Thoughts from friends

– I have some excellent friends,   People whose thoughts and minds I admire for many reasons.   We do not always agree on all things but I always respect their thought processes and their integrity.

– I’ve occasionally posted things here on Samadhisoft that my friends have written to me in personal correspondence.  Today, I’m going to do so again. With a few changes to remove names and identifying E-Mail addresses, I should be able to publish their words and still leave the authors anonymous.

– To set the stage, the first E-Mail here was between myself and a friend who is from India but now lives in the U.S.  He and I are discussing the election of India’s newest Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and other various subjects.  

– Later, I forwarded my Indian friend’s  E-Mail to another astute friend of mine, an American, and I found his comments to be highly interesting and thoughtful as well.

– All of it is good food for thought and I hope you find it so as well.

– dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = =Round one  = = = = = = = = = = = =

This original thread began because I’d commented to my Indian friend on a story I’d seen in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.  It might help to read that article to place the following discussions in context.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/14/new-india-gujarat-massacre

My friend’s response:

Hi Dennis,

Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat…well, he is the product of RSS, a Hindu outfit which has existed for at least 70 years. There were riots, and Muslims died. Since then  the arguments rage if he really turned a blind eye to them. A Muslim MP, Ehsan Jaffri, in whose home many Muslims felt safe, was torched alive, and there was a massacre. His widow is still fighting it out in various courts.

But you have to understand a few things also. Hindus are in majority in India, and highly divided in their votes. Muslims, a minority,  are mainly used as vote banks by various “secular” political parties.

So the politicians promote the already existing cultural differences between the two religions. It is easy to fan flames because the formation of Pakistan in 1947 was a bloody carving out of Indian flesh, and thousand s died, and books like Tamas, and A train to Pakistan and various movies have kept the flames alive, and there are people still alive who have seen the carnage. Only when they are all dead, can this holocaust be forgotten.

To woo Muslims to use as election fodder, various political parties offer them freebies which are the cause of angst among Hindus. The Muslims don’t’ help either. They can marry Hindu girls after converting them to Islam, but woe betide the house in which a Hindu boy marries a Muslim girl! They can marry four times,bringing home 4 wives, –which is the origin of Modi’s statement “we five, breeding twenty five”. Hindus can marry only once, and there is a real fear that in time, Mulsims may outnumber Hindus.

Next, they are not so educated, preferring to go to work (like China’s home factories) and they fight everything modern. For instance, Polio drops, photographing humans and contraceptives are against their religion. Because the Holy Qoran says so!!! So say the Maulvis! Of course, Muslims don’t read the book to verify the statements. And can you imagine the living standard of a little educated household, having 5-6 children, and adults?

Then, the triple Talaq. Any man can divorce his wife just by saying Talaq thrice. No maintenance, no support  of any sort. And very few of their women are literate or have any skill except the domestic ones.

All these horrify us. Look, my family rented out two rooms on the ground floor to a Muslim couple. They mentioned kids, and we thought that it would be the normal 1-2. In two rooms, one kitchen and one bathroom, the couple, their four sons, two of them with wives, with four small kids of their own, live! Can you imagine that? We tried to get rid of them, by telling them to go, and raising their rent to triple the normal…no effect. Every Sunday when they hang out their washing, it looks like the laundry of a major hospital! They have no furniture, and when I step into their rooms, frankly everything stinks.

And whenever there is an India-Pakistan match, Muslims cheer for Pakistanis! In a war, they hope Pakistan wins! Every terrorist apprehended in India, (except the group responsible for the Samjhauta Train bombing) are Muslims–fighting a Holy War against their own country.

All the other religions here Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism have originated here. Christianity and Islam have originated in the deserts of Israel and Arabia. We don’t relate to the stories–of deserts and tribes etc. But the Christians are doing good work–Mother Teresa, and many others here. Most of us have attended Christian churches and go to Christian hospitals.

The Muslims have spewed nothing but hatred. I have spent 12 years in Hyderabad, where there is a majority of Muslims, and I know what I am writing about. Many Hindu girls used to be kidnapped–and sold to Arabian Sheikhs.

A typical Hindu family consists of husband- wife, his parents, and their children–about one or two. Frankly we can’t afford more, because we have to educate the kids, build a home, look after our parents, and save for the future. We have to have furniture, all the modern gadgets, and a vibrant social life.

Well, previously, though tensions simmered, these problems were solved by walled cities within cities–the Hindu area, and the Muslim area. But since their home factories started manufacturing bombs–can you imagine, in a one and a half room apartment in Mumbai, a husband-wife, and their daughter and son put together bombs, and placed them in crowded areas in Mumbai, killing many people. The women wore the long black veil in trial court–they are too modest to show their faces, but not too modest to plant bombs!–sympathy for them has fast eroded.

We are in the majority, so we have to keep quiet–as human rights exist only for the minorities!

Now for the first time, there is a leader in India who is a Hindu, and proudly so.

Is he Hitler? Only time will tell!

But he is not corrupt personally–no personal life, no property, does not drink, smoke, is a vegetarian..and is highly popular in his home state which is the most developed one in the country–building canals across deserts, flyovers, a safe and single window clearance for investors…it is the only state where you can call up a government official over the phone and ask for information, and he will either let you know, or promise to research and call you back–and does that. ( I tried it). No corruption is tolerated in Gujarat.

And Modi is promising that for the rest of India…and even Muslims agree that development will include them.

There are other religions in India too. Parsees the fireworshippers, descendents of Zoroastrians, Jews, atheists..so silent that we don’t even realize that they are different….until they occupy the top posts…Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, many army officers, bankers the Wadia family, the Tatas….they do good, always.

The Jews are on record stating that India is the only country where they have never been persecuted. In the Mumbai blasts, a synagogue was attacked and the young Rabbi family was killed–by Muslim terrorists from Pakistan.

We have had no problem with anyone because: they want the same thing every same person wishes for–to live in peace, in his or her own way. India, under Hindus has never attacked any other country in the last 10,000 years of its existence.

Muslims? They call all non-believers Kafirs. Their religion ensures Jannat (Paradise) for anyone who kills Kafirs. (This is not in the Holy Qoran–I read it.) But they believe all their Maulvis tell them. Kasab, the terrorist taken alive in Mumbai blasts, thought that the dead bodies of those who were ‘martyred’ while killing Kafirs–in Jihad (Holy War)– would never rot, but keep giving off a scent like roses. Till the Judgement Day, so that Allah can recognize them and reward them with Paradise. He broke down when he was shown the decomposing bodies of his comrades

They believe that all knowledge is in the Qoran. If it is not there, it is not knowledge, but the Shaitan (Satan) at work, gulling us.

Muslims used to work in the Gulf countries, and many other nations, as blue collar workers. In my childhood in Hyderabad, the richest people were Muslims, who sent home money in dollars.

Now they are welcome –nowhere. Non-Muslims in India–the educated workers employed in various industries in the whole world, are the ones doing well now. Many countries balk in issuing visas to Muslims and Pakistanis.

When a bill was moved in the parliament to settle alimony on a divorced Muslim woman, it was opposed. Unislamic!  Such women are a burden on their families, or forced into petty crime.

France is having trouble with the veil.

All of these are shaping the psyche of the youth. Many Muslim engineers are working to destabilize India–bombs, arson, cybercrime etc. It is just as though they could have been good , but something in their chromosomes does not let them be.

Of course, not all Muslims are bad.  But since all the bad guys are Muslims, this has cast a pall over them all.

– and thus ends my Indian friend’s E-Mail.

= = = = = = = = = = = Round two = = = = = = = = = = =

– And here begin my second friend’s comments:

Dennis, thanks for this.  I found [your friend’s] message interesting.  I don’t know a lot about Indian culture, but as you know I studied religion in college, and India is both crucible and carnival when it comes to religious beliefs, a birthplace and meeting place.  This has been true for millennia.

I share [your friend’s] leeriness when it comes to Islam.  Oh, not those Muslims who practice a watered-down version of their religion, as many do in the West — I fear the fundamentalists.  Actually I consider fundamentalists of any religious stripe dangerous.  I have always said religion is fine — as long as it is kept in a cage with all its teeth pulled out.

To the degree that religion addresses deep existential issues — “Why are we here?” — it is not just beneficial, but inevitable.  It answers a deep-seated need in people, and a society that relentlessly suppresses religion or outlaws it (the Soviets, the Nazis) at some point goes off the rails.

Americans in the U.S. have lived in a religiously pluralistic and tolerant society for so long, they don’t always keenly appreciate the dangers here, until there is a Waco compound incident.

If people relinquish control of their lives by handing themselves over, body and soul, to a religious paradigm, then they leave themselves vulnerable to the a-rational (and therefore potentially ir-rational) components of religion.

Religion is like alcohol — a moderate amount makes life more pleasant and is even good for you; too much is a scourge.

What I believe is that a society must be guided by a strong civic spirit, that civility is crowned queen of the virtues.  Why?  Because otherwise, we’re blowing up buses.  Religious fervor is not the only fuel for such evil — the Nazis were secular and they shoveled people into ovens — but religious fundamentalists are often troublesome.  I am not thinking of the Amish and Mennonite communities, which embrace a living-apart ethos; I’m thinking of those Muslims and Christians who, on the basis of their faith, feel compelled to violently re-make the world around them.  They disrupt civil society because they consider it sinful.  They do not want people to have freedom, because that freedom can only be used to veer away from God’s will (however that is defined).

This is why I am not in favor of unbridled pluralism: not all beliefs or views should be tolerated, but rather only those that are compatible with the ongoing health and welfare of society.  Do not harbor those who would destroy you!  Why should you?  Throw ’em out!  Anyone who advocates violence or terrorism is a terrorist, regardless of the etiology of their beliefs.

In other words, I don’t care if you consider yourself a Muslim, Christian, Militant Taoist… if you advocate violence against people, your ideology and organization must be contained and disposed of, its leaders imprisoned, monitored, exiled, in rare cases perhaps executed (a dead person has no ability to act; their volition is utterly neutralized).  This is for the good of the whole.

If I were king, religious groups would be monitored. Those leaders preaching violent fundamentalism would literally be apprehended in the dark of night, along with their spouses and children, and processed out — assets frozen, imprisoned, documented, exiled, banned from the United States.  The phones of their friends and family would be tapped and they would be monitored. Those who crossed the line would face the same fate as their leaders.  Those found with bombs or weapons would be imprisoned and perhaps executed as enemies of a free society.

If this sounds like some paranoid, McCarthy-esque totalitarianism, I can only say that I think such an extreme response is merited by religious fundamentalists.  They’re dangerous.  Not because their beliefs are odd.  Strangeness of beliefs (virgin births, golden tablets buried in the Earth, alien overlords) are the stuff of religion.  It is the posture the religion takes towards greater society that is the issue. Those who prepare to make war must be treated as traitors and enemy combatants.  Because that’s what they are…

As for [your friend’s] comments… a world where radical Muslims are not welcome anywhere… where does that lead?  Either they abandon their beliefs in order to live more fulfilling lives, or they gravitate into increasingly hermetic, tightly-wound, and shrill communities, even more prone to violence.  The status quo is dangerous.  India should ban radical imams, mullahs, ulamas, and their madrassas, because they are just fuel for the fire.  You want to be a radical Muslim?  Move to Pakistan.  We don’t want you here in the world’s largest democracy; this place is for those who want to live in peace with each other.

I read a commentary a few weeks ago written by a Christian Pakistani, a medical student, who made it clear that Pakistan is an extreme and benighted society held back by its religious fundamentalism and intolerance.  So he fled to the West, and is now a med student at Columbia.  We have one more doctor, Pakistan took another step towards the 12th century. And you know what?  That’s their choice.  As long as they remember we have a nuclear knife at their throat and they better never mess with us, as long as they are afraid of us, I don’t care what they do. You don’t talk to crazy people, you contain them.

This is why borders still matter: they are more importantly boundaries of culture than boundaries of trade and resources.  And culture trumps.

– and so my second friend’s e-mail ends.

– The world is a complex place with so many points of view.   I strongly agree with the second writer; we should have no place for those who will not allow us our freedoms to live and let live and to respect each others beliefs.  I do not want to return to the past.
– dennis

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