Mecca: Bulldozing the birthplace of Prophet Mohammed – Anna Edwards

House of Mawlid: The library marking the birthplace of Muhammad

Binladin Group, Saudi ArabiaPlans to demolish the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed to make way for the imam‘s residence and a presidential palace are set to go ahead.

The plans proposing to erect a modern complex on the house said to be where the Prophet was born are part of a multi-billion-dollar redevelopment of the pilgrimage city of Mecca.

To make way for the new development, library steps leading away from the Masjid al-Haram, or Grand Mosque, which sits on top of what is believed to be the place where the Prophet was born, will be swept away.

Last year Saudi Arabia’s royal family dropped initial plans to replace the sacred library, which stands on a raised plinth.

There had been proposals to replace it with either a metro rail station that would serve pilgrims – or a sweeping new library dedicated to King Abdul Aziz, founder of the modern kingdom.

The Saudi Binladin Group who are in charge of the development, propose that it be razed to the ground and replaced with the imam’s residence and an adjacent presidential palace, The Independent reported.

King Abdullah of Saudi ArabiaThe Saudi royal family follow the Wahabi faith, that has served as the kingdom’s official religion ever since the al-Sauds rose to power in the 19th century.

The kingdom’s rulers, who deny Mohammed was born in what is known as the House of Mawlid, are opposed to preserving relics of the Prophet because they say it encourages shirq, the sin of worshipping idols other than God.

The proposals are sure to provoke fury from Muslims around the world as the Grand Mosque is the focal point of the Islamic faith, where pilgrims flock to pray.

The annual hajj pilgrimage, which sees millions of pilgrims descend on the beautiful structure, must be performed at least once in their lifetime by all Muslims capable of making the expensive, difficult journey, a duty that applies equally to Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims at a time of tension between Islam’s main sects.

In 2012, nearly three million pilgrims performed the hajj, with roughly a third from inside the conservative kingdom.

All Muslims must face towards the Kaaba, the huge black cube at the centre of the Grand Mosque, five times a day for prayer, making a visit to the sanctuary a powerful experience. Pilgrims must circle it seven times when they arrive in Mecca.

Saudi Arabia’s king is formally titled Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the ruling family has long based its claims to reign on its guardianship of Islam’s birthplace.

Over the past decade it has spent billions of dollars expanding the Grand Mosque and building new infrastructure to avert the stampedes and tent fires that marred past pilgrimages with hundreds of deaths. 

The last deadly stampede was in 2006, when 360 people were crushed to death. – Daily Mail, 21 February 2014

» Anna Edwards is a news anchor and broadcast journalist in London.

Grand Mosque (center), Mecca

BOOK: Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery – M.A. Khan

Sword of Jihad

Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery – M.A. KhanAuthor M.A. Khan writes: I was born and brought up in a conservative Muslim society. After graduating in India, I moved to the West for furthering my education. Despite my conservative Muslim background, I grew up with a liberal outlook. In my school and university days, my closest friends were Hindus and Sikhs: I felt more comfortable with them as they were more liberal, easy going and humble with fewer religious scruples. I had wholly given up religious rituals by the time I completed my university studies: they just didn’t attract me.

When the 9/11 attacks occurred in the U.S., I had lived in a liberal society for over a decade. I had become consciously convinced that religious rituals—prayers, fasting, pilgrimage—were all meaningless.

I should be rewarded, I felt, for working hard, and intelligently, not for aping some wasteful rituals, which brings good to nobody. Non Muslims were my best friends; shocking my Muslim peers, I ate haraam (prohibited) foods, drank alcohol (in moderation).

Despite the kind of a liberal person I had become, let me be honest that I was not excluded from those Muslims who felt that the 9/11 attacks were justified, although I felt that those perished in it died undeserving deaths. Muslim societies universally portray America as a mortal enemy of Islam, particularly for its stance on the Israel Palestine conflict. America’s mindless support for Israel has been causing terrible oppression and untold sufferings to Palestinian Muslims. There was, undoubtedly, an overriding sense of justification for the 9/11 attacks amongst Muslims; it gave the unjust superpower a bloody nose: I, so little a Muslim, thought that way too.

Weird as it may sound, I still believed in Islam. I thought that the terrorists, who are acting in the name of Islam, were misguided. After 9/11, I slowly started reading about Islam: the Quran, Sunnah and Prophet Muhammad’s biographies; I hadn’t read them in the thirty five years of my life. I was shocked.

I had been told all my life that Prophet Muhammad was the ideal human being: most merciful and just; that Islam is the most peaceful religion; and I believed it. But the Quran reads like a manifesto of open ended war against non Muslims for converting them to Islam, or for subjugating them into horribly degraded dhimmi subjects. In his prophetic career, especially during the critical last ten years, Prophet Muhammad was anything but what a peace loving, merciful and just person stands for.

My curiosity grew. Over the past years, I have done extensive research on Islamic theology as well as on Islamic history: from Prophet Muhammad to modern times. It has been a harrowing tale of forced conversion, brutal imperialism and devastating slavery. It’s a saga of great human tragedy—all in the name of Islamic holy war or Jihad, the foundational creed of Islam. This tragic tale is the subject of [my] book Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery.

» M.A. Khan is a Muslim apostate and one of the the founder-editors of the Islam Watch website. His book Islamic Jihad is available at Amazon and Flipcart.

♦ The book can be read on-line or downloaded here »

VIDEO: The hidden origins of Islam – Gerd-R Puin & Christoph Luxenberg

Prophet MuhammadThe standard histories of Muhammad and the early development of Islam are based on Islamic literature that dates to the ninth and tenth centuries—some two centuries or more after the death of Muhammad in 632 CE. Islamic literary sources do not exist for the seventh and eighth centuries, when, according to tradition, Muhammad and his immediate followers lived. All that is preserved from this time period are a few commemorative building inscriptions and assorted coins.

Based on the premise that reliable history can only be written on the basis of sources that are contemporary with the events described, the contributors to this in-depth investigation present research that reveals the obscure origins of Islam in a completely new light. As the authors meticulously show, the name “Muhammad” first appears on coins in Syria bearing Christian iconography. In this context the name is used as an honorific meaning “revered” or “praiseworthy” and can only refer to Jesus Christ, as Christianity was the predominant religion of the area at this time. This same reference exists in the building inscription of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, built by the caliph `Abd al-Malik.

The implication of these and other findings here presented is that the early Arab rulers adhered to a sect of Christianity. Indeed, evidence from the Koran, finalized at a much later time, shows that its central theological tenets were influenced by a pre-Nicean, Syrian Christianity. Linguistic analysis also indicates that Aramaic, the common language throughout the Near East for many centuries and the language of Syrian Christianity, significantly influenced the Arabic script and vocabulary used in the Koran. Finally, it was not until the end of the eighth and ninth centuries that Islam formed as a separate religion, and the Koran underwent a period of historical development of at least 200 years. –  Amazon, from the ‘The hidden origins of islam’ by Ohlig, Puin, et. al.

VIDEO: Why are we afraid to know about Islam? – Bill Warner

A rational study of Radical Islam

Dr. Bill Warner says there are two critical questions for our age:

What is the true nature of Islam?

Why are we afraid to know about Islam?

These talks tie together a study of the true nature of Islam from original sources, the rise of Islam in the Mediterranean Basin, the annihilation of classical civilization, the Dark Ages, the Islamic Golden Age, the doctrine of jihad and the psychology of the Western mind as analogous to the abused wife, all based on two large sets of data. The idea is the result of 10 years of research and it took 6 months to prepare the content and the graphics for the videos.

Dr. Bill Warner’s website is the Center for the Study of Political Islam. 

Read Islam and the Psychology of the Musalman by Andre Servier

Did Sri Ramakrishna embrace Christianity and Islam? – Koenraad Elst

Dr. Koenraad Elst“The Ramakrishna Mission’s ambition to outgrow Hinduism and be “universal” is a form of hubris. In Greek religion, hubris, or man’s will to be equal to the gods, is the cardinal sin. In Christianity too, Adam and Eve committed hereditary sin, not by lust … but by hubris: initially innocent creatures, they wanted to be equal to God, who knows good and evil. In this respect, at least, many—it would be hubris to assert “all”—religions agree, and they happen to be right. So, let us stop this bad habit of making claims about “all” religions, including those that we know only hazily or not at all.” — Dr. Koenraad Elst

Ramakrishna Mission EmblemThe Ramakrishna debate

The debate on the Ramakrishna Mission’s claim that Ramakrishna, the 19th-century Kali priest, also practised Christianity and Islam, and that he distanced himself from Hinduism to found a new universal religion called Ramakrishnaism, has taken the form of some hostile reactions from sympathizers of the Mission. They may be members or have some other status, I don’t know, so we may just focus on what they have to say.

M.K. Gandhi and a Muslim companion during the Khilafat MovementRamakrishna Mission is Hindu

One person scolded me for even thinking that the Ramakrishna Mission is non-Hindu. He cites the Hindu atmosphere and the many Hindu rituals and practices at the Mission centres. I might add the fact that the Mission only recruits among Hindus. No Christian or Muslim would join this Pagan outfit. That fact alone refutes the Mission’s own claim that it has somehow embraced all religions. The Mission is a typically Hindu group, and even its pompous claim of validating all world religions is a claim made by many Hindus. When Mahatma Gandhi said: “I am a Hindu, I am a Muslim, I am a Sikh, I am a Christian”, Mohammed Ali Jinnah dryly commented: “That is a typically Hindu thing to say.”

But I am surprised to hear that the Ramakrishna Mission has not disclaimed Hinduism. Not only has the organization shouted from the rooftops and on all kinds of public forums that “universal Ramakrishnaism” is superior to “narrow Hinduism”, it has even gone to court to be officially recognized as a non-Hindu minority.

Sri Ramakrishna in samadhi.Logic

Then there were some who, expectedly, took the opposite position, viz. that the RKM follows its saint Ramakrishna in embracing non-Hindu religions and their founders. One of these deserves a closer and more detailed reply. Not that he had said much beyond several lengthy e-mails full of personal abuse (a poor advertisement for the effects of being a Ramakrishnaite). He belonged to a type I have become sadly familiar with on the internet: born Hindus who muster endless argumentation, often cleverly twisting issues and deploying a sophisticated discourse, all in order to defend a case that is downright silly; and that is, moreover, harmful to Hinduism.

For instance, I’ve had to face endless argumentations in favour of the belief that Jesus lived and died in India. This belief stems from a book (1887) by the Russian aristocrat Nicolas Notovich, who claimed to have found notes about Jesus’ stay in India in a monastery in the Himalaya. This manuscript was never found and the monastery’s abbot denied ever having had or seen such a text. The contents of the text which Notovich claimed to have seen was also very suspect by its contents: the themes of Jesus’ alleged controversies with Brahmins are typical for the late-colonial age, not at all for the 1st century. Although the polemic about it involved such worthies as Max Muller and yielded no proof at all, and although Notovich finally admitted to having made it all up, in 1899 Mirza Ghulam Ahmed (founder of the heretic Ahmadiyya sect of Islam) used the story to bolster his claim that prophets could just as well be native to India rather than to the Middle East, so that he could be a legitimate prophet too. And even now, the story has numerous defenders among Hindus. Passionate believers, sometimes even clever and argumentative believers, in a story that is patently false.

In the present case too, we have a learned display of rhetoric in the service of an illusion. Of course, he doesn’t try to prove his claim. Either this claim has not been proven, as we maintain, or it has been proven. In that case, it would be well worth the extra trouble to spell out this proof clearly, once and for all. But alas, this proof was not forthcoming. To be sure, this proof is not that according to a second person, Ramakrishna had “had a vision”, then according to a third person years later, this vision was Prophet Mohammad“perhaps of Mohammed”, and according to a fourth person, later again, it is dead certain that he saw Mohammed. For the founding moment of a religion, “Ramakrishnaism”, one is entitled to expect proof of higher quality than testimony (?) at several removes.

Even if this very flaky and very suspect sequence were to convey the truth, such a “vision” would in no way be what the  RKM now claims, viz. the “practice” of Islam/Christianity. As a Muslim commented, you cannot take a holiday and be a Muslim for a while, then revert to goddess-worshipping. Neither Christianity nor Islam consist in having a “vision” of the founder.

Nonetheless, this RKM sympathizer’s reformulation of the challenge to non-Ramakrishaites is interesting:

“The scope of my discussion is quite limited and is focused on only one thing: Ramakrishna believed in the divinity of Jesus Christ and he did practice some discipline of Christianity on the results of which his such belief was based. The same can be said of his feeling for some discipline of Islam—that he practiced it and derived divine/spiritual satisfaction from it. I think it is for Koenraad Elst to spell out his clear position on this observation once and for all.”

As a matter of walking the extra mile, I will spell out my position. However, let it be understood that I am under no obligation to explain anything or give proof for anything, as I am not putting forward any claim. I am merely skeptical of a claim made by the RKM and this fellow. Because it is he who has put forward a claim, it is up to him to prove his point. Even if nobody comes forward to offer any kind of counter-proof or refutation, the mere fact that the claim is put forward, does not annul its need for proof. As long as the claim is not proven, it was right for sterling Hindus like Ram Swarup and Shiva Prasad Ray to express scepticism of it. The burden of proof is for 100% on the maker of this challenge.

Jesus as a yogi in IndiaBelief in Jesus

Now, my position. If Ramakrishna had found that his own Hinduism was insufficient, if he had founded a new religion which the RKM calls Ramakrishnaism, if Ramakrishna had found Christianity and Islam to be “part” of this new religion, and if he had personally “verified the truth” of these religions by means of “visions”, then this would be such a momentous revolution that he would have spent the rest of his days discussing and elaborating it. Instead, absolute silence, and [the continued worship of] Kali. So, this already pleads against the RKM’s claim.

Now that we are discussing this, it strikes me that in the 24 years that I have followed this debate, I have not seen the RKM people come up with an actual quote from the master in which he claims Jesus’ divinity. Surely, such belief would have been big news to his Hindu and non-Christian followers. Our critic too has eloquently beaten around the bush in several replies, but he has spurned the occasion to present to us the only thing that would finish this debate, viz. proof (as opposed to mere claims) that RK worshipped Jesus as a divine being. The best proof would be a statement to this effect by Ramakrishna himself, but this time too it is not forthcoming.

But to really evaluate Ramakrishna’s beliefs about Jesus, it would be useful (from a scholarly viewpoint, even necessary) to get the facts straight about Jesus himself. I have not brought Jesus into this discussion, it is the RKM that insists Ramakrishna had a vision of Jesus and believed in Jesus’ divinity. So, let’s discuss Jesus. But let me warn you: Hindus by their upbringing may know everything about puja or other Hindu things, but their knowledge of Jesus tends to be very hazy. I, having gone through the whole Catholic education system and moreover having made a purposeful study of the character Jesus, know more about this subject than the RKM sympathizer will ever know in his lifetime. I have studied Jesus, he has not. That is not some colonial utterance, in fact two Hindus sceptical of the RKM claims set me on this path, but it is simply a fact that someone who has assimilated the scholarly findings on Jesus knows the subject better than religious types who have only interiorized some missionary sermons calculated to fool a gullible audience. Conversely, Hindus who have not made a specific study of comparative religion and especially of Christianity are ill-equipped to pontificate about Jesus.

So, what I know about Jesus, is that he was no more divine than you or me. He was a wandering healer, with his ears open for the wisdom going around, which he relayed in his own logia, sermons with parables, a few of them good—but still revered by the people mostly because of his reputation as a healer. To be sure, his friends and relatives who knew him, saw through his act, which is why he performed no “miracles” in his home town. Elsewhere, he could often pull it off, but still he was less powerful than proper medicine. Thus, he healed someone from epilepsy (“ghost-possession”), making him rise after his epileptic seizure—but such fits always subside and end in a return to normalcy. And in one case, the Gospel says in so many words that the disease later reappeared. Nothing scandalous, but nothing divine either, about false beliefs in healing powers.

Angry Jesus drives the vendors out of the temple. According to Dr. Aslan, this is a key moment in the life of zealot Jesus.Jesus had a rather big idea about himself, just like Mohammed and some other religious leaders. Thus, he believed that he was the Messiah. He repeatedly made the prediction that he himself would return within the lifetime of some in his audience. Today we are two thousand years and dozens of generations down the line, yet Jesus has not come back. Now, wrong predictions are human, in fact they are ten a penny. Jehovah’s Witnesses put their foot between your front door to predict the end of the world, but it didn’t come in 1914, nor in 1975. What makes Jesus’ wrong prediction an even worse failure is that, while the Witnesses make a prediction about someone else, Jesus did so about himself. Unlike other diviners, Jesus merely had to look in his own agenda to see when he was scheduled to return, and still he failed! So, nothing divine about wrong predictions.

But at least Jesus overcame death by his resurrection? This is the core of the Christian belief system. Now, the difference between the living and the dead is that you can run into the living, not the dead. But, like the dead, Jesus is beyond meeting. People have reported “seeing” Jesus in visions, but no one has met him in person. So his condition is the same as that of other mortals. The wages of original sin are mortality and child-bearing in pain, and it would be somewhat divine if Jesus had overcome mortality to live endlessly and still be among us. But no, he’s gone. The New Testament writers have spirited him away through the trick of the “Ascension“: though somewhat spectacular, he did the same thing as the rest of us, mortals: he went to heaven. So, nothing particularly divine about mortality.

I will of course not go through the numerous findings of Bible scholarship, about which so many books are available. But for now, I have said enough to underpin the conclusion: Jesus was not divine. If Ramakrishna was a Muslim, as the RKM claims, then he was already convinced of Jesus’ non-divine status, which is a basic belief of Islam (and in that respect, Islam is more rational than the personality cult which is Christianity). If, however, as our RKM sympathizer claims, Ramakrishna believed in the divinity of Christ, then he was badly informed, not to say that he was mistaken.

In fact, this sympathizer wants you to venerate a silly Ramakrishna who believed the sop stories of the missionaries, to the point of self-hypnotizing and seeing a vision of Jesus. By contrast, I (or rather Ram Swarup and Shiva Prasad Ray) give you a Ramakrishna who was discerning enough to keep the missionaries at a distance. He was not a Christian nor a Ramakrishnaist, but simply a Hindu, worshipping Krishna and Hanuman and most of all Kali. You too can live a happy, healthy, holy life while staying a Hindu and ignoring Jesus.

BaptismBeing a Christian

The second claim is that Ramakrishna “practised a Christian discipline”, and that as a result, he found that Christianity is equally true and yields the same results that he had already reached through his Hindu sadhana. Now, “being a Christian” or “being a Muslim” has a precise definition, which Ramakrishna did not fulfil. He was not recognized as one of theirs by any known mullah or padre. The missionaries sent bulletins home in which they reported the conversions they wrought; surely they would not have neglected reporting the christianization of a leading Hindu saint? And the RKM has had more than a century to get and show the document that proved their case, viz. that Ramakrishna turned his back on “narrow Hinduism”.

Even in the different sects of Hinduism, you only become a member by going through a formal ceremony, you are given a yajnopavit (sacred thread) or you get diksha (initiation) or shaktipat (transmission of energy). Ramakrishna never went through the formal ceremonies making him a Christian or a Muslim. He was not circumcised and never uttered the Islamic creed. He was not baptised and never uttered the Christian creed. No matter what vision he had, it did not make him either Christian or Muslim.

Further, there is no such thing as “practising” Christianity or Islam. Either you are in or you are out. Imitating the behaviour of a Muslim/Christian all while remaining a Pagan does not make you a Muslim/Christian. In fact, we would like to know what these practices were. Our RKM sympathizer has repeatedly spurned the occasion to spell this out. Did he observe Ramadan, or did he prefer Lent? Did this vegetarian offer sheep sacrifice, as is prescribed for Muslims? Did he eat fish on Friday, as Christians do? Did he condemn caste, which is an intrinsic attitude of Christianity, at least according to contemporary missionaries? And again, was he baptised? Which Christian worthy accepted him as a Christian? We would like some straight answers to these questions.

Not that they would make any tangible difference. Ramakrishna may have been pure gold, but even his acceptance of the quintessential Christian belief in Jesus’ divinity would not make Jesus divine; at least not more than you and me. If, after all these years, the RKM were at  last to prove that Ramakrishna did worship Jesus, we would have to conclude that he was mistaken—surely not the conclusion which the RKM would like us to draw. Fortunately, there is no indication that he did.

Circumcision in Egypt: It is a curious fact that the Jews and Muslims have made the Pagan practice a central rite in their religions.Some further problems with the RKM’s claim

Another problem: a Christian cannot be a Muslim, and a Muslim cannot be a Christian. Leaving aside Hinduism and “Ramakrishnaism”, please focus only on Christianity and Islam. How could Ramakrishna be a Christian while also being a Muslim? No Christian or Muslim authority would accept his being the one while also being the other. Christians believe Jesus was the Son of God, both God and man, while Muslims consider him just a man. Christians believe he was resurrected while Muslims disbelieve that he even died on the cross. How did Ramakrishna combine these mutually exclusive beliefs?

Finally, Ramakrishna is known to have died while worshipping Kali. By Christian and Islamic definition, he was a goddess-worshipper, hence an out-and-out Pagan. If he ever was a Muslim or a Christian, his dying as a Pagan meant that he was an apostate. If being an ignorant Pagan is bad enough, being a wilful apostate, who has known but rejected the truth and reverted to the false belief of Paganism, is really demonic and a sure ticket to the fires of hell. So, according to the RKM, Ramakrishna has spent the last century braving the fires of hell. For that is what Islam and Christianity (which the RKM holds to be “true”) promise to a Pagan like Ramakrishna.

The RKM professes a syncretism, combining elements from different religions. Ramakrishnaism is the syncretism par excellence, affirming “all” religions to be true. As the Church Fathers wrote, syncretism is typical of Paganism. The Roman-Hellenistic milieu in which the first Christians had to function, was full of syncreticism, with Roman matrons worshipping Isis with the babe Horus (an inspiration for the image of Mary holding the babe Jesus), legion soldiers worshipping Persian-originated Mithras, and imperial politicians worshipping the Syrian-originated Sol Invictus( . Against this syncretism, they preached religious purity: extra ecclesiam nulla salus, outside the Church no salvation. They had no problem admitting that Paganism was naturally pluralistic, but what is the use of choosing between or combining different kinds of falsehood? They as Christians had something better than pluralism, viz. the truth. And once you have the truth, you are no longer interested in any other religion. So, from the Christian viewpoint, the RKM’s dissatisfaction with “mere” Hinduism is an admission that Hinduism doesn’t have the truth.

Swami VivekanandaSwami Vivekananda’s claim

The best argument in favour of the RKM’s claim is a statement apparently made by Swami Vivekananda:

“The next desire that seized upon the soul of this man [Ramakrishna] was to know the truth about the various religions. Up to that time he had not known any religion but his own. He wanted to understand what other religions were like. So he sought teachers of other religions. … He found a Mohammedan saint and placed himself under him; he underwent the disciplines prescribed by him, and to his astonishment found that when faithfully carried out, these devotional methods led him to the same goal he had already attained. He gathered similar experience from following the true religion of Jesus the Christ.”

Our RKM sympathizer wants to “point [out] to KE that the burden of proof is on him to disprove the observations of RK’s chief disciple (and official spokesman?), as otherwise, by default, they should be assumed to be true. … Would KE care to share his compelling reasons to believe that SV lied?”

Once again, he has got things backwards. It is he who makes a claim, and the burden of proof is thus for 100% on him. Swami Vivekananda was not an eye-witness and made this statement, which I will for now assume to be true (Ram Swarup was a great reader of Swami Vivekananda’s Complete Works and doesn’t mention it), many years after the fact. Nothing of the above loses any of its force by this early version of a claim later made into the official line of the RKM, but for which any proof is missing.

It is no surprise that somebody ignorant of the rules of logic should use an “argument from authority” as his trump card. He plays upon the expected indignation of the Indian-born majority of the readership if I dare to say that Swami Vivekananda “lied”. Argumentation from authority is a logical fallacy!But in fact, I don’t need to put it down as a “lie”. In the world of religion and the occult, I have rarely seen anyone who deliberately said something that he knew to be untrue. But I have met or witnessed or read thousands of people who spread falsehoods which they believed to be true.

Even Swami Vivekananda was just a fallible human being—a statement which may scandalize his followers but which he himself would wholeheartedly accept. The processes which have led the RKM to believe and propagate the falsehood about Ramakrishna’s visions, may have taken him in, too. Or he may simply mean that Ramakrishna had that commendable Hindu attitude of curiosity and respect for whatever other religions draw his attention. At any rate, while we don’t know which processes were at work in Vivekananda’s case, we have his naked statement and this, at least, we can evaluate. And we find it, if taken literally, to be simply false.

Liberation“, the goal of the Upanishadic seers and of most Hindu schools since, is not the goal of Christianity. No Christian ever claimed to have achieved it, nor was he claimed by other Christians to have done so. The case applies even more bluntly to Islam: the goal of the five pillars of Islam is simply to obey God’s commandments as given in the Quran, not any “Liberation”. The goal of a Hindu sadhana will not be achieved by a Muslim or a Christian “sadhana”, and vice versa. If someone said that a Christian discipline “led him to the same goal he had already attained”, he was most certainly wrong. However, it is possible that the state of consciousness which Ramakrishna had already attained in his Hindu sadhana remained with him when he practised whatever this sheikh gave him to do. But would that state still be so easily achieved if he had practised only these Islamic cq Christian exercises?

Hindu Swastika FlagConclusion

Sita Ram Goel once said that “Hindus think they know everything about everything”. Thus, while it is hard enough to study a handful of religions, numerous Hindus routinely make claims about the equal truth of “all” religions, as if they had studied them all. In this respect, at least, the RKM monks are certainly Hindus.

The RKM’s ambition to outgrow Hinduism and be “universal” is a form of hubris. In Greek religion, hubris, or man’s will to be equal to the gods, is the cardinal sin. In Christianity too, Adam and Eve committed hereditary sin, not by lust (as many superficial people think) but by hubris: initially innocent creatures, they wanted to be equal to God, who knows good and evil. In this respect, at least, many—it would be hubris to assert “all”—religions agree, and they happen to be right. So, let us stop this bad habit of making claims about “all” religions, including those that we know only hazily or not at all. One thing that initially attracted me to the Hindu cause was the humbleness and simplicity of the ordinary Hindus I met. It would be nice if all megalomaniacs climbed down from their high horses and rediscovered this simplicity.

Secondly, I find it sad and not spelling anything good, that Hindus who are so laid back about the enemies of and challenges before Hinduism, get so worked up when their own little sect is challenged. Arya Samaj spokesmen don’t have 1% of their forebear’s concern with the Christian and Islamic threats, but they really get into the act when defending against other Hindus their pet beliefs about Vedic monotheism and non-idolatry. The ISKCON people never confront Christianity or Islam, but they get really nasty against fellow Hindus who are not as Krishna-centred (such as the pre-Krishna Vedic Rishis) as they themselves are. And here too, the RKM is alarmed when some Hindus disbelieve its pet doctrine of Ramakrishna’s visions of Jesus and Mohammed. It would be good if they shed this obsession with their sectarian “unique selling proposition” and return to a broader consciousness, one that would be recognizable to all Hindus.

Hinduism existed before Jesus and Mohammed. It was good enough for the Vedic seers and non-Vedic sadhus, and it didn’t need those two. I think Hinduism will only survive if it forgets about this false incarnation and this false prophet. The RKM ultimately has no choice but to admit that for the past so many decades, it has been spreading an erroneous and harmful belief. It should announce out loud that all struggles over its exact identity are over, because it owns up to its natural Hindu identity. Indeed, it should rediscover and second its founder, Swami Vivekanada, who declared: “Say with pride, we are Hindus!”

» Dr. Koenraad Elst is a Belgian writer and orientalist (without institutional affiliation). He was an editor of the New Right Flemish nationalist journal Teksten: Kommentaren en Studies from 1992 to 1995, focusing on criticism of Islam. He has authored fifteen English language books on topics related to Indian politics and communalism, and is one of the few western writers (along with François Gautier) to actively defend the Hindutva ideology.

Ramakrishna Mission Secretary's letter to Prof. Asnani.The Secretary’s letter is disingenuous to say the least. He says the great rishis and acharyas of Hinduism were not Hindus but that the Ramakrishna Mission is not non-Hindu. Yet the RKM had approached to the court to argue that they were a non-Hindu minority religion called Ramakrishnaism. Eventually the court decided that the Ramakrishna Math and Mission were indeed Hindu and that there was no such religious sect called Ramakrishnaism. – IS

Book Review: Blame the ‘new’ intolerance, but forget the old bigotry that gave rise to it – N.S. Rajaram

The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age by Martha Nussbaum, Harvard University Press, 304 pages, £19.95

Dr. N.S. Rajaram“The fact is, non-Muslims have no problems with religious activity like fasts and prayers; it is Muslim violence while invoking its sacred scripture that is at the root of the problem. But Nussbaum avoids the question while highlighting trivial issues like hijab and dress. The book jacket with its fetching photo of a young Muslim girl in a head scarf typifies the sum and substance of the book. We need look no further to grasp Nussbaum’s message.” – Dr. N.S. Rajaram

Martha NussbaumOn September 11, 2001 the Western world woke up to the side of Islam that it had chosen to ignore for decades. Following this, known ever since as 9/11, the image of Islam in the West, never particularly good took a severe beating. In the spate of writing that followed, several academics who until then had labored in obscurity came out to explain Islam. Among these are entrepreneurs like John Esposito of Georgetown University, funded by the Saudis, followed by the likes of Diana Eck and Michael Witzel of Harvard hoping to cash in by marketing their academic voices to polish the image of Islam. Martha Nussbaum is not among these. Her interest is in using her knowledge and expertise to analyze the various phenomena around Islam, especially intolerance.

Nussbaum has worked closely with Amartya Sen with whom she has authored the book The Quality of Life. Where Sen is an economist who of late has ventured into philosophy and history (and politics), Nussbaum is a legal scholar and philosopher trained in Classical Greek thought. She is highly regarded in these fields, holding a distinguished chair at the University of Chicago. She is not a historian, however, and looks at contemporary issues like fear of Islam from the perspective of a classical Greek scholar and legal expert. In addition, she appears to rely heavily on her colleague Amartya Sen for information about Islam and history. Also, being a scholar of Greek literature she is somewhat prone to sophistry.

Amartya SenNussbaum’s legal training and classical Greek learning are of little use in analyzing the challenge that Islam presents today. Islamists regard any legal system other than the Shariah (Islamic law) as illegitimate, fit to be uprooted. Against this all the legal erudition that Nussbaum can muster is a sermon in the wilderness, little more than sophistry that conceals more than it reveals. Relying on Sen’s version of Islam and history, she sees Muslims living in democratic countries as targets of unjustified suspicion. At the same time Nussbaum is a conscientious scholar even if she jumps to conclusions based on superficial knowledge, presenting sophistry as analysis. Unlike Amartya Sen, however, she seems to study the works and read the writings of the people she criticizes.

Given this pedigree it should come as no surprise that Nussbaum happens to be viscerally anti-Hindu. In 2004 she even produced a track questioning if democracy would ever succeed in Hindu majority India. (The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India’s Future, Belknap Press/Harvard University) As she sees it, Hinduism is inherently violent and intolerant while Islam is misunderstood and a victim of stereotyping and ‘new’ intolerance. Hence it is the responsibility of democracies—especially America and Europe—to adjust their attitudes and change their systems to address their concerns. She feels though America is doing a better job of it than Europe. Obviously she has not paid much attention to the British scene.

The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age by Martha NussbaumAstonishingly, she goes to the extent of justifying the incompatibility of the Shariah with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution—a strange position for an American legal scholar to hold to say the least. She finds the First Amendment particularly hard on Muslim minorities for the reason they cannot decide cases based on their religious law! (How about the law books of others, say Hammurabi, Manu, etc?) There is no recognition of the fundamental fact that Islam does not separate religion and state: the prayer book of Islam is also its law book. From the outset, Prophet Mohammed, the high priest of Islam was also its head of state and the commander of its armies. Islam abhors secularism.

Her view of religious freedom also strikes one as strange—more sophistry than analysis. There is no mention of Jihad which is the central doctrine of Islam. The fact is, non-Muslims have no problems with religious activity like fasts and prayers; it is Muslim violence while invoking its sacred scripture that is at the root of the problem. But Nussbaum avoids the question while highlighting trivial issues like hijab and dress. The book jacket with its fetching photo of a young Muslim girl in a head scarf typifies the sum and substance of the book. We need look no further to grasp Nussbaum’s message.

But what about the real world? Bin Laden (and other Jihadists) used Islamic texts—the Quran and the Hadis—to exhort Muslims to attack non-Muslim sites from New York to Bali. The Al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahari emphasized how Muslim legal scholars “have throughout Islamic history unanimously agreed that the jihad is an individual duty if the enemy destroys the Muslim countries.” The legal scholar Nussbaum is Jihadi: Koran in one hand, AK-47 in the other!totally ignorant of it or considers it irrelevant to her thesis. And she nowhere mentions Jihad let alone its consequences including Dhimmitude. Her idea of Islam, like Sen’s is a sanitized and peaceful Islam without Jihad.

While it is no one’s argument that innocent Muslims should be made to suffer for the acts of terrorists, one cannot ignore the fact that Jihadists cite their scripture as justification for their acts. What Nussbaum and her ilk are doing is to deny this reality and treat it simply as a philosophic and at best legal issue.

The problem with this even at the legal level is that according to Islam only the Shariat (Islamic law) is legal: all other legal and political entities like U.S. Constitution, the Indian Constitution and the courts are illegitimate and should be overthrown to be replaced by institutions based on the Shariat. This is to be accomplished by a permanent war called Jihad.

Neither Amartya Sen with his superficial reading nor Martha Nussbaum with her legal hairsplitting and sophistry can help us comprehend what Islam has meant and continues to mean in the real world. To see this we need to go to one of Islam’s own historians Ibn Khaldunand philosophers—in fact the greatest of them, to Ibn Khaldun (1332 – 1406). He was never in doubt about the true mission of Islam. He saw Jihad as an aggressive war of expansion. As he wrote, “The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense…. Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.” And this is to be accomplished through Jihad.

Where does Ibn Khaldun stand relative to acclaimed modern academics like Sen and Nussbaum? Not many Indians have heard of him, but scholars outside India have recognized his greatness. British historian Arnold Toynbee called Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah “… a philosophy of history which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place.” Nor was Toynbee alone. Robert Flint, a distinguished British philosopher wrote of Ibn Khaldun: “As a theorist on history he had no equal in any age…. Plato, Aristotle and Augustine were not his peers, and all others were unworthy of being even mentioned along with him.” And this emphatically includes Martha Islamism is against free speech.Nussbaum and Amartya Sen.

To understand what Islam means in our time one is better off going to a timeless master like Ibn Khaldun than spend time on the false history and pseudo-erudition peddled by the likes of Sen and Nussbaum. In summary, The New Religious Intolerance contains nothing worthwhile while totally ignoring the Old Religious Intolerance of Islam that has dominated history. It is a pointless tome of theological sophistry burdened with a lot of name dropping from ancient Greek sources and modern law books, both irrelevant to the subject at hand.


Book Review: Islam without illusions – N.S. Rajaram

The Calcutta Quran Petition — Compiled and Edited by Sita Ram Goel — 2012 Reprint of 3rd Edition — ISBN 9788185990583 — Published by Voice of India, New Delhi — 325 + XVI Pages — Price Rs. 250 (PB) — Order Here

Dr. N.S. RajaramThe average educated person today, anywhere in the world, is likely to be both confused and frightened by Islam. On the one hand, it is supposed to be a religion of peace that preaches equality and justice for all, while on the other, it is hardly possible to escape the fact that the most unspeakable acts of violence are daily committed by individuals and groups in its name. To make the situation more confusing, there is no shortage of ‘experts’—Eastern and Western—who tell us that Islamic terror is an aberration that has nothing to do with the ‘true’ Islam. It is fair to say that a majority of the people in the world has swallowed this explanation while remaining ambivalent about Muslims and their behaviour  In other words, they blame Muslims but not Islam. In the book under review, Sita Ram Goel, one of the world’s most incisive students of Islam, blows away this confusion by giving an unvarnished, scholarly yet highly readable account of the theory and practice of Islam. By a detailed analysis of its scripture and history, he explodes the charade that Islamic terror can somehow be separated from its teachings. In the process, the prolific and erudite Mr. Goel has probably written his masterpiece.

To return to the confused state of knowledge about Islam, there has long been a need—more urgent today than ever before—for a work that can explain the theory and practice of Islam for the average reader. This void is now effectively filled by the book under review—The Calcutta Quran Petition by Sita Ram Goel. His pluralistic Hindu background gives him a distinct advantage over his Western counterparts, who, despite their best efforts, cannot entirely break free of the shackles of their exclusivist Judeo-Christian heritage that springs from the same soil as Islam. Goel on the other hand looks at Islam as a complete outsider, disregarding its pious claims. If there is one book on Islam that a concerned person should read, it is his The Calcutta Quran Petition.

Sita Ram GoelManual on Islam for non-believers

The book could with equal justice have been titled Islam for Non-Believers: Its Scripture, History and Practice. The reason for the unusual title is historical. On 29 March 1985, one Chandmal Chopra filed a writ petition in the Calcutta High Court seeking a ban on the Quran under Sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code because it “incites violence, disturbs public tranquility, promotes, on the ground of religion, feelings of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different religious communities, and insults other religions or religious beliefs of other religious communities of India.” The Calcutta High Court disallowed the petition, but the issues raised by it remain relevant, especially now when the need to understand the causes of terror in the name of Islam is greater than ever. More significantly for the present discussion, it led Sita Ram Goel to write the volume under review. The sordid details of the case in question would probably be of little interest to the average reader today though they shed much light on the ignoble conduct of the Governments of India and West Bengal in the face of real or perceived Muslim threats. Out of a total of 345 pages, the author devotes no less than 230 pages to a general discussion of Islam that has little directly to do with the Calcutta Petition. These pages, covering Chapters 2 through 10, constitute for all practical purposes an independent manual on Islam, beginning with the message of the Quran. This is what is reviewed here.

The first point about the Quran is that it does not stand alone. The Suras (verses) of the Quran were created in specific situations arising out of specific military, political and sometimes personal needs. They invariably reflect the convenience of the Prophet who found it expedient to invoke Allah as authority to have his own way with his people. Seeing this, his favourite wife Aisha once observed, “I find that Allah is prompt to proclaim commandments in accordance with your desire.” This means that the context in which a Sura was created is all-important. Taking Quranic passages out of context can lead to grotesque interpretations like Sir Abdullah Suhrawardy’s Sayings of Muhammad, which Mahatma Gandhi with his usual blind-spot for Islam hailed in his Foreword as among the “treasures of mankind.”

The context for interpreting the Suras of the Quran is provided by the Hadith. They may be described as the record of the activities of the Prophet. They are so detailed, that it is possible to obtain a more or less complete picture of the private and public life of the Prophet. It may fairly be said that the Hadis rather than Quran form the basis for Islam, for without them the Quran becomes virtually incoherent. As Goel makes clear—Chapter 3—there is practically no difference between Allah and the Prophet; Allah does at the Prophet’s bidding. This made the great Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati observe, “Allah is the Prophet’s domestic servant.” As Goel explains, this makes the Quran (the ‘Word of Allah’) and the Hadith (‘Acts of Muhammad’) interchangeable. The importance of the Hadith cannot be overestimated though most non-Muslims are ignorant of its existence.

Prophet MuhammadHadith is Quran in action

In other words, the Hadith describe the Quran in action, meaning the acts of the Prophet. These in turn became the model of behaviour to be emulated, for every true Muslim from the highest to the lowest. As Goel observes: “It is this fixed and frozen image of the Prophet which is meant when a Muslim proclaims his Din (fundamental faith). In fact the Prophet produced a ‘revelation’ (33.21) presenting himself as the perfect model for those who look forward (with hope) for the Day of Judgment. For a pious Muslim, human life is best lived when it conforms to Muhammad’s conduct even in minor matters such as defecating … cutting one’s beard to a specific size and so on. Islam leaves no room at all for individual initiative or judgment … In case of doubt, a pious Muslim must go to a mufti (juri-consultant) and obtain a fatwa [ruling] about how the Prophet would have conducted himself in a situation which, according to all sources, the Prophet is not known to have faced.” Needless to say, this is not a climate conducive to progress.

This has a sinister side with far-reaching implications. Since the later part of the Prophet’s career is full of war and bloodshed in the name of Allah, religious war or Jihad is seen as the highest goal of Islam. What the world is faced with today—from Kashmir to Kosovo—is Jihad or religious war to bring the whole world under the sway of Islam. This reality cannot be wished away as is done by liberal academics in East and West, by giving an abstract interpretation of Jihad. As Walter Laquer, an American expert on terrorism observed, “Many interpreters of jihad in the Muslim world, and an equal number in the West, have explained that jihad has a double meaning: it stands for jihad bi al saif (holy war by means of the sword) and also for jihad al nafs (literally, struggle for one’s soul against one’s own base instinct). Both interpretations are true, but Islamic militants have rejected the spiritual explanation as dangerous heresy. … The Taliban in Afghanistan and many militants are not impressed by the speeches and writings of more moderate exegetists about the ‘poverty of fanaticism’ and the ‘spiritual mission of Islam,’ and this fact is what matters…”

Jihadi: Koran in one hand, AK-47 in the other!Prophet’s Career: Satanic verses

The fact of the matter is that influential Muslim leaders see the violent version of Jihad as the only valid one. Jihad to them is “the most glorious word in the vocabulary of Islam,” and by this they don’t mean striving for inner perfection. Goel explains this vital fact with clarity and thoroughness with profuse illustrations from the history and scripture of Islam. As he points out, the Quran studied alongside the Hadith is nothing but a manual on Jihad—or religious war. Just as the Prophet became the model for Muslim behaviour his blood soaked career became the model for a succession of Muslim leaders down to the present.

While the Hadith are indispensable for understanding Islam, they present a bewildering mass of detail to the uninitiated. In Chapter 4—The Prophet sets the Patternthe author takes the reader through the Prophet’s career by presenting a systematic picture of the historical background and the key events. He describes also two interesting episodes that are not widely known: the Prophet’s invitation, in a time of distress, to the Christian Abyssinians to invade Mecca, claiming that his teachings were no different from theirs; and the famous ‘Satanic Verses’ inspired by the need to regain the support of the Meccans. In Chapter 5—The Orthodox Exposition of Jihad—the author produces evidence from primary sources to demolish the claim of modern apologists that Jihad has—or ever had—a spiritual meaning. This ‘spiritual’ interpretation is exhumed only when they feel insecure—as in India today, or when faced with powerful opponents like the United States—to be buried again when conditions turn favourable.

Digvijaya Singh Jihad in India: A lesson in history

Chapter 6—Jihad in India’s History—may be read as a practical demonstration of Islam in action. It is to be hoped that every policymaker in India as well as the West will read this capsule account of the ‘bloodiest story in history’—as Will Durant called it—and learn its lessons. Indians in particular must face this historical truth and not seek escape in fantasies written by soothsayers calling themselves historians. This chapter should be made required reading for students in India, if mistakes of the past are not to be repeated. Western policy makers, especially in Europe should study this with care, for what they are facing was faced by India centuries ago.

In some ways the most interesting and original section is Chapter 10—A close look at Allah of the Quran. In this, Goel compares Allah of Prophet Muhammad with the Mongol sky god Tengri who inspired Chengiz Khan on his world conquest. He shows how from the Jaxartes (Syr Darya) in Central Asia to the Nile, the soldiers of Allah were no match for Tengri’s Mongols. Baghdad along with its Caliph were reduced literally to dust under the hooves of the horses of Chengiz’s grandson Hulagu Khan and his ‘Devil’s Horsemen’. This fact though is rarely found in history books in use in India. (Tengri had a redeeming feature though—he was tolerant of all religions.)

In summary, Sita Ram Goel has produced a manual on Islam that is a ‘must read’ for everyone concerned about the threat posed by Islamic terror in our time. After reading The Calcutta Quran Petition, one can appreciate what Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati meant, when he said upon reading the Quran, “I cannot tell the difference between its God and its Devil.”

There is a complete on-line edition of The Calcutta Quran Petition available here

Islamic terrorism is not Islamic terrorism!