Aghora’s radical egalitarianism makes Reza Aslan yearn for inequality – Bharavi

Man Sitting Under Tree IconAslan is truly a worthy heir to Sufi luminaries like Amir Khusrau and Ahmed Sirhindi who so eloquently expressed their contempt and detestation for the stench of idolatory and polytheism in the land of Hind. – Bharavi

Now that there is a lot of indignation in the Hindu community about the way the Muslim, Iranian-American religious writer Reza Aslan has gone about depicting Hinduism in a CNN program titled “Believer,”[1] it would help to understand issues at hand that run deeper than overt “Hinduphobia” and stereotyping.  Mr. Rajiv Malhotra and some members of the Hindu Students Council have broadcast a video “rebuttal” of sorts, questioning Aslan’s intentions in reaffirming western stereotypes of Hinduism.  

For starters, it must be noticed that Reza Aslan finds himself in the U.S.A. because his family fled the Islamic revolution in his native Iran, circa 1979. Though born in a Muslim family, he converted to Christianity, but returned or, as the terminology goes, “reverted” to Islam.  Currently, he is a professing Muslim. Had he been a true heir to his brutally extinguished Aryan-Iranian heritage, he would surely have been at least more balanced, if not more respectful and nuanced, in his depiction of the last vestiges of the common Indo-Iranian religious heritage in the multifarious forms of Hinduism in India, a civilization that gave refuge to Zoroastrian Iranians fleeing before their equally Iranian compatriots who converted to Islam. But, having been put through the wringer, as it were, of the Religions of Love and Peace, all Understanding and Compassion has been conclusively wrung out of him. What Ishwar Sharan perceptively stated of the betrayal of Hindus to the Portuguese Catholic invaders by Syrian Christians applies to him in its totality: “… [the] Christian religion … harbours in its heart a demon that divides mankind into friend and foe on ideological grounds.”[2]  The Qu’ran, which is but the “Bible in Arabic” insofar as its basic contents are concerned, bettered the instruction by summarily and firmly reinstating the original Yahvist spirit by abolishing all hints of Jesus’ divinity and Mary’s phantom gestation that, according to Christians, resulted in a case of human parthenogenesis.  

It matters little that Aslan piously proclaims his personal preference for Islam while proclaiming “good will and peace to all men” on his website, which deserves to be read in full by befuddled Hindus:[3]

That’s where religion comes in. Beyond the doctrines and dogma, the do’s and the don’t’s, religion is simply a framework for thinking about the existential questions we all struggle with as human beings.

It is, as the Sufi mystics say, a “signpost to God.”

Can you have faith without religion? Of course! But as the Buddha said, if you want to strike water, you don’t dig six 1-foot wells; you dig one 6-foot well. In other words, if you want to have a deep and meaningful faith experience, it helps—though it is by no means necessary—to have a language with which to do so.

So then, pick a well.

Different words, same thing

My well is Islam, and in particular, the Sufi tradition. Let me be clear, I am Muslim not because I think Islam is “truer” than other religions (it isn’t), but because Islam provides me with the “language” I feel most comfortable with in expressing my faith. It provides me with certain symbols and metaphors for thinking about God that I find useful in making sense of the universe and my place in it.

So … what do you believe?

But I know, just as the Buddha did, that while my personal well may be different and unique, the water I draw from it is the same water drawn from everyone else’s wells. Indeed, having drunk from many wells in my spiritual journey, I consider it my mission in life to inform the world that, no matter the well, the water tastes just as sweet.

Consider the following parable by the great Sufi master Jalal ad-Din Rumi, which I recount in my book, No god but God:

A Persian, a Turk, an Arab and a Greek are traveling to a distant land when they begin arguing over how to spend the single coin they share in common. The Persian wants to spend the coin on angur; the Turk, on uzum; the Arab, on inab; and the Greek, on stafil.

A linguist passing by overhears the argument. “Give the coin to me,” he says. Taking the coin, the linguist goes to a nearby shop and buys the travelers four small bunches of grapes.

“This is my angur!” cries the Persian.

“But this is what I call uzum,” replies the Turk.

“You have brought me my inab,” the Arab says.

“No! This in my language is stafil,” says the Greek.

The travelers suddenly realize that they were all asking for the same thing, but in different languages.

My goal—as a scholar, as a person of faith, and now as the host of “Believer” —is to be the linguist, to demonstrate that, while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.

And that, regardless of whether you, too, are a believer or not, is a lesson worth learning.

See, multiple wells, same water! Multiple languages, same grapes! Aslan’s stated goal in the series “Believer” is to convince you, like a latter-day Gandhi, that “while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.” Hell, why can’t we all just get along like one big happy family!? Where are those vasudhaiva kutumbakam hippies when you need them?

Firstly, note that the Buddha (a rank Pagan) was the one who talked about multiple wells reaching the same water. Any Abrahamic prophet worth his salt would have taken umbrage at this kind of laissez-faire approach, so there are no matching quotations from the Abrahamic traditions, especially Reza’s own. Even the oft-quoted sura 109 of the Qu’ran often bandied about by Muslims as evidence of Islam’s “tolerance” declares:

Say: O ye that reject Faith!
I worship not that which ye worship,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
Nor will I worship those whom you have worshipped,
Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
To you be your Way, and to me mine.

The sura is also suggestively titled “Al-Kafirun”—The Unbelievers. For different wells with the same water, you definitely have to summon Kafir help and surreptitiously slip it in while ostensibly taking a stand as a convinced Muslim.

Hindus should additionally note that even for an aspiring Sufi mystic like Aslan, it becomes a positive strain to extend real courtesy about “more often than not, expressing the same faith” to the rank Pagans/Kafirs that Hindus are with their pantheism and polytheism, thereby revelling in the great “sin” of kufr and shirk—of “associating partners with Allah.” Aslan’s pir Rumi frequently and variously uses “Hindu” as a symbol of all that is wrong, the (despicable) colour black, darkness, evil influence, and especially the nafs (the base soul) that is in urgent need of reforming. That is the lineage of teachers (guru-shishya parampara) that Aslan subscribes to. So, Hindus should thank Reza Aslan, and take his timely reminder as an opportunity to examine the true sayings and history of Sufis and their silsilas from original sources, as also the accounts of the havoc that they wrought to Hinduism, rather than the homilies dished out by several negationists who also masquerade as “eminent historians.”  No Sufi is known to have protested the treatement of Hindus and Hinduism by any sultan—no wonder Aurangzeb was lionized as a “zinda pir”—a living saint. Aslan is truly a worthy heir to Sufi luminaries like Amir Khusrau and Ahmed Sirhindi who so eloquently expressed their contempt and detestation for the stench of idolatory and polytheism in the land of Hind.

Aslan’s preoccupation with the Hindu “obsession” with purity deserves close examination. While on that job, it might perhaps not hurt to remind Aslan that, in strains of traditional Islam, especially the Shi’ism rampant in his native Iran, the Kafir is also “Najis—impure—at par with urine and feces. This is also why Pakistan was so named, for the “Pak” or “Pure” thereby separated themselves from the “najis” Hindus. Incidentally, this objective fact of Islamic jurisprudence also gives the lie to Aslan’s sanctimonious statements about the allegedly unique Hindu “obsession with ritual purity.” Islam is also concerned with ritual purity, only it is based on different assumptions (or “obsessions”). And, the very ritual act of wudu (ablutions) performed by the believers before each of their five daily prayers are testimony to the selfsame “obsession” with ritual purity. Indeed, in this case at least, while “while we may speak in different religions, we are, more often than not, often expressing the same faith.” Or obsession, just for consistency. For those who care to inquire further, the hadiths are quite explicit about “correct” methods of purifying oneself after communing with nature, based on prophetic precedent and a traceable chain of transmission (isnad), no less. We hope Aslan will remember this during the next time he rolls out his prayer mat or ascends the metaphorical CNN tower for the broadcast of the next episode of “Believer.”

Aslan was apparently attracted to Aghora because he discerned in the members of this sect a group of proto-revolutionaries who actively flouted Hindu norms of purity and caste exclusiveness (i.e. “obsessions”). Now, Aghora literally means non-ghora i.e. “non-terrible.” The followers of the Aghora path, the Aghoris, literally try to view the entire world as “non-terrible,” not merely in a metaphysical sense or for reasons of political correctness, but also in a very physical sense. They seek to go beyond the “pairs of opposites” that, in their view, arise from the illusory sensory perception of differences, of personal likes and dislikes, and feelings of pleasure and pain. And, to truly follow this idea, they conduct themselves indifferently in the extreme, even eating substances that humans normally find bizarre or disgusting, which provides what presstitutes (journalists) call a “good copy” for Aslan and his handlers at CNN.

The Aghori sadhu in the CNN video first drank some of his own urine—as in his view—there was nothing that was intrinsically “disgusting” about it. We may say that he did not just walk the talk, but also drank it and lived it. Then, he graciously wanted to extend the same courtesy to his newest acolyte in the person of Reza Aslan who promptly voted with his heels. The urine in the Aghori’s palm was, to borrow Aslan’s cordial and engaging phraseology, a very unique form of water from a very unique well that exorcised Aslan of his revolutionary zeal.

Notes

  1. CNN: Face to face with a cannibalistic sect (video clip).
  2. Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple (2010), Chapter Nine
  3. CNN: Reza Aslan: Why I am a Muslim.

What is Hinduism? – N.S. Rajaram

Nataraj

Dr. N.S. RajaramIt is a very great error to say that all religions say the same thing. They emphatically do not. When Krishna says, “Those who worship other gods with devotion worship me,” and Jesus says, “He that is not with me is against me,” they are not saying the same thing. – Dr N. S. Rajaram

Many Hindus, including some who see themselves as leaders and thinkers are stumped when asked to describe what they see as the essential features of Hinduism. This being the case, it is not surprising that young people should be confused—mistaking ritual and traditional practices for the essence. What is given here is a rational description that does not rest on the beliefs and practices of any sect.

The first thing to note is Hinduism cannot be viewed as religion deriving its authority from a book or the teachings of a founder: these are just sects. The appropriate term for what we now call Hinduism is “Sanatana Dharma”. It is not a creed like Christianity or Islam, but a philosophic system that has spiritual freedom as its core. Any path that accepts the spiritual freedom of everyone may be considered part of Sanatana Dharma. It has no national or geographical boundaries. Unlike Mecca for Islam and Jerusalem for Christianity, any land in any country can be the Holy Land for Hindus.

OmHinduism is anadi (beginning-less), and apaurusheya (without human founder)

The basis of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma is the quest for cosmic truth, just as the quest for physical truth is the domain of science. The earliest record of this quest is the Rigveda. Its scripture is the record of ancient sages who by whatever means tried to learn the truth about the universe, in relation to Man’s place in the cosmos. They saw nature—including all living and non-living things—as part of the same cosmic equation.

This search has no historical beginning. This is not to say that the Rigveda always existed as a literary work. It means that we cannot point to a particular time or person in history and say: “Before this man spoke, the Rigveda did not exist.” On the other hand, we can say this about Christianity and Islam, because they are historical religions.

This brings up another important facet of Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism: it is a-paurusheya, which means it is not originate in any man (purusha). That is to say it has no historical founder like Christianity has Jesus Christ and Islam has Prophet Muhammad. We can say that Jesus is the purusha of Christianity while Muhammad is the purusha of Islam. These religions cannot exist without their founders. Christianity and Islam are therefore paurusheya. Hinduism has no such purusha on whose authority it exists.

Hinduism is a-paurusheya in a deeper sense also, which brings it close to science, and brings its spiritual quest close to the scientific method. In paurusheya religions, the word of the purusha (founder)—be it Jesus or Muhammad—must be accepted without question. This gives rise to an enforcing authority known as the clergy to ensure that no one deviates from the ‘true path’ as shown by the founder, but in reality as dictated by the human representative who claims to be the true spokesman of the purusha. He is the enforcing authority of the true faith.

This naturally leads to men exercising political power in the name of God. This is what we call theocracy. The authority is the scripture, which is said to represent the word of God as conveyed through his medium (thePurusha). In this scheme, the medium invariably becomes more important than God. For example, it is Jesus not his God that defines Christianity. Also, the sacred book becomes also the law book in the hands of its enforcers.

Hinduism on the other hand leaves the individual free from any religious authority. If any work is considered great, it is because of its merit and not because of the authority of the author. Similarly, a teacher is considered great because of the greatness of the teaching. For example, Vishwamitra is considered a great sage because of the greatness of the Gayatri Mantra, which he enunciated. If someone else than Vishwamitra had given us the Gayatri Mantra, it would still be considered great because of its message. It is the same with Krishna and the Gita. It is the message of the Gita that has led to people revering Krishna as a great teacher. Also, a Hindu is free to question or reject any part or all of a religious work.

It is different with revealed religions like Christianity and Islam: Jesus and Muhammad are invoked as authority to justify teachings that sometimes cannot be justified on their own merit. No such authority exists in Hinduism: the teaching must stand or fall on its own merit. This is what makes it apaurusheya. Cosmic truths existed before the arrival of Vishwamitra and Krishna. These sages, who first expressed them, were historical persons but the truth of their message is eternal and always existed.

This feature—of focusing on the message and its truth rather than the authority of the source brings Sanatana Dharma close to science and the scientific method. In science also, a principle or a theory must stand or fall on its own merit and not on the authority of anyone. If Newton and Einstein are considered great scientists, it is because of the validity of their scientific theories.

In that sense, science is also a-paurusheya. Gravitation and Relativity are eternal laws of nature that existed long before Newton and Einstein. These are cosmic laws that happened to be discovered by scientific sages Newton and Einstein. But no one invokes Newton or Einstein as authority figures to ‘prove’ the truth of laws of nature. They stand on their own merit. The same is true of the Gita and the Gayatri Mantra.

Hinduism recognizes the freedom of the individual. It recognizes no prophet’s claim as the possessor of the “only” truth or the “only” way.

This is probably the greatest difference between Sanatana Dharma and revealed religions like Christianity and Islam. One can see this in a recent proclamation by the Vatican. In a document titled “Declaration of Lord Jesus” [Dominus Iesus] the Vatican proclaims non-Christians to be in a “gravely deficient situation” and that even non-Catholic churches have “defects” because they do not acknowledge the primacy of the Pope.

This of course means that the Vatican refuses to acknowledge the spiritual right of others (including Hindus) to their beliefs and practices. It consigns non-Christians to hell; the only way they can save themselves is by becoming Catholics and submit to the Pope. It also makes the Pope more important than both God and Jesus.

It is worth noting that this statement has nothing to do with God, or noble conduct. A non-Christian who lives a life of virtue is still consigned to hell because he refuses to acknowledge Jesus as the only saviour and the Pope as his representative on earth. The same is true of Islam: one must submit to Prophet Muhammad as the last, in effect the only prophet, to be saved. Belief in God means nothing without belief in Christ as the saviour or Muhammad as the Last Prophet.

One who believes in God but does not accept Jesus or Muhammad as intermediary is still considered a non-believer and therefore a sinner. They simply do not tolerate pluralism. This is what makes both Christianity and Islam exclusive. The rejection of this formulation is also what makes Hinduism pluralistic and tolerant.

From this it is clear that what governs a revealed religion is not God but the founder who claims to be God’s intermediary. (The clergy acting in the founder’s name becomes the enforcing authority or the thought police.) A believer is one who accepts the intermediary as the savior. God is irrelevant. He is even dispensable but not the intermediary who is all-important.

Hinduism recognizes no intermediary as the exclusive messenger of God. In fact the Rigveda itself says: “ekam sat, vipra bahuda vadanti,” meaning “cosmic truth is one, but the wise express it in many ways.” The contrast between exclusivism and pluralism becomes clear when we compare the following statements by Krishna and Jesus Christ.

Krishna of the Bhagavadgita says: “All creatures great and small—I am equal to all. I hate none nor have I any favorites…. He that worships other gods with devotion worships me.” Jesus of the Bible says: “He that is not with me is against me.”

This means that Krishna has no favourites and accepts all forms of worship—even worship of other deities. But revealed religions like Christianity and Islam could not exist without favorites or intermediaries like the Prophet or the Son of God. The Bible says that God is jealous. Reflecting the “jealous God” of the Bible, the chosen intermediary is also jealous.

This is reflected in both the Bible and the Koran. “He that is not with me is against me,” says Jesus of the Bible (Matthew 12.30). So a devotee cannot know God, but can only go through the intermediary who jealously guards his exclusive access to an equally jealous God.

Hinduism is the exact opposite of this. Anyone can know God and no jealous intermediary blocks his way. And the Hindu tradition has methods like yoga and meditation to facilitate one to know God. Further, this spiritual freedom extends even to atheism. One can be an agnostic or even an atheist and still claim to be a Hindu.

In addition, there is nothing to stop a Hindu from revering Jesus as the Son of God or Muhammad as a Prophet. In contrast, a Christian or a Muslim revering Rama or Krishna as an avatar would be rejected as a heretic. This is also what makes Christianity and Islam exclusive, and Hinduism pluralistic and inclusive.

From this it is also clear why revealed religions always claim to be monotheistic: One God allows only One Intermediary. So every monotheistic religion also tends to be monopolistic. It also requires a thought police to enforce this belief system, just as every earthly dictator does. So they invariably become theocratic political systems. In contrast, in Hinduism, God is internal to the seeker. As a result each seeker has his or his own version of God. Different traditions like Dvaita, Advaita and others represent different pathways. They exercise no authority and there is no clergy to enforce.

Swastika: Motif on ancient pottery found in BulgariaHinduism and spiritual freedom

So the single most important theme of Hinduism is the freedom of the spirit. Just as science insists on freedom in exploring the physical world, Sanatana Dharma embodies freedom in the exploration of the spiritual realm. There are no dogmas or prophets—or their agents—to block the way. This allows Hinduism, like science, to grow and evolve with time. Dogmatic religions on the other hand are frozen in time. (In fact, a good deal of the effort by the priesthood in Islam and Christianity is to ensure that the original teachings do not become corrupted due to change.)

This freedom of spirit is most concisely expressed in the famous Gayatri Mantra, which prays: “dhiyo yo nah pracodayat”— which means, “Inspire our intellect.” So the greatest prayer in Hinduism is for clarity of thinking. It does not ask anyone to accept anything on blind faith in a prophet or any other agent of God. Teachers in Hinduism are only guides who suggest pathways. They have no authority. The seeker has to find his or her own way, with the help of guides if needed.

In the light of this, “conversion” to Hinduism entails accepting a way of looking at the world and not simply changing faith and adopting a new mode of worship. Above all it means acknowledging spiritual freedom and rejecting exclusivism. It is like accepting the scientific method, which also is a way of looking at the world. It cannot be done by force or with promises of profit.

As a result, it is a very great error to say that all religions say the same thing. They emphatically do not. When Krishna says, “Those who worship other gods with devotion worship me,” and Jesus says, “He that is not with me is against me,” they are not saying the same thing.

A Hindu is one who recognizes this difference—and the code founded on the principle of everyone’s right to spiritual freedom, while Christianity and Islam reject and even punish this freedom. The method of worship and the deity or deities one may choose to worship are secondary as long one acknowledges everyone’s right to this freedom and is prepared to defend it. So the only enemies of Sanatana Dharma are those that oppose spiritual freedom.

Swami Vivekananda on a-paurusheya: “Our philosophy does not depend upon any personality for its truth. Thus Krishna did not teach anything new or original to the world, nor does Ramayana profess anything which is not contained in the Scriptures. It is to be noted that Christianity cannot stand without Christ, Mohammedanism without Mohammed, and Buddhism without Buddha but Hinduism stands independent of any man, and for the purpose of estimating the philosophical truth contained in any Purana, we need not consider the question whether the personages treated of therein were really material men or were fictitious characters. The object of the Puranas was the education of mankind, and the sages who constructed them contrived to find some historical personages and to superimpose upon them all the best or worst qualities just as they wanted to, and laid down the rules of morals for the conduct of mankind. ” – Vijayvaani, 8-9 January 2016

» Dr Navaratna Srinivasa Rajaram is an Indian mathematician, notable for his publications with the Voice of India publishing house focusing on the “Indigenous Aryans” debate in Indian politics.

Encyclopedia of Hinduism

On 3–4 April 2010, a blessings ceremony for the Encyclopedia of Hinduism was held at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh. It was attended by H.H. the Dalai Lama, M.M. Swami Gurusharananand, Swami Avdheshanand Giri, Sant Shri Rameshbhai Oza, Swami Ramdev, Sant Shri Morari Bapu and other religious leaders as well as top political leaders, including Shri L.K. Advani and then-Governor of Uttarakhand Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, and India Heritage Research Foundation board members and trustees.

The ugly truth of Pakistan – David Frawley

Child Jihadi in Pakistan

Acharya David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri)Indians should stop trying to excuse Pakistan, feeling that its break-up would be dangerous, and face the fact that since Independence, with more jihadi and tactical nuclear weapons, Pakistan has only become worse. … Pakistan as a terrorist state now threatens the entire world. – Dr David Frawley

Pakistan is always in an existential crisis, a deep-seated doubt as to its ability to endure as a nation.

A product of India’s Partition, not of its own natural identity, Pakistan suffered another major partition in 1971. It is remains afraid of further divisions.

To keep itself together, Pakistan has to manufacture a perpetual war against India. Pakistan’s only real identity is negative, not being Indian, not being Hindu, not even being tolerant to Islamic minorities like Shia and Ahmadiyya, being the land of the Islamic Pure, which has drawn it into jihadi violence on a massive scale.

Identity

Pakistan was constituted from disparate states of British India. Balochistan was an independent kingdom.

The North West Frontier Province was historically a part of Afghanistan. Punjab, though the homeland of Pakistani nationalist sentiment and Islamic identity, was under Sikh rule before it came under British rule.

It had to be partitioned to remove its large Hindu and Sikh population. Yet Pakistan Punjabis still share more of a heritage with Hindu and Sikh Punjabis, than with other groups in Pakistan. Sindh was part of Bombay Presidency under British rule.

While it initially opted to join Pakistan on religious grounds, many Sindhis including its main leader GM Syed soon regretted the decision.

Balochistan, which became an independent nation in 1947, was soon annexed by Pakistan, which many Balochis did not accept and actively challenged, resulting in an extensive and enduring insurgency that Pakistan has ruthlessly tried to crush, though so far without success.

Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan were taken by Islamabad after its invasion of the Kashmir in 1947. Yet they hold very different cultures than Punjab, and have been suppressed accordingly.Pakistan was formed by the demand of Indian Muslims mainly in Uttar Pradesh, the majority of which never migrated to Pakistan.

Those who did migrate become another disparate group, the Mohajirs who mainly displaced Sindhis, creating a further division in Sindh and an unclear identity of their own.

Pakistan’s dominant language became Urdu, a language none of its provinces had as their mother tongue.

So, Pakistan is not a nation but a conglomeration of contrary elements moving in different directions, held together only by a state-enforced religious fanaticism and military aggression.

Pakistan reminds us of the sad state of affairs in the Middle East where the British and French created artificial nations by drawing lines on maps according to their convenience. Modern Iraq and Syria were created in this manner.

Some regions that had a historical unity like Kurdistan were partitioned among the new nations.

Iraq and Syria share a same Islamic religion, divided into Sunni majority and Shia minority groups, like Pakistan. Their common Islamic background has not resulted in any internal unity, but instead now a Shia-Sunni civil war devastating the region.

It has given rise to the brutal Islamic State (ISIS). Pakistan is facing similar divisions but is becoming its own Islamic State.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah & M. K. GandhiReligion

Pakistan was created by a religious demand. Since Muslims and Hindus existed throughout India, it required an artificial division of the entire country and a displacement of millions that could only remain incomplete.

But India as a country and a culture has a millennial existence honoured since ancient Greece and ancient China. It has a great influence, extending to Indochina and Indonesia, now worldwide with the spread of its yogic and meditation traditions.

In spite of having a larger population and separatist movements notwithstanding, India has sustained a greater national unity, democratic rule and economic development than Pakistan.

This is because of its dharmic roots that promote tolerance and respect. Yet many Indians have wanted to undo Partition. This has sadly made India soft on Pakistan, like a long lost brother. Others feel that if Pakistan broke up, the resultant instability would be worse for India.

Separatism

Pakistan has emphasised the Kashmir issue to sustain its national identity as an Islamic state against India.

Under the pretext of reclaiming Kashmir, it has tried to create a common cause with its different provinces that are only kept together by religious motivations.

But even so, its Kashmir jihad has not been sufficient to calm the separatist feelings of Pakistan’s different regions.

India has strangely ignored these separatist movements within Pakistan, though Pakistan has continued to blatantly foster separatist and terrorist movements in India. Such a policy did not help India or restrain Pakistan.

Only this year did Prime Minister Narendra Modi first raise the cause of Balochistan. His statements sent shock waves through Pakistan, forcing it to see its own inherent contradictions.

The conclusion is clear: Indians should stop trying to excuse Pakistan, feeling that its break-up would be dangerous, and face the fact that since Independence, with more jihadi and tactical nuclear weapons, Pakistan has only become worse.

Pakistan is already the most dangerous country in the world and is not likely to get better. Pakistan as a terrorist state now threatens the entire world.

Most terrorists visit Pakistan, are trained in Pakistan or are associated with Pakistanis.

Arising from its original identity as a jihadi state, Pakistan has made itself into the centre of global terrorism. Pakistan must be dealt with accordingly, not with Gandhian sympathies but with Arjuna’s resolve. – Daily-O, 29 September 2016

»  Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies and the author of more than 30 books on yoga and vedic traditions.

Map of secret terrorist training camps in Pakistan

Are jihadis to blame for attacking us? – Maria Wirth

Jihad the Sword of Injustice

Maria WirthIf someone asks whether the newcomers to Europe even want a liberal world, he is shouted down. Never blame the migrants, is the maxim, and never ever claim that religion may be a cause why happily living together won’t work. To be precise: never mention Islam. One can criticize Christianity nowadays and malign Hinduism, but Islam is out-of-bounds. To bring in Islam as a possible cause for friction is forbidden, so much so that there is a risk of ending up in jail in our “liberal” societies. – Maria Wirth

Sword of JihadThe fear of lone wolf attacks has changed the atmosphere in Europe. Especially women feel insecure while walking alone, but even men are not keen to go out alone at night. The security business is booming. Pepper sprays and other articles for self-defense are sold out. More security, more police is seen as the solution to a problem which unfortunately is not well analysed.

On a memorial for the victims of the recent terror attack at a Christmas market in Berlin, where the German Chancellor, too, placed a white rose, a board asked in big letters: “Warum?” This “Why” naturally haunts good-natured, naive Germans who welcomed the refugees and volunteered in refugee shelters.

Yet, inexcusably, this “Why” also seems to haunt many of the political class. Chancellor Merkel considered the attack as incomprehensible. It seems she and her government have no clue why certain people turn against their hosts when they had been so generous. So how can they defeat Islamist terrorism when they don’t know what motivates the terrorists?

For the last few decades, Europeans in particular have been sold a wonderful world, where we all live happily together as global citizens irrespective of race, gender, religion and nationality. Sweden was in the forefront. In a TV clip, children from Sweden, Africa and Asia sang a song about how Sweden belongs to all of them and how wonderful it is to love each other, merrily dancing around holding hands.

No doubt, a “liberal world order”, where all human beings irrespective of differences are respected, is a worthy idea. Donald Trump has been demonized for not endorsing it and is seen as the greatest danger to it. Angela Merkel reminded him, perhaps a bit too self-righteously, of those liberal values when she congratulated him for winning the US election.

Yet, whoever has eyes to see knows that the reality is the stark opposite of a wonderful, liberal world, not only in Sweden. The huge influx of “refugees” did not make things better for Europe, as was heralded. It made things infinitely worse. And since the situation has meanwhile gone so much out of hand with crime rates sky-rocketing and the fear of terror attacks all-pervasive, the liberal elite feel compelled to explain what went wrong. The problem is, they are dishonest—or plain ignorant.

They explain: the new world order does not come about without a “cultural change”. Yet instead of embracing multi-culturalism, the natives of a place resist it. They wrongly are suspicious of “the other”. They want to stick to their old way of life and therefore we have a big problem now: the nationalist right-wing is on the upswing. This, we are told, is extremely unfortunate.

They don’t call it only unfortunate. They label right-wingers as fascist, Nazi, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and openly spew hatred against them, all the while claiming that they, the “liberals”, only want all to love each other.

If someone asks whether the newcomers to Europe even want a liberal world, he is shouted down. Never blame the migrants, is the maxim, and never ever claim that religion may be a cause why happily living together won’t work. To be precise: never mention Islam. One can criticize Christianity nowadays and malign Hinduism, but Islam is out-of-bounds. To bring in Islam as a possible cause for friction is forbidden, so much so that there is a risk of ending up in jail in our “liberal” societies.

Why is it so? Why do liberals close their eyes to the fact that Islam is not liberal? Neither is Christianity. Nor do these two religions hide it. Both insist that their followers must “religiously” stick to the doctrine if they don’t want to burn in hell for ever.

Now, how to establish a liberal world when about half the world population is indoctrinated to believe that all humanity needs to follow a particular book before peace can descend on earth? It is even more complicated: about a quarter is told that God wants all to follow the Bible and Jesus, and another quarter is told that Allah wants all to follow the Quran and Mohammed.

Whether Jesus or Mohammed had intended this narrow-minded interpretation is not the question. It is also not the question whether there are verses in those books which contradict this narrow view. The problem is that this narrow interpretation is indoctrinated since over thousand years and even today into children with terrible effect and nobody stops it.

Wolfgang Trusheim, of Frankfurt’s State Security office, gives a worrying account:

“This is about war, about children being indoctrinated. They are only in primary school and already fantasize about how when they grow up, they want to join the jihad, kill infidels. They say: ‘I’m not allowed to play football with you, but when I’m grown up, I will kill you, because you are an infidel.’” (See this Gatestone link)

On YouTube there was a clip about a religious class for Muslim boys in a German school. The teacher spoke in broken German and kept repeating to the 6 to 10 year olds that they must not make friends with German boys, as those boys are bad and will be sent to hell by Allah.

Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad (1948)Is it then a surprise that a 12-year-old boy tried to plant a bomb in a Christmas market in southern Germany? The question is: Can he be blamed for wanting to kill kafirs? And if he can’t be blamed now, can he be blamed when he is 17 or 20?

How are children supposed to get out of the brainwashing when their surrounding endorses the claim that Allah only likes Muslims, does not like kafirs and will make them suffer in hell for all eternity? When even respected leaders, like the first education minister in independent India Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, had exhorted Muslims to join jihad for a pan-Islamic caliphate, have obviously not got out of their own brainwashing?  And most importantly, when the Muslim youth has serious doubts whether he will qualify for paradise and wants to make sure that he ends up there and not in hellfire?

A very crucial tenet of both Islam and Christianity is that a human being has only one life. Belief in rebirth was banned for Christians in the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD even before Islam was born. This “one life only” has an advantage for those religions: the fear of eternal hell prevents their followers from relaxing and experimenting. And both religions make sure that the fear of hell seeps deeply into the psyche of children. Hindus and others who did not go through this indoctrination can’t imagine that the fear of hell can be real, but it is. “What if eternal hell is true after all?” This question often haunts lukewarm Christians and probably also Muslims and makes their life miserable and guilt-ridden.

Maulana Wahiduddin KhanEven moderate sounding outfits like the Centre for Peace and Spirituality founded by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan preach this basic tenet (on the back cover of the book Quranic Wisdom):

“According to the Quran, a person’s life has been divided into two phases: the pre-death and the post-death period. The present life is only temporary and is meant as a test. Depending upon our performance in this test, we shall be judged in the eternal life after death. The Quran aims to make one aware of this reality and help one lead one’s life in this world in such a way that one is rewarded with Paradise in the life hereafter.”

Reading the Quran one gets clearly the impression that paradise is only for true Muslims, not for the hypocrites among them and of course not for kafirs. And what is expected from a true Muslim? Apart from being good to other Muslims (and harsh to unbelievers) and following the rules, jihad is the surest way to paradise. A jihadi is even promised a higher status in paradise (Quran 4.95). Is it a surprise that especially criminals join jihad to ‘redeem’ themselves? Should they be called monsters or should they be congratulated for fulfilling what they (wrongly) understand as the Supreme Being’s wish?

Clearly, something has been very badly misunderstood. Killing cannot possibly be rewarded by the Supreme who is the creator, if not the essence, in all of us. Is it not the responsibility of elders to point this out and save not only the potential victims of future terror attacks but also the Muslim youth?

Especially Hindus and Buddhists need to challenge this wrong understanding. How can they “respect” it only because “religion” is attached to it? Why are Christianity and Islam treated like a protected species and must not be touched?

There is a reason: Ever since dogmatic religions (from Latin “to bind”) appeared, which insist on binding all humanity to unverifiable dogmas, criticism was violently punished for centuries. Today criticism is sought to be stopped in a more civilised way—through laws about freedom of religion, guaranteed by an UN Charter.

Yet what does the right to religious freedom actually mean? Does it mean the right to Islamize the world? Does it mean the right to Christianize the world? Do Hindus have the right to stay Hindus? If the right to freedom of religion is given to a religion which has as its final goal the obliteration of all other religions, like Christianity and Islam have, would it not obliterate the rights of other religions?

Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) requires outlawing “any advocacy of … religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.”

Further, article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), grants the freedom of speech with the restriction, among others, “for the protection of the reputation and rights of others.”

These laws are violated on a daily basis in religious classes all over the world, yet the focus of law enforcement agencies is on social media posts and overlooks the far greater danger.

Does it protect the “reputation of others” when a clergyman tells children that their classmates from other religions will burn in hell after Judgement Day? Is the clergyman free to make such discriminatory statements, because religious freedom is guaranteed and his holy book makes those claims? Is it necessary to respect the claim that a book has been divinely revealed even if it contains what would be called hate speech? Since there are several books from different religions which all claim to be the divinely revealed truth and which contradict each other, how can those claims be taken at face value and be protected by law? Should there not be a genuine, open-minded debate on what actually constitutes truth?

Many questions, which hardly anyone asks—not even those who framed the right on religious freedom in international bodies like the UN.

We are faced with a big problem which is due to divergent and implausible religious views. A young jihadi is convinced that killing kafirs is the right thing to do as it pleases Allah who wants only Muslims in the world.

And a young Christian missionary is convinced that “bringing the light of Christ to those who wallow in darkness” by hook or crook is the right thing to do, as Jesus wanted all people baptised.

Yet ultimately, both, the jihadi and the missionary are pawns in a cynical power game. They are convenient foot soldiers. Did not the USA of all countries encourage students (Taliban) to become radical Islamists by developing religious curricula and sending schoolbooks with violent content to Afghanistan? Why? Because they wanted them to fight the Soviets ferociously as a holy war—in their own (USA) interest of course. (See this Washington Post link).

Once children are ‘taught’ the wrong truth, it is not easy to get it out from their system even when they are grown up. Their identity is intimately connected with what they believe, and reason often cannot break through their natural impulse to defend their identity especially when the people in their surroundings share the same belief.

It needs an open environment, where questions can be asked fearlessly, where sensible answers are given and where holy books are not untouchable holy cows. This atmosphere is partly there for Christianity in the West, but is sorely missing in regard to Islam.

A good start would be a debate on whether there is only one life or whether rebirth is more likely. Why is there obvious injustice in the world? Why are some born to caring parents and others to abusive drunkards? If the Supreme Being really wanted all to be Christians or Muslims, why would He give to some the advantage of being born in a Christian or Muslim family and to others not? How can the creator (or is he the essence?) of all be so cruel to damn us to excruciating pain in hell-fire for a billion trillion years after a few years of life where our only fault was that we called out to the Supreme by a different name, but in our heart we were great believers?

Those who believe (or do they know?) in rebirth have the better arguments. Research into rebirth, with over 3000 cases in the archive of Virginia University, also supports the Hindu view that everybody gets many lives on this appearance level of human existence. (See my blog link)

Humanity would gain greatly if such topics would be debated in an open atmosphere. Truth would be honoured. Trust in ‘the other’ would come back. A liberal, plural world would be possible.

Only some hard-line clerics might lose out. Yet the “liberals” in the media with their soft corner for illiberal ideologies would probably rush to their defence….

References

  1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2002/03/23/from-us-the-abcs-of-jihad/d079075a-3ed3-4030-9a96-0d48f6355e54/
  2. https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9614/germany-saudi-arabia-qatar-kuwait
  3. https://mariawirthblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/born-again-in-another-form/
  4. http://www.firstpost.com/india/global-islamism-jihadism-and-maulana-abul-kalam-azad-my-defence-lawyer-2981062.html

Berlin Attack 2016

Video: The ‘Islamophobia’ Lie – Black Pigeon

“Some liberal journalist would like you to believe that we do what we do because we’re simply monsters…. The fact is even if you would stop bombing us and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam.” — Extracted from Islamic State’s Dabiq magazine.

 

Debate rages over rebuilding lost Afghan Buddhas – AFP

The 180-foot-high Buddha statue in Bamiyan, central Afghanistan on Dec. 18, 1997 (left) and after its destruction on March 26, 2001

Agence France-PresseIt was the Buddhist history of the area that the Taliban wanted to erase in the name of Islam, when they blew the statues up in 2001. – AFP

For centuries they stood, two monumental ancient statues of Buddha carved into the cliffs of Bamiyan, loved and revered by generations of Afghans—only to be pulverised by the Taliban in an act of cultural genocide.

It felt like the loss of family for many who live and tend their crops nearby—but some 15 years on they are hopeful these awe-inspiring relics can be reconstructed.

But experts are divided on the value of rebuilding the artefacts, with some insisting it is more important to preserve the remains of the entire crumbling site.

Archaeologists and restorers, mostly Afghan, German, Japanese and French, working in the Bamiyan Valley in central Afghanistan will meet from December 1-3 in Munich, Germany.

There they will try to move forward on the issue, as much a matter of the conservation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site as of the memories and culture of a brutalised community.

All Afghans, especially the peasants tending potatoes at the front of the cliffs, mourn the loss of the tutelary silhouettes—the largest, the Salsal, was 56 metres high; its feminine version, the Shamama, 38 metres.

They were blasted in April 2001 by the Taliban, who had taken control of the province and killed thousands of Hazara civilians, a Shiite Muslim minority in Bamiyan.

“For us, they were like parents,” said Hakim Safa, the 27-year-old representative from the Afghan culture ministry selling tickets at the site. “I feel as though I had lost family.”

“In the villages local people very much want the Buddhas to be rebuilt…. They are always asking us, when will you be ready to begin?” says Rassoul Chojai, professor of archeology at the University of Bamiyan.

But the statues were so thoroughly destroyed that it is not even clear if they ever could be reconstructed.

UNESCO and the archaeologists have gathered fragments, a clutter of rocks and stones of various sizes. But the bulk of the monuments has simply vanished, reduced to dust.

“The destruction of the great Buddhas is total,” confirms Julio Bendezu-Sarmiento, director of the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA) and member of the committee for the preservation of Bamiyan which will meet in Germany.

This female Bamiyan buddha called Shamama was 38 metres highThe cliff, he says,is “pierced with thousands of decorated caves, connected by stairs, corridors, used in the past by monks and hermits” until the slow arrival of Islam from the 8th to the 11th centuries.

It was the Buddhist history of the area that the Taliban wanted to erase in the name of Islam, when they blew the statues up in 2001.

The explosions left deep cracks along the niches, which over the years have expanded, weathered, the rock crumbling against the elements.

Greatly weakened the cliff threatens collapse, Julio Bendezu-Sarmiento adds.

“The focus for UNESCO is to preserve the remains of the statues,” said Ghula Reza Mohammadi, representative of the UN agency in Bamiyan.

UNESCO has reinforced the niche of the Shamama with the help of Japanese funding, and is now working on that of the Salsal, enmeshed in giant scaffolding.

“Since 2001, German researchers have also worked on protecting the wall murals — there are more than 4,000 caves in Bamiyan and all of them have designs and were painted,” says Ghula Reza.

German restorers, in favour of reconstructing the statues, have already rebuilt the feet of the smaller Buddha, nearly ten metres long.

“We have some fragments of the original Buddhas,” says Bert Praxenthaler, a Bavarian art historian who has worked in Bamiyan since 2003.

“It would be a kind of statue with a lot of gaps and holes of course, but this is the first honourable approach to the history,” he argues. “If we have a really good funding, we could do it in a period of about five years.”

But why bother, wonders Bendezu-Sarmiento: “In history so much has disappeared yet we have still kept the memory, the Buddhas will remain in the collective memory even so,” he says.

“Leaving aside nostalgia, the urgency is rather to prevent it from happening again,” he concluded, citing Palmyra, the Greco-Roman oasis in the Syrian desert devastated in 2015 by the Islamic State group.

The debate surrounding the Buddhas is not only technical, says Masanori Nagaoka, director of cultural heritage at UNESCO in Kabul, arguing that consideration must also be given to ethical, humanitarian and human rights points of view.

“Statues are not just a physical representation … they have meaning for people, to represent their history and their diversity of culture or in depth respect for religious dialogue.

“So if the reconstruction of the Buddha statues would contribute to revitalising such memories or dignity, this has to be (considered),” he added, describing a rebuild as a potential “contribution to a peaceful world.”
The debate will not be decided in Munich, where experts will simply agree on the work to preserve the site — or in Abu Dhabi, where Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will attend a separate conference on safeguarding cultural heritage this weekend.

But the question is already on the agenda of an international conference on Bamiyan next autumn in Tokyo.- The Times of India, 1 December 2016

An unidentified official of the Afghan Taliban stands near a destroyed Buddha statue in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, on March 26, 2001.

Bamiyan Buddha Graphic

 

Indian Muslims are leaving Islam for science – Tufail Ahmad

Muslim student in madrasa

Tufail AhmadIt is indeed a trend that Muslim youths are leaving Islam. … However, given the critical thinking emerging through these former Muslims, there is an urgent need for a platform for them where they can join hands, network and discuss Islam, more so since Islam is engaged in an eternal conflict with the identity of India as a civilisation. –  Tufail Ahmad  

India is witnessing the emergence of a movement of ‘ex-Muslims’. Troubled by the involvement of Muslims in suicide bombings in primarily Muslim countries like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, helped by the availability of alternative interpretations of Islam on the internet, and driven by a questioning mind, Muslim youths in India are gradually leaving Islam. Such youths—both men and women, and well educated—are typically in their twenties and thirties and describe themselves as ex-Muslims, atheists or cultural Muslims. They network through social media, Facebook and WhatsApp, often use anonymous Ids, and are based in towns across India.

Sultan Shahin, editor of the reformist website NewAgeIslam.com, says that there is no organised movement of ex-Muslims in India like it is in Western countries such as Britain, but some Muslims called him to inquire about real Islam. “I have spoken to 3-4 Muslims who have left five-time prayers. A lawyer in Delhi even convinced his father to leave Islam,” Shahin says, adding that many such youths browse anti-Islam websites and accept the jihadi discourse as real Islam.

“I see individuals coming up [on social media] and we know each other. I can say that I am one of them,” says Nadia Nongzai, speaking of ex-Muslims. Nadia, who is based in Shillong and holds a B Tech in computer science and a Master’s degree in economics, comes from a practicing Muslim family. “In school, I could not believe that the god [Allah] who is so great will not have a sense of fair play and will send all non-Muslim kids of my school to hell,” she says, questioning the Islamic teachings that non-Muslims will not enter heaven. She does not hesitate in describing herself an ex-Muslim. Asked if this could pose a security threat to her, she says she doesn’t hide her identity and adds: “I am trained in martial arts.”

Sazi Suber (name changed) was born in Saudi Arabia and raised there by his parents till 10. His mother, who converted from Christianity to Islam and returned to Christianity later, brought him back to Mangalore, where he was sent to a madrassa. Sazi now holds a BE in computer science and is working on an app for comic books. “When I came to India, I found dogs cute and lovable. My mother told me that playing with dogs is haram [forbidden by Islam],” he says about the first clash of viewpoint he had regarding Islam. In Islam, dogs are seen as unpious and Muslims are forbidden to keep them as pets.

Two years after coming to India, Sazi was attending a congregation in Mangalore where an Islamic cleric was telling Muslims on a loudspeaker to not accept water and food from non-Muslim homes. This came as a shock to him and he couldn’t reconcile with this idea. “It was like telling me to hate my mom who was a Christian. No child can accept this,” he says about the cleric’s announcement. It fuelled his questioning of Islam. “I started reading science. Islam appeared as a shock. The logical conclusion led me to think: this was not right,” Sazi, now an atheist and 27 years old, says, adding that he also began questioning as to why only Muslims were involved in suicide bombings.

Ashiq (nickname) is an electronics engineer based in Thiruvananthapuram. “I used to go to a madrassa. I read books from the library about science. I used to ask my teachers: Who created god? But the teachers wouldn’t respond to my questions,” he says, adding that they would instead say: “You are guided by Satan. They would call me Satan’s shadow.” Ashiq’s most piercing question to his madrassa teachers was: since a day can last six months in countries near the North Pole, when should Muslims break their day-long fast? The madrassa teachers did not have knowledge of geography. “The clerics beat me up for asking this,” he says.

Student of science “My friends would call me son of Satan. They wouldn’t play cricket with me. I was isolated. Only my mother was there to talk to me,” Ashiq says. He was also taught not to accept food from non-Muslims. “The clerics threw me out of class when I questioned them why they teach: Do not accept food from Hindus,” he says. Later, his mother advised him to somehow complete his studies and not ask questions because they will declare you a kafir (infidel). “For the next year, I did not ask any question,” he says. Now, he is 29 years old and has joined Facebook and WhatsApp groups to encourage scientific temper among Muslim youths. “We ask basic questions: Where did we come from? How was the earth born?”

Ali Muntazar, 27 years old and based in Kolkata, comes from a family of clerics. His grandfather and father were Islamic scholars. He does not practice Islam and uses terms like “revolutionist” and baghawti (treasonous) to describe himself. He doesn’t offer prayers on Eid or any other day and eats openly during Ramzan. Asked if he has run into trouble over this, he says: “I was nearly beaten up. But in India there is democracy; that is why I was saved.” He says he had a questioning mind since childhood, but his father’s friends, who were clerics, could not answer his queries satisfactorily. Ali Muntazar was troubled by the fact that the life of his khala (mother’s sister) was destroyed by triple talaq, the practice whereby a husband divorces his wife by uttering talaq (divorce) three times. He is bitter: “The first victims of Islam’s atank [terror] are Muslims themselves.”

Bohra Muslims are a sect of Shia Islam. A number of Bohra Muslim youths are leaving Islam at the level of ideas, though it is not easy for them to not be part of the strongly-mandated practices. A Bengaluru-based Bohra Muslim, who wishes to remain anonymous, says: “The Bohra community has a strong policy of ex-communication, which can have a strong negative bearing on their daily life and business. But within the community, there is a growing disquiet about the role of Syedna [the leader].” He adds, “Culturally, I am more of a Bohra rather than a Muslim. But I wouldn’t describe myself as ex-Muslim. I am not bothered personally, but I am afraid of repercussions for my parents, my business partner and our business.”

D. Zafar, who is doing a PhD on religious fanaticism in English literature and lives in Moradabad, has performed Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. In his quest for knowledge, he read three translations of the Quran and has now left Islam. Local Islamic clerics could not answer his questions, and instead would threaten him: awam mein hamara ek byan tum ko murtad qarar kardega aur tum ko shahr chhorna padega (Our one statement declaring you apostate will force you to leave the city). Once the local mosque imam was about to publish his photograph declaring him murtad (apostate), which had to be resolved through political influence.

“We stopped talking about it [Islam]. We used to get messages that you could not teach Islam, but if you want to teach English, it is fine,” Zafar says, adding he was told by Islamic clerics: kafiron se door raha karo (maintain distance from kafirs). Later, he joined some three-night camps of the Tablighi Jamaat, a revivalist group, but some rival doctrinal groups persuaded him against this. Zafar’s basic point of difference was this: “The entire Quran does not mandate five-times namaz [prayer]. Some Muslims even offer only 3-time prayers.” He notes that there is no uniformity in prayers because there are 20 types of prayers among 200 doctrinal sects in Islam.

Banu Qurayza MassacreMajor Rashid Khan, who has retired from military service, comes from an orthodox family that prayed five times and observed Ramzan. “When I entered college, I started thinking about Islam and the Quran. I realised that we were not allowed to ask questions about religion,” he says, adding that his intellectual thinking departed from Islam on the issue that the moon was split at Prophet Muhammad’s hint and also over the issue of the killing of over 700 Jews of Banu Quraiza tribe, who had surrendered before the prophet. He left Islam and was scolded by his father; his elder brothers stopped talking to him. “My brothers did so because they think Muslims can have no business with those who reject Islam,” he says.

Major Khan brought up his children in a free atmosphere. “When my children were around 8-10 years, I started explaining to them what definitions of god exist in different communities. I told my children: you are free to decide; I will never force you to accept any religion. I also brought Islamic teachers to teach them the Quran,” says he, adding that children as young as 3-4 are taken to madrassa and that there is a need to ban madrassas because they teach hatred of other religions through such concepts as kafirs. His children have evolved their own thinking away from Islam.

Amana Begam, a student of Law based in Jaipur, says she was interested in history, philosophy and French revolution but her engineer father got her into science. She initially taught computers but has since moved to studying law. “As a child of 10-11, I was sent to study at a madrassa in Azamgarh (a centre of Islamic learning in Uttar Pradesh),” she says, adding: “At the madrassa, Islamic clerics taught that more girls than boys will go into hell. I was told that of 100 people in hell, 99 will be women.” She asked her teachers to explain why mostly girls will go to hell to which she was told: “woh na-shukri hoti hain [they are not thankful].”

Prophet Mohammed and his 6-year-old wife Aisha.This came as a shock to Amana Begam, but she continued to be religious till she was 25. “I used to justify polygamy, but for how long I could have continued to tell a lie,” she says, adding: “I lost any respect for the Prophet when I got to know about the practice of thighing.” She is inclined towards atheism. Speaking about terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in Muslim countries, Amana Begam says her relatives sometimes justified the Islamic State and the Mumbai blasts, and offers a profound comment on the nature of Islam and its followers: “As a community, we want either victimhood or supremacy.”

S. Ahmad (name changed) holds a doctorate from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Based in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, a pre-dominantly Muslim locality, he comes from an orthodox family and his father is a member of a religious organisation. “I began questioning Islam after watching a video of Richard Dawkins [the English biologist]. His book, The God Delusion, destroyed my arguments,” he says, adding that for morality, there is no need for religious books. He is however also clear that there is no escape from his identity as a Muslim, especially when a policeman abuses, or picks up innocent Muslims in false terror cases, or when Indian soldiers travelling in trains abuse Muslim youths as katuwa (a pejorative for those who are circumcised).

Arif Mohammad, a student of engineering in Bhopal, comes from a family of practicing Muslims. “I believe in karma rather than god,” he says, adding: “Consciously or unconsciously, I began questioning Islam after Class 12 but there was curiosity about religions right from childhood.” Arif Muhammad describes himself as Indian and not as Indian Muslim. “I have noticed about 50 Muslims [on social media] who have left Islam but they cannot openly talk about Islam,” he says adding that some of these youths have left Islam because they do not want to become part of terrorism. “These Muslim youths prefer their cultural identity over their Islamic identity. “

Arif Mohammad also notes that in order to avoid security issues cultural Muslims like him choose their friends wisely because some friends do become violent. “Social media has helped such Muslims to connect with each other and to realise that there are people like us on the planet,” he says, adding that such Muslims are connected via Facebook pages of Iranian Atheists, Afghan Atheists and so on. He notes that there are many Muslims like him in Bhopal, Jabalpur and other cities. Regarding the movement of ex-Muslims, he says that it cannot emerge as a formal movement without a leader. This point is also shared by Ali Muntazar who stresses the need for a platform for ex-Muslims.

The stories of the above-named people are not isolated. It is indeed a trend that Muslim youths are leaving Islam in towns across India, but most of those interviewed here observed that there is also a rival trend of Muslims becoming more religious than they used to be. A few points that emerge about those who are leaving Islam: They live in fear of local Islamic clerics, they become isolated in their local neighbourhoods, their stories bring out the fact that questioning minds are not acceptable to Islam, there is a teaching of hate against non-Muslims by Islamic scholars and virtually every Islamic cleric considers himself as the ruler of Muslims. However, given the critical thinking emerging through these former Muslims, there is an urgent need for a platform for them where they can join hands, network and discuss Islam, more so since Islam is engaged in an eternal conflict with the identity of India as a civilisation. – FirstPost, 10 November 2016

» Former BBC journalist Tufail Ahmad is a contributing editor at Firstpost, and executive director of the Open Source Institute, New Delhi. He tweets @tufailelif.

Ex-Muslim