Sunday, February 15, 2009

All Religions are not same, but Fundamentalists Are

All Religions are not same, but Fundamentalists Are
By M J Akbar


Given the staggering backlog of cases that clog the Indian judicial system, is it necessary to put Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik through the full rigours of the wrench? Here is a suggestion for cruel and unusual punishment that can be administered immediately: he should be forced to see a collection of item numbers from Hindi movies.

Alternatively, he could be subjected to six hours of solitary confinement in front of MTV. A serious study of pole dancing to the strains of Kaal kaal mein hum tum kare dhamaal might open his eyes. When those eyes are open, he might recognise that popular culture in India has moved far beyond pubs. Every government in the past two decades has endorsed this advance: the once-beady eye of the censor board now winks merrily at the exploding screen. The censor cannot lag behind the audience, or the entertainment industry will become defunct.

All religions are not the same; but all fundamentalists are. They share an aversion for modernity and a hatred of gender equality. It is entirely logical that the Ram Sene should find an ally in the Jamaat-e-Islami; their ethos is not dissimilar, no matter how different the imagery their rhetoric might contain. The same mindset persuades some maulanas to issue a fatwa condoning divorce through triple talaaq even when the husband is drunk. The very clerics who will damn you to eternal hellfire for touching alcohol are ready to rationalise any diktat that amounts to subjugation of women. Eminent Islamic scholars have repeatedly proved that instant triple talaaq is bad in Islamic law, and such variations even worse. Islam institutionalised the rights of women; such distortions are at variance to its liberating spirit. But the issue is not law: this is conservative, male domination over women.

Sex, or an ugly offshoot, vulgarity, is not modernity. Since sex began with Adam, it must be as old as existence. The pub, or tavern, can claim a bit of antiquity as well. The four principles of a modern society, which is a necessary prerequisite of a modern state, are gender equality, political equality, religious equality and economic equity.

India is one nation among the many who emerged from the ruins of the British empire capable of claiming the mantle of modernity. This is not because Indians are superior to their neighbours, but because the idea of India is better. Democracy, secularism, equality and freedom are an Indian's non-negotiable birthright. There is only one serious weakness: poverty has to be reduced at a much faster rate than the growth in prosperity. As long as we are burdened with this wretched malaise called poverty, we cannot call ourselves a modern nation. Economic equality is a fantasy; but an equitable distribution of national wealth is a compulsion. A civilised nation cannot divide its people by a hunger line. Citizens must live in various categories of a comfort zone, and the most basic comfort is a full stomach. Freedom is incomplete without freedom from hunger.

The poor are never unreasonable. They do not believe that there is any magic wand that can suddenly make them wealthy. But they have every right to economic justice. When they find India rising, but they are not rising along with their country, there is envy and anger. The young men who become the club-wielders of socially regressive organisations are motivated by more than one reason, but a principal cause is denial of the liberties and pleasures that a disposable income brings. They may not realise it, but they want what they seek to destroy. It is a familiar paradox.

Social reform has not come to all Indian communities at the same pace. Groups like the self-appointed All India Muslim Personal Law Board have used evocative sentimentality and identity politics in order to block reform and gender equality among Muslims. They have received patronage from politicians with a vested interest in the status quo. But there is a new murmur among Muslim youth, who are ready to reject this false equation between identity and regression.

This is an age of information. If they cannot go out to the world then the world can come into their drawing rooms through the television set. They want to be a happy and creative part of a modern India: engineers, managers, technocrats, writers and sportsmen building the emerging nation around them. They will not be held back by the discrimination of others or the frozen minds within their own. For evidence, read the story of cricketer-brothers Yusuf and Irfan Pathan. They are the flavour of the present and the prescription of the future.

Appeared in Times of India - February 15, 2009

7 comments:

Number Cruncher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Number Cruncher said...

The acts of fundamentalists seems to be in the last leg. I agree with you entirely that fundamentalism cuts across religion and culture.

Moin said...

MJ Akbar, an inferiority complexed intellectual

His writings do prove his genius. He has been striving hard to boost his image as a pure secular minded intellectual. There is no doubt about his sincerity towards the secularism. He is one of the very few courageous journalists who do not hesitate to raise even those sensitive issues which Indian Government tries to seal like a cross border line, means anyone who opens mouth on such issues will be treated as anti-national and traitor. The
Taj Mahal Hotel incidents, Hemant Karkare's assassination etc are one of such issue.
But the problem with MJ Akbar is that he is one of those inferiority complexed leaders who in want of keeping their secural image intact, take it for granted that unless they equate their own community people with the other community's terrorist groups, others will not accept them as a secular. For example, in his latest columns "All religions are not same but fundamentalists are", he declares the Hindu Terrorist group Ram Sena equal to Jamaat Islami and other Muslim scholars who are in favour of instant Talaq (Divorce) and other women rights issues of Islam. He says:

All religions are not the same; but all fundamentalists are. They share an aversion for modernity and a hatred of gender equality. It is entirely logical that the Ram Sene should find an ally in the Jamaat-e-Islami; their ethos is not dissimilar, no matter how different the imagery their rhetoric might contain. The same mindset persuades some maulanas to issue a fatwa condoning divorce through triple talaaq even when the husband is drunk. The very clerics who will damn you to eternal hellfire for touching alcohol are ready to rationalise any diktat that amounts to subjugation of women.

no matter how different the imagery their rhetoric might contain, how does it form the same mindset to the terrorists as well as of Maulanas? MJ Akbar only can explain this. He must explain how those terrorists whose connections with Malegaon, Ajmer blasts etc have already been established, more connections would have been unveiled had Hemant Karkare been alive, those who are spreading violance and lawlessness openly how they are equal to Jamaat Islami and other Maulanas? Although Islam is more against the Valantine day etc type of morally corrupt festivals but have every any Muslim scholar or any Jamaat ever spread took law in hand in India?

Not only such psuedo-intellectuals feel safe in defaming their own community to earn name in other communities but also do not hesitate to shed venom due to their lack of knowledge about their own religion. The readers can feel this in MJ Akbar's writing when he says subjugating women is worse than drinking wine. There is of course difference of opinion in the scholars about the women's rights but there is no difference of opinion about the wine's illegitimacy. There are many scholars who have talked in favour of those rights which MJ Akbar too endorses, but why he insist to object only those and make mockery of them who do not agree with his opinion, only he can explain.


Aleem Khan Falaki
Jeddah

Indian Vitchdokta said...

I wonder why the Indian muslim community, which is one of the largest agglomerations of muslims anywhere has no say in the Islamic fora like the OIC? It has by and large successfully participated in a pluralistic society and held its own.
Isn't this a role model for the rest of the Islamic world that we should proudly showcase? Ironically we let people pile pity-parties on the Indian muslim community!

Ajaz Ahmed Kashmiri said...

Mr. Akbar, I do not understand your opposition to Islamic law in Swat or for that matter Pakistan.What is wrong if a society wants to live under the rules which they believe in. If True Muslims wanting to implement just laws of Shariah come to power through free and fair elections in Algeria, people like you oppose it, if true muslims wanting to implement shariah come to power through elections in Gaza, people like you oppose it.This is not being fair. I agree that Islam does not allow extremism but any govt in this world needs reform and Taliban govt is no exception.History is witness to the fact that Afghansitan was very very peaceful during the rule of Taliban. Shariah will bring peace in the entire world.

Indian Vitchdokta said...

It is interesting to see the line of thoughts behind the comments from people that live in Monolithic and pluralistic societies. Clearly discernible impact on their thoughts.

A. said...

Akbar ji,

Saudi's will not accept a non-muslim ambassador from India, and your country has accepted that discrimination meekly for the last 60 years. You may wish to read another Indian Muslims (M.A. Khan) take on Islamic Jihad
http://www.islam-watch.org/MA_Khan/Islamic-Jihad-Legacy-of-Forced-Conversion-Imperialism-Slavery.htm
The issue is not the minority but the fundemental difference in the nature of the majority.