The Candid Eye

March 30, 2010

Missionaries: the good, the bad, and the ugly

An excellent article by Professor and Hindu Monk Ramdas Lamb.

Q: Is there a problem with proselytism overseas by U.S. religious groups? Isn’t sharing one’s faith part of religious freedom? When does it cross the line into manipulation and coercion?

Missionary proselytization has been an integral part of the two main prophetic religions, Christianity and Islam, since early on in the formation of each. It is precisely the reason they are the two largest religions in the world. It is also one of the darkest and most sinister aspects of religion and one of the main reasons so many people have a negative view of anything to do with religion. The basis and justification for proselytization is an extremely narrow minded and arrogant assumption: “My religion is the only right one, I have the only truth, all other religions are wrong, and it is my duty to get others to think and believe like me.” This belief has been used by Christians and Muslims for more than a millennium to justify the seduction, coercion, torture, and even murder of countless individuals in trying to get them to convert.

This does not mean that missionaries as a group have not done many good things for people over the millennia, and some continue to have positive impacts in the lives of the poor and needy. Examples of this can be seen currently in both Haiti and Chile. However, the negative actions of those who focus is proselytization far outweigh the positive.

Monk Ramdas Lamb : Image Courtesy - http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/

Religion is simultaneously one of the best as well as one of the most destructive of human creations. Religions have inspired people like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King to selflessly serve others and work to make the world a better place. Religions have also given rise to an ideology of hatred and have provided justification for the kinds of evils perpetuated by the likes of Aurangzeb, Hitler, and bin Laden.

Proselytizers are fundamentalists whose ideology divides the world into “believers” and “non-believers.” The latter comprise all those who are different, those perceived as the “other.” One of the biggest difficulties that we face in this world is our distrust of others, a feeling that leads to fear, hate, and violence. In his 1991 documentary entitled “Beyond Hate,” Bill Moyers addresses concepts such as “insider and outsider,” “us and other,” etc. and the pivotal role this bifurcated view plays in justifying hatred and violence. Proselytizers thrive on these distinctions, these divisions, drawing sharp lines between their own beliefs and those of everyone else. Non-believers are seen as lesser, sometimes even as evil, and clearly in need to either being changed or, in the extreme, annihilated.

More wars have been fought because of narrow religious doctrine and beliefs than for any other reason, and Christians and Muslims have been at the forefront. Both their histories are punctuated with wars against people of other religions, and the paths they have followed are riddled with the bodies of millions of innocent victims. One of the more extreme examples is the case of Timur, the 14th-century Muslim conqueror. In December, 1398, he overthrow the reigning Muslim ruler in Delhi. His justification was that the ruling dynasty was too tolerant of Hindus and did not convert them. Timur happily recounts in his memoirs that in the process of taking over, his army slaughtered 100,000 Hindus in a single day.

Forced conversions continue, as is evident by events in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Egypt. Even in the Gaza strip, two western newsman were recently forced to convert at gunpoint. Just last week, two young Sikh men were kidnapped and beheaded by members of the Taliban in Pakistan for refusing to convert to Islam. While such actions clearly do not represent the vast majority of Muslims, they have been condoned and even justified by fundamentalist Muslim leaders, and very few Muslims speak out in opposition, often out of fear. A recent and welcome exception is Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri, an influential Pakistani Muslim scholar, who just released a 600-page fatwa (religious edict) condemning Muslim terrorism and suicide bombings. Although it is a powerful and needed statement, it is a rarity, and Dr. ul-Qadri has unfortunately put his own life in danger in the process. Fundamentalists, irrespective of their chosen ideology, find disagreement difficult to allow, and violence has increasingly become a common reaction.

Christian missionaries in the past were not much better. In addition to the violence in the name of Christianity that was perpetuated during the Crusades and the Inquisitions, a look at the early proselytization efforts in India, the Americas, and the Pacific makes it clear that many missionaries found relatively easy justification for the torture and execution of those who refused to become Christian or who challenged their beliefs. Although nowadays most Christian proselytizers have renounced such violence, groups like the Manmasi National Christian Army in Assam, India, continue to use threats to force conversion.

Most European and American Christian missionaries during the last two centuries in Asia have found offers of food, work, education, and health care to be better methods for gaining converts. In the late 1700s, missionaries followed on the heels of the British East India Company and began a concerted effort to take over the Indian soul. Once the British government took control the country, proselytizers had a relatively free reign to pursue their objectives. Again, some missionaries did good works, but those focused on proselytization showed little actual concern for the well being of those they sought to convert.

Many Hindus had hoped that Indian Independence would help curtail the more underhanded activities of the missionaries, but this did not happen. Less than a decade after Independence, a government study conducted in central India known as the Niyogi Report brought to light many of the underhanded and cynical methods that Christian missionaries were continuing to use. The Indian government did little about it, and as a consequence, many of the same tactics remain prevalent.

Currently, Americans donate millions of dollars annually to Christian organizations that advertise charity work they do around the world. While it is true that some organizations do help many people, the assistance of many such groups comes with a price for the people being helped. That is because the real focus of most missionaries is on their proselytization efforts, for which a significant portion of the money is used. Far too often, their activities have absolutely nothing to do with spirituality or real charity, and everything to do with getting names and numbers of converts, so the missionaries can go back to their funding agencies and supporters and ask for continued finances for their claimed “successes.”

In India, missionaries tell their supporters in the U.S. that they provide free or inexpensive services to the needy. However, once initial assistance is given, then conditions are often added for subsequent help. If free education is provided, conversion may then be a requirement for its continuance past a certain point. If aid is in the form of health care, then the quality of care or type of medicine and treatment available may be determined by one’s willingness to convert. This becomes a serious and difficult issue for parents who bring a sick or injured child to a missionary hospital. They may be told that the necessary care is only given to Christians, or that the required medicines “will only work” on Christians. For those who do convert in order to receive needed care, they may well be pressured to then convert other family members or else lose whatever aid they are receiving. I have seen families torn apart by such missionary activities in Central India where I conduct research. Again, this is not what all missionaries do, but these are fairly common occurrences.

In early 2009, Pope Benedict XVI met the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and agreed to stop all conversion attempts directed at Jews. A month later, Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, president of Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, visited India and was asked while there if he would offer Hindus the same respect. He refused. There is a degree to narrow mindedness in every religious tradition, but when that is coupled with fundamentalist arrogance and powerful backing, nothing good can come from it.

In his “Seeds of Contemplation,” the late Catholic Trappist monk and mystic Thomas Merton warns about those with spiritual pride who think of themselves as having the truth and humility while others do not, who think they are suffering for God’s sake but deep inside are becoming full of pride in their supposed sanctity, who think that everyone else must adhere to their truth. Merton writes that when such an individual thinks that “he is messenger of God or a man with a mission to reform the world. . . He is capable of destroying religion and making the name of God odious to men.”

I am a strong supporter of freedom of religion. Most proselytizers are not. They want the freedom to coerce vulnerable and gullible individuals into converting, and they can justify many nefarious methods to accomplish their goal. No matter how well intentioned, any attempts to push a religious belief or denomination on someone ultimately benefits no one and demeans the religion in the process. If missionaries actually have something of genuine worth and value, why do they need to seduce, coerce, or threaten people to get them to accept it? Maybe their methods suggest that what they have to offer is not that worthwhile.

Advertisements

December 12, 2009

Negationism and the Muslim Conquests

From: Rewriting the Indian History

It is important to stop a moment and have a look at what the Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst, has called “negationism in India”. In his foreword to the book of the same title, Koenraad explains that negationism, which means in this context “the denial of historical crimes against humanity”, is not a new phenomenon. In modern history, the massacre by the Turks of 1,5 millions Armenians, or that of the 6 million Jews by the Nazis, the several millions of Russians by Stalin, or again the 1 million Tibetans by the Chinese communists, are historical facts which have all been denied by their perpetrators… But deny is not the exact word. They have been NEGATED in a thousand ways: gross, clever, outrageous, subtle, so that in the end, the minds of people are so confused and muddled, that nobody knows anymore where the truth is. Sometimes, it is the numbers that are negated or passed under silence: the Spanish conquest of South America has been one of the bloodiest and most ruthless episodes in history. Elst estimates that out of the population of native Continental South America of 1492, which stood at 90 million, only 32 million survived; terrible figures indeed but who talks about them today ? “But what of the conquest of India by Muslims”, asks Elst? In other parts of Asia and Europe, the conquered nations quickly opted for conversion to Islam rather than death. But in India, because of the staunch resistance of the 4000 year old Hindu faith, the Muslim conquests were for the Hindus a pure struggle between life and death. Entire cities were burnt down and their populations massacred. Each successive campaign brought hundreds of thousands of victims and similar numbers were deported as slaves. Every new invader made often literally his hill of Hindu skulls. Thus the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000, was followed by the annihilation of the entire Hindu population there; indeed, the region is still called Hindu Kush, ‘Hindu slaughter’. The Bahmani sultans in central India, made it a rule to kill 100.000 Hindus a year. In 1399, Teimur killed 100.000 Hindus IN A SINGLE DAY, and many more on other occasions. Koenraad Elst quotes Professor K.S. Lal’s “Growth of Muslim population in India”, who writes that according to his calculations, the Hindu population decreased by 😯 MILLION between the year 1000 and 1525. INDEED PROBABLY THE BIGGEST HOLOCAUST IN THE WHOLE WORLD HISTORY. (Negat.34)
But the “pagans” were far too numerous to kill them all; and Hinduism too well entrenched in her people’s soul, never really gave up, but quietly retreated in the hearts of the pious and was preserved by the Brahmins’ amazing oral powers. Thus, realising that they would never be able to annihilate the entire Indian population and that they could not convert all the people, the Muslims rulers, particularly under the Hanifite law, allowed the pagans to become “zimmis” (protected ones) under 20 humiliating conditions, with the heavy “jizya”, the toleration tax, collected from them. “It is because of Hanifite law, writes Mr Elst, that many Muslim rulers in India considered themselves exempted from the duty to continue the genocide of Hindus”. The last “jihad” against the Hindus was waged by the much glorified Tipu Sultan, at the end of the 18th century. Thereafter, particularly following the crushing of the 1857 rebellion by the British, Indian Muslims fell into a state of depression and increasing backwardness, due to their mollah’s refusal of British education (whereas the elite Hindus gradually went for it) and their nostalgia for the “glorious past”‘. It is only much later, when the British started drawing them into the political mainstream, so as to divide India, that they started regaining some predominance.
Negationism means that this whole aspect of Indian history has been totally erased, not only from history books, but also from the memory, from the consciousness of Indian people. Whereas the Jews have constantly tried, since the Nazi genocide, to keep alive the remembrance of their six million martyrs, the Indian leadership, political and intellectual, has made a wilful and conscious attempt to deny the genocide perpetrated by the Muslims. No one is crying for vengeance. Do the Jews of today want to retaliate upon contemporary Germany? NO. It is only a matter of making sure that history does not repeat its mistakes, as alas it is able to do today: witness the persecution of Hindus in Kashmir, whose 250.000 Pandits have fled their 5000 year old homeland; or the 50.000 Hindus chased from Afghanistan; or the oppression of Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan. And most of all, to remember, is to BE ABLE TO LOOK AT TODAY WITH THE WISDOM OF YESTERDAY. No collective memory should be erased for appeasing a particular community.
Yet, what has happened in India, at the hand of Hindus themselves, is a constant denial and even a perversion of the genocide committed by Muslims in India. Hasn’t the “radical humanist” M.N. Roy, written “that Islam has fulfilled a historic mission of equality and abolition of discrimination in India, and that for this, Islam has been welcomed in India by the lower castes”. “If AT ALL any violence occurred, he goes on to say, it was a matter of justified class struggle by the progressive forces against the reactionary forces, meaning the feudal Hindu upper classes..” Want to listen to another such quote? This one deals with Mahmud Ghaznavi, the destroyer of thousands of Hindu temples, who according to his chronicler Utbi, sang the praise of the Mathura temple complex, sacred above all to all Hindus… and promptly proceeded to raze it to the ground: “Building interested Mahmud and he was much impressed by the city of Mathura, where there are today a thousand edifices as firm as the faith of the faithful. Mahmud was not a religious man. He was a Mahomedan, but that was just by the way. He was in the first place a soldier and a brilliant soldier”… Amazing eulogy indeed of the man who was proud of desecrating hundreds of temples and made it a duty to terrorise and humiliate pagans. And guess from whom is that quote? From Jawaharlal Nehru himself, the first Prime Minister of India and one of the architects of independence!
M.N. Roy, and Nehru in a lesser degree, represent the foremost current of negationism in India, which is Marxist inspired. For strangely, it was the Russian communists who decided to cultivate the Arabs after the First World War, in the hope that they constituted a fertile ground for future indoctrination. One should also never forget that Communism has affected whole generations of ardent youth, who saw in Marxism a new ideology in a world corrupted by capitalism and class exploitation. Nothing wrong in that; but as far as indoctrination goes, the youth of the West, particularly of the early sixties and seventies, were all groomed in sympathising with the good Arabs and the bad Jews. And similarly in India, two or three young generations since the early twenties, were tutored on negating Muslim genocide on the Hindus. In “Communalism and the writing of Indian history”, Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia and Bipan Chandra, professors at the JNU in New Delhi, the Mecca of secularism and negationism in India, denied the Muslim genocide by replacing it instead with a conflict of classes. The redoubtable Romila Thapar in her “Penguin History of India”, co-authored with Percival Spear, writes: “Aurangzeb’s supposed intolerance, is little more than a hostile legend based on isolated acts such as the erection of a mosque on a temple site in Benares”. How can one be so dishonest, or so blind? But it shows how negationism is perpetuated in India.
What are the facts? Aurangzeb (1658-1707) did not just build an isolated mosque on a destroyed temple, he ordered ALL temples destroyed, among them the Kashi Vishvanath, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism and had mosques built on a number of cleared temples sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction, with mosques built on them. A few examples: Krishna’s birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujurat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Benares and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. (Neg 60). The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not 5 figures; according to his own official court chronicles: “Aurangzeb ordered all provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the Pagans and to make a complete end to all pagan teachings and practices”. The chronicle sums up the destructions like this: “Hasan Ali Khan came and said that 172 temples in the area had been destroyed… His majesty went to Chittor and 63 temples were destroyed..Abu Tarab, appointed to destroy the idol-temples of Amber, reported that 66 temples had been razed to the ground”.. Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples, their users were also wiped-out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in Hindu religion and the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb’s forced conversions. As we can see Romila Thapar and Percival Spear’s statement of a benevolent Aurangzeb is a flagrant attempt at negationism. Even the respectable Encyclopedia Brittannica in its entry on India, does not mention in its chapter on the Sultanate period any persecutions of Hindus by Muslims, except “that Firuz Shah Tughlaq made largely unsuccessful attempts at converting his Hindu subjects and sometime persecuted them”. The British, for their own selfish purpose, were of course greatly responsible for whitewashing the Muslims, whom they needed to counterbalance the influence of the Hindus and the Congress. It is sad that Jawarlhal Nehru and the Congress perpetuated that brand of negationism. But that is another story.
The happiest in this matter must be the Muslims themselves. What fools these Hindus are, they must be telling themselves: We killed them by the millions, we wrested a whole nation out of them, we engineer riots against them, and they still defend us!… But don’t the Hindus know that many orthodox Indian Muslims still cling to the Deoband school, which says that India was once “Dar-ul-Islam”, the house of Islam, and should return to that status. Maulana Abul Kala Azad, several times Congress President, and Education Minister in free India, was a spokesman for this school. The Aligarh school on the contrary, led by Mohammed Iqbal, propounded the creation of Pakistan. What particularly interests us in the Aligarh school is the attempt by Muslim historians, such as Mohamed Habiib, to rewrite the Chapter of Muslim invasions in India. In 1920, Habib started writing his magnum opus, which he based on four theories: 1) that the records (written by the Muslims themselves) of slaughters of Hindus, the enslaving of their women and children and razing of temples were “mere exaggerations by court poets and zealous chroniclers to please their rulers”. 2) That they were indeed atrocities, but mainly committed by Turks, the savage riders from the Steppe. 3) That the destruction of the temples took place because Hindus stored their gold and jewels inside them and therefore Muslim armies plundered these. 4) That the conversion of millions of Hindus to Islam was not forced, “but what happened was there was a shift of opinion in the population, who on its own free will chose the Shariat against the Hindu law (smriti), as they were all oppressed by the bad Brahmins”…!!! (Negationism p.42)
Unfortunately for Habib and his school, the Muslims invaders did record with glee their genocide on Hindus, because they felt all along that they were doing their duty; that killing, plundering, enslaving and razing temples was the work of God, Mohammed. Indeed, whether it was Mahmud of Ghazni (997-1030), who was no barbarian, although a Turk, and patronised art and literature, would recite a verse of the Koran every night after having razed temples and killed his quota of unbelievers; or Firuz Shah Tughlak (1351-1388) who personally confirms that the destruction of Pagan temples was done out of piety and writes: “on the day of a Hindu festival, I went there myself, ordered the executions of all the leaders AND PRACTITIONERS of his abomination; I destroyed their idols temples and built mosques in their places”. Finally, as Elst points out, “Muslim fanatics were merely faithful executors of Quranic injunctions. It is not the Muslims who are guilty but Islam”. (Negationism in India, p. 44)
But ultimately, it is a miracle that Hinduism survived the onslaught of Muslim savagery; it shows how deep was her faith, how profound her karma, how deeply ingrained her soul in the hearts of her faithfuls. We do not want to point a finger at Muslim atrocities, yet they should not be denied and their mistakes should not be repeated today. But the real question is: Can Islam ever accept Hinduism? We shall turn towards the Sage, the yogi, who fought for India’s independence, accepting the Gita’s message of karma of violence when necessary, yet had a broad vision that softened his words: “You can live with a religion whose principle is toleration. But how is it possible to live peacefully with a religion whose principle is “I will not tolerate you? How are you going to have unity with these people?…The Hindu is ready to tolerate; he is open to new ideas and his culture and has got a wonderful capacity for assimilation, but always provided India’s central truth is recognised.. (Sri Aurobindo India’s Rebirth 161,173) Or behold this, written on September 1909: “Every action for instance which may be objectionable to a number of Mahomedans, is now liable to be forbidden because it is likely to lead to a breach of peace. And one is dimly beginning to wonder whether worship in Hindu temples may be forbidden on that valid ground (India’s Rebirth p. 55). How prophetic! Sri Aurobindo could not have foreseen that so many Muslim countries would ban Rushdie’s book and that Hindu processions would often be forbidden in cities, for fear of offending the Muslims. Sri Aurobindo felt that sooner or later Hindus would have to assert again the greatness of Hinduism.
And here we must say a word about monotheism, for it is the key to the understanding of Islam. Christians and Muslims have always harped on the fact that their religions sprang-up as a reaction against the pagan polytheist creeds, which adored many Gods. ” There is only one real God they said (ours), all the rest are just worthless idols “. This ” monotheism versus polytheism business ” has fuelled since then the deep, fanatic, violent and murderous zeal of Islam against polytheist religions, particularly against Hinduism, which is the most comprehensive, most widely practiced of all them. It even cemented an alliance of sorts between the two great monotheist religions of the world, Christianity and Islam, witness the Britishers’ attitude in India, who favoured Indian Muslims and Sikhs against the Hindus; or the King of Morocco who, even though he is one of the most moderate Muslim leaders in the world, recently said in an interview: ” we have no fight with Christianity, our battle is against the Infidel who adores many gods “. But the truth is that Hinduism is without any doubt the most monotheist religion in the World, for it recognises divine unity in multiplicity. It does not say: ” there is only one God, which is Mohammed. If you do not believe in Him I will kill you “. It says instead: ” Yes Mohammed is a manifestation of God, but so is Christ, or Buddha, or Krishna, or Confucius “. This philosophy, this way of seeing, which the Christians and Muslims call ” impious “, is actually the foundation for a true monotheist understanding of the world. It is because of this ” If you do not recognize Allah (or Christ), I will kill you “, that tens of millions of Hindus were slaughtered by Arabs and other millions of South Americans annihilated by the Christians. And ultimately the question is: Are the Muslims of today ready to accept Hinduism ? Unfortunately no. For Muslims all over the world, Hinduism is still the Infidel religion ” par excellence “. This what their religion tell them, at every moment, at every verse, at the beginning of each prayer : ” Only Allah is great “. And their mollahs still enjoin them to go on fight ” jihad ” to deliver the world of the infidels. And if the armies of Babar are not there any longer; and if it is not done any more to kill a 100.000 Hindus in a day, there is still the possibility of planting a few bombs in Bombay, of fuelling separatisms in the hated land and eventually to drop a nuclear device, which will settle the problem once and for all. As to the Indian Muslim, he might relate to his Hindu brother, for whatever he says, he remains an Indian, nay a Indu; but his religion will make sure that he does not forget that his duty is to hate the Infidel. This is the crux of the problem today and the riddle if Islam has to solved, if it wants to survive in the long run.
We will never be able to assess the immense physical harm done to India by the Muslim invasions. Even more difficult is to estimate the moral and the spiritual damage done to Hindu India. But once again, the question is not of vengeance, or of reawakening old ghosts, but of not repeating the same mistakes. Unfortunately, the harm done by the Muslims conquest is not over. The seeds planted by the Moghols, by Babar, Mahmud, or Aurangzeb, have matured: the 125 million Indian Muslims of today have forgotten that they were once peaceful, loving Hindus, forcibly converted to a religion they hated. And they sometimes take-up as theirs a cry of fanaticism which is totally alien to their culture. Indeed, as Sri Aurobindo once said: “More than 90% of the Indian Muslims are descendants of converted Hindus and belong as much to the Indian nation as the Hindu themselves”…(Rebirth of India, p.237) The embryo of secession planted by the Mahomedans, has also matured into a poisonous tree which has been called Pakistan and comes back to haunt India through three wars and the shadow of a nuclear conflict embracing South Asia. And in India, Kashmir and Ayodhya are reminders that the Moghol cry for the house of Islam in India is not yet over.
* For more details, read “Negationism in India, concealing the record of Islam”, by Koenraad Elst, Voice of India, New Delhi.

July 23, 2009

Aurangzeb as per Mughal records

Source: http://www.aurangzeb.info/

Aurangzeb as per Mughal records is a fantastic exhibition that was being shown in many parts of the country, New Delhi, Bangalore and Pune. Video of its inauguration in Bangalore is here. It contains factual history of Aurangzeb as per Mughal records, in form of paintings. When it went to Chennai, the local Muslim groups protested against it being open to exhibition. The Police took quick action of vandalism, destroyed the paintings and arrested women who conducted the exhibit. Isn’t it a barbaric action on the freedom of expression? Is history a toy in hands of rulers to modify, censor it? History has to be presented as it is, the meaning of the word Itihas in Samskrit for the History is “This is how it happened”. The exhibit is set of paintings based on Aurangzeb’s own court cronicles. What objection can you have for such an authentic source of information? If there is objection, it needs to be filed as a court suit and not destroyed forcefully.

The exhibit is available for view online, at this website. The exhibition is put up by FACT India, Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism. FACT India has filed an online petition for compensation for damage and apology.

Some snapshots:-

SomnathDemolition

Demolition of Somnath Temple

Shivaji Maharaj walking away in court of Aurangzeb

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj walking away in court of Aurangzeb

June 18, 2009

History Retold

An article worth reading from the Frontline magazine.  The source is here.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.