A few days ago, Rabbi Arthur Schneier -the Vienna-born Holocaust survivor, who has been leaving and operating for many years in New York -gave the keynote address to the Austrian Parliament on the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, the terrible “Night of Broken Glass” when the shards of broken glass littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed.
It is also referred to as Reichs pogrom and November pogrome, two terms that always use the word “pogrom” (meaning “devastation” or “riot” in Russian) to indicate the attack of small well-manipulated groups against Jews and their property.
Many pogroms were carried out in Russia, a country of ancient and profound anti-Semitism.
What are its roots? The traditional anti-Semitism of the Orthodox Church, as well as the easy manipulation of the apparata, and the obsession with identity, spurred on by the Tsarist regime.
The Nazis, in particular, imitated this terrible political practice, as early as the Kristallnacht of November 1938, to actually start the Jews’ physical elimination until the “Final Solution”, which began in 1940-1941.
During that night over 1,400 synagogues were destroyed and 1,500 people were killed in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
At that time, as many as 30,000 Jews were deported to the concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.
Before the Kristallnacht, in 1933 there had been a call – or, indeed, an obligation -for a boycott of Jewish shops, businesses and professionals and later, in 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were promulgated.
Rabbi Schneier thought that, after the Holocaust, there would be no resurgence of anti-Semitism – a virus that has characterized modern history from late antiquity until today.
As a Kantian rationalist, Rabbi Schneier thought that – after the evidence of facts – there would be no persecution against Jews in the bright enlightened future of the twentieth century.
Instead monsters remain alive, after visible history putting them temporarily to rest.
But, as Rabbi Schneier said, now – in 2018 – the cancer of anti-Semitism is back and has metastasized in Europe and in the United States.
Ii should be recalled that anti-Semitism has always been present in North America.
Suffice it to recall Leo Frank’s affair of 1915. That American Jewish citizen was at first sentenced to death, but later his sentence was commuted from capital punishment to life imprisonment. Two years later, in response to the commutation of his sentence, he was taken from prison by a band of vigilantes, lynched by an angry mob and hanged from a tree. Today the consensus of researchers on the subject holds that Frank was wrongly convicted.
In 1958, even after the Shoah and the Nazi atrocities against the Jews becoming publicly known, the oldest synagogue in Atlanta was blown up and damaged extensively by a dynamite-fuelled explosion.
Myths and preconceived ideas, especially those based on hatred, do not need confirmation or denial. They exist and that is just the way it is.
Two years later, there was also the shooting attack by a “white supremacist” against a synagogue in St. Louis, with the killing of some Jews leaving that place of worship.
Alan Berg, an anti-racist intellectual, was killed in 1984, because in some of his radio talk shows he had defended black people and Jews.
There is no rational argument that can defeat anti-Semitism, racism, ethnic or even personal hatred.
Over seven major cases of violent anti-Semitism were reported in in the USA between 1990 and 2010, but there were countless actions on a smaller scale.
Anti-Semitism is still alive and is even increasing in terms of quantity and virulence. Just think of the attack against the Pittsburgh synagogue last October.
As Rabbi Schneier maintains, certainly the periods of social, cultural and economic turbulence are always fatal for the Jews – as the whole Western history demonstrates. Hence, unfortunately, with the crisis of Europe and the different, but concurrent crisis of the USA, the increase in anti-Semitism is predictable.
Shortly after the end of the Holocaust, Hanna Arendt rejected the theory of anti-Semitism as the development of the Jewish “scapegoat” theory and she often elaborated on the Rathenau case. Rathenau was the great Jewish industrialist and diplomat, who was Foreign Minister in Germany’s Weimar Republic and was murdered by right-wing extremists.
Elias Canetti reminded us that the idea for his extraordinary “Crowds and Power” sprang to his mind while seeing the many Social-Democratic workers following Rathenau’s coffin during the mourning service.
What is the essence of Arendt’s thesis on the Foreign Minister of Germany’s Weimar Republic?
The essence is that – by traditional position and role – the Jews were the “avant-garde of modernity” – hence all those who hate the values of Modernity are, ipso facto, anti-Semitic.
It is partly true, but Arendt forgets to say that anti-Semitism is widespread even in ancient societies (or in archaic societies, such as the Tsarist Russia of pogroms) and that many critics of the eighteenth-century revolutions are far from being anti-Semitic.
As noted by both Leo Strauss and the Marxist philosopher Lukacs, the modern world is also the symbolic and social organization that has been most opposed during its development, which has probably not ended yet.
The West of technology and of the calculating mind is not yet over, but its death depends on its excess of current and probably future anti-Semitism, which is incredible after the Shoah.
That is an excess of memory of its archaic and anti-modern past, even though modernity itself was somehow anti-Semitic.
Here Rabbi Schneieris very clear: the future of Europe is directly linked to the end of anti-Semitism and of today’s particular hatred against the Jews, i.e. that of anti-Zionism.
The future of Europe, but not only of the European Jews or of the complex world of North American Judaism.
We can certainly criticize Israel and its government – as we can disagree with the government of Turkey or Finland – but it is certainly nothing new that the polemic against the Jewish State is linked more to the adjective “Jewish” than to the noun “State”.
In the crowds’ minds, the history of Israel is now linked to the assumption – completely ungrounded – that it took away from the Palestinians the lands that originally belonged to them.
Zionism was linked – quite rationally – to the reaction of the French people to the Dreyfus trial that divided French society between those who supported Dreyfus, the so-called “Dreyfusards”, and those who condemned him, namely the “anti-Dreyfusards”. That year also marked the beginning of the unfortunate caste of intellectuals, that is fortunately irrelevant today.
In Theodor Herzl’s mind, the end of the rational and civil relationship between Europe and the Jewish world was evident.
Everything could collapse in an instant for European Judaism. The combined forces of the reaction to 1789 and of the worst 1789 had come together.
Living without history and in the here and now – like the animals described by Nietzsche in his second essay of the Untimely Meditations- is currently the form and the way in which the West thinks of itself. The history of our civilization seems to have finished and, hence, it is no longer necessary to know history, which is the basis of endless manipulations that today still float in the crowds’ minds. This is the worst forgetfulness and neglect of ourselves.
Furthermore, Rabbi Schneier focuses his attention on a fact that few people – who are not tunnel-visioned and narrow-minded as a result of apolitically correct approach or mere interest in the number of votes gained in elections – currently consider: immigration, especially from the Middle East or Africa, where there is a strong presence of Islam, will certainly increase the insecurity of European Jews and, in many respects, of all EU citizens.
In the European and American liberal culture, integration implies acceptance of the other and the kind request that the other adapts to our laws, regulations, customs, habits and practices.
However, there are not only explicit and written rules, at least for us who are the heirs of Roman law.
Hence the other needs to accept the substratum of our civilization, which is not only the trite, idle, frivolous and enlightened “tolerance” – the mechanism in which, as Adorno and Horkheimer maintained, everything is false.
Something more profound is here needed, which can never be written and regulated.
Politics is a metaphysics where the unspeakable is what matters and shapes all the rest.
Obviously this also applies to the citizens of the host countries, who must understand the alterity of the other, in the profound meaning of this concept, and hence respect him / her in his / her becoming other – just to use philosophical jargon.
Hence, although a share of immigrants is – to some extents – inevitable and, however, this has already materialized, we should recall that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the enemies of Jews alone, but of our civilization as a whole.
This held true also for Nazism: it was in fact a political theory – but we should rather say a mere practice – linked to caste ideas typical of Asia where, indeed, the Third Reich also found military, economic and ideological support.
From Tibet to Indian Hinduism, from the Islamic sects of Central Asia to the peripheral Russian cultures of anti-Semitism, such as the Cossacks, while developing the aforementioned myths, Nazism aimed at the annihilation of Europe and hence at its “Asianization”.
Hence Nazi anti-Semitism as a struggle against Europe and its millennia-old civilizations, not less ancient than Asia’s.
Also the economy should be considered: as demonstrated by the most recent historians studying the Third Reich, the Nazi leaders thought to solve their economic and financial crisis with the “Jewish gold”.
Still today, whoever fights against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is like one of the 300 Spartans holding the line in Thermopylae, who rescued the unique Greek knowledge and wisdom from a great Asian Empire that would have equated the maritime civilization of the Mediterranean to the steppes of the Persian Empire, without any culture other than the exaltation of the God-Emperor – or the sad repetition of the “ancients”.
An imperial wisdom that was also typical of the Roman Empire, but with the plurality of gods that already foreshadowed the Weberian “polytheism of values”.
Certainly, as Rabbi Schneier maintained, European leaders are very careful about the resurgence of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, but the issue does not lie in leaders, but rather in crowds, who seem to be ever more seduced by hatred, which is more complex than love but – like the devil -is a very powerful seducer.
But what is really anti-Semitism today?
A mass phenomenon, of course. And this is worrying because preconceived ideas are harder to eradicate than rational beliefs.
In the United States currently the Jews account for 5.5%.
Needless to say, it is not a race, but a set of different ethnic groups, united by the same creed.
Furthermore, between 11% and 20% of North American Jews are “coloured people” – hence not only blacks.
The Jews, however, live in 70% of current nations, ranging from the Jewish communities of Kaifeng in China to the Indian Jews of various Middle East origins, up to the Jewish majority areas in various parts of Latin America.
Nor should we accept the anti-Semitic myth whereby Jews are the “rich” who dominate the world.
According to the most reliable statistics, currently over 50% of the richest people in the world are of Christian faith, while there is a higher number of rich Hindus and Muslims than Jews.
The 2015 data shows that out of the 13.1 million people defined as “rich” globally, 56.2% are Christians, 6.5% Muslims, 3.9% Hindus and 1.7% Jews.
Certainly pathological thinking – a real mental illness, which currently defines anti-Semitism as a “conspiracy theory” – could maintain that this data is “rigged”.
This is not true. Indeed, it is real data taken from the tax returns of the countries recording significant GDP rates in the world.
In the United States, however, Jews are the ethnic-religious group that earns higher wages than any other similar group.
And there are still many poor people – poor like the Jews who arrived in New York two or three generations ago.
Currently 45% of New York’s Jewish children live just below the poverty line, while in the United States the poor Jews account for 26.4% as against an absolute average of 30.8%.
Between 1991 and 2011 the number of poor Jews in the United States increased by 22%.
Hence, as we already knew, the myth of the rich Jews who secretly organize economic crises or the spoliation and dispossession of the goyim peoples is completely unfounded.
But where did anti-Semitism historically originate? Probably in Europe and, above all, in the area of popular Christianity.
There is no difference here between Protestant and Catholic anti-Jewish hatred.
In his treatise On the Jews and Their Lies Luther used terminology and arguments that seemed to be copied from one of Goebbels’ leaflets.
Probably everything began formally with the Spanish laws on limpieza de sangre(blood purity) in the seventieth century and beyond, also after the great pogrom of the Reconquista, which occurred at the same time as the discovery of America.
At that time the Jews escaped – along with the Muslims – from the “purified” Spain of Isabella of Castile heading to the East, especially to the Ottoman Empire.
The sultan of the time wrote an ironic letter to the Spanish Catholic Kings: “I thank you for bringing me here all these doctors, merchants, scholars and mathematicians, whom I needed”.
Furthermore, in addition to the specific Catholic anti-Semitism – from which the Pope, St. Paul VI, but above all another Pope, St. John Paul II, definitively freed us – there was a secularist anti-Semitism linked to the scientist, positivist and rationalist ideologies developed as from the French Revolution of 1789.
A revolution which soon led to a resurgence of irrationalist and antiscientific attitudes: just think of Gracchus Babeuf’s Arcadian refusal of technology and factory work and his “Conspiracy of the Equals” or o fRobespierrism, when Lavoisier, the founder of modern chemistry, was guillotined by the revolutionaries under the slogan: “The Republic has no need of scientists or chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed!”
Here other myths – apparently more “rational” – are already at work.
Darwinian racism, eugenics, the American anti-Communism – where Communism is basically the practice of fraternal help – as well as phrenology or physical anthropology.
This was the “scientific” basis of Hitler’s anti-Semitism and, from the beginning, the “Führer” was a loyal subscriber to the publications of New York’s “Observatory on Race and Eugenics”, which also set the yearly quotas of immigrants accepted by the US government.
Certainly confining the Jews to ghettos is also an excellent practice to eliminate dangerous competitors in trade, business or professions.
This is just what happened in Italy after the racial laws of 1938.
When the West thrived, Jews’ freedom was revived. Just think of the Florentine Republic of the Medici, as well as the Renaissance, the Italian Risorgimento, in which many Jews participated, and finally the German unification.
It should also be noted that, before the Western colonization, the Jews of the Middle East lived without particular restrictions or threats.
However, the number of the sporadic anti-Jewish actions were more or less the same as in Europe.
It is therefore appropriate to say that it was precisely the European anti-Semitism, imported into the French or British colonies, to stimulate the latent and silent anti-Semitism of the local population.
Currently, throughout the Middle East, the avowed anti-Semitism account for 98% on average.
A major cultural and political problem.
In fact, if a powerful Islamic militant group like Hamas, that is currently considered “terrorist” by both the EU and the USA – a group which is also an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood -states in its founding Charter it believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, this means that there is a problem of communication between the worst Europe and the most fanatical Middle East, which concerns both us and the Islamists of the Gaza Strip.
The “Protocols” are, in fact, a key example of the new and old anti-Semitism.
From 1880 to 1921, the anti-Semitic pressure in Russia was one of the major mechanisms that favoured the Jewish migration to the United States.
Moreover, the early twentieth century was a phase of extreme weakness for the Russian tsarist system, that the anti-Semitic myth greatly contributed to blocking and stabilizing, until the German operation that favoured the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk and hence Germany’s initial support for Bolshevik Russia.
On the one hand, the tsarist regime accused the Jews of plotting against the Russian Empire, on the other, the Jews were accused not only of the severe economic crisis, but also of the anti-tsarist propaganda, both the revolutionary and the bourgeois and pro-Western one.
Hence the anti-Semitic and the anti-Zionist propaganda are closely interwoven. They develop the same traditional style features and turn them into new slogans. They create the same mechanism of fallacious identity inside and of exclusion outside for Jews and Zionists, but today they are targeted above all against the policies of the State of Israel that we must defend.
Daughters Gone Forever: Forced Religious Conversions
Pakistan, an Islamic Republic, has blatantly discriminated religious rights of minorities. Over the years, the laws and policies associated with religious minorities have shifted from being neutral to becoming biased and prejudiced. The constitution stands for equality of all, irrespective of religion, colour, caste and creed. It also puts emphasis on tolerance and respect of all religions.
However, a rising pattern of forced conversions after 7 decades, in the country is making a mockery of the constitution of Pakistan. They are a violation of fundamental rights specified in the country’s constitution. Forced conversion can be defined, in simplest terms as “forced adoption of a different religion under threats, duress and pressure with the use of physical, emotional or psychological violence.” The victim is subjugated to mental, emotional and physical abuse involving threats against their loved ones. More than half of these cases involve girls aged below 18.
Pakistani religious minorities face several obstacles and great difficulties in the pursuit of justice. However, in this matter of forced conversions, the victims and its family face a great number of hurdles. When the girls are abducted, kidnapped, forcibly converted and married Muslims, the police and other authoritative bodies turn a blind eye. Even if the case reaches the courts, the lower and higher courts have shown a biased attitude and lack of adherence.
Conversion to Islamic religion is a one-way process, once someone becomes Muslim forcibly or voluntarily, then they can’t revert. This is because reversion in Islam is an act of apostasy which is punishable by a death sentence. Role of religious institutions in these cases is another reason for the rapid rise in such incidents. Many religious institutions fail to investigate the nature of the conversion and the reasons behind it. A mere affidavit is provided as a proof for age. Their significance also increases when the conversion certificate issued by the seminary or other religious institutions are used for further investigation by the court and the police.
The role of media is often silent in these cases. The main reason for unreported cases on media is the involvement of powerful religious leaders who pressurise the media to not report the stories. Another factor that limits investigation is the concept of honour among rural families. The victims sometimes themselves with the fear of social stigmatisation, avoid to speak out. This is the reason that majority of such incidents go unreported. The Peoples Commission for Minorities’ Rights and the Centre for Social Justice gave a report of 156 incidents of reported forced conversions between 2013 and 2019 (Jahangir 2020). The actual number can be much higher as many cases are not reported by the police.
Many claim that the converts turn to Islam by choice, not by force. A very disturbing fact about this inhumane activity is, the girls that are converting are largely underage. Many girls are as young as 12 years. Even in some cases where force is not used, it still cannot be regarded as consent as in case of minors this is rather a compulsion than consent.
The social issue is faced by all the religious minorities, but in particular, it is the most serious problem for Christian and Hindu women and girls.
Forced conversions are an emotional issue for the people of Sindh. An estimated 4.5 million Hindus live in Pakistan, the majority of them are residing in the South Eastern province. These cases are the most vulnerable and persecuted there. At the time of partition, the well-established Hindus of Sindh migrated to India and the remaining became a minority in the newly independent state. The increasing number of forced conversions violate Section 3 and 4 of Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act 2013, which sets 18 years as the minimum marriage age. (University of Birmingham, 2018)
One such case, was the case of Rinkle Kumari belonging to Ghotki. In February 2012, the young Hindu girl was found missing by her father. Rinkle’s family was informed through a phone call about her conversion. Despite the fact that, numerous times in Sakkar Police Station and almost all court proceedings, she cried and begged to go home with her parents, the husband was allowed to take her home. In April 2012 when she appeared in Supreme Court and her birth certificate which proved that she was below 16 years old, indicated that her marriage was illegal, was not taken into account. In Sindh, marriages below the age of 18 had been outlawed. The only statement about her going with the husband was accepted based on her faith. This case was one of the rare ones that attracted public attention to the issue of security and basic human rights of Pakistan’s Hindu communities. This also bought attention to the absence of legally-binding Hindu Marriage Act.
In 2017, finally, the Hindu Marriage Act was passed in 2017 which regulated the Hindu marriages and also catered to the problem of forced conversions in Sindh. The Sindh government has twice attempted to outlaw forced conversions and marriages, including 2016 bill introduced by Sindh Provincial Assembly that has not been passed yet. Protection of Minorities Bill, that sets 18 years for conversions was unanimously passed by the Sindh Assembly, but religious parties the bill against forced conversions rejected it and threatened to besiege the assembly. The had objection with age limit for conversions. The same bill was revised in 2019, but again protests by religious parties hurdled the process.
The members of Christian community can be characterised as the socio-economically marginalised group of the society. Most labourer’s belong to religious minorities that are majority Hindus in Sindh and Christians in Punjab. These labourers are subjected to physical abuse, human trafficking and economic exploitation. Just like Hindus, forced conversions are an emotive issue for Christians of Punjab too.
Tania, a 22-year-old Christian girl. She was kidnapped on 20 May, 2012 from Nankana City on her way to home from her job. The request of FIR was repeatedly refused by the police. The intervention of prominent lawyers and an influential figure, who was the ex-mayor of the local Union Council helped Tania’s family in registering FIR. (Movement for Solidarity and Peace 2014)
It was unfortunately then revealed then that before being forcibly converted and married, she was sold and trafficked twice by the abductors. After extensive negotiations between the former mayor, on family’s behalf and the traffickers, who demanded Rs.90,000, the girl was then recovered. When recovered, she showed signs of severe physical, emotional and psychological abuse. This case demonstrated another example where the police lacked authority and control. If the family did not have influential bodies on their side, they would have lost their daughter forever.
Another example is a very recent case of another young Christian girl, Arzoo Masih, 13-year-old was kidnapped and married to a 44-year-old Muslim man. Even though, the Church documents and verified form-B clearly showed that she was 13 and a 6th-grade student, police said the girl was 18-year-old and had willingly converted.
Cases of forced conversions and forced marriages that are reported also highlight the underlying common factors that make religious minorities more vulnerable. The case of Tania shows evidence that forced conversions provide a masquerade for more pervasive crimes such as sexual exploitation, child abuse, prostitution, human trafficking and hurdles of justice. All of this, as a whole, has left a detrimental effect on the social and economic wellbeing of minorities.
To tackle this social issue serious steps, need to be taken by the government. The first and foremost measure taken towards such cases is for the Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill to become law. The Bill addresses many issues related to forced conversions. It should not only be instituted in Sindh, but attempts should be made to introduce it in National Assembly, Punjab and across Pakistan to help religious minorities. It is also crucial to put attention on failures of the institutional protection of human rights.
The lethargic nature of our governmental system and official institutional bodies is the leading source of numerous problems in the country. It is vital for the government to ensure a faster response system by the police and the criminal justice system. Federal and State governments should guarantee proper legal protection and proceedings are available to the minor religious communities, especially in rural areas.
The socio-economic and cultural position of the religious minorities especially Hindus and Christians should be enhanced. They are mostly found at the bottom of the socio-economic tier which leaves them in a vulnerable position. To deal with this problem, equal access to jobs, education, government positions should be made. Cultural and religious beliefs are strongly engraved in society than in laws. So, in order to mitigate this problem, cultural, societal and religious means should be used. Religious influential leaders should emphasize that conversions should occur without force and compulsion.
Custodians of Islam, changing their Avatar
If we peek into the historical traces, it could be seen that the world has fought more wars on religion or for their state’s dignity and integrity than any other reason. It is mainly because accepting others ideologies either its religious or national, it’s hard to accept and this is at present the prevailing issue if someone looks deeper into the complex picture of geo-politics.
United Arab Emirates has passed new laws that have shocked the entire Muslim world. The Arab World has also been perceived as the “custodians of Islam” and other Muslim countries have look towards for the perfect implementation of misinterpreted “Islamic values”, ignoring the fact that mainly the values followed in the Arab world are Arabic not Islamic. There is huge difference among two interpretations.
UAE has recently relaxed its social constraints. These constraints that served as a shield from adopting the un-Islamic practices and pro-western values. UAE has allowed couples to cohabit; it has allowed drinking without fear of punishment. Lastly it has also it put off the honor crime from its menu means; they have criminalized the act of honor killing. The decision of UAE to revamp its policies depicts that UAE has chosen a “new” avatar, a more pro-western avatar, leaving the Islamic values behind. The broadening of personal freedoms reflects that UAE is on its new journey to change its society at home.
After the announcement of new laws it seems as if United Arab Emirates is more focus on shifting their oil dependent economy or other industries. This includes inviting the high-flow of Israel and Western investments into their country at the cost of anything. They are aiming to boost UAE is the skyscraper tourist destination for Western tourists and fortune seekers, businesses regardless of its “legal hard-line Islamic System.”
Moreover, the major revamps came particularly right after the historic U.S brokered deal to normalize relations between UAE and Israel. The future will reveal but it can be foreseen that the days of monarchy are coming to end. It won’t happen in few years; it will take time but is surely going to happen. The decades old filthy rich monarchy will be replaced by “Democracy” for sure.
Other than the UAE, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is also on the same journey. The new monarch King Muhammad Bin Salman is also tilted towards “Western culture” and more “Liberalist thoughts and values”. He is also more inclined to bring on more liberal structures in their country, for examples recently Saudi Arabia has given more freedom to women for driving and is allowed to work with men at offices or any other workplaces. These drastic changes were considered as an impossible task to do but things are changing rapidly.
The question to ask is, now where would Pakistan tilt? Whose society would Pakistan look upon as the guardian and custodians of Islam and its Islamic values? The Arab countries have also had massive influence upon the Pakistani society particularly in religious terms. Pakistan has to bear the cost of “Wahabbism” clashing with “Shiaism” and other Islamic sects that were mainly brought by the Arabs into the country.
Many Pakistanis have considered the Arabs as their ideal and the Arabian society as an ideal society to live in. I have also heard people giving examples of “Islamic system of Saudi Arabia” and how loyal they are to the “Islamic values”. They are also perceived as the “Guardians” and “Custodians” of Islamic values. But now as they are inclined or totally moving towards Western system, would Pakistan also opt for liberalism in their country?
As there has always been an environment of confusion in the Pakistani society. This confusion is, wither to opt for democracy or go for an Islamic system. This has created a sharp separation in the Pakistani society, the one struggling to go totally Western (far-left), and the others trying to preserve the Islamic system (far-right).
After United Arab Emirates new laws, this question is becoming more complex. The transformation of United Arab Emirates adoption of Westernized values shows that it is only the Muslim world leaving its values behind and moving towards a borrowed baggage of cultures and values. The future will disclose that who will sit on the throne of “Custodian of Islam”. Till now the changing geo-political situation shows that it is Turkey that is striving to go for this throne.
On the current politics of Arab powers I would say, “A tree’s beauty lies in its branches, but its strength lies in its roots,” rightly said by Matshona Dhliwayo.
Death of a Living Goddess and an Unfair verdict
The Living Goddess of Nepal (Kumari), a prepubescent girl child, possessing divinity is a well established and widely held belief. She is worshipped so long as her virginity remains intact and dismissed when she starts to menstruate. By all accounts, the reason she is highly revered has much to do with her virginity as the loss of holy status is inevitable after the first menstrual blood. Strong voices regarding child and human rights raised so far have brought remarkable reforms in Kumari practice; yet the elephant in the room, her dethronement after puberty, undeniably a serious problem, is often downplayed. The supposed divinity of the Goddess and it’s connection with pubescence, as outrageous as it sounds, triggers a couple of very important questions. Does the Living Goddess really possess divinity? More importantly, must not we ponder and assess the eventual end of her divinity?
The 19th century famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche declared– God is dead — a metaphor used to describe the gradual decline of faith in God. The philosopher attributes the advent of Scientific revolution and Age of reason in bringing an end to the existence of God, thanks to rational arguments and modern inventions or discoveries. Unlike the death of Western God, the Living Goddess of Nepal, or her holiness to be precise, meets a surprising death(end), figuratively speaking, at the hands of first menstruation. Sadly, just a few drops of innocent and natural blood, with rosy prospects of procreation and motherhood, is believed to have committed a grave crime that a verdict was passed against it long ago — puberty ends divinity.
Moreover, proclaiming divinity’s end, as soon as Kumari reaches adolescence, she is replaced by another “virgin” child. Even though blood oozing from any part of the body due to cuts or wounds leads to Goddess’ dismissal, the menstrual blood in every occasion has turned out to be most fatal. To confirm this we can check the numbers of all former Kumaris, and should not get startled if considerable cases are associated with their first period. Matina Shakya(2008-2017) was replaced in 2017 by Trishna Shakya (2017-present), after puberty ended her nine-year reign. When the same phenomenon hit Preeti Shakya (2001-2008) in 2008, she was shown the door to an anonymous life in the suburbs. Likewise, in 2010 the divine life for Chanira Bajracharya finished abruptly at 15, on the day she first menstruated and Samita Bajracharya(2010-2014) was appointed the new Kumari of Patan City in her place. It is a pity that once highly hailed all-powerful Goddess, sooner or later becomes a “nobody”, useless and mere mortal. Devotees accustomed to bow down before the deity in the hope of blessings are certainly baffled when simple biological blood brings her supreme divinity to its knees.
What would be the general frame of her mind and psychological state when the child realizes that fending off the imminent demotion is far from possible? Gripped by trepidation, she would definitely not want the undesirable menstruation, the antagonist, to come and take away her most cherished goddess status. Samita was in total shock and emotional at her dismissal following the start of her first period. Similarly, Preeti couldn’t help shedding tears when her term ended at 12 ,and banished out of the paradise, because of approaching menstruation, which is considered as flawed. This is highly likely to leave a false impression in the mind of a demoted child and the collective consciousness of people. To them puberty or “supposed” impure blood must appear a nemesis of Kumari, a nasty thing that ends her holiness.
God/Goddess’ existence is an unsolved riddle, yet lives of many great sages and mystics throughout the history of Indian subcontinent — Gautam Buddha, Mahavira, Shivapuri Baba, Meera Bai, Lalleshwari, Anandamayi Ma and so on — convince godliness being a possible phenomenon. With no single exception these humans share two things in common; years of spiritual endeavours and eventual mystical/godliness experience. On the contrary, a girl child is expected to fulfill 32 physical qualities, before worshipped as a Living Goddess. Whether the girl child reaches the same transcendental state as the other divine beings shall always remain a debatable issue. Giving a benefit of doubt, for argument’s sake, we can assume that Kumari’s divinity is no lesser than those of highly revered personages. But would it be judicious to believe that a temporary biological phenomenon is capable of ending divinity permanently?
In fact, literature on religion, spirituality and mysticism show that divinity is imperishable once obtained, which can be attested by the lives of human-turned holy beings. Thus what fizzles out at puberty’s touch, as in the case of Kumari, must be undeniably spurious and impotent . Above all, it is one thing to enjoy the prerogative of a goddess on chastity grounds but quite another to embark upon a spiritual journey and thereby attain godliness. Maybe the holiness does not exist inside the Living Goddess as believed and claimed, not at all, hence skepticism justified. Or perhaps it was there in profusion, but insofar as Nepalese society is accustomed to find coexistence of divinity and impure blood unbearable, it must have convinced us of the latter’s seemingly antagonistic role.
Challenging the popular yet pernicious existing belief that first menstruation ends divine power, I emphatically advocate that it is high time puberty is acquitted from a crime it “never” committed. Needless to say, since the inception of Kumari custom and up until the 21st century, Nepalese society’s fervent endorsement of such belief coupled with their reluctance to point fingers against the traditional practice certainly consolidated the superstition for many centuries. It “might” be our rights to continue long held old traditions and worship girl children in the form of goddesses, regardless of some compromises with their child and human rights. But we are not in the least entitled to mercilessly dethrone them under a completely false or trifle pretext. More importantly, we are not at liberty to dub a harmless biological phenomenon with an undeserved ugly reputation, on account of our illogical blood(menstrual) phobia. How many years or decades more it will take before we realize that menstruation is by no means impure, inauspicious and unholy? Although the divinity of the Living Goddess appears disputable, one thing seems as clear as crystal, that the verdict passed against innocent pubescence to date was downright unfair. Unfortunately, the apotheosis of a girl child(woman) to a Living Goddess status is undermined by the fact that the Kumari practice explicitly condemns menses, an integral aspect of womanhood.
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