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Will Obscurantism Prevail?

October 26, 2010

Liberalism, multiculturalism, pluralism and all other isms to define modern society’s love for ‘rights’ and compassion mirror today’s world view. I am one of those who believe in all these isms that I mentioned. I am not a liberal fundamentalist of the ‘progressive’ kind but the one who would not hesitate to advocate a greater mingling of people of all cultures and races in today’s ever shrinking world. The question is – is this a utopian idea where those who are being accommodated are pushing out or swamping the original inhabitants? If one looks at things dispassionately, one will realize that this liberalism is costing us a lot.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor has said that multiculturalism has failed in Germany. She was referring to the increasing population of Germans of Turkish descent who while most can speak German have been unable to amalgamate into the German society. What Angela Merkel has said is not only true but the rise of rightist parties in Europe is an indicator of how things have gotten out of hand and Europe is changing color. Europeans are reacting by voting for far rightist parties. This trend is only going to increase in the years to come.

There is this other fact that is not too well known. And perhaps even if it is known, people tend to brush it under the carpet. The Christian population in the Middle East is decreasing at an alarming rate. Robert Fisk writes in the Independent that since the Iraq invasion most Christians in Iraq have moved to the West. The Christian population in Lebanon, Egypt and Syria has also come down. These were the citadels of the Christian faith and some of the earliest Christian churches were found in the Middle East. The totalitarian regimes of Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern states do not allow the building of churches. These are Islamic nations where people of faiths other than Islam do not find favor. This rise in intolerance for those of other faith in the Middle East has far reaching consequences. Even in Lebanon Christians are finding themselves outnumbered as Muslims tend to have many more children than Christians and therefore their numbers are growing apart from the fact that Lebanese Christians are moving out. The only sanctuary for the Christians in the Middle East is Jordan where the 6% odd Christian population lives in relative peace.

London Central Mosque

Contrast this with what Europe and North America are experiencing. There is an influx of non-Christians in these predominantly Christian countries. Europe is where Christianity found its home. Charlemagne gave Christianity a fillip and Europe turned Christian. With Renaissance the European mind grew and erudition and knowledge replaced bigotry and orthodoxy. The Church turned secular. With a population that had seafaring culture, Europeans went far and wide. Travel is an education. Europeans learnt from wherever they went. Of course they were not pious invaders. They were violent and ruthless at times, but because of the importance they gave to knowledge, they did not hesitate to learn from their host nations and cultures. Christianity changed its color and from the infamous Spanish and Portuguese inquisition to liberalism and accommodation – Europe has traveled far. An orthodox church will find few takers in today’s Europe or North America. Yes, there might still be segregation between people of color and the white majority in churches but the basic premise of inherent plurality has not been missed by most men of faith.

Europe has been mired in controversies vis-à-vis religion. Europe is trying to assert its cultural and religious moorings. The ban of the hijab and the nikab in Belgium and France saw a huge uproar. It was when the ‘progressive liberals’ saw that the majority sentiment was for such a ban did this outrage subside. Similarly, there was a controversy about building of mosques in Switzerland. Should tall minarets be allowed? Again there was a referendum and those against won by a slim margin. So the minarets had to go. But what was worrying was that so many people voted for the building of more mosques in Switzerland.

The most vocal debate however was the building of  Islamic Centre near ground zero in Manhattan. That has seen a furious debate. Even US President Barack Obama jumped into the fray and asserted that in a pluralistic society as that of America there can be no justification for disallowing any religion from building a place of worship. Later he retracted his statement and tried to clarify his stand. But it is clear that the president is as much swayed by this liberal jingoism as anyone else.

In India there is no religion in the world that has not found succor. Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrian, Judaism and many other faiths have found home and prospered. Has Hinduism died? The answer is no. Hinduism is fundamentally plural in nature and therefore accommodates other faith without a thought. While the apologists of liberalism may say that since Hinduism has also grown therefore this creation of an artificial monster where there is none is a figment of imagination of radicals within the Hindu faith. But people forget that India has shrunk. Hindostan of yore started from Hindukush down to the confluence of the Ganges in the Bay of Bengal. Our boundaries touched Persia and therefore there was a Persian influence in our language and culture. Afghanistan was mostly Hindu and Buddhist. Gandhari of Mahabharata came from Kandahar of today. We lost western Hindostan which became Pakistan and eastern part that became Bangladesh. Both ceded from Mother India because they had become a nation where Islam was the religion of the majority.

The west may have invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and in that they have done no service to the people of these nations.  It is true that both Saddam and Taliban were totalitarians. Taliban was an abhorrent medieval style barbaric Islamic regime. But the people of these nations were alright with their own rulers who may not have been benevolent. What they totally despised was that foreigners had taken over their land.

The West will vacate both these countries sooner rather than later. They are not going to remain either in Iraq or Afghanistan forever. Indications are that western forces will withdraw completely from Iraq by next year. Contrast that with the surge in Muslim population in Europe and North America. That is a silent invasion. These people have made Europe and North America their home and will not budge from there, come what may. They are citizens of these countries and call for their rights at the drop of a hat. They are also multiplying faster than the local population. Are the demographics changing? There are also conversions from among the Blacks and even some whites. Tony Blair’s sister-in-law visited Iran and has converted to Islam and prays five times a day as per the Islamic tenets. Pluralism is a bane for the west. Obscurantism seems to be winning. The closed Islamic system where no other faith has a representation and people of other faiths cannot publicly follow their religion seems to have worked. The Jewish state of Israel has also seen a rise in Orthodoxy. Haredi Judaim has taken firm roots and a section of Israelis have turned the clock back a few thousand years. The latest proposal of a compulsory declaration by all citizens of Israel of allegiance to a Jewish state manifests a deep seated insecurity among Jewish population that Arab Israelis may outnumber them one day.  Is this their way of reacting to the atmosphere in their neighborhood? Love begets love, they say. I do not know which way the world is going. I would not have been as concerned if the Muslim nations pursued pluralism as vigorously as Christian nations and Hindu and Buddhist nations do. There has to be accommodation from all sides. One sided plurality is dangerous. It could well be that in the garb of liberalism, plurality and multiculturalism we are writing our own obituary.

Update 7.11.2010: A senior Iraqi Christian is to call on believers to quit the country, after gunmen targeted a church in Baghdad. Archbishop Athanasios Dawood, who is based in the UK, will make his appeal during a service at the Syrian Orthodox Church in London. The archbishop has previously criticised the lack of protection for Iraqi Christians. At least 52 people died as security forces stormed a Catholic church in Baghdad to free dozens of hostages. Source: BBC

Update 10.11.2010: A Christian woman has been sentenced to hang to death in Pakistan for blasphemy as she is supposed to have insulted Prophet Mohammed. Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother-of-five, denies blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.   The Telegraph – UK Religious cleansing!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 2, 2010 2:12 am

    I agree, a useful idea

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