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How modernity and globalization influenced the message and expansion of Islam

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Islam – societal and cultural changes

 In order to understand how cultural and societal changes influence any religion, we must first know the definition of religion. Religion is a relation with God which human beings regard as sacred, divine,  spiritual, holy and worthy of  respect. It consists of the ways to deal with different concerns of human life. Religious influences are rooted  in all aspects of human life. Religions evolve  and change with time. Religions consist of  ideas, values, practices and stories that are embedded in culture and are not separable. It is not possible to understand a religion without its cultural dimensions How Islam has adapted cultural and societal changes as it has spread throughout the globe is an interesting and complex phenomenon.

Islam traveled in many ways through different regions. The history of Islam is full  of events  that led to Islam’s spread across the globe. Sometimes it was transferred through military conquests, it was also carried through trade caravans that travelled over vast distances or through the missionaries. When  Islamic ideas came into contact with  new societies, they evolved in unique ways and took on diverse forms. That’s why these societies have multiple different interpretations of Islam. The spread of Islam across different regions involved some prominent factors such as inter-marriages, trade, influencers etc . Spreading of Islam is a complex phenomenon and to say that it travelled merely through sword is not justified. Muslim culture developed from the ninth century to the  twelfth century, and crystallized into what we currently know as Islam. The military expansion of the early centuries facilitated the spread of Islam in name only and it was later that Islam spread in true meaning, as a  number of citizens started converting to Islam. Expansion  of Islamic culture was carried out by missionaries and  political convoys, it also expanded through trade. Group of travelers (caravans) used camels to transport goods and themselves across different regions, they played the most important role in the spread of Islam. These caravans helped in expanding Islamic civilization and culture by connecting different provinces (with the Islamic empires) which were far apart. Merchants carried out trades across different regions. These trades were equally influential in expanding culture and created a sense of multiculturalism or internationalism. These new cultural relationships led to the transfer of technology, science and other forms of culture. This was the start of globalization. But at that time it was just known by multiple names like multiculturalism or internationalism. Cultural globalization is a multidimensional process which leads to different impacts and consequences and makes possible the coexistence of  different values with Islamic symbols , values and discourses. Islamic culture does not consist of  merely a group of  a combination of rituals rather it is a complete way of life prescribed by the Quran.

“The human history is the graveyard of great cultures that the disastrous end of them has been due to this matter that they couldn’t present a planned, rational and volitional reaction against the challenges.”  -Erich Fromm

 When Islam encountered globalization:

During  the time of prophet Muhammad (SAW) there wasn’t much expansion of Islam to other parts of the world. Only a small group of people went to Abissynia during the early days of Islam for the purpose of  seeking shelter. The actual age of Islamic globalization has begun when in Medina the Prophet (SAW) founded an Islamic State in 622. From that time, Islam started to spread around the globe. The teachings of the Qur’an and the prophet (SAW) inspired the  Muslims not only to learn but also to illumine their souls by knowledge. Despite  mastering modern information and technical skills, Muslims had an open mind in understanding all that’s good and helpful . They were willing to grasp knowledge and ideas from the Persians, Indians and Greeks in order to enrich their civilization. They had a welcoming attitude towards the changing world.

In assessing the Muslim time of globalization, one could come to realize that the growth of Islam and its civilization to overseas territories took place because of its dynamic nature as disclosed by God.  The Book of Islam conveyed messages associated with faith and additionally recommended Muslims to gather know-how of science and equip themselves with modern knowledge. When Muslims took Islam to overseas lands there has been no compulsion for  human beings  to comply with Islam. Many western scholars made the claims  that Islam became unfold on the factor of the sword which are groundless. Islam was promoted with stunning preaching and desirable examples proven through the Prophet (SAW) and early Muslims at some stage in their age of globalization.(‘N e w s l e t t e r 1 0 Muslim Responses to Globalization’, 2002)

Globalization has begun without being acknowledged by a huge  area of the Islamic Ummah. Since the tsunamis of globalization began to contact the shores of the Islamic nations,  but it shouldn’t affect the faith of Muslims  and Islamic lifestyle. As it has been comprehended from  the former conversation that globalization is irreversible and The Muslims, inevitably, have no choice but to prepare and protect  themselves.  Realizing that Malaysia needs to do something Former Prime Minister  Mahathir stated in one of the His addresses on the issue of globalization to the Islamic Ummah:

“Muslim countries and Muslim government  have a duty to ensure that globalization will not result in the marginalization of their countries as happened with the Industrial Revolution and Industrial Age. We cannot afford it this time. If once again we miss this opportunity to keep pace with the radical and rapid advances now being made with technology and the sciences, and the changes they cause to the world’s perceptions of things, the new ideas and concepts in human and international relations; if we miss all these and fail to handle them, then we will not only be marginalized, but be dominated and hegemonised permanently”

Mahatir’s statement is a reminder to the Muslims not to Ignore the events and progress that take place, and stay away In the fields of Information Technology, Multimedia, e-Study, e-commerce, etc   If Muslims choose to remain isolated in this era of globalization then Muslims will be one who will be left alone and loser in comparison with the rest of the world. A sensible thing for the Muslims to do is to be active in mastering and utilizing the new technology for a good purpose that could deliver progress, development and economic benefits to themselves and to the rest of mankind. Now if one looks at the modern period, as far as politics and government go, Muslims have absorbed a great deal from the West, especially in relation to democracy, human rights, democratic forms of governance. There’s been as great deal of absorption on the part of Muslims from the West.  Any  Muslim society today including those which have remained closed and cloistered  cannot  ignore the force of democracy and the wave of modernity and globalization.

Globalization, modernity and Islam

Through its name, the idea of globalization is very much clear. The word global provides the central idea, it mainly comprises economy, society, culture and politics. People from different countries with different cultural backgrounds  are connected through globalization, they make a homogenous culture and thus become globalised. Globalization has made the world interconnected, such that local events may come to have global consequences. Now we proceed to how globalization and modernity which is a very intensified phenomenon, influenced the message of Islam. (m.miasami, no date) As it has been mentioned in a research article the relationship between Islam and globalization has been subjected to considerable speculation and sarcastic discussion. The belief that Islam opposes globalization has been the essence of the debate. Islam calls for adequate responses to the constant challenges posed by the fluctuating time and space factors and for the prospect of their comprehension and implementation to be revitalized and revamped from within in order to combat the possible shortcomings of the Muslim mind and the cultural and civilizational degeneration of Islamic societies This article emphasizes that the current debate of Islam and globalization is more focused on westernization than globalization. It has been argued that the tension is due to the westernization process rather than globalization. Since the mere terminology surrounding the debate has created considerable misunderstanding, the terms of reference need to be defined properly. Globalization is a very intense phenomenon which  involves worldwide exchange of goods, people and ideas. Globalization has captured growing intensity of worldwide  interconnectedness. Globalization has been a part of human life since its inception. This refers to the inherent human nature and the propensity of man to be a social animal. It is,  in fact the propensity with which god has created human beings to exchange his resources with others in order to get better chances at life. Though globalization is related to the idea of comparative advantage, free trade and open economy , its origins can be traced back to long before such ideas came to life. To establish a more detailed view of the so called ‘Islam-Globalization’ controversy, it is important to differentiate between the globalization cycle in its original context and other comparatively more recent mechanisms, such as westernization that are veiled as globalization and yet are so distinct.

Globalization aims to narrow the gaps that separate the various communities. This is achieved by sharing advantages of cultural , social, science and political governance in all facets of life. That is, they share knowledge, they recognize the principles and codes of ethics of one another, and they establish a common ground. Westernization, by contrast, does not consider such an understanding or building of such a common ground as worthwhile enterprises. Globalization is a mechanism in which the entire planet is like a global town. Globalization is a dynamic process which has different effects on various religions around the world. It breaks the cultural barriers and spread different  ideologies   and values around the globe. Westernization, on the other side, appears to be a one-way path, implying that in the name of globalization, one country seeks to conquer and influence other areas. In addition, while globalization takes place through the free will of various communities, Westernization is characteristically imposed on other regions.  Having explained the distinction between globalization and westernization, the discussion regarding Islam-globalization can be more adequately measured. Islam is not, in its original context, anti-globalization (or modernity, deemed a by-product of globalization), but Muslims also have a concern with Westernization. While there is criticism of Westernization of culture, modernization is accepted as a timely phenomenon.(Achmad and Hamzani, 2016)

Modernity in its political and social forms refers to increasingly specializing  isolation from religion in societal institutions such as political systems, law, economic management and education. Unlike social life in the pre-modern period, these roles are conducted in modernity, free from the overarching influence of religion. In this viewpoint, religious fundamentalism-in the sense of a return to a purist past-is a issue in all its complexity and cultural hybridity created by the interaction between modernity and the Muslim ummah.

 Modernity is a process in which society becomes modern. It implies social mobility , industrialization, trade. Modernization has been accelerated and accentuated with globalization in the past two decades. Islam, like all other religions, has felt and reacted to the effects of and responded  to the impingement of modernity in Muslim society, the multiple forces of modern intellectual, scientific and socio-political life. There’s hardly a facet of Muslim society ‘s life that has been left untouched. Contrary to common belief, the bulk of the ideas of justice, equality prescribed by Islam  are in accordance with those inherent in the modernization process.  Islam has always promoted ideas such as peaceful coexistence, the acceptance of other religions, democratic governance and women’s rights. Indeed, Islam and modernization need not be at odds with one another. Muslims need not have any excessive aversion to Islamic tradition since Islam has never been a cause of any chapters of darkness or ignorance in Muslim history. Islamic culture was without dark ages. Such a thing would be an anomaly for mankind as Islam is in a religion of supreme light, reality, and guidance. Islam, on the contrary, was the root cause of all goodness which emerged in Islamic civilization and benefitted not only Muslims but also non-Muslims. (Kohler and Krueger, 1952)

 Islam is both traditional and modern, as the universal and final revelation to mankind. While it speaks of the infinity, permanence and inviolability of its divinely prescribed truth, and thus of continued compliance with and following its authorities, as well as of the valuation and conformity with the legacies and traditions spawned by such dynamic historical processes, Islam also calls for appropriate responses to the constant challenges posed by the fluctuating time and space.

According to an article, (Bicer, 2013)Islamic responses to the globalization phase are very complex. Islamic understanding, social circumstances and interaction with modernity are the reasons for this. Discrete experiences form independent Islamist thoughts, expectations, critiques, strategies, and their modern or non-modern commitments. Where political , economic or cultural deprivation slowly impedes the fulfillment of desires without  pressure or inequality, Muslims may follow a committed, private and a political Islamism consistent with western rationalization, also entangled with it. Muslims should take a personal, general, cooperative, and systematic approach and strive toward a compromised modern Islamic public sphere. Globalization should be acknowledged for providing a suitable arena for exchange of ideas and thoughts.

Globalization in the light of Quran

Globalization is socially, historically and politically powerful, and is prevalent in the world. Whatever the dominant political and cultural influence geographically, the ideology takes priority over others. In our times the U.S. is the world’s dominant power. American culture is the power house worldwide. The Qur’an says the balance of power passes to other hands, “We bring these days to men by turns, and that Allah may know those who believe and take witnesses from among you. And Allah loveth not those that do wrong” (Qur’an 3/140). This verse means, “Allah has turned those glories around, Some days are in favour of people and some are against them”. In this Qur’anic verse,  the word dawla (mubadala) means going back and forth. That exchange of primacy among cultures has some causes hidden. We must accept globalization as a reality in principle. It is a power cycle and can change thereby from person to person, community to community, State to State, continent to continent. Globalization is in essence neutral rather than demonic nor divine. It shifts the role of client, and room utilized. There are, therefore, many articles about globalization, for and against religion.

 Religious and cultural values have been affected by the influence of globalization’s dominance.  Globalization is seen as a cause of religious diversity and its threat to traditional values. It is also seen as a polarization factor defining  religious identity and its internal practice. Evaluating the substance of religious scriptures and religious history challenges us with this underlined reality that Islam is a global faith and has sought to become globalized through its historical context. Islam has also addressed the question of globalization and the development of a global culture and democracy. To prove that topic, we can state the following Quranic verses.

Many verses of Quran have spoken about the globalization of Islam and lack of its limitation to definite place or time directly or indirectly. Also, they have narrated and characterized the global view of Islam.:

  • «قل يا ايها الناس اني رسول الله اليكم جميعاً»

          Say: O people! surely I am the Messenger of God to you all.

  • «يا ايها الناس اعبدوا ربكم الذي خلقكم و الذين من قبلكم لعلكم تتقون»

         O men! serve your Lord who created you and those before you so that you         

          may guard against evil.

  • «ان الله اصطفي آدم و نوحاً و ال ابراهيم و ال عمران علي العالمين»

         “Surely God chose Adam and Nuh and the descendants of Ibrahim and the        

          descandents of  Imran above the nation.

  • «هو الذي ارسل رسوله بالهدي و دين الحق ليظهره علي الدين كله.

       “He it is who sent His messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, that

        he  might cause it to prevail over all religions, though the polytheists may be

        averse.                                                                  

  • «وعد الله الذين آمنوا منكم وعملو صالحات ليستخلفنكم في الارض كما استخلف الذين من قبلهم و ليمكنن لهم دينهم الذي ارتضي لهم و ليبد لنهم من بعد خوفهم امنا.

  “God has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will  most certainly make them rulers in the earth as He made rulers those before them, and that He will most certainly establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them, and that He will most certainly, after their fear, give them security in exchange; they shall serve Me, not associating aught with me; and whoever is ungrateful after this, these it is who are the transgressors.”

  • «يا ايها الذين آمنوا ادخلوا في السلم كافه و لاتتبعوا خطوات الشيطان»

  “O you who believe! enter into submission one and all and do not follow the footsteps of shaitan; surely he is your open enemy “

 It has been pointed in above verses that Holy Prophet of Islam (Peace be Upon Him) has announced His Quranic message, the divine revelation, with the characteristic of eternity for all human beings. Also, the aforesaid verses imply the world’s inclusion of Islam legal system and this matter that the mission of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon Him) is global and for all human beings.

Conclusion

Islam is not in conflict with the issue of globalization and modernity, but the features of globalization, from the Islamic point of view, are distinct from the present idiomatic element. Reviewing the quality of religious texts and religious history presents us with this obvious reality that religion of Islam is a global religion and in its historical experience has always sought to become worldwide. Islam has always addressed the question of globalization, liberal culture system and global governance. We believe that Islam has broad-based and national thought and theoretical principles that, if extracted and clarified in the modern language, can be as a shining lamp before the present human way. Of course, other holy books, such as the New and Old Testaments, claim to present this principle, but the comparison of Islam’s foundation of thought with other holy religions proves that Islam and the Quran are unquestionably superior. So we can conclude that whatever is described as the globalization phase today is not in line with Islam ‘s view given the presence of similarity and parallels such as the elimination of geographical borders, but it is apparent that Islam does not oppose globalization and render Islam global, but the characteristics of globalization vary from today’s idiomatic features.

 From this point of view, globalization should be seen as a possibility for the growth and advancement of human good principles, as it has transformed communicative technologies and enabled citizens across the world with swift and unified connectivity. According to this approach, globalization is an appropriate opportunity to develop the exalted Islamic instructions and is a ground for the fulfillment of the global government of Islam, as promised in the verses of the Glorious Qur’an.

As a result, it can be said that while Western and especially America dominated communicative technologies, the growth and development of these technologies , particularly internet and satellite, created an atmosphere that this situation can be used well. It is also easy for the active addressees of the media to accept the exalted messages of Islamic religion which are in harmony with human instincts that the dust of negligence has been touched on their pure human nature, and this matter requires the conscience and acuity of Islamic world thinkers that they can better use this condition and prove this principle that Islam is in agreement with globalization.

Reference

Achmad, D. and Hamzani, U. (2016) ‘Globalization in the Perspective of Islam and Economic Experts’, Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 219, pp. 41–46. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.04.030.

Bicer, R. (2013) ‘Globalization in the Context of Islamic Theology’, The Journal of Rotterdam Islamic and Social Sciences, 3(1), pp. 1–12. doi: 10.2478/jriss-2013-0001.

Kohler, W. and Krueger, F. (1952) ‘T H E Impact of the German Immigration on T H E’, 2(May), pp. 207–229.

m.miasami (no date) ‘Islam and Globalization’, fountain magazine.

‘N e w s l e t t e r 1 0 Muslim Responses to Globalization’ (2002) Religion, (July).

Student of social sciences. National defence university, Islamabad, Pakistan.

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Religious Tourism in Pakistan: The Case of Sikhism & Buddhism

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Religious tourism plays an important role in reviving the country’s economic activity through promoting religious-based tourism. Realizing the economic and political importance of this sector, the Government has taken ample measures to support this industry. Hence, with Government support and improved law and order situation, religious-based tourism in Pakistan is flourishing and attracting different communities.

Pakistan is situated in a region that has been home to diverging civilizations, the world’s two major religions Buddhism and Sikhism have been dominant in this land for many centuries. Besides, this region also hosted followers of pre-historic religions such as the Aryan, Barhaman, and ancient Iranian and Greeks dated back to 5,000 years. Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab provinces of Pakistan, therefore, have plenty of historical sites linked to the two religions.

According to various global traveling planners, Buddhist tourism has an estimated market of 100 million dollars across the world. Pakistan’s Gandhara region comprising Mardan, Taxila, and Swat holds a special value for them. Large to medium-sized stupas of Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and other heritage sites in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt, from the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region to the tourist valley of Swat are very famous among Buddhist tourists from across the globe. A 2016 Gallup survey of the Buddhist population across a selected pool of countries identified 58 million “interested visitors”, out of which 5pc (2.9 million) were “likely to visit” Pakistan.

Importantly, all the Buddhist heritage sites are fully protected and got the status of heritage. Pakistan has seen a significant increase in the number of Buddhist tourists from Japan, Korea, Hongkong, China, and Sri Lanka in the last few years. Pakistan is home to thousands of Buddhists who enjoy all types of perks, privileges, and rights and enjoy liberty like other citizens. The most visited and holiest places for Buddhism in Pakistan are Dharmarajika Stupa, Sleeping Buddha, Takht-i-Bhai, Stupa of Mankiala, and Gandhara civilization.

Takhtbai is a small scenic town located, around 160 kilometers from the capital Islamabad, is the most visited site by the Buddhists, who flock to see the ancient monastery dated back to the 1st century. Takht-i-Bahi alone has the potential to attract a major proportion of the 50 million Mahayana Buddhists in Korea, China, and Japan.

Another very important site located at Taxila in Punjab is also considered a very sacred site for Buddhists, this site includes a Mesolithic cave and the archaeological remains of several Buddhist monasteries.

Korean Buddhists in particular trace their religious origin to the area that is now Pakistan, where Korean monk Hyecho traveled 1,300 years ago. A few years back, a 48-feet-long Buddha was also unearthed in Haripur Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, making it the world’s oldest sleeping Buddha statue.

Guru Nanak was the founder of the Sikh faith and Darbar Sahib was his last resting place, therefore, Sikhs consider Pakistan as a holy place. The five most important pilgrimage sites for Sikhs include Kartarpur Sahib, Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Gurdwara Dera Sahib Lahore, Nankana Sahib, and Samadhi of Ranjit Singh Lahore. Sikh tourism, heritage, cultural and religious tourism are the gems of Punjab.

The successful opening of the Kartarpur corridor has encouraged many in the global Sikh community to consider visiting the holy Sikh site in the heart of Pakistan. The Kartarpur Corridor, an initiative by the current civil-military leadership of Pakistan is intended to link a Gurudwara Darbar Sahib across the Indian side. The opening of the Kartarpur corridor (Narowal) attracted more religious tourists to Pakistan.

Pakistan knows how to respect other religions and recognizes the need for religious freedom. According to Article 36, the Constitution of Pakistan enshrines that the state will protect the legal rights and interests of ethnic minorities.

The development of the Kartarpur Corridor is part of the same effort to promote religious freedom and harmony of ethnic minorities. In November 2021, more than 8000 Sikh pilgrims from all over the world visited Pakistan to celebrate the birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak, out of which 3000 entries were allowed by Pakistan High Commission in India.

To facilitate the tourists; Pakistan, in 2019 launched an online visa application process, easing the lengthy process of visa. It has shortened the visa process considerably, which is a major improvement over the traditional visa application process. Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) also holds roadshows and seminars through Pakistani embassies across the world to attract religious tourism. Pakistan has massive potential for religious tourism especially in the case of Sikhs and Buddhists. The federal government has also planned to use the country’s potential for religious tourism and developed special strategies for preserving religious places and providing services to tourists who come here to visit holy places. Adequate hospitality for believers, in addition to generating income, is also helping to improve Pakistan’s soft image. Pakistan is focused to provide all the facilities to religious tourists like simple visa processing, their stay, hoteling, transportation, etc. Pakistan has become the torchbearer of religious tourism and inter-faith harmony across the globe.

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Santa Claus rueful at imminent Christmas in India

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Ahead of Christmas, Indian police raided a shishu bhavan (infant house or orphanage) in Kolcatta (West Bengal) and another at Vdodra (Gujarat), Indian prime minister’s home state. The Kolkatta orphanage was established by Mother Teresa herself, and was being run by the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata since February11, 2014. The raiding police claimed that the orphanages were forcibly converting Hindu children to Christianity. They were forced to wear cross, recite the Holy Bible, and eat pork. The orphanage administrations deny the charges and call them “trumped up.  For instance a nun at the Kolkatta orphanage pointed out that the police acted upon complaint of the estranged father of an infant whose mother worked in the kitchen. The orphanage served only vegetarian food and chicken once a week (Indian police probe Mother Teresa’s charity, raid orphanage for ‘forced conversion’ , Licas News, December 15, 2021).

 The persecution of Christians rose by leaps and bounds after Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory and. appointment of Narendra Modi’sas prime minister of India. The raids were not isolated events. During the year 2021, there were over 300 attacks on Christians.

In its reportage dated December 23, 2021, the prestigious Dawn demanded Modi “should be prosecuted for not prosecuting and restricting religious freedom”. It added, “Many human rights groups in India have documented over 300 incidents of Christian persecution in the first nine months of the current year, warning that the Christmas this year might be the worst. The US Commission on Religious Freedom has requested the State Department to label India as a “country of particular concern. The persecution against Christians and other religious minorities have increased since 2014 when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power, and Narendra Modi became the prime minister. Christians in India brace for persecution as Christmas approaches. However, there are serious concerns over hate against Christians’ places of worship in India. In recent months, there has been a surge of violence against Christians who make only 2.3 per cent of India’s population. India has been ranked the 10th worst country globally by the Open Doors USA 2021 World Watch List when it comes to Christian persecution (Minorities in India facing persecution, Dawn, December 23, 2021).

As incriminating evidence, the raiding police mention “13 Bibles were found in the library of the institute and girls staying there were forced to read the religious text”. The Missionaries of Charity, founded in 1950 by the late Mother Teresa, denied the allegations.

In Madhya Pradesh state, authorities also, authorities raided an orphanage, The St Francis Sevadham (charity home) orphanage in Shyampura area (Sagar district) on suspicion that children were fed beef and made to read the Bible. Father Shinto Varghese, director of St. Francis Sevadham orphanage said beef is not even available in the state and only chicken is served once a week and “other nutritious substitutes for vegetarians.”

The priest also clarified that denied that scriptures of all faiths were placed in the prayer room, not bibles only, and that no one was forced to read the Bible as claimed. Father Varghese, who had taken, said the real issue is the 277-acre land that was leased to the orphanage in 1875 for a period of 99 years.

He alleged that upon pressure of Hindu hardliners the state government now wants to take the land.

Earlier there were attacks on churches in New Delhi on February 5, 2015. Following the attack, Christians demonstrated outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Christians say they have been feeling very insecure since 2014 when Narendra Modi came to.

In 2020, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom listed India as a “country of particular concern” for the first time since 2004.

Attacks on Christian-managed schools

Such attacks are seldom reported. But, the recent attack by a Hindu mob of 200 to 300 people in Madhya Pradesh came into limelight. According to Brother Anthony Tynumkal, principal of St Joseph School, the mob pelted stones at the building. They later barged into the school while students were taking their exam.

Sister Clarissa, speaking from the house in Vadodara, said: “We are in shock, what they say is not true at all and the investigations are ongoing.”

Archbishop Felix MachadoVasai, secretary general of the Indian Bishops’ Conference, told the Asia News agency that he was “deeply distressed” by the investigation.

Although nearly 80 per cent of the country’s one billion population are Hindu, there are also 28 million Christians, who make up 2.3 per cent of its population. Some Christian communities in India were established by St Thomas, the Apostle, in the first century.

Hindu nationalist politicians often stoke hatred against Christians and other minorities (dalit, Muslims, etc) castigating them as outsiders who cannot be trusted. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Sangh Parivar, BJP and other Hindu outfits ‘ slogan is “Hindustan is for the Hindus”. They want Christians and Muslims to leave India as they look towards Vatican City or Mecca. The country in 2020 was ranked the 10th worst in the world for the persecution of Christians by Open Doors, the human rights group.

Why Hindus convert to Christianity

Hindus, particularly the low castes, embrace Christianity or Islam because of the regressive Hindu caste system (Varna, averna, saverna). There are no forceful conversions though several states have outlawed coercive conversions.

Disgusted with religio-economic extremism, more and more people, including dalit (down-trodden) are converting to Christianity, a class-less community. Dalits are not allowed to enter even high-caste Hindu temples. Some dalits were even killed at doorsteps of temples for daring tread foot-steps to temples. According to religious tables in India’s Census Report, 24 million Christians constitute 2.3 percent of India’s total population of 1,028 million. The Christian population includes 14 million Christian dalits. Dalits are Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist members of “untouchable” castes who convert to Christianity. The “untouchable” (sudra) Christians are the most neglected community in India.

Roots of Christianity in India

Christianity is India’s third-most followed religion after Hinduism and Islam. According to religious tables in India’s 2011 census of population, excepting counting, errors and omissions, about 28 million Christians live in India. They constitute 2.3 percent of India’s population.   Thomas the Apostle introduced Christianity to India. He reached the Malabar Coast (Kerala) in 52 AD. And, he carried on preaching in every nook and corner of India until martyred.

Today, Christians live all across particularly in South India and the southern shore, the Konkan Coast, and Northeast India. Through sheer hard work, Indian Christians developed niches in all walks of Indian national life. They include former and current chief ministers, governors and chief election commissioners. To the ruling Bharatiya Janata party’s chagrin, Christians are the second most educated religious group in India after Jains. Christian women outnumber men among the various religious communities in India. The fanatic Hindus fear lest Christianity, with its egalitarian and social- service message, should engulf Hinduism.

Arrival of Catholicism

Till 16th century, Roman Catholicism was unknown to India.   It was introduced by the Portuguese, Italian and Irish Jesuits who preached the gospel of Jesus Christ among the Indians. Alongside preaching, the preachers established Christian schools, hospitals, primary health-care centres through their missions. Later, British, American, German, Scottish missionaries came to preach Evangelical. The evangelist introduced English in missionary schools and translated the Holy Bible into various Indian languages (including Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and others).

Christians now form a major religious group in three states of India:  Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland with plural majority in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.  Significant Christian population lives in Coastal Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Kanara (South India).

Pioneers of persecution

India’s present prime minister Narendra Modi, when chief minister of Gujarat state, and LK Advani could be called pioneers of anti-Christian movement. They distributed Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) manifesto, which, inter alia, spoke of enacting an anti-conversion law in states including Gujarat. The laws against conversion are meant to persecute minorities.

The BJP’s manifesto was outcome of decades of hatred, stoked up by Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) elements acting with legal impunity and state governments’ connivance. The anti-Muslim hatred created a gory situation first in Gujarat and then in Orissa. The BJP accentuated its propaganda to create an incendiary situation against the aforementioned minorities in different states during elections.

The BJP acted hands in gloves with Sangh Parivar a collection of Hindu nationalist organisations co-operating towards making India a Hindu State to weave religion and politics strategically together in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) enabling the Sangh to exploit religion for political gain.

The country’s legislative history, relating to the issue of conversion underscores the reality that the government always harbored grudge against conversion. Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan. Arunachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu passed Freedom of Religion Acts. A common feature of these anti-conversion law is that they made so-called ‘forced conversion’ a cognisable offence under sections 295 A and 298 of the Indian Penal Code.

Cognisability of the offence allowed police to harass missionaries and converts under influence of Hindu fanatics or Government functionaries. Some Indian courts intervened to stop persecution of nouveau converts or Christian preachers. For instance, Chief Justice A.N. Ray in Reverend Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1977 SC 908), and Yulitha v. State of Orissa and others, ruled that propagation is different from conversion. Ray observed adoption of a new religion is freedom of conscience, while conversion would impinge on ‘freedom of choice’ granted to all citizens alike. But the state governments remained nonchalant to the courts’ observations. The courts’ decisions being declaratory (certiorari), not mandatory (mandamus), remained un-implemented. Interestingly, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (February 1981) advised the State Governments and Union Territories to enact laws to regulate change of religion on the lines of the existing Acts in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Arunachal Pradesh (The Statesman, Delhi, November 16, 1982).

There are iron-clad guarantees in the Constitution for religious freedom. Yet, not only the born Christians but also Hindus who become Christians complain of persecution. It is not only Orissa, but also several other Indian states that have passed anti-conversion bills forbidding Hindus to convert to other religions. Such legislation violates the UN Charter of Human Rights which gives a person the right to change his or her religion.

Majoritarian justification

The ostensible justification for such laws is that, in a democracy, the majority has the right to benefit from the principle of ‘majority rule. So, Hindustan (India) is primarily for the Hindus only.

The anti-conversion campaign aimed at restricting the right to propagate religion, which is guaranteed by Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. The aim of the two parties was to convert India into a Hindu state. India claims to be a secular country. But, unfortunately

Harassment and social boycott

To discourage dalits from converting to Christianity, not only the Centre but also the Indian states have deprived ‘dalit Christians’ of minority-status privileges. Any Hindu who converts to Christianity is socially boycotted and tortured in different ways. Six women at Kilipala village in Jagatsinghpur district (Orissa) had their heads tonsured by influential Hindus. Their offence was abandoning Hindu faith at their own free will. Christian missionaries are harassed, deported and even killed. The Indian government ordered ‘deportation of three American preachers from Church of Christ in North Carolina on the first available flight to the US.’.

To add insult to their injury, the preachers were even attacked by Hindu fanatics. They had a narrow escape. Courts rarely punish people who manhandle Christian preachers. Dara Singh murdered Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons.

A few years back, Hindus attacked Christians as tit-for-tat for a book which allegedly insulted Hindu deities. Investigations revealed that the book was not written by any Christian. But, it happened to be displayed on one of the Emmanuel Mission’s book-shops for sale. The Mission is a Christian organisation that runs a chain of schools in various Indian states.

RSS dubs the Christians “anti-national and terrorists”

In a resolution, the RSS has called upon the Hindus, particularly Swayamsevaks, to be vigilant about `anti-national and terrorist’ Christian groups, posing a threat to the country’s internal security. It urged the Government to take strong measures against said groups. They condemned Pope John Paul II’s statement criticising Indian states’ legislations banning conversions of the Hindus by missionaries.  The executive declared that such conversions were a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the country. It is significant to mention that the Pope had just said that ‘‘free exercise of the natural right to religious freedom was prohibited in India”. RSS’s resolution ignored that the right to change one’s religion was enshrined in the UNO’s Charter of Human Rights, also.

The RSS urged the Centre to lodge a protest with the Pope for exhorting the Christian missionaries to carry on their campaign of conversions defying the law of the land. The persecution continued for five more years. On 12 October 2008, he Pope Benedict XVI was compelled to draw the Indian government’s attention to the continuing anti-Christian violence in India.

On 28 October, the Vatican called upon the memory of Mahatma Gandhi for an end to the religious violence in Orissa. In a written appeal addressed to Hindus, the Vatican office said Christian and Hindu leaders needed to foster a belief in non-violence among followers (“Vatican invokes Gandhi in plea to end Orissa violence“. In.reuters.com. 28 October 2008).

Christians dubbed `insurgents’

In his interview with India Today (April 4, 2005, Christian Missionaries are with Naxals, page 80-81), K. S. Sudersan (Rashtrya Swayem Sevak Sangh) says, ‘Naxals have a safe base in Andhra Pradesh because Christian missionaries are with them. They attack mandir (temples) and other Hindu institutions but never attack a Church.  Because the Chief Minister is a Christian, he has given them abhaydaan (freedom from fear) and crowds of two lakh or more they can gather’.

Sizeable number of Christians (Catholics) also lives in Pondicherry and Goa. A much smaller number live scattered amongst the majority Hindu population in the rest of India.

More incidents of violence

Incidents of violence against Christians have occurred in nearly all parts of India, particularly in north, central, and western India, in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and the capital area of New Delhi.

Genocide

The genocide of Christians in India’s north-eastern state Orissa was outcome of Hindus’ muffled hatred against Christians. Over 500 Christians, including some nuns, were burnt alive. Countless churches, houses and shops were gutted. Even Christian orphanages were not spared.

Attacks on churches

In June 2000, four churches around India were bombed (Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu).  A church in Maharashtra was ransacked.  In September 2008, two churches were partly damaged in Kerala. In 2015, a church building under construction was vandalised in Haryana. St. George church in Mumbai was also attacked by masked persons. In the same month, the cathedral of Jabalpur was attacked and more than a dozen people were injured. The same cathedral had also been attacked in 2008 and the entire altar burnt down. In April 2015, St. Mary’s Church in Agra was vandalised and statues of Mother Mary and the Infant Jesus were damaged. A Church in the Kachna area of Raipur was attacked by a mob during a Sunday service and five people were injured when they tried to stop the assailants.

Several churches were attacked in the capital Delhi in recent years. They include St. Sebastian’s Church (burned), St. Stephen’s college chapel May 5, 2018 (vandalised and the cross desecrated with pro-Hindutva slogans).

In Madhya Pradesh a church was destroyed and bibles were burnt in Mandla district in September 2014. In March 2015, a Bible convention was attacked in Jabalpur, with allegations that religious conversions were taking place. So on.

Concluding remarks

Hindus are an ungrateful nation. They ignore the fact that Christian missionaries started coming to India, particularly the North-East, in the late 19th century. They promoted education and socio-economic developmental work in the region. In Rajasthan, the Emmanuel Mission, alone, runs over 50 schools.

India should have the decency to let Christians celebrate Christmas freely.

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Religion

The Hindu, Hinduism, and Hindutva

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Congress leader Salman Khurshid’s book Sunrise Over Ayodhya has irked not only the Hindu extremists but also some moderate leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad. The bone of contention is his comparison of  Hindutva to terror outfits with ISIS and Boko Haram. Some people pelted stones on Khurshid’s Nainital residence, before trying to set it afire. In viral videos, Khurshid says,’If you want to see what Hindutva does, see the burnt door in my Nainital home’. Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of the occupied Kashmir, and Rahul Gandhi supported Khurshid’s observations in the book. Mehbooba said, `Those who make Hindus and Muslims fight in the name of religion can be compared with ISIS or any other (terror group) because both of them kill people in the name of religion’. Referring to ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family, as taught by Hindu scriptures), she said: “Sanatan Dharma teaches us that the world is one family. What BJP and RSS are trying to teach us is neither Hindutva nor Hinduism.”

She said Sananatan dharam teaches inclusivity and BJP is antithesis to that. Mehbooba clarified that the real Sanatan Dharma doesn’t teach communalism. She accused RSS-BJP combine of hijacking Hinduism and Hindutva, and making people fight against each other all over the country.

Rahul Gandhi questioned, ‘Is Hinduism about beating a Sikh, or a Muslim? And then answered ‘Yes, Hindutva, of course, is’.

The Hindu and Hindutva

The ‘Hindu’ were persons inhabiting the Indus valley area and beyond. The territory inhabited by them was Hindustan. But the communalistic Hindu calls the territory Hindusthan (the Hindu’s place). The suffix ‘-stan’ being of non-Hindu origin is obnoxious to the communalists. The communalists find Bharatvarsha more palatable. This word originated from an ancient Hindu king Bharatvarsha. The communalists’ outfits like Sangh Parivar use this name preferentially as it emphasizes Vedic roots of the country and its original people.

According to the bulk of literature on the subject, `Hinduism’ is not a closely-knit or bounded faith or collection of doctrines. It is a religion (mazhab), not a deen, or a way of life without a founder. According to Encyclopedia Britannica 1994-2001: “Hinduism is both a civilization and a congregation of religions: it has neither a beginning nor a founder, nor a central authority, hierarchy nor organization. Every attempt at a specific definition of Hinduism has proved unsatisfactory in one way or another…”.

Hinduism does not have One Church, One Pope, One Prophet, One Holy Book or One Ritual. A One can be a Hindu as well as a believer or an agnostic or an atheist!

Hinduism does not prescribe one system of marriage or one system of succession/inheritance. The Hindu law reforms (1955-1956) tried to bring about uniformity but diverse practices continue.

Hinduism allows a Hindu to worship other gods and saints. Thousands of Hindus go to worship at the shrine in Velankanni or pray at the Golden Temple in Amritsar or offer obeisance at the Dargah Sharif in Ajmer.

Hindutva

Hindutva is controversially defined in Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his book Hindutva and adopted by Hedgewar as the basis of his ideology (An Indian parliamentary committee resurrected him as a hero by allowing his portrait to be hung in Indian parliament). The RSS’s aims are a mix of cultural, religious and political objectives – To serve Hindu dharma (religion), sanskriti (culture) and rashtra (nation). Sarvarkar distinguishes ‘Hinduism’ from ‘Hindutva’. He clarified that the `Hinduism’ was concerned with `relevance of life after death, the concept of God and the Universe’. ‘Hindutva’, on the other hand, was ‘Hindus being a nation, bound by a common culture, a common history, a common language, a common country and a common religion’.

Two camps

The book has brought into limelight the bitter reality that the majority of India wants a minority-mukt  India. The feeble voices about peaceful existence are fading. The RSS, BJP and their ilk speak the same language.

Mohan Bhagwat (RSS) who shouts ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, actually prefers the term “Hindu” to “Bhartiya,”. Bhagwat equates “Hindu” and “Bhartiya/Indian”.

While speaking on the occasion of launching the Krishnanand Sagar’s  book ‘Vibhajan Kalin Bharat ke Sakshi’ (The Witnesses of Partition-era India), Bhagwat said, ‘India’s suffering at the time of Partition should not be forgotten and that it will go away when the Partition is “undone”. This is India of 2021 and not of 1947’.

He spoke in the same vein as had Pandit Jawahar lal Nehru and Vallabha Patel. Before his final flight (Aug 7, 1947) from Delhi to Pakistan, the Quaid sent a message to the Indian government: “the past must be buried and let us start as two independent sovereign states of Hindustan and Pakistan, I wish Hindustan prosperity and peace.”

But, Vallabhbhai Patel replied from Delhi: “the poison has been removed from the body of India.” Even Nehru, an ostensibly liberal leader, regarded the creation of Pakistan as a blunder. His rant against Pakistan reaches a crescendo in his remarks: “I shall not have that carbuncle on my back.” (D. H. Bhutani, The Future of Pakistan, page 14).

There is marked similarity between Bhagwat’s speech and Narendra Modi’s speech earlier. While delivering the Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15 earlier this year, PM Modi declared, ‘August 14 will be observed as the ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’. He described partition as “one of the biggest tragedies” of the last century.

Jihad under Hinduism and other religions

The concept of holy wars (or call it terrorism) exists in many religions.In the historical context, the term “holy war” meant different things to different individuals and communities. The oldest ‘terrorists’ were holy warriors who killed civilians. Recent examples of religious terrorists are Aum Shinrikyo (Japanese), Rabbi Meir Kahane and Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir (Jews).  The Israeli media describes Hezbollah and Hamas as ‘religious terrorists.’ In the first century A.D Palestine, the Jews publicly slit the Romans’ throats. In the seventh century India, the thugs strangulated gullible passersby to please the Hindu Devi Kali. And the 19th century, adherents of Narodnaya Volya (people’s will) mercilessly killed their pro-Tsar rivals. The term `terrorism’ became notorious during the French reign of terror in 1793-94.

It is now common to dub one’s adversary a ‘terrorist’. Afghan “freedom fighters” became “terrorists” like the Kashmiri freedom fighters. Doing so, forecloses the possibility of political negotiation and gives the powerful definer the right to eliminate the ‘terrorist’.

Gita:  Verse 193 is no different from what Krishan taught Arjun. How is this any different from Lord Krishna telling Arjun in the Bhagavad Gita to fight as his dharmic duty?

BG 2.33: “अथ चैत्त्वमिमं धर्म्यं संग्रामं न करिष्यसि। ततः स्वधर्मं कीर्तिं च हित्वा पापमवाप्स्यसि। (O Arjuna! If you do not fight for this religion and turn away from your religion, then you will lose your fame and glory).” Surely, Hindus will know the context.

 Bible: Deuteronomy 20:1-4: “When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory’.”

Torah: Do Torah’s verses also speak of genocide and pillage?

Numbers 31:1-10 say: The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites; then you shall be gathered to your kin.” Moses spoke to the people, saying, and “Let men be picked out from among you for a campaign, and let them fall upon Midian to wreak the LORD’s vengeance on Midian. You shall dispatch on the campaign a thousand from every one of the tribes of Israel.” … “The Israelites took the women and children of the Midianites captive, and seized as booty all their beasts, all their herds, and all their wealth. And they destroyed by fire all the towns in which they were settled, and their encampments.”

Hindu holy and unholy wars

The Ramayanas and the Mahabharata wars elucidate various types of yuddha (wars). In ancient India there were three schools of war. Bhishma’s school of warfare belonged to dharma yuddha (ethical or just war). Two other schools, Brihaspati and Krishna’s school of warfare belonged to koota yuddha (all-out war) or maya yuddha (war by tricks or stratagems). There is too much of negative publicity about Islamic jihad (struggle). But, there is little limelight on koota yuddha in India’s history. Koota yuddha signifies all-out, no-holds-barred or unethical warfare.

Bhishma stressed chivalry and ruled out surprise and deception. But Brihaspati recommended that the king should attack an enemy only if the enemy’s strength is one-third of his own (`Udyog Parva’). He suggested that the king should never trust the enemy or spare him, no matter how old or virtuous he may be.

Concluding remark

The world is unconscious about the undercurrents of Hindu jihad in Indian politics. It is manifest from lynching minorities and legislativive steps to gag voice of minorities struggling for rights. Some political parties are exploiting Hindutva concept to hoodwink masses and win elections. Political gains are uppermost in BJP’s mind. It has agreed to withdraw controversial farm laws but will never withdraw anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizenship. 

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