Blame it on the Kellys – Bharavi

Julian the Apostate presiding at a conference of Christians

George Alencherry, Kuriakose Bharanikulangara & Narendra ModiRecently, there have been several well-publicized incidences of violence against Christians and/or their institutions in India.  A cry went up to the heavens: “persecution of Christians by the Pagan Hindus!” it proclaimed, and we heard much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Modi’s buddy ‘Barack’ tut-tutted, and invoked Gandhi, no less, much as one might dust off a three-piece suit for a memorable occasion, and wagged his disapproving finger at Modi’s naughty and hell-bound Pagan brethren.  So much so that Modi had to signal contrition by converting his first shIvaratri after assuming office to a shAvaratri.

In unvarying accordance with hoary church tradition going back to the pre-Nicene ‘father’ Tertullian, the Christian establishment in India and their equivalents abroad rubbed their hands in glee, for here was a heaven-sent opportunity to cry persecution, claim martyrdom, and generally indulge in assorted passion plays pillorying the Hindu Pagans.

Such claims, going back centuries to the imaginary Apostle Thomas who never visited India but was slain by imaginary Brahmins anyway, are par for the course.  More recent history has church bombings by the Islamic Deendar Anjuman attributed to Hindus, as was the rape of Christian nuns in Jhabua by tribal converts, not to mention other incidents noted on this website.

TertullianTertullian sets the boilerplate

This millennial tradition of bearing false witness against the Pagan is evidence of the incorrigible and unregenerate ways of the insufferably self-righteous Christian establishment that has assiduously busied itself with motes in its neighbours’ eyes, but has studiously refrained from dealing with beams in its own, such as the Christian terrorism raging for decades in northeastern India with the stated goal of establishing ‘Nagalim for Christ.’  But lest we get ahead of ourselves, we must defer to Tertullian, who was rebutting charges of impiety and sedition leveled against Christians by the Romans:

“But go zealously on, good presidents, you will stand higher with the people if you sacrifice the Christians at their wish, kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. Therefore God suffers that we thus suffer; for but very lately, in condemning a Christian woman to the leno (prostitution) rather than to the leo (lion) you made confession that a taint on our purity is considered among us something more terrible than any punishment and any death.  Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you; it is rather a temptation to us. The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”[1]

Now, such was the situation that the early Christians found themselves in.  The Romans who treated fights to the death as a matter of light entertainment did not think much of killing those whom they thought were either deviant Jews or a seditious burial society that routinely blasphemed all the Gods but their own, profaned sanctuaries and were prone to rioting on the slightest pretext.

But to the Pagan Hindus, used as they are to countenancing, even encouraging extremely idiosyncratic personalization of religion, and not even requiring a token sacrifice to the king’s genius as a mark of fidelity, Christianity is just not worth persecuting.  After all, those who worship shIva can hardly object to the worship of a shAva on a shUla, certainly not with the Aghoris still at large. Did not the God-child Tirugnanasambandar’s very first lisping verses describe His beloved shIva as the one who “besmeared with the ashes of the cremation ground, hath stolen my heart away?”  So, if the votaries of a Middle Eastern tribal godman’s corpse and its associated belief of a second coming in the same flesh after two thousand years want to celebrate or mourn, indulge in ritual cannibalism or insist that the end of the world is nigh, it’s generally their own business, and absolutely no skin off the collective Hindu Pagan nose.

Former IPS officer Julio Francis RibeiroNow, strictly from the vantage point of law and order, this would be a really admirable state of affairs (Mr. Julio Ribeiro, please note), but from the Christian viewpoint it is highly unsatisfactory for it does not furnish the required numbers of martyrs to ‘seed the faith’ by claiming the higher moral ground in good conscience. The Pagan Hindus are anyway doomed to be ‘eternally barbecued’ (pace Vivekananda) as per doctrine, but it would be even better if this could be more conveniently attributed to the persecution of some ‘martyrs’ by the accursed Hindus. Otherwise, they might have to be apologetically and sheepishly placed in Dante’s Limbo, already bursting at the seams with other virtuous Pagans of Greco-Roman provenance.

The Hindu reader, clueless as a rule, might protest that even if some sections of Hindu society were to furnish such martyrs, he heartily abominates and abhors the offending sections. Surely that would still not justify condemning all of Hindu society?  But then, the Christian god was never exactly sugar and spice (symbolizing the female aspect of humanity, be it noted) and, to his eternal credit, never claimed to be so. In fact, he’s downright careless when he is not being callous, something Mark Twain astutely pointed out in extenso:

“…They had offended the Deity in some way. We know what the offense was, without looking; that is to say, we know it was a trifle; some small thing that no one but a god would attach any importance to.  It is more than likely that a Midianite had been duplicating the conduct of one Onan, who was commanded to ‘go into his brother’s wife’—which he did; but instead of finishing, ‘he spilled it on the ground.’ The Lord slew Onan for that, for the lord could never abide indelicacy.  The Lord slew Onan, and to this day the Christian world cannot understand why he stopped with Onan, instead of slaying all the inhabitants for three hundred miles around—they being innocent of offense, and therefore the very ones he would usually slay.  For that had always been his idea of fair dealing. If he had had a motto, it would have read, ‘Let no innocent person escape.'”[2]

So, it should not come as a surprise that, after the initial excitement and salivation over the prospect of a fresh crop of martyrs, potentially more ‘saints,’ those who spat venom at Hindu society (see for comparison Matt. 22.33)[3] have implemented the second half of their famous time-tested strategy once the truth came out—and ran.

Pope FrancisFishing for men and the heretics

It is not for nothing that Jesus claimed that he would make of his first apostles ‘fishers of men’ (Matt. 4.18-19).[4] It presents the kernel of the ‘great commission’ that the generic Christian Church, ranging from that of the snake handlers of the Appalachia to that of the self-crucifying Filipinos, and including the overdressed and pretentious pontiff of Rome en route, sincerely believes. Hindus may find this surprising, but the great commission includes making good Protestant evangelicals of idolatrous Catholics, and good Catholics of renegade Protestants as well.[5]  As an instructive old joke goes:

The Heretic

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!” “Why shouldn’t I?” he said. I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” He said, “Like what?” I said, “Well, are you religious or atheist?” He said, “Religious.” I said, “Me too! Are your Christian or Buddhist?” He said, “Christian.” I said, “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, Me too! Are your Episcopalian or Baptist? He said, “Baptist!” I said, “Wow! Me too! Are your Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord? He said, Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!” I said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.[6]

So, regardless of all the genuflecting and crawling Hindus indulge in before Christian godmen in ‘interfaith conventions,’ hoping to get a modicum of approval or sympathy from them, nothing is going to materialize. Rather, it is high time Hindus realized that they are regarded with polite amusement at best, or held in outright contempt at worst, when making such abject spectacles of themselves. Rather, Hindus should merely adhere to the principle of ensuring a thorough investigation of every crime and breach of public order in any form, and demand that the offender(s) be brought to to justice in a timely manner. Along the course, they should not neglect to ‘cut, paste Ned Kellyand preserve’ the calumny of the Church against Hindu society whenever it is in evidence. Perhaps IndiaFacts could initiate a ‘Catalogue of Ecclesiastical Calumniation,’ but not without first taking the precaution of allocating sufficient digital memory to the project.

Blame it on the Kellys

The time-tested policy of Christianity is to blame the Pagans for everything that goes wrong.  The song “Blame it on the Kellys” written by Shel Silverstein and first performed by Waylon Jennings, admirably summarizes the Christian strategy, though it has nothing to do with Christianity per se.  The song itself is about the Australian outlaw (‘bushranger’) Ned Kelly, who is something of a folk hero in Australia, so much so that every crime is humorously laid at his gang’s door.

(You can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtSKntQ0ir4)

Someone stole old Banyon’s pig. Blame it on the Kellys!
Pinched my cart and horse and rig. Blame it on the Kellys!
Someone robbed the Sydney mail, sacked the jailer and put him in jail,
and if the potato crop should fail—they’ll blame it on the Kellys.
Blame it on the Kelly boys, blame it on the Kellys,
shame, shame upon the name, blame it on—the Kellys.

If anybody steals a horse, blame it on the Kellys!
Anybody breaks the law, blame it on the Kellys!
If anyone does something new, or does what you would like to do,
and if the troopers don’t know who—they’ll blame it on the Kellys.
Blame it on the Kelly boys, blame it on the Kellys,
shame, shame upon the name, blame it on—the Kellys.

They’re posted up on every wall. Blame it on the Kellys!
There’s no crime too great or small, to blame it on the Kellys!
They killed a thousand so they tell,
you know they’re bound to burn in hell,
I think I’ll steal a horse myself—and blame it on the Kellys.
Blame it on the Kelly boys, blame it on the Kellys,
shame, shame upon the name, blame it on—the Kellys.

Someone killed old Jim Divine. Blame it on the Kellys!
Was a dark and deadly crime.  Blame it on the Kellys!
Someone killed old Jim Divine, we don’t know the place or time,
but the poor old boy was a hundred and nine—
Oh, blame it on the Kellys !

Blame it on the Kelly boys, blame it on the Kellys,
shame, shame upon the name, blame it on—the Kellys.

Blaming the Pagan Hindu, be it noted, is in deadly earnest, not in jest. As the chief Catholic godman the late John Paul II proclaimed in 1957:

“…just as in the first millennium the Cross was planted on the soil of Europe, and in the second on that of the Americas and Africa, we can pray that in the Third Christian Millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent”

JesusIn other words, the Pagan Hindus are destined for the same fate as their European and American Pagan brethren in earlier millennia.  Thus, bearing false witness against the hated Polytheists, Idolators, Pagans, Heathens et al is merely one of the means of bearing ‘witness to the truth’ as Christian doctrine would have it.  The only unforgivable sin, as per Christian doctrine, is the ‘original sin’ of Adam, transmitted down generations much as a debilitating parasite might.  It is ‘cured’ only by an acceptance of Jesus’ crucifixion as a blood sacrifice to atone for this ‘sin’ for all time to come.  For all else, like child-abuse for instance, there are always the expedients of absolution and indulgence devised by the ingenious and inventive Church.

After all, when the end of the world is at hand and the second coming of the godman Jesus is practically around the corner, a few well-placed lies cloaked with crafty dissimulation and obfuscated with egregious half-truths are indispensable to the success of the ‘Great Commission.’

Notes and references

  1. Tertullian, The Apology, Chapter 50.
  2. Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth, Letter X.
  3. Jesus abuses the Pharisees – “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”  No sign of showing either cheek there, what to speak of the other one!
  4. “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.  And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.”
  5. “Pope warns against ‘wolves’ of Protestants Evangelicals’ rise in Latin America viewed as divisive.”  The Pope’s (John Paul II) pronouncements deserve to be read in full by all Hindus who have a weakness for anything in flowing robes.  They should note especially the allusion to ‘shepherd’ and ‘flock’ which is an accurate enough description of matters as they stand. (http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1992-10-13/news/1992287130_1_new-evangelism-evangelical-churches-roman-catholic-church)
  6. See http://www.nobeliefs.com/jokes.htm
  7. John Paul II, Address to the Sixth Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), Manila (15 January 1995). [Insegnamenti XVIII, 1 (1995), 159].

The politics of conversion and reconversion – C. I. Issac

Prof C. I. Issac“R.C. Majumdar observes that the purpose of shuddhi was national in character: ‘to realize the ideal of unifying India nationally, socially and religiously’ (An Advanced History of India, p 878). Since the fall of the Rajputs in the Second Battle of Tarain, Muslim dogmatists brutally and ferociously converted Hindus to Islam. The Muslim population of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are the ‘lost sheep’ of Hindu dharma. From the 16th century onwards, Christians have been in action, carving out sizeable numbers to their fold by using fourfold tactics (chatur-upayam). In this situation, a proud Hindu could not remain a silent onlooker.” – Prof I.C. Issac

Prof Arnold ToynbeeArticle 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees its citizen the right to practice and propagate their religion. It doesn’t mean total destruction of the other man’s religion or non-hierarchical unorganized religions. This right is not conferred only to a particular religion; it is applicable irrespective of all religions and religious practices of India. It is not a constitutional provision for one-way traffic or a non-return valve. 

In no way with this article did the founding fathers think of any sort of conversion. Their intention was the healthy coexistence of all cultures and religious groups. Conversion by brainwashing, coercion, allurement, incentives, etc. is cruel in cultural terms. So it doesn’t come under the purview of Article 25. Such subversive practices seem just under the law of the wild, that is, might is right, or matsya nyaya (law of the fishes). 

The architects of our Constitution were well aware of the fact that the death of a religion is the death of a particular culture or sub-culture or a civilization associated with that religion. As observed by Arnold J Toynbee, every civilization has a universal Church (religion). Hence, religion and human civilization have an umbilical link. Each civilization, whether small or large or extra-large, has its own knowledge system. For instance, today our alleged socialized social orders are pursuing the pharmaceuticals of our tribal social orders. These have a substantial, objective, and observationally demonstrated information framework, obtained through generations. We, as an enlightened society, are bound to secure all societies and their commitments. 

With the death of the Inca, Maya, ancient Greek or Roman civilizations, mankind lost an immense knowledge system. The technology behind the ‘Golden Raft’ of the Mexicans was buried along with their en masse conversion to European religions. The above mentioned lost civilizations had their own religious practices. They were naturally evolved religions, that is, they had no founders. So they never discussed the spread of their religious frontiers. Almost all these civilizations died of the wild and brutal interference of founder-oriented religions. 

 Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar KhiljiThey indiscriminately destroyed whatever they found in their targeted (prey) societies or religions which they found indigestible. In India, Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji burned the library of Nalanda University on the ground that the contents of the books there were not in conformity with the message of his religious books and founder of his faith. The destruction of Nalanda is not the loss of Hindus; it is a loss to mankind. 

The above narrative is essential in the context of recent deliberations over ghar vapsi. Certain media and Church circles contend that this movement began only after 26 May 2014. But this is not a new movement begun by the ever-shrinking Hindu society. It was started as the shuddhi movement in the 19th century by Arya Samaj leader, Swami Dayananda Saraswati. 

R.C. MajumdarSwami Dayananda Saraswati observes that the purpose of shuddhi was national in character: “to realize the ideal of unifying India nationally, socially and religiously” (An Advanced History of India, p 878). Since the fall of the Rajputs in the Second Battle of Tarain, Muslim dogmatists brutally and ferociously converted Hindus to Islam. The Muslim population of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are the ‘lost sheep’ of Hindu dharma. From the 16th century onwards, Christians have been in action, carving out sizeable numbers to their fold by using fourfold tactics (chatur-upayam). In this situation, a proud Hindu could not remain a silent onlooker. That is why Swami Dayananda Saraswati took the lead and the tempo continues Swami Shraddhanandunobtrusively. After the 1921 Moplah riot of Malabar, the British Indian Government issued license to Arya Samaj to reconvert those forced to abdicate Hindu Dharma and willing to return to their poorva-dharma. The status of this license is still in force. Since then, thousands have returned to their original faith. Every State’s gazettes since 1947 will prove the tempo of ghar vapsi in the Republic of India. 

Attacks on places of worships are not a new incident in either, and are due to varied reasons, such as local issues, personal vengeance. We may cite some attacks on churches prior to April 2014. The Catholic church at Kuddu, Lohardaga district, Jarkhand, was ransacked and the priest injured in the last week of August 2004. The church complex is hardly a kilometer from Kuddu police station, but no arrests have been made so far. It was the second attack in three months, the previous one being June 9 the same year, when the UPA was in power. 

In Orissa, a Catholic church was attacked by 300 persons, its idols and holy costumes destroyed and altar burned. The Prime Minister then was Dr. Manmohan Singh (Malayala Manorama, Kottayam, August 28, 2004). On 29 August 2004, Fr. Job Chittilappally (71), Vicar of St. Varaprasada Matha Church, Thurithiparambu near Chalakudi in Kerala, was found dead with stab injuries (The Hindu, Kochi). Dr Singh was the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister was A.K. Anthony; he resigned the same day. 

In all these incidents, the Church hierarchies found no fault with the government. Then we have the mysterious deaths within the four walls of convents in India, which meet with mysterious silence…. 

Sarvepalli RadhakrishnanThe psychology of the Church is religious and political. They want a halo of martyrdom because martyrs and saints are fuel for the gargantuan engines of the Church (like jihadis for Islam) without which it cannot sustain. As Dr S. Radhakrishnan observed, “The intolerance of narrow monotheism is written in letters of blood across the history of mankind from the time when first the tribes of Israel burst into the land of Canaan. The worshippers of the one Jealous God are egged on to aggressive wars against people of alien cults.They invoke Divine Sanction for the cruelties inflicted on the conquered. The spirit of old Israel is inherited by Christianity and Islam. Wars of Religion which are the outcome of fanaticism that prompts and justifies the extermination of aliens of different creeds are particularly unknown in Hindu India”. (The Hindu View of Life, 1927, Oxford University, p 55) 

This aspect was visible during the third and last phase of campaigning for the Delhi Assembly poll earlier this year, when a small demonstration of Christians received disproportionate publicity as a signal to all members of the community to vote against the Bharatiya Janata Party. Since then, the religious and secular leaders of various Christian denominations have successfully put the community at the centre of an anti-BJP fledgling movement, the full dimensions and objectives of which are yet to unravel. – Vijayvaani, 9 April 2015

» Prof I. C. Issac is a retired professor of history and vice-president of the Bhartheeya Vichara Kendram, Trivandrum. 

Kanchi Acharya Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal and VHP's Ashok Singhal

Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls for Islam’s reboot – Maureen Callahan

Maureen Callahan“Ali thinks the West … should look to the lessons of the Cold War and recognize we are waging a battle of ideas — that in 17 Muslim majority nations, the state religion is Islam. … ‘We need to recognize that this is an ideological conflict that will not be won until the concept of jihad itself has been decommissioned.'” – Maureen Callahan

Ayaan Hirsi AliThere was a time when author and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali believed it all: that, according to Islam, the infidel should die, that the Quran is infallible, that those who violated sharia law — thieves, gays, adulterers — deserved to be stoned to death or beheaded, as they were each Friday in a public gathering place she and her brother called “Chop-Chop Square.”

Today, she is that rare thing: a public intellectual who, despite death threats and charges of bigotry, calls for an end to Islam — not just as the faithful know it, but as we in the West think we know it.

“The assumption is that, in Islam, there are a few rotten apples, not the entire basket,” Ali tells The Post. “I’m saying it’s the entire basket.”

In her book, “Heretic,” Ali argues for a complete reformation of Islam, akin to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Though her own education led her to reject Islam and declare herself an atheist, she believes that for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, there must be another way.

“If you are a child brought up to believe that Islam is a source of morality” — as she was, in Africa and Saudi Arabia — “the Muslim framework presents you with the Quran and the hijab. I don’t want to be cruel and say, ‘You grow up and you snap out of it.’ But maybe we who have snapped out of it have not done our best to appeal to those still in it,” she says.

Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now - Ayaan Hirsi AliIn “Heretic,” Ali says there are three kinds of Muslims. There are the violent, the reformers, and what she believes is the largest group — those who want to practice as they see fit and live peaceably but do not challenge the Quran, the Muslim world’s treatment of women and the LGBT community, or terrorist attacks committed in the name of Islam.

Yet she refuses to label this group as moderate. She believes they have done nothing to deserve it. “I’ve never believed in the word,” Ali says. “It’s totally useless. I think we’re in a time now where we demand answers from Muslims and say, ‘Whose side are you on?’ ”

Ali argues for five amendments to the faith. “Only when these five things are recognized as inherently harmful and when they are repudiated and nullified,” she writes, “will a true Muslim reformation have been achieved.”

Those five notions are:

  1. The infallibility of the Prophet Muhammad and the literal interpretation of the Quran
  2. The idea that life after death is more important than life on Earth
  3. Sharia law
  4. Allowing any Muslim to enforce ideas of right and wrong on another
  5. Jihad, or holy war

Rejecting these ideas, some of which date to the 7th century, is a shocking proposition to the faithful.

“The biggest obstacle to change within the Muslim world,” Ali writes, “is precisely its suppression of the sort of critical thinking I am attempting here.”

Religious DissentDissent and die

Ali has firsthand experience. In November 2004, after collaborating with the Dutch artist Theo van Gogh on the documentary “Submission” — which criticized the Muslim world’s abuse of women — Van Gogh was shot to death by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim. The assassin attempted to decapitate him and stabbed him in the chest, leaving a note affixed by the knife. It was a death threat against Ali.

She was forced into seclusion and given a 24-hour security detail. Today, she lives with her husband and young son in the United States yet remains a target.

“In no other modern religion,” Ali writes, “is dissent still a crime, punishable by death.”

She knows the greatest criticism she faces is that she is Islamophobic, that she is accusing all Muslims of adhering to jihad, to abuse, to the establishment of a caliphate.

In the book, Ali cites a 2013 report by the Pew Research Center on Muslims’ beliefs. It found that in Pakistan, 75 percent think those who leave Islam should be put to death. In Bangladesh, 43 percent think so. In Iraq, 41 percent.

Those who believe sharia is the infallible word of God: 81 percent in Pakistan, 65 percent in Bangladesh and 69 percent in Iraq.

She also cites a 2007 Pew study that found that among 18- to 29-year-old American Muslims, 7 percent had favorable opinions of al Qaeda, and they were twice as likely as older Muslims to believe suicide bombings in the name of their religion were warranted.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IslamophobiaWar of ideology

This is where Ali thinks the Obama administration has failed.

President Obama “has acknowledged Islamophobia, which is the worst thing you can do for Muslims who are trying to turn things around,” she says. Whether it’s ISIS or al Qaeda or the Taliban or so-called lone wolves — such as the Boston Marathon bombers or the Charlie Hebdo attackers or the suicide bomber who blew up 15 Christians in Pakistan last week or the ISIS suicide bombing that left 137 fellow Muslims dead — when these people say they are killing in the name of true Islam, Ali says, believe them.

She accepts that Obama’s administration is attempting a delicate balance — that to declare war on Islam is exactly what these fighters want — but says more can be done.

“Obama is saying, ‘Listen, Muslims, I’m on your side. I respect your beliefs, and I’d like you to help me fight these attacks committed in the name of your religion,’ ” Ali says. “He’s delivering, and they’re not.”

Western Europe, she says, is turning away from the threat of self-segregating Islamic immigrants at its grave peril. A 2009 study by the think tank Citivas found 85 operational sharia courts in Great Britain alone.

“I think with the Arab world, the West thinks we’re fighting an inferior enemy,” Ali says. “Look at the language we use: It’s jihad, it’s insurgency, it’s asymmetric.” Ali thinks the West, and the US especially, should look to the lessons of the Cold War and recognize we are waging a battle of ideas — that in 17 Muslim majority nations, the state religion is Islam.

“We did not say the Soviet system was morally equivalent to ours; nor did we proclaim that Soviet communism was an ideology of peace,” Ali writes. “In much the same way, we need to recognize that this is an ideological conflict that will not be won until the concept of jihad itself has been decommissioned.”

Sam HarrisThe “mother lode”

The greatest obstacle to an Islamic reformation is the diffuse nature of the religion itself. Unlike Catholicism, there is no leader, no papal equivalent to endorse or denounce jihad. In fact, there is no hierarchy of any kind, and any man who wishes can declare himself an imam.

Meanwhile, groups such as ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban are successful precisely because they have top-down leadership, codified warfare and an explicit, simple goal. “These groups are adapting to modern technology, to modern innovations in organization and management,” Ali says. “They know that without a hierarchy, human beings understand nothing.”

She is gratified by the stance taken by Sam Harris, a prominent American neuroscientist and author of “The End of Faith.”

“Sam realizes that among religions, Islam is unique in its atrocity, that everything we said about [violence in] Christianity and Judaism was hundreds of years ago. He calls Islam ‘the mother lode of bad ideas,’ which is extremely brave,” she says.

With “Heretic,” Ali is calling on those Muslims who reject jihad, acts of terror, and the subjugation of women and infidels to organize, to challenge, to speak out loudly and often against violence committed in the name of Allah — and she is calling on the West to actively demand it.

“This is a transformation of the West as we know it,” she says. “We’re at the beginning, and what we do right now is going to be consequential.” – New York Post, 22 March 2015

» Maureen Callahan has worked as an editor and writer at the New York Post for seven years, covering everything from the subcultures of the Lower East Side to local and national politics. She has also written for Spin, New York, and the late, lamented Sassy. In 2009, she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the New York Post.

Sam Harris

Pakistan: Religious women protesting against Charlie Hebdo Magazine

Myanmar court finds trio guilty of insulting religion – BBC

Buddhas in Burma

Buddha with earphonesPhilip Blackwood, who managed the VGastro Bar in Yangon, was arrested in December along with bar owner Tun Thurein and colleague Htut Ko Ko Lwin.

They have each been sentenced to two and a half years in jail.

Burmese law makes it illegal to insult or damage any religion.

The poster, which was posted on Facebook to advertise a cheap drinks night, showed Buddha surrounded by psychedelic colours. It sparked an angry response online.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has seen growing Buddhist nationalism in recent years.

All three men had denied insulting religion during their trial. Tun Thurein told the court that Blackwood alone was responsible for the posting. Blackwood had said sorry online and repeated his apology in court.

But the judge, Ye Lwin, said that though Blackwood apologised, he had “intentionally plotted to insult religious belief” when he uploaded the poster on Facebook, reported AFP news agency.

Blackwood, 32, said he planned to appeal against the sentence.

Speaking after sentencing outside the court before being bundled into a car, he said that he was “pretty disappointed” with his punishment, which was “more than the maximum sentence”.

Tun Thurein, Htut Ko Ko Lwin & Philip Blackwood“I have said that I was sorry so many times,” he said. “It was nothing to do with me.”

Before sentencing he said that he had removed the image and posted an apology when he realised it was being shared online and provoking outrage.

The New Zealander’s family say they hope the government will intervene to deport him.

Blackwood’s lawyer, Mya Tway, was careful with his assessment of the ruling which has been welcomed by some Buddhist groups.

“It will be difficult to say whether this verdict is fair or not because this is Myanmar, not like other democratic countries. That’s all I can say,” he said.

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said that the three men acted in a culturally insensitive way but should not have been sent to prison.

“By using the Religion Act to criminalise these three individuals, rather than accepting an apology and dealing with it in another way, the government is, sort of, setting up more witch hunts against persons that these Buddhist groups view as being insulting [to] their religion,” he said.

Mr Robertson said that freedom of expression in Myanmar is under greater threat than ever as the country heads into a pivotal election year.

While free speech in Myanmar has improved under the country’s semi-civilian government, Buddhist nationalism has been on the rise in recent years, with extremist monks such as Wirathu growing in popularity. At the same time and Muslim minorities have been targeted, particularly in Rakhine state.

About 90% of Myanmar’s population is Buddhist. – BBC, 17 March 2015

VGastro Bar

Ode to Shiva – Raji P. Shrivastava

Lord Shiva meditating in bliss while Devi Parvati plays the vina

Raji P. Shrivastava“The scholarly hold this narrow view of you—that you are the Sun, the Moon, fire, air, water, space, earth, the Self. But who knows the things that you are not?” — Pushpadanta

“Nada tanu manisham shankaram….” sang Tyagaraja, the Carnatic saint-composer, in an immortal ode to Shiva or Shankara, the Lord of Auspiciousness.

“I salute you, with my head and my mind, for you are the embodiment of Nada (sound) and the essence of the Sama Veda. The sapta-swara or the seven notes, Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni emerge from your five faces—Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Tatpurusha, Ishana and Aghora.” Tyagaraja’s chosen deity was Ram, and his usual language of composition was Telugu, but here he employed some stunning Sanskrit epithets for Shiva.

Pushpadanta, a Gandharva, composed the Shiva-Mahima Stotram, a string of lyrical verses in praise of Shiva, where he noted, “The scholarly hold this narrow view of you—that you are the Sun, the Moon, fire, air, water, space, earth, the Self. But who knows the things that you are not?” Shiva is the bestower of the most auspicious boons upon the Gods in heaven, despite the fact that his own possessions are seemingly inauspicious—the bull, a wooden hand-rest, an axe, a tiger skin, serpents, a human skull and ash smeared on his body. Shiva is beyond all delusions caused by the mirage of worldly life and therein lies his greatness.

Ravana, the 10-headed demon king of Lanka, whose pursuit of power was rivalled only by his legendary devotion to Shiva, realised that a different state of mind is needed to comprehend that sublime reality. “When will I be able to worship that eternal Shiva from a position of detached indifference towards a snake or a garland, precious gems or a clod of earth, friends or foes and a blade of grass or lotus-shaped eyes?” “Samapravartika kada sadashivam bhajamyaham?” he queried, in his famous composition, Shiva Tandava Stotram.

In the Vedas, obeisance is offered to Shiva in the form of Rudra. Curiously, the supreme ascetic is described as the wealth of the household and guardian deity of the home (vastavyaya cha vastupaya). Shiva as Rudra is worshipped as the sacred Om and the source of happiness in this life and in the hereafter. He confers bliss in this life and in the one beyond. The Rudram Chamakam, a powerful hymn from the Yajurveda, says that he is worshipped because he is auspicious—Shiva—but also because he is more auspicious—Shivatara—than any other thing.

Venerable seers or power-crazed demons, saintly musicians or divine minstrels, homemakers or office-goers—everyone connects with the Shiva within. The lyrics may differ and the settings may change, but the heart thrills with the instinctive realisation that we dance to an auspicious music deep within our souls—something very Shiva-like. – The Asian Age, 26 February 2014

» Raji P. Shrivastava is an IAS officer in Punjab. 

 

Obama insults India, Krauthammer defends her – David Cohen

Barack Obama

David Cohen“Obama might have said: ‘Many of those acts of intolerance have been perpetrated by missionaries and NGOs from our own country.’ Few Americans are aware of the coercive, deceptive and abusive tactics used by some American missionaries, funded by stateside religious groups, to convert Indian Hindus to Christianity. The worst offenders go well beyond the open exchange of Charles Krauthammerreligious ideas, and are appallingly disrespectful of Hinduism and Indian culture.” – David Cohen

Appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s radio talk show Friday, columnist Charles Krauthammer launched into a devastatingly hilarious riff on President Obama’s infamous National Prayer Breakfast speech last week. Obama, of course, invoked the Crusades and other ancient grievances lest Christians get on their “high horse” over the recent savagery of Islamist extremists. Krauthammer’s take:

This is a combination of the banal and the repulsive. The banal is the adolescent who discovers that, well, man is fallen and many religions have abused their faith and used it as a weapon. This is what you discover when you’re 12 or 17 and what you discuss in the Columbia dorm room. He’s now bringing it to the world as a kind of revelation. And he does it two days after the world is still in shock by the video of the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot, as a way of saying: Hey, what about Joan of Arc?”

But Krauthammer was particularly taken aback when Obama’s sanctimony abruptly swerved eastward: Obama inexplicably called out India for supposed (and unspecified) acts of religious intolerance. “What the hell is he doing bringing India into this?” Krauthammer wondered aloud.

That question was certainly on the minds of many Indians. Obama had recently returned from a visit to India, where he received a hero’s welcome. Alas, India’s love for Obama appears to be unrequited.

Krauthammer strongly defended India’s honor:

Here he is essentially insulting [India], and it’s because it’s a Hindu country. It’s not Muslim. I mean, he’ll say [people committed terrible deeds] in the name of Christ. He won’t say in the name of Muhammad and in the name of Allah. He won’t use those words. And then he goes after India, which is probably our strongest, most stable, most remarkable, democratic ally on the planet, considering all the languages and religions that it harbors. It has the second-largest Muslim population on Earth. And yet he goes after it as a way of saying hey, everybody here is at fault. They are not at fault.”

It’s good that India is on Krauthammer’s radar. Krauthammer is probably America’s most respected conservative opinion leader. With a weekly column in the Washington Post and a daily platform on Fox News’s excellent Special Report panel, Krauthammer continuously injects his wise insights directly into the political discourse.

Krauthammer is also a strong supporter of Israel. He may not be aware of a rather counterintuitive conclusion that I reached in a recent column: No country has more supporters of Israel than India. That includes the U.S. and, in terms of absolute numbers, it even includes Israel. To be sure, the Islamist and leftist brands of anti-Zionism are predictably well represented in India. But the widespread affinity for Israel in India, especially among the Hindu majority and most particularly within Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s base, is something that’s not sufficiently appreciated in the U.S. or in Israel. Much of that affinity derives from India’s shared experience with Israel as a prime target of Islamist extremism. With its large population and burgeoning economic clout, India will be a key ally to both Israel and the U.S. in the coming years. For Israel in particular, Modi’s India can provide an enormous exception to the Jewish state’s isolation in the developing world.

In his National Prayer Breakfast remarks, after talking Christendom down from its high horse, Obama turned his attention to his recent hosts. After paying condescending lip service to the fact that India is “an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity,” Obama proceeded to his actual purpose: calling out India for religious persecution, “acts of intolerance that would have shocked” Mahatma Gandhi.

Had he been so inclined, Obama might have added: “Many of those acts of intolerance have been perpetrated by missionaries and NGOs from our own country.” Few Americans are aware of the coercive, deceptive and abusive tactics used by some American missionaries, funded by stateside religious groups, to convert Indian Hindus to Christianity. The worst offenders go well beyond the open exchange of religious ideas, and are appallingly disrespectful of Hinduism and Indian culture. This is perhaps the primary sticking point in what I believe is a natural alliance between the GOP and the BJP (Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party). However, it is a sticking point that can be overcome with education: I am certain that most Christian conservatives in the U.S. are not aware of the abuses committed by some American missionaries and would not approve of them. (This, by the way, is another bond between India and Israel: Jews and Hindus generally do not proselytize, and generally do not wish to be proselytized.)

When Obama lamented the supposed “acts of intolerance” in India, of course, he did not have American missionaries in mind. According to the narrative of espoused by Indian leftists — who, in an ironically colonial way, crave the validation of Western leftists — Hindus are oppressing India’s minority religions. I would bet that certain Indian leftists have Team Obama’s ear. Many Hindus, for their part, feel besieged by Muslims and Christians aggressively trying to increase their numbers through conversion. If you think it implausible for Hindus to feel besieged in a Hindu-majority nation, consider the case of the Pandits, a Hindu community from the Muslim-majority Indian state of Kashmir. Islamists drove them out of Kashmir a quarter century ago with a murderous terror campaign. They now mostly live in internal exile in other parts of India. (There are poignant commonalities between the Kashmiri Pandits, a very learned and accomplished community, and the Jews.) – The Daily Caller, 9 February 2015

» David Cohen is former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior. He is a practising attorney and consultant in Los Angeles.

The Swastika: Ancient symbol of well-being struggles to overcome Nazi connections – Antonia Blumberg

Swastika Elephant Gate, Carlsberg Brewery, CopenhagenSwastika Sanskrit Etymology

Antonia BlumbergFor many around the world, the swastika is a sign of genocide and hatred, reviled for its association to the Nazi party. But for centuries before the Holocaust, and to this day, the swastika represented something very different for millions of Hindus, Buddhists and Jains across the globe. – Antonia Blumberg

Hindu boy with a swastika drawn on his head during a upanayana ceremony.An ‘auspicious’ symbol

The symbol bears special significance for one 18-year-old born and raised in India. She is a poet, student and interfaith activist, and her name is Swastika Jajoo. The name is not uncommon in India, where the swastika is a revered symbol in many of its faith traditions. Though the symbol has always played a central role in Jajoo’s life, the meaning of the swastika to her has begun to shift as she mulls the prospect of studying abroad.

Jajoo, who was featured in a Huffington Post article in November after winning a teen writers’ award from online magazine KidSpirit, is considering using a shortened nickname when she pursues academic studies in Europe or the United States — a bittersweet reality for a teenager born and raised in a Hindu family in India, where the swastika is revered.

“The swastika is emblematic of prosperity that extends beyond the individual to all four directions of the world,” Jajoo told The Huffington Post by email. “My parents wanted a daughter with infectious goodness, enthusiasm and love for life […] and so they decided to give me the name Swastika.”

The word “swastika” translates to “well-being” from its original Sanskrit, and it has long been considered an auspicious symbol by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, as well as in Mesopotamian, Mayan and other indigenous civilizations around the globe.

“[The swastika is] 3,000 years old and maybe more,” Devdutt Pattanaik, an Indian mythology researcher and author, told HuffPost by email.

Swastika on a Hindu temple gateway in MaharashtraIn India, the swastika is “as common as the cross is in Europe and America,” he said. It’s often featured in Hindu homes, on temples and in artwork. Many draw the swastika on accounting books and in their offices to affirm prosperity, as Manav Lalwani, a Hindu American young professional, does and his father and grandfather did before him. Lalwani is the director of product development at a manufacturing company in New Jersey, which his father owns with three Jewish business partners.

The hooked cross occupies four corners of a square, Lalwani said, which can indicate that “God pervades all directions.”

Pattanaik said he doubted many in India were aware of the swastika’s association to Nazi Germany, though some, like Jajoo, may understand the negative connotations but still appreciate it as a religious symbol.

“It somehow makes me feel like a carrier of benevolence, of harmony, of peace,” Jajoo told HuffPost.

But many in the U.S., where Jajoo intends to study, will not share her feelings about the name.

“Some names just don’t fly — at least in some social, geographic or cultural contexts,” Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, president of CLAL–The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, told HuffPost in an email. “They are not inherently evil or morally wrong … but they may be contextually wrong.”

This context, Hirschfield continued, is one in which Holocaust survivors still bear tattoos from concentration camps. For them, the swastika likely communicates all the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust.

“The swastika is a symbol of more than oppression,” the rabbi said. “It is a symbol of genocidal hatred, and hopefully not only for Jews, but for all decent people.”

A street scene showing displays of the Olympic and German (swastika) flags in Berlin, site of the summer Olympic Games. Berlin, Germany, August 1936.‘A legacy of misappropriation’

Although some groups in Europe and the Americas have undertaken campaigns to “reclaim” the swastika as a symbol of peace, Hindu Americans have largely opted out of these efforts.

“It’s not at the top of the list right now,” said Khyati Joshi, a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University who specializes in immigrant religious communities and multicultural education.

The main concern for Hindu Americans, Joshi continued, is securing a place for Hinduism in American public life and “transmitting the culture to the next generation.” That said, Joshi and Lalwani both said they have images of the swastika displayed throughout their homes. The symbol can also be found in Lalwani’s office, which has long featured the swastika on its safe and balance sheets.

When he was a child, Lalwani said, his father placed the swastika out of sight behind a TV monitor in deference to his Jewish business partners.

“It was an interesting way for him to negotiate tradition and sensitivity in an inherently diverse environment,” Lalwani said. He said his father has been in business with some of his partners for decades, and so over time, the swastikas in his office have become less of an issue, and he takes care to explain its significance in Hinduism to any new employees.

For Joshi it’s less a question of negotiating tradition and more about picking her battles.

“Sometimes we have to fight these ideological fights, and sometimes practicality must reign,” she said.

When her grandfather gave her a piece of jewelry decorated with swastikas in high school, she had to explain to him why he would never find her wearing it in the U.S.

“There’s so much pain it causes people, that … do I need to wear it and inadvertently hurt someone?” Joshi said. “No.”

Joshi’s reluctance to make a public demonstration of adoration for the swastika and Hirschfield’s caution against doing so are indicative of what Lalwani called a “legacy of misappropriation.” Adolf Hitler and his ilk managed to turn an ancient auspicious symbol into one of vile racism and oppression — perhaps irrevocably.

Nazis used it for but 20 years yet they seem to have to appropriated [the] swastika totally, like cultural colonizers,” Pattanaik argued. “The global village seems to have legitimized their appropriation.”

Adolf HitlerNazis use of the symbol

The swastika was well-known in Europe and the U.S. prior to the Holocaust. Over a century ago archaeologists encountered it in the cultural remains of the Ancient Greeks, Celts and Anglo-Saxons, as well as across Eastern Europe. The symbol also found a place in modern Western architecture and design before the Nazi party made it taboo.

In his book, The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption? Steven Heller writes of the swastika’s use in Masonic imagery, the Theosophical movement, on several countries’ flags and even as the chosen symbol of peace for the League of Nations’ Vilna Commission in the 1920s.

Things changed when shoddy scholarship and archaeological analysis led the Nazis to mistakenly conclude they were direct descendants of an ancient Indian tribe — the so-called “Aryans” — who lived circa the second millennium B.C.

BBC writes:

The Nazi use of the swastika stems from the work of 19th Century German scholars translating old Indian texts, who noticed similarities between their own language and Sanskrit. They concluded that Indians and Germans must have had a shared ancestry and imagined a race of white god-like warriors they called Aryans.

This idea was seized upon by anti-Semitic nationalist groups who appropriated the swastika as an Aryan symbol to boost a sense of ancient lineage for the Germanic people. 

Poet and Austrian-German nationalist Guido von List first suggested the swastika’s use as a symbol for anti-Semitic organizations in 1910, and the National Socialist Party adopted it roughly a decade later. It wasn’t until Hitler placed the black swastika on a white circle with a red background in 1935 that it became the national flag of Germany and the official icon of anti-Semitism.

Even this narrative may be flawed, however, said Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, who serves as the president of the Buddhist Council of New York and wrote his dissertation on the swastika’s complex connotations. A Buddhist priest and researcher, Nakagaki has studied the history of Hitler’s appropriation of the symbol and argues that there is a linguistic error at play.

“‘Swastika’ shouldn’t been the word to describe the Nazi symbol,” Nakagaki told HuffPost over the phone. “It should be ‘hakenkreuz.’

Using his own translations of Mein Kampf, the priest argued that Hitler in fact never used the term “swastika” but instead referred to the symbol as “hakenkreuz” — the German word for a hooked cross.

“It was a cross for Hitler,” Nakagaki said. “By saying ‘swastika’ people don’t see the cross anymore.”

What this suggests, he continued, is that people who view the swastika as forever-tarnished by the Holocaust may actually be thinking of an entirely different symbol than the one beloved by Hindus, Buddhists and many others.

“People think of it as a universal symbol of evil, but it’s not really universal at all,” Nakagaki said.

Indus Valley Swastika SealsBridging the divide

For those eager to shift the narrative, dialogue can go a long way to begin bridging the divide. Today these conversations are more feasible than they may have been several decades ago, said Joyce The swastika, the Phoenician sun symbol, on the Phoenician Craig-Narget stone in Scotland, and on the robe of a Phoenician high priestess. Dubensky, CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding.

“There has been education,” Dubensky told HuffPost over the phone, “[and] I think we can move on beyond a monolithic perspective of what the symbol means — and a Western-centric one.”

Pattanaik argued it is “for the West to accept” the swastika’s older significance, but Lalwani would disagree.

“It has beautiful meaning,” he said, “and I think it’s up to those who use it ​to talk about it ​and​​ explain why, in a way that ​broadens its perception en masse.”

The goal should be education, not conversion to a particular belief system, he added.

Lalwani argued that it isn’t “up to the Hindus or necessarily in their interest to change what the swastika means to the Jews.”

“They should be allowed to be repulsed by it just like Hindus should be allowed to be bolstered by its auspiciousness,” he said.

The symbol may never find a place in the hearts of those who came to know it as a symbol of oppression. But through dialogue, Dubensky suggested, people across the spectrum can come to better understand the swastika’s manifestations and the symbol may even become “a bridge for respect.”

“I don’t know if [the swastika] will ever be one that’s comfortable for some of those who identify as among the people who were victimized by Hitler,” Dubensky said. “[But] I think this conversation can be one of the doorways to our living with one another with greater respect and understanding.” – HuffPost, 4 February 2015

» Antonia Blumberg works for HuffPost Religion covering a range of faith and spirituality topics. She is passionate about interfaith activism and strives to explore the ways in which religion plays out in contemporary media and politics. Antonia graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Anthropology.

Swastika, Lambach Benedictine Abbey, Austria

Lambach Benedictine Abbey, Lambach, Austria

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