberal propaganda wants people to believe that terrorism has no religion whenever the act of terror has been committed by an Islamist. They will find various reasons and explanations for the Islamists who inflicts violence ranging from poverty to brainwashing but turn a blind eye towards the fact that Islamic terrorism is rooted in Islamic theology.
But, the same liberals have created narratives of ‘Saffron terrorism’ just because a single act of bombing has been suspected to be committed by a group of Hindus. They sympathize with Yakub Menon, who was convicted by the courts for his acts of terror, but demonize Sadhvi Pragya whose trial is yet to reach any conclusion!
It appears that the liberal brigade has realized that they no longer can continue to whitewash the atrocities of Islamists the way they have whitewashed the atrocities committed by Islamic rulers in the past. So, now they are trying to superimpose the atrocities, religious fundamentalism, and intolerance that is inherent in Islam on Hinduism.
Though, this is not a new strategy, the strategy appears to have reached near its final form. From the usage of terms like Saffron terror, Hindu Taliban, Hindutva is the problem and not Hinduism, now finally they have made the declaration about the arrival of ‘Wahhabi Hinduism’.
The fact is, the term ‘Wahhabi’ makes no sense in the case of Hinduism. Hinduism is not a monolith structure. Though it exists on the firm foundation of Dharma (righteousness), it is not confined to a particular belief system or a scripture. True, Vedas are ultimate Pramana. But, Pramana means ‘valid means to Knowledge’. Vedas are indeed ultimate means to the highest knowledge and not set of monotheistic injunctions that cannot be crossed. True, Hinduism does have injunctions and prohibitions, but unlike monotheistic religions, Hinduism has no external authority calls for the implementation of those injunctions or face death. Instead, here each Individual is his own authority whether he wants to implement those injunctions and prohibitions.
But, most importantly, no Hindu scripture, howsoever one may interpret them, calls Hindus to kill or enslave people of other religions. There is no concept of dividing the world into believers and non-believers of a particular theology and calling for the execution of the non-believers. These tenets are present in the Wahhabi Islam, but not in Hinduism. Instead, India is the only country where Jews, Parsis, and even Muslims are not persecuted.So, what sense does it make to call Hinduism as Wahhabi?
A few stray acts of violence do not qualify as terrorism. More importantly, those stray acts of violence committed by a section of Hindu groups do not have scriptural justification, and hence no question of Hindu terrorism. Yet, the liberal brigade continues to claim ‘Islamic terrorism has no religion, but Hinduism is Wahhabism.’
The liberal strategy is becoming clearer by the day. By branding Hinduism as being Wahhabi and portraying themselves as ‘liberal Hindus’ who have abandoned what they consider as regressive aspects of Hinduism, the liberal brigade, it appears, wants to create confusion and hijack the Dharmic narrative of Hinduism. They hope that by hijacking the Dharmic narrative they will finally be able to dismantle the very foundation of Hinduism.
It is high time, the liberal hypocrisy and anti-Hinduism attitude that drives their agenda is realized and exposed.
Holy Father, if you are serious about respecting other religions, the claim of exclusiveness must be scrapped and Hindus who have given to the world a deep philosophy and a great culture, must be respected
This was in December of 2013. Prominent spiritual activist Maria Wirth- who has made India her home- wrote this open letter to Pope. Maria says that on her recent visit to South India, she came across an increasing number of Churches and decided to bring this to the attention of Pope and appeal to him to stop conversion as Hindus do not need it.
Here is the letter.
Respected Holy Father,
Great hope for a positive change in the Catholic Church is pinned on your Pontificate and recent statements indicate that this hope may not be misplaced. The future, your Holiness said in November 2013, is in the “respectful coexistence of diversity and in the fundamental right to religious freedom in all its dimensions, and not in muting the different voices of religion”.
This statement makes eminent sense and would need to be implemented by all who presently do not subscribe to a respectful coexistence of diversity in regard to religions. However, I sense (wrongly maybe) that it is a plea for other religions to respect Christianity, rather than a commitment by the Church to respect other religions. To be precise, since Christians are occasionally persecuted in Islamic countries, it seems to be an appeal to ‘live and let live’ between the two biggest religions on earth.
Your Holiness is aware that both, Christianity and Islam, claim to be the only true religion and their God, respectively Allah alone is true. Both religions further hold that all people on earth have to accept this claim and join their particular religion to be saved and reach heaven or paradise. Both give a serious warning to those who don’t join: they will land up eternally in hell. These claims of exclusiveness are made without any evidence whatsoever, apart from the fact that the claims contradict each other, as both cannot be true. They require blind belief, and as blind, unreasonable belief is not natural for human beings, for many centuries it was enforced with state power and indoctrinated right from childhood with the fear of hell as the boogeyman.
May I ask Your Holiness to ponder how the respectful coexistence of diversity and the fundamental right to religious freedom is possible as long as these claims of exclusiveness are in place? Were these claims originally made to gain political power or were they made in the interest of the spiritual welfare of humanity? And may I also ask whether Your Holiness personally believes in these claims?
I trust that privately, Your Holiness does not believe in them, as media reported your statement that good atheists also will be redeemed. In other words, they won’t go automatically to hell. However, the Vatican took pains to clarify that Your Holiness did not mean it. Even my mother, 95 and a staunch Catholic all her life, expressed dismay that a perfectly sensible statement by the Pope was watered down.
Your Holiness may feel compelled for worldly reasons to stick to the claim of exclusiveness as dropping it would entail wrapping up all conversion attempts and in the process lose power, wealth and influence. Further there may be fear that other Christian denominations will not go along and will gain an advantage over the Catholic Church. Still another worry may be that Islam will not drop the claim of exclusiveness and will push aggressively for conversion.
However, the Catholic Church was the first institution to put up this baseless claim, which has brought unspeakable disaster upon humankind. From this claim the Church derived not only the ‘right’, but the ‘duty’ to storm across the globe and impose forcefully her ‘belief system’ – in Europe, in the Americas and in Africa and now in Asia. It was no doubt an ingenious ploy to claim that God wants everyone to become Christian. . Mark Twain famously said, “Religion was born when the first con-man met the first fool”. I would change it, “Dogmatic religion was born when ….”.
Some centuries later, Islam followed suit, claiming that Allah wants everyone to accept Islam, and we all know the violent conflicts resulting from those unsubstantiated claims. Since the Catholic Church started this disastrous trend, she needs to reverse it. The welfare of humanity as a whole has to be the concern and not the welfare of a religious institution. Hopefully Your Holiness has the courage to make a real, clear change for the better and will not fall for hairsplitting theological arguments, like ‘redemption is possible but not salvation’, etc.
Most Christians especially in Europe don’t believe anymore in unreasonable claims. The sad thing is that together with the dogmas, many reject belief in God altogether. They have not learnt to listen to their conscience and to enquire into truth, as the Church has played the role of the conscience- and truth-keeper for too long. The consequences for our societies are there for everyone to see.
However, many Christians do start pondering and believe in a ‘great power’, but not in the Christian God. For example, when I asked some fifty Christians in Germany whether they believe that Hindus who heard about Jesus Christ, but do not convert, will go to hell, nobody said yes. Even a priest said no. And not a single German I met was in favour of missionary activity in India. Yet Pope John Paul II declared in India the intention of the Church to plant the cross in Asia in the new millennium and considered India as a field for a rich harvest, which goes completely against ‘respectful coexistence’.
I live in India since 33 years and can assert with full confidence that India has no need of Christian missionaries, and yet huge sums of money are being pumped in to lure converts with material benefits and to build churches. I am aware that Your Holiness is responsible only for Catholics and not for the myriad of other Christian denominations that prey on poor Hindus, but if the Catholic Church made a start of truly respecting Hindus, it would have a big impact.
Maybe Your Holiness is under the impression that Hinduism is a depraved religion and Hindus would do well to accept the Christian God instead of their multiple gods. Such an impression would be completely wrong. There is no other religion that is –unjustly – denigrated as badly as Hinduism. Sorry to say that Christian (including Catholic) missionaries are in the forefront of this vilification campaign. Few people in the west know how profound India’s ancient tradition is. A solid philosophical basis for our existence and helpful tenets for a fulfilling, meaningful life had been known in India long before ‘religions’, as we know them today, came into being. The only addition Christianity brought in anew, are unverifiable dogmas that cannot possibly have a bearing on the absolute Truth. Can an event in history impact the absolute Truth? Will Truth make a distinction between people who are baptized and those who are not? “There is no salvation outside the Church” is, and I may be excused for using strong language, ridiculous.
The Indian rishis had discovered ages ago that an all-pervading Presence is at the core of this universe, indescribable, but best described as absolute consciousness. Further, the Hindu law of karma preceded the Christian dictum “as you sow so you reap’. A Council stopped Christians from believing in rebirth which would explain many riddles that trouble them, for example why there is great injustice already at birth? The advantage of having a perfect person as a friend and guide on the spiritual path was known in India, but till some 2000 years ago nobody claimed that ‘only’ Krishna or ‘only’ Ram or ‘only’ Buddha can lead to salvation and that whoever does not believe it, goes to hell. “Truth is One, the wise call it by many names”, the Indian rishis declared and listed different names of gods. That was at a time, when Christianity was nowhere in sight. Surely they would have included ‘God’ as another name and Jesus as an avatar, not expecting to be backstabbed by followers of “God” declaring: “Truth is one and must be called only by one name and is fully revealed only in one book.”
The multiple gods in Hinduism are personified powers that help to access the formless, nameless Presence that is in all of us. Christians in India are told that Hindu gods are devils. At the same time, Christianity tries to revive (possibly inspired by Hinduism) belief in angels, as devotion for the Invisible is easier by focusing on images.
Hinduism is not a belief system. It is a knowledge system. It is a genuine enquiry into what is true about us and the world. Hindus are not required to believe anything that does not make sense and can never be verified. There is complete freedom. Yes, most believe in rebirth, which makes sense. Most believe in an all pervading Brahman (many other names are in use) that is also in humans. Most believe that this divine essence can be experienced in oneself, if the person purifies herself by certain disciplines coupled with devotion. This belief is verifiable. It is not blind. There were many Rishis who realized their oneness with Brahman. In Christianity, too, there were mystics who experienced oneness with the Divine like Meister Eckhart did. Sadly, he was excommunicated by the Church. Why is the Church resisting scientific insight that there is some mystery essence in everything? And why is it difficult to accept that in the long, long history of humanity, there were several, not only one, outstanding personalities who showed the way to the truth?
Holy Father, I request you in all sincerity to be such an outstanding personality who guides his followers on a path of expansion, and does not straight-jacket them into an unbelievable belief system, which among others demands converting Hindus to Christianity. Your Holiness is venerated as the representative of the Highest Power in this universe by over a billion of Catholics. Many of your predecessors were not worthy of this veneration. Utmost truthfulness and integrity are required. Calculations about worldly power must not come in the way. The Catholic Church surely would benefit, not lose out, if it honors Truth and gives up its claim that there is no salvation outside the Church. Truth cannot be cheated; neither can it be contained in a book. Truth is what we basically are. Hindus, whose religion is universal and all-encompassing, respect diverse traditions. They are one of the most cultured, gentle and peace-loving people on earth who live and let live, unless greatly provoked.
Holy Father, if you are serious about respecting other religions, the claim of exclusiveness must be scrapped and Hindus who have given to the world a deep philosophy and a great culture, must be respected. Many of us look forward to hearing truly good news from the Catholic Church under your stewardship. The main issue that plagues the Church is not whether women should be priests or whether divorcees can take Holy Communion .The main issue is the unfounded claim of exclusiveness regarding ‘salvation’. It divides humanity into us who are right and saved, versus them who are wrong and damned. Kindly drop this harmful claim and make your Pontificate truly memorable and beneficial for all humanity.
Posted as registered letter to Pope Francis on 10th December 2013 from Puducherry, India.