I always felt and stumbled on how people understood some basic vocabulary that is pushed around a lot these days. That vocabulary includes words like Religion, Extremism, Radicalism, Hindu, Dharma, Dharmic. The really not so surprising discovery was that different people interpreted all those quite differently and in completely antithetical contexts, but the surprising part is why people are not commonly aware how different are their interpretations of these terminologies. The thrust of this article is not to do a linguistic anatomy of these words, so i will go by the usual loose cliched definitions in vogue today. These basically in the articles’ context are:
1. That Religion is about Peace, Tolerance, Compassion
2. That Extremism in Religion is Bad for the world
3. That Radicals of every Religion are Bad.
Now i am sure many of us would have assorted images of the ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban hit upon us and with that micro second attention span would conclude that all the three points mentioned prove the fact that Religious Extremism is bad. Yet if Religion itself is fundamentally about Peace, Tolerance and Compassion then:
Why should being extremely Peaceful be bad?
Why should being extremely Tolerant be bad?
Why should being extremely Compassionate be bad?
So why should being “Extremely” Peaceful, Compassionate and Tolerant be a bad thing? Or why should thus Religious Extremism be a bad thing at all? Mahaveer, Jain, Buddha, Shankara, Chaitanya, Ma Amritandamaya, HH Dalai Lama, Sri Sri, Vivekanada, Ramakrishna all were extremists in their interpretation of Religion. They made the world a better place by their Religious extremism and gave directions and encouragement to us non-extremists that slug out a material life with our attachments, desires without consideration to how we damage the planet and other living beings and so on. Meanwhile we have many Excluvist Religion Saints/ Icons from Middle East origin religions that conducted Inquisitions/ Jihads that plundered, tortured and killed those that followed the extremist Mahaveer Jain, Buddha, Shankara, Chaitanya followers. This only leads us to the fact that either our definition of Religion as propagating Peace, Compassion, Tolerance is simply all wrong and messed or there is a fundamental difference/ conflict in the way we interpret Middle Eastern Religions visa vis the Indic/ Dharmic ones. In that context one must remember Europe embraced Secularism not to keep out Religious Extremists, but to keep out Religious Mainstream doctrine from Governance. Inquisition, Jihad and Sharia are not ‘Radical’ or ‘Extremist’ concepts within ME orthodoxies, they are mainstream concepts.
Mahatma Gandhi was another Indic religious extremist that took extreme pains to prove Compassion, Tolerance, Peace are a part of all religions whether ME origins or Indic.. He went so far as to try convince Jains, Buddhists, Vaishnavs to allow them and their families to be slaughtered because that would usher in compassion amongst those with ME Religious affiliations killing them.
Even if the Muslims want to kill us all we should face death bravely. If they established their rule after killing Hindus we would be ushering in a new world by sacrificing our lives. ( April 6, 1947, New Delhi, CWMG Vol. 94 page 249)
“I would tell the Hindus to face death cheerfully if the Muslims are out to kill them. I would be a real sinner if after being stabbed I wished in my last moment that my son should seek revenge. I must die without rancour. … You may turn round and ask whether all Hindus and all Sikhs should die. Yes, I would say. Such martyrdom will not be in vain.”
He tried his best propagating a song ” Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram Patita pavan Sita Ram, Ishwar Allah tera naam, Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan”. It went really well down with a lot of Indics, but not so well with many that swore allegiance to Middle Eastern Religious belief in the sub continent. From the latters POV it is logically only understandable because their definition of Religion does not match with the Indic one.
Meanwhile in the ME Religious inroads into Dharmic lands we have Will Durant in his 1935 book “The Story of Civilisation: Our Oriental Heritage” (page 459) says:
“The Mohammedan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. The Islamic historians and scholars have recorded with great glee and pride the slaughters of Hindus, forced conversions, abduction of Hindu women and children to slave markets and the destruction of temples carried out by the warriors of Islam during 800 AD to 1700 AD. Millions of Hindus were converted to Islam by sword during this period.”
And Fernand Braudel in A History of Civilisations (1995), that Islamic rule in India as a
“colonial experiment” was “extremely violent”, and “the Muslims could not rule the country except by systematic terror. Cruelty was the norm – burnings, summary executions, crucifixions or impalements, inventive tortures. Hindu temples were destroyed to make way for mosques. On occasion there were forced conversions. If ever there were an uprising, it was instantly and savagely repressed: houses were burned, the countryside was laid waste, men were slaughtered and women were taken as slaves.”
Alain Danielou in his book, Histoire de l’ Inde quotes Baburnama::
Alauudin Khilji asked his ‘spiritual’ advisor (Qazi) as to what was the Islamic law prescribed for the Hindus. The Qazi replied:
“Hindus are like the mud; if silver is demanded from them, they must with the greatest humility offer gold. If a Mohammadan desires to spit into a Hindu’s mouth, the Hindu should open it wide for the purpose. God created the Hindus to be slaves of the Mohammadans. The Prophet hath ordained that, if the Hindus do not accept Islam, they should be imprisoned, tortured, finally put to death, and their property confiscated.”
Gandhi’s doctrine would have failed against this and so we not only have a contradiction in the very terms that “Religion” is defined and understood, we also have a flaw in the way we define “Extremism”. If we really want to retain the original definitions of “Religion as = Compassion, Peace, Tolerance”, we have to ironically exclude calling some ME origin orthodoxies as Religions. Or else, we should label Indic Dharmic Faiths and not Religions in the ME context. For those whose “Religious” doctrine calls Vaishnavs, Jains, Buddhists, Advaits as Kafirs worthy of killing, enslaving, rape it is only fair for them not to pair their Dharmic doctrines on the same level as the ones advocating Jihad and Inquisition on us as part of their Mainstream doctrine.
It is thus time we reflect on the fact that Extremist Vaishnavs, Jains, Buddhists, Dvaits, Adviats, Chaitanya and assorted Dharmic Bhakts do follow the tenets of Peace, Tolerance and Compassion (generally includes even towards animals) as compared to ME Islamic and Christian faiths that have as part of mainstream doctrine propagated savage Jihad and torturous humiliating inquisitions on us. We need Religious Extremism of the Dharmic variety to guide us in our society, but not Religious mainstream doctrines that emanate excluvism and hatred. We certainly need more of those who are extremely devoted to the Tenets of Peace, Compassion (includes animals), Tolerance, but catch is they have not historically or in contemporary times come from the Religious backgrounds of the Middle East.