The two largest religions in the world have made it an art to hide behind feel-good slogans.
Islam and Christianity claim to be religions of peace and love, ‘inviting’ people to convert to their doctrine. But as a targetted kaffir/heathen, I have a question apiece for them, having not received any satisfactory answer yet. I am sharing these questions so that possibly others can ask them, even as I remain hopeful of getting an answer from a Muslim or Christian himself.
Of Christians, I ask,
Colonialism is accepted as a moral crime, an injustice against humanity, even by most Christians today. The motives for colonialism were many but a major one was the propagation of Christianity as most colonial enterprises were accompanied by missionaries, who operated with the support of the colonizers.
In that context and if Christianity is a religion of love, compassion etc. – how is it that there is not a single case where a Christian missionary stood against the injustices of colonial rule when the colonizer was a Christian and the colonized were non-Christians?
I tried to search through history and the only cases that come close, yet do not answer the question, are:
• Mexico, where Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a catholic priest fought for the independence of Mexico, but here both the colonizer and colonized were Christians. So faith is a non-factor.
• Korea, where Christian missions were active in Korean independence from Japanese occupation. But in this case, most of the colonizers and the colonized were not Christians, yet missionaries acted because by doing so they could convert Koreans to Christianity as they had the goodwill of having fought as freedom fighters. (Christianity rarely converts people based on its theological or philosophical values, maybe because none of that is originally Christian, Conversion is nearly always by other means – charity, bribery, hijacking social movements etc.)
If love and compassion are applicable only when the subjects are Christians or are promising converts to Christianity, are they then truly love or compassion?
If so conditional, is it love?
Of Islam, I ask,
Is there any society in present-day or in history, where Islam was the dominant religion of the population and others (non-Muslims) could live in that society, with equal freedom, opportunities and privileges – all other things being equal?
Again I searched through history and current narratives, the closest cases which still fail the test are:
• Al Andalus, Islamic Spain. had a reputation for tolerance. But that reputation was based on the treatment of the Jewish compared to how the Jewish were treated in the Christian world, at that point in history. That is hardly something to be proud of, is it? And even so, that does not mean that the Jewish had the same freedoms, opportunities, privileges as a Muslim citizen of those emirates/taifas.
• In the current day, Indonesia is held to be so even if we ignore Aceh and also the fairly regular social-political discrimination or violence against non-Muslims. But even fundamentally, Indonesia imposes the Islamic Tawheed – monotheism, as the first foundational principle of the nation. So polytheists can’t exist freely, openly and legally in Indonesia, practising polytheism, without subterfuge.
• Some secular Hindus talk about the prosperous lives of many thousands of Hindus in the Arab states of the Middle East. Even temples have been built recently, inaugurated by Modi himself, which they proudly claim as evidence of a tolerant Islam. These people mistake that ‘economic’ success and special supervised facilities to practice faith, as proof that Islam is inclusive and peaceable.
But let me ask them, a large number of Hindus have been working in the Middle East for decades now. How many Hindus have managed to become citizens of these Islamic states? The immigrant Hindu might be richer than a local Muslim, but how much socio-political influence, investment does the Hindu have in such states?
UAE for example, with a resident population of 7.4 million (2010 est.). Only approximately 20% of the residents are UAE citizens. According to the 2005 census, 100% of the citizens are Muslim; 85 per cent are Sunni Muslim and 15 per cent are Shi’a. As of 2005, not a single non-Muslim citizen.
So how is Islam a religion of peace, when never in its history has it treated people with reciprocal respect or equal freedom?
Peace of one party’s term is not peace, but subjugation. Islamic truce is always temporary and to be broken when it suits it, such has been the pattern since Hudaybiyyah.
Can such a perilous thing be peace?
Unable to answer these questions most of my interlocutors, often Hindus themselves, come back at me asking, ‘Well, what about Hindus, did not Hindu kings invade, cause injustices etc.?’
Of course, they did, even if only on a much smaller scale, but the difference is that no Hindu principle authorizes or enables such action on the basis of ‘belief’. Hindus are exhorted to fight the immoral, the criminal, but not disbelief. For that, there is no dogmatic sanction. So any such behaviour is entirely the individual’s responsibility, this is true of all Dharmic religions. Some cases that come up are:
• Ashoka persecuted Jainas but unless Tripitakas or other Buddhist Sutras instruct Buddhists to make war against those who don’t believe in Buddha and his teachings, the responsibility of the persecution is limited to Ashoka alone and is not Buddhism’s.
• Kulottunga Chola persecuted Ramanujacharya and removed Govindaraja from Thiruchitrakootam. Fine, but unless Shaivagamas, Shaiva Siddhanta instruct devotees to assault those who are not Shaivas, the responsibility is only Kulottunga’s and not that of Shaivism.
• Koon Pandya supposedly caused Jains to die on the stake, and Sambandar did write polemical poetry against Jainavada. But again, lacking doctrinal requirement to persecute non-Shaivas, such acts are only the responsibility of the person and not the religion.
In all these cases the persecutors did not provide any doctrinal sanction for their acts, but only their own contextual reasons, personal or political.
Whereas, every act of persecution, violence by Muslims upon non-Muslims from the Khalifa, the ‘great’ Mughal in history, to nations like Pakistan or the local jihadi in the locality today, they themselves connect to the dogmatic requirements of Islam to make it responsible for such acts of infamy. And similarly so with Christianity, where Biblical content has been used to justify slavery, colonialism etc.
Both talk about imposing upon/fighting against others, based not upon actions, but beliefs.
The scale of these acts across centuries, across multiple regions of the world with the sheer number of people killed, cultures erased, cannot be excused away by declaring them as interpretative errors of the misguided.
And worse, the same behaviour is still in play. Islamic terrorism and its intransigence along with the Christian industrial-scale pyramid scheme of proselytizing.
But the primary reason why Hindus and others need not answer such a question, “Well what about the Hindus?”, is because Hindus don’t go around bothering people to convert to their religion, making claims as a religion of peace, a religion of love etc.
Thus, only those who ask others to convert, are responsible for answering the purpose of their religion.
References / Footnotes