“Terror has no religion” is often repeated by politicians and media. At the same time, the most dangerous terrorists of our times like the Islamic State and Boko Haram shout triumphantly ‘Allah ho Akbar’ after brutally killing those whom they consider infidels or opponents of the caliphate. Common sense would suggest that at least these groups inflict terror in the name of Islam.
However, so far, the “correct” view is that these groups don’t follow Islam, but ‘Islamism’. They are misguided and have distorted the good Islam into a bad Islamism. So they are not Muslims, but Islamists or extremists who follow an ‘extremist ideology’. Islam has nothing to do with it. Terror may have an ideology, like communism or Nazism, but it has no religion. Obviously this explanation is meant to keep Islam away from scrutiny and its image “sacred”.
In the same way, Pope John Paul II tried to keep Christianity and the Church above board, when in the year 2000, he finally asked ‘forgiveness from God for sins committed against Jews, heretics, women, gypsies and native people’. He, too, did not blame the Church but ‘sons and daughters of the Church’ who committed ‘mistakes’.
These sons and daughters of the Church surely would proclaim, if they were still around, that they only followed the instructions of the Church – whether it was the brutal Christianization of Latin America, where millions were killed, or the “Holy Inquisition” which consciously used horrific torture and murder to make people fall in line with the unintelligible dictates of the Church.
The Jihadis of ISIS, too, don’t agree with the view that they misinterpret Islam. They are sure that they follow the true Islam and can quote numerous Ayats from the Quran to support their view, for example 8.39: “Oh believers, fight them until there is no more mischief and the Deen of Allah (way of life prescribed by Allah) is established completely.”
If ISIS indeed represents “true” Islam, it is a cause for great concern and needs to be investigated. Why do politicians and community leaders shy away from putting religious texts on the table and under scrutiny? Why the Quran or the Bible is never mentioned when religion is discussed? On 20th July 2015, David Cameron vowed to deal with the poison of extremism. He said: “What we are fighting, in Islamist extremism, is an ideology. It is an extreme doctrine.”
Yet he did not mention the Quran once in his long speech. Why?
It is important to find out, whether there is something in the doctrine of Christianity and Islam, which is missing in Hinduism and Buddhism, and which allows or even fosters terror against outsiders. How was it possible for a Timur or Babur or Aurangzeb to have hundred thousands of civilian Hindu men slaughtered and their women and children taken as slaves only because they were Hindus? What mindset does it require to be able to do this?
Yes, there is indeed something in the Christian and Islamic doctrine that condones and even fosters violence, and it is easy to find out: Apart from the true core in all religions, i.e. the acknowledgment and worship of a higher power, Christianity and Islam inject the virus of supremacy into their belief system and contempt for “others” who they claim will be thrown into hellfire for all eternity. They both claim that the full truth was revealed by the highest authority of the universe only to them and everyone has to believe it. Those who don’t are highly offensive to their God and will suffer for all eternity in hellfire.
Obviously these two religions (Christianity started the trend) were not content with people worshipping a higher power by whatever name they chose. They wanted to control people and attain world dominion. And what a disaster it turned out to be for humanity! This claim “we have the full truth; God/ Allah has chosen us (Christians/ Muslims) over them (all others)” is poison for humanity. There is not a shred of evidence that this claim is true. In fact, it is clear that it cannot be the absolute truth, yet because it is enshrined in their respective ‘holy book’, nobody questions it.
Reading the Quran it becomes quickly clear that Allah has hatred for unbelievers and also for hypocrites among the believers (wich gives Jihadis the justification to kill also Muslims apart from kufirs). He keeps reminding the believers again and again, how they will enjoy paradise and the unbelievers will suffer in hell. He even details the torture in hell in horrific detail. All this is there in the Quran.
Similarly, the Bible also claims that there won’t be any mercy for those who did not accept Christ during their one and only lifetime (the Church forbade the belief in rebirth in 553 AD). The hell for non-Christians is as bad as the hell for non-Muslims. There will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”(Matth 13.50) – and mind you, for all eternity…
Christianity and Islam never tried to sort out which one of the two is “only true”. They are content to claim “our belief system alone is true and only those, who adopt it, find favour with the Highest”. The reason may be that the top officials in the religious institutions don’t really believe what they tell their flock. If they would believe in eternal hell, several Popes would have lived their lives differently…
Injecting a feeling of supremacy into the faithful pampers to a human weakness – the weakness to feel superior to others, whether as an individual or a group. Belonging to a big group of like-minded people who confirm each other that they are favoured by God and superior, is for many reassuring. Especially in Islam, the brotherhood of the faithful plays a big role in making people stick to their religion.
The claim of both Christianity and Islam that God/ Allah has made his will known at a certain point in time to a certain person and wants all to follow their respective religion, and if they don’t, they will be thrown into hellfire is the poison that needs to be taken out from those ‘religions’.
Incidentally, the term ‘religion’ (Lat. to bind or tie) was used from the 11th century on only for the Catholic Church and from the 16th century onwards also for Islam. People were tied into the belief-system, into which they were born, and not allowed to choose how they want to call or imagine the invisible, great Power – a freedom that India traditionally granted. So there is no need to bow one’s head and fold one’s hands in reverence, as soon as someone says ‘this is my religion’. Intelligent reasoning must not be forfeited.
Now what can be done? How can the poison be taken out?
This needs to be debated. However I consider one point important: the “others” (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Atheists, etc.) who are said to be thrown into hellfire, would do well to protest the outrageous, untrue claim that they will suffer in hell for eternity. There is, however, a problem: how can they feel outrage at something, what they don’t believe in. In all likelihood, they consider this hell-claim ridiculous, not worthy of any repudiation. And of course they have a point.
But they overlook a crucial aspect that can become highly dangerous for them: they ignore the mindset which this claim produces in people who believe it. And they should not delude themselves that it is impossible to believe it. It is possible. I know from own experience.
True, nowadays in Europe, the Church (wisely) does not stress “hell” anymore, because many lost faith and even more would leave the Church, but in India it is stressed. The Christian converts, whom I asked, all believed in hell for Hindus, including an IIT professor who converted when he was working in the US. He even convinced his parents to convert. It is clearly a case of making otherwise intelligent persons stupid.
The Quran is full of quotes of hell for unbelievers. Further, Muslim youngsters hear five times daily the Azan ending with the words:
“O Allah! Guide us to The Right Way. The Way of those whom You have favored, not of those who have earned Your wrath or of those who have lost The Way” (Quran 1.6,7).
Naturally, they may start to detest their Hindu brothers and sisters who have ‘earned the wrath’ of the Highest, because they don’t heed his words and convert to Islam.
If one day the call for Jihad were given, (Tarek Fatah mentioned in an article that even in Toronto mosques, imams pray for victory over the kufirs) their conscience would be already dysfunctional. They would see nothing wrong in ridding the earth of those who are arrogant enough not to heed the words of the one true God, which according to them are enshrined in the Quran or in the Bible.
Hindus generally don’t realize the power and danger of a mindset, though they need only look to Pakistan. It is the best example what can become of normal, well-meaning Indians when they are brainwashed into a hateful doctrine. How did Kasab I and II develop the mindset that it’s good to kill Hindus? Who or what is responsible? Or how is it possible for Christian missionaries to cheat simple Hindu folk to get them to sign up for baptism? Even the huge slave trade from Africa and the arrogance of western colonial powers towards the ‘natives’ probably had its root in the brainwashing of being superior and chosen. Rightly, ISIS in an video on the net talk about their brainwashed kids as their greatest asset.
Typically, Islam and Christianity try to avoid scrutiny of their religions for obvious reasons. They are interested to preserve their ‘true and holy’ image that they have enforced over centuries. Attempts are on not only to ban defamation, but even criticism of religions. The Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) has already petitioned the United Nations and Saudi Arabia gave in July 2015 a call to the world to ban all criticism of religion.
Before this hopefully never succeeds, countries like India, China, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar and others should petition the United Nations to ban untrue claims about the afterlife of their non-Muslim and non-Christian citizens, as it breeds contempt and hatred for them.
When children read in their holy book in school how terrible ‘unbelievers’ are, some of them may later be ready to kill those whom they consider rejects by their God. ISIS is taking the Quran literally. They consider it their duty to establish a caliphate and sharia and bring the whole world under it. They are convinced they have made their life meaningful and scoff at those who criticize them as having an ‘extremist ideology’. They ‘know’ they follow the word of Allah.
Can they be blamed? If not them, who or what is to be blamed for their mindset? As long as they don’t doubt certain Ayats of the Quran, any de-radicalization program is bound to fail. They will consider clerics who tell them not to follow the Quran to the letter “confused old men”, as a German Turk explained in an interview (link below).
Over thousand years ago, Adi Shankara challenged Mandana Mishra for a debate. There is need for a debate today on different aspects of truth, including on whether there is eternal hellfire on the basis of one life or whether there is rebirth on the level of this universe. At least people need to be made aware about this hell claim and how ridiculous it is.
The true core of all religions needs to be strengthened. This core is common to all and beneficial. It is the claim that there is a great invisible power behind this visible universe. This true core was known since ages and is explained in the Indian tradition in its purest form. It is not an invention by Christianity and Islam. In fact, these two religions can learn from Hindu Dharma how many different ways of expressing one’s faith can live peacefully side by side. Hindu Dharma doesn’t tie its followers into a rigid belief system, but helps them to become free by realizing the truth in oneself.
Harmful, untrue dogmas like “this invisible power is jealous and wants this or that… and if you don’t do it, it will throw you into hellfire” need to be weeded out.
Only then humanity can be one family.