Saturday, August 14, 2010

Islamophobia is a Misnomer

An important note: A tweeter had presented rebuttals to few of the arguments in what follows. I consider it important to inform the reader that I have included them in one of my subsequent posts - Islamophobia is a Misnomer - a few Rebuttals (click), which I request the reader to go through to form, what I consider a slightly more nuanced opinion on the whole issue.

I do not believe that an entity that is omnipotent, omniscient, sentient and intention-driven, and which also created the Universe and oversees the various occurrences in it, exists. Allah (click), incidentally possesses many of the attributes, which the entity I do not believe to be existent is supposed to possess. Now that makes me a kafir (=infidel) through multiple criteria (click).

The Quran (click) is purported to be the final word of the God (Allah):

"Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the verbal book of divine guidance and direction for mankind. Muslims also consider the original Arabic verbal text to be the final revelation of God." - Wikipedia

Now, the Quran says many things (click), lot of which are prescriptions and proscriptions on how to lead one's life, i.e., what to do or what not to do. Some of those prescriptions/proscriptions (click) are of umm... err... disturbing nature (of course for infidels like me). I quote a few that leave little to imagination:

[Please note:
I. All the English translations of the Quran written in Arabic language in this post are taken from University of Southern California's 'Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement', which comes with the following disclaimer:

"Please keep in mind that ANY translation of the Qur'an will most definitely contain errors (e.g. see our online list of corrections [click])."

II. The web site uses translations by three different authors, who respectively are: Yusuf Ali, Marmaduke Mohammad Pickthall and M. H. Shakir. Thus, each sura I quote will have three translations. This I believe, should largely lay to rest the skepticism expressed regarding the accuracy of translations of the Quran (click):

"Translation of the Quran has always been a problematic and difficult issue in Islamic theology. Since Muslims revere the Qur'an as miraculous and inimitable (i'jaz al-Qur'an), they argue that the Qur'anic text can not be reproduced in another language or form. Furthermore, an Arabic word may have a range of meanings depending on the context, making an accurate translation even more difficult." - Wikipedia

"The original meaning of a Qur'anic passage will also be dependent on the historical circumstances of the prophet Muhammad's life and early community in which it originated. Investigating that context usually requires a detailed knowledge of Hadith and Sirah, which are themselves vast and complex texts. This introduces an additional element of uncertainty which can not be eliminated by any linguistic rules of translation." - Wikipedia

III. You can verify from the University of Southern California's web site, each quoted sura's translation by clicking on "Verify" after the translation ends. The translation will automatically open in a new window or tab, but do wait for some time for the linked page to load completely and for it to point to the intended Sura.

IV. Some of the suras are to be read in continuation to best understand their complete meaning.]


YUSUFALI: Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and messengers, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith.
PICKTHAL: Who is an enemy to Allah, and His angels and His messengers, and Gabriel and Michael! Then, lo! Allah (Himself) is an enemy to the disbelievers.
SHAKIR: Whoever is the enemy of Allah and His angels and His messengers and Jibreel and Meekaeel, so surely Allah is the enemy of the unbelievers. [Verify: Sura 2:98]

YUSUFALI: We have sent down to thee Manifest Signs (ayat); and none reject them but those who are perverse.
PICKTHAL: Verily We have revealed unto thee clear tokens, and only miscreants will disbelieve in them.
SHAKIR: And certainly We have revealed to you clear communications and none disbelieve in them except the transgressors. [Verify: Sura 2:99]

YUSUFALI: Say: "Obey Allah and His Messenger": But if they turn back, Allah loveth not those who reject Faith.
PICKTHAL: Say: Obey Allah and the messenger. But if they turn away, lo! Allah loveth not the disbelievers (in His guidance).
SHAKIR: Say: Obey Allah and the Messenger; but if they turn back, then surely Allah does not love the unbelievers. [Verify: Sura 3:32]

YUSUFALI: When ye travel through the earth, there is no blame on you if ye shorten your prayers, for fear the Unbelievers May attack you: For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies.
PICKTHAL: And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you.
SHAKIR: And when you journey in the earth, there is no blame on you if you shorten the prayer, if you fear that those who disbelieve will cause you distress, surely the unbelievers are your open enemy. [Verify: Sura 4:101]

YUSUFALI: In a Believer they (infidels/idolators) respect not the ties either of kinship or of covenant! It is they who have transgressed all bounds.
PICKTHAL: And they (infidels/idolators) observe toward a believer neither pact nor honour. These are they who are transgressors.
SHAKIR: They (infidels/idolators) do not pay regard to ties of relationship nor those of covenant in the case of a believer; and these are they who go beyond the limits. [Verify: Sura 9:10]

YUSUFALI: But (even so), if they repent, establish regular prayers, and practise regular charity,- they are your brethren in Faith: (thus) do We explain the Signs in detail, for those who understand.
PICKTHAL: But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion. We detail Our revelations for a people who have knowledge.
SHAKIR: But if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, they are your brethren in faith; and We make the communications clear for a people who know. [Verify: Sura 9:11]

YUSUFALI: But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith,- fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained.
PICKTHAL: And if they break their pledges after their treaty (hath been made with you) and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief - Lo! they have no binding oaths - in order that they may desist.
SHAKIR: And if they break their oaths after their agreement and (openly) revile your religion, then fight the leaders of unbelief-- surely their oaths are nothing-- so that they may desist. [Verify: Sura 9:12]

YUSUFALI: Will ye not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and took the aggressive by being the first (to assault) you? Do ye fear them? Nay, it is Allah Whom ye should more justly fear, if ye believe!
PICKTHAL: Will ye not fight a folk who broke their solemn pledges, and purposed to drive out the messenger and did attack you first? What! Fear ye them? Now Allah hath more right that ye should fear Him, if ye are believers
SHAKIR: What! will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed at the expulsion of the Messenger, and they attacked you first; do you fear them? But Allah is most deserving that you should fear Him, if you are believers. [Verify: Sura 9:13]

YUSUFALI: Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of Believers,
PICKTHAL: Fight them! Allah will chastise them at your hands, and He will lay them low and give you victory over them, and He will heal the breasts of folk who are believers.
SHAKIR: Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace, and assist you against them and heal the hearts of a believing people. [Verify: Sura 9:14]

YUSUFALI: Let not the believers Take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that ye may Guard yourselves from them. But Allah cautions you (To remember) Himself; for the final goal is to Allah.
PICKTHAL: Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security. Allah biddeth you beware (only) of Himself. Unto Allah is the journeying.
SHAKIR: Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming. [Verify: Sura 3:28]

YUSUFALI: But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
PICKTHAL: Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
SHAKIR: So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. [Verify: Sura 9:5] Now here I would like to point out that though I am not an idolator, many people I hold dear, like my mother, father, relatives and closest friends are!

USUFALI: O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.
PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).
SHAKIR: O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil). [Verify: Sura 9:123]

YUSUFALI: And thou hadst not expected that the Book would be sent to thee except as a Mercy from thy Lord: Therefore lend not thou support in any way to those who reject (Allah's Message).
PICKTHAL: Thou hadst no hope that the Scripture would be inspired in thee; but it is a mercy from thy Lord, so never be a helper to the disbelievers.
SHAKIR: And you did not expect that the Book would be inspired to you, but it is a mercy from your Lord, therefore be not a backer-up of the unbelievers. [verify: Sura 28:86]


While, I could have quoted the translations of many such suras here, I guess, these many would suffice to make my point. I have tried my best to not quote selectively, and have provided the context of each sura. Also, some might point out that there must be many Muslims who overlook the above kind of umm... err... disturbing prescriptions and proscriptions. Let us see what the Quran has to say about such selective following of the God's word:

YUSUFALI: After this it is ye, the same people, who slay among yourselves, and banish a party of you from their homes; assist (Their enemies) against them, in guilt and rancour; and if they come to you as captives, ye ransom them, though it was not lawful for you to banish them. Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? but what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life?- and on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.
PICKTHAL: Yet ye it is who slay each other and drive out a party of your people from their homes, supporting one another against them by sin and transgression? - and if they came to you as captives ye would ransom them, whereas their expulsion was itself unlawful for you - Believe ye in part of the Scripture and disbelieve ye in part thereof? And what is the reward of those who do so save ignominy in the life of the world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be consigned to the most grievous doom. For Allah is not unaware of what ye do.
SHAKIR: Yet you it is who slay your people and turn a party from among you out of their homes, backing each other up against them unlawfully and exceeding the limits; and if they should come to you, as captives you would ransom them-- while their very turning out was unlawful for you. Do you then believe in a part of the Book and disbelieve in the other? What then is the reward of such among you as do this but disgrace in the life of this world, and on the day of resurrection they shall be sent back to the most grievous chastisement, and Allah is not at all heedless of what you do. [Verify: Sura 2:85]

So basically, if a Muslim does not follow the Quran in entirety, he/she is disgraced for life, and more important, Allah would punish severely after the said Muslim dies. Which implies, a true Muslim is not supposed to use his/her discretion in selecting what suras to follow and which ones not to.

Let me come more specifically to the title of this blog post: what is Islamophobia?

While, there are more nuanced definitions to be found of the term on Wikipedia's article on Islamophobia (click), I am taking the least devious one, the one which is arrived at from its etymology: Islam-o-phobia, i.e., phobia of Islam. Phobia is defined (click) as:

"A phobia (from the Greek: φόβος,phóbos, meaning "fear" or "morbid fear") is an irrational, intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals, or people. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive and unreasonable desire to avoid the feared stimulus." - Wikipedia

So, after reading what Allah has commanded the true Muslims on how to treat infidels like me, if I fear for my life and safety, is that fear irrational, excessive and unreasonable?

Let me clarify here a few things. I am perfectly aware that no one gets to choose their parents, and hence the religion they are born into. I will never hold against the circumstances of their birth against anyone. One of the impassioned 'arguments' offered by religious apologists (of all colors) is that one's religious beliefs are a matter of choice, and we must not judge people for that. Now honestly, that is such a silly thing to say! Do we not judge people precisely by the choices they make? If no volition would be involved, e.g., in matters of skin color or height or voice or some physical handicap, it would not be wise to judge people adversely for that. So what choice do those people have if they do not approve of the tenets of religions they were born into?

Let me recount a small incident here. Over the social networking web site, twitter, a user who had said in a tweet mentioning me, "you might disagree, but all Muslims must be killed". I told him that I did not agree with him, and that whatever he was saying amounted to hate-speech and he could be punished for that, and most important, I 'unfollowed' him. I must add that it was not a case that all his tweets had been insane, he had a few 'good' (sensible) things also to say. But important point is, the moment he espoused violence against a certain group of people only for the family they were born into or for their chosen religious beliefs, I expressed my strong disapproval and denounced his views. Can a religious scripture be 'unfollowed', provided one actually disapproves of things written in it? Can a religious scripture be similarly disapproved of and denounced for espousing violence against a certain group of people only for the family they were born into or for their chosen religious beliefs? Why or why not? I leave that question to be answered by religious apologists and religious theists. Remember, the said tweeter had also said a few things that were sensible.

Okay, coming to another aspect of Islamophobia - contempt towards and discrimination against Muslims. Why should I be expected to respect someone who systematically hates me by virtue of following the Quran in entirety, and who would not help me, nor befriend me, and would take it upon him/herself to kill idolators who I hold dear? Perhaps, I could be accused of being sensationalist. Let us try again! What shall I think of a person who considers the precepts in the above quoted suras as unassailable truth and divine revelation to be revered? Especially so, when the said person has the option of rejecting those ideas as utter rubbish?

Then, there is one more argument put forth by religious apologists:

"But why do you selectively target the evils of religion? There are so many good things in religion, no? Why not just follow the good things and forget the bad things?"

There are two things I would like to say in response. First, consider a person who goes to an orphanage. He makes generous donations, and also asks others to do the same. But he picks up every child wearing a blue colored dress and stabs and kills him/her. And moreover, he does this in cold blood, without remorse. What would be your assessment of such a person? Would you persist with your plea of "just look at the positives and overlook the negatives"? Why should such cherry-picking be done? Why not assess the person in entirety? Likewise, why not assess religions in entirety without trying to be too lenient in judging them? Second thing I want to point out is, the moment one takes a call as to what is "good" in a religion and what is "bad", they are using their own discretion on what is good v/s bad. Which means their reasoning and discretion had superseded the precepts of the scripture. In other words, they do not need the said scripture to know what is good and what is bad!

So, what am I to think of religious apologists who want to themselves make unwarranted concessions to religion and also expect me to make the very same concessions? What am I to think of those who would hail the orphan-killer as a great saint and revere him because of few 'good' things he does by overlooking his murderous streak?

In summary, I have put forth what the Quran says of infidels like me, which obviously a true Muslim is supposed to subscribe to. In light of these facts, it is difficult to not fear and to respect true Muslims and the religious ideology they willingly follow (despite having a choice to reject that ideology, provided the said Muslim actually disagrees with it). And hence, the term 'Islamophobia' in its purest sense is a misnomer.

PS: With this I complete 100 posts on my blog. :)


  1. nice long article as always.. I havent come across any muslim who has "unfollowed islam" totally.. even if there are there cant be many.. its just that they are so deeply brainwashed at a very young age.. tht it becomes impossible for them.. not to mention the comfort that they develop from this,,, they feel united by this

  2. there are millions of non-muslims working in middleeast. have they been slaughtered.
    or those in middle east not true muslim?

    instead of killing what if the person had used a milder i didnt hire the person at office because i dont like muslims, would you have unfollowed him?

    do you think less of dr.kalam because he is a muslim?

  3. Good analysis as usual. Only thing I would like to add is Christianity is an equally violent religion going buy thr text and it has spread with violence too. But look at it now, how has it evolved. Islam evolved too like Sufism. I'm fully against this particular Saudi sponsered Wahabi Islam which says its the only religion and only Islam and pescribes to kill. I just wish with time all of Muslims evolves like Christanity and leaves behind the violence (ofcourse few lunatics would always be thr).

  4. I find each word logical and fair (unbiased). The question however still stands like an open problems of antiquity is described below.

    How should we deal with the evils of the Islams? Had they not been the dangers to the humanity and practising the terrorism, we would not care how their belief is shaped and what they believe. But the hard fact is the practice of certain "Qur'an guided terrorsts" are danger to the existence of innocent human. This compels the rest of the world to decide, even at the individual level, how to cop up with the Muslims.

    Of course, not all Muslims are practising the evils mentioned in Qur'an. They silently keep a distance from those verses. Should we not identify this innocent Muslims and try to persuade them to spread the belief of brotherhood for all? Or should we have the same baton for each and every Muslim?

    Let me make a few observation (to my mind these are the facts but people are free to not to call them facts.)

    1. Believe/Accept it or not, we have to coexist with all the religions, and Islam in particular.

    2. The Hindus (Sanatan Dharma) has embraced very many religions like Buddhism, Jainism etc and they also in turn feel either a part of or "along the line of" the Hinduism. Some of them, as History reiterates, have come up like whistle blowing against Hinduism.

    3. Sanatan Dharma believes and practises in true sense the slogan of Vasudhaiv Kutumbkum.

    In this context, can't we plant the thought of confidence in the moderate Muslims (= those who avoid the evil verses from Qur'an and I do not consider Prof. Zakir Naik a moderate one. He is a hardliner and his words speak for it) by sharing our sympathy, by joining them in their festival and by many ways, that we love them and we are not the enemies of their practising Islam.

    The next step is to motivate our Islamic Friends to promote the education in their community. This is the only way how we could prevent a Muslim child from becoming Fundamentalist.

    Thanks and love for the space, where I could put my views. (My twitter handle @dineshjk)

  5. Uncommon sense,

    Thanks! You are spot on there. More important, there's nothing noble about sticking with a scripture only to feel a sense of security and unity, and moreover to propagate it as divine only for one's own unethical purposes.

    However, I am unsure of how much leeway to give for not rising against this brainwashing and cultural conditioning? Take another example of Khap panchayats. Obviously, not all the villagers have actively killed the bride and the groom who indulge in same-gotra marriage, but their crime lies in considering the Khap panchayat and the age-old traditions above reproach. I do not expect everyone to risk their lives by opposing such murderers, but surely it seems very few villagers find such practices wrong, otherwise how would have Khapis enjoyed such power and clout?


    Incidentally, I've addressed all the points in my blog post that you've raised in your above comment. But let me revisit them:

    1. Yes, those Muslims living in the middle East who've not killed non-Muslims nor thought about it are not true Muslims - the translations of suras clearly state so. Remember: those who consider themselves Muslims consider the Quran an unquestionable source of Allah's instructions. If they reject any of the instructions they are rejecting the authority of Quran, and that automatically disqualifies them from being true Muslims. Such faux Muslims should re-consider what would they like to think of a body of text that castigates them for of their befriending non-Muslims or helping them, and for not killing idolators (in ambush). Such faux Muslims have a choice between: (1) becoming true Muslims and following the instructions contained in the Quran OR (2) go by their conscience and rational thinking, which is at odds with some of the instructions and be thus labeled as faux Muslims or even infidels, and additionally as clearly warned by the Quran also face Allah's wrath in the process ("...and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself" - Sura 3:28). Of course, they also have the option of using some logic to understand that any written scripture in the World is work of a fallible human, and thus is not above their own intellect and reason, and consequently outright reject its authority. I would just like to remind, what option (of rejecting the authority) I point out very much exists, provided one is honest with oneself....

  6. ...2. I've made a clear distinction in my post between by-birth v/s by-choice Muslims. If someone on twitter suggests discriminating against Muslims simply for being born in an Islamic family, I would definitely disapprove of such a stance. I might not unfollow (perhaps because as you pointed out, the suggestion would be "milder" than killing), but most definitely I will not regard as holy, nor would I worship such a discriminatory and intolerant tweeter. If however, someone discriminates against true Muslims for what they willingly regard as holy &/or follow it (despite a choice to not do so), I'll not consider such discrimination wrong, given the nature of what would be regarded as holy, divine & perhaps would be followed (by the true Muslim).

    3. What I would feel of Dr. Abdul Kalam would depend on what he thinks of the suras translated above, and what he in turn thinks of the Quran on account containing those suras. That, he was merely born in a Muslim family is of no concern to me. If after going through the above suras, he thinks of the Quran as divine, holy & (automatically) worthy of following, then I'd think of him something, which would be very similar to what I would think of a follower who would regard the orphan-killer in the blog post as a great saint & would worship him. Whether the follower himself would emulate the orphan-killer would be a different issue.

    Summarily, my feelings for a person would depend not on what religion they were born into, but on what they think of the Book that contains the suras, the translations of which have been quoted above.

    However, if someone is unaware of the existence of above kind of verses, then I would consider them ignorant & mistaken. But also, I would expect them to be more knowledgeable of something that they consider holy & divine. Moreover, I would certainly disapprove of their outlook in giving such inordinate credence to mysticism & supernaturalism by allowing some other fallible human's work to overrule their own rational thinking and conscience. But the intensity of my fear, disrespect and disapproval would be certainly less than for those who are aware of existence of such verses, and who also choose to defend them, consider them divine and obviously approve of them.

    Thanks for taking time to read and comment!

  7. mlost,

    Thanks for the points you raised! Yes, I agree with almost all your points completely. There, indeed are highly violent verses in the Bible. I had done a couple of blog posts (click) highlighting the occurrence of violence in Christianity.

    Yes, I have wondered why the two other Abrahamic religions, i.e., Christianity and Judaism, despite having similar nature as Islam (witch-hunt, murders for apostasy, conquests and conversions through the sword and religious interference with governance of the king) have come to evolve so differently. I think the fundamental reason is that the Clergy in the 'dark' ages had become so domineering and tyrannical that, not only were they using violence to conquer people of other faiths, but were also violent against both men and women among their own faithful followers. Whereas, Islamic religious leaders were not as much (frequently) violent against the men who would have recently converted. So, what this ensured was that men (who are physically more powerful than women) en masse revolted against the Christian Clergy. This resulted in movements like the French revolution, Renaissance and consequent industrial revolution. This weakened the position of the Church. All this in turn gave way to a much more egalitarian way of living that led to banning of slavery (of blacks) and equal status for women. But because Islamic leaders never really tormented the men in their fold to the same degree as the Church did, there were no notable revolts against them, and nor was there any revolution, which would have weakened their positions in the society. With greater autonomy for women, the fertility rate came down, ideas like family planning gained currency in the Western (largely Christian world) and that led to lesser struggle for resources and greater prosperity. Of course, all this was also facilitated by greater acceptance of science and rejection of supernaturalism. All this, as I explained above, did not happen with the Islamic world.

    The preceding paragraph is just a speculation - I am no authority in history, and much less so of foreign history.

    I am unaware of tenets of sufism, but it seems, it too relies on supernaturalism as against use of logic, so in that I would not support it fully, though it must less violent or totally nonviolent as compared to Wahabbi version of Islam.

    I do not know how exactly Islamic society can be reformed. They rely highly on religious leaders. And Islamic religious leaders, like everywhere else, are opposed to science, technology and rational questioning, as that would greatly weaken their positions in the society. In that sense, this is a vicious circle that's difficult to break through.

  8. Dr. Dinesh,

    Welcome to the blog! Thanks for the praise and your effort!

    Kindly read my response to mlost above. I am totally at loss how the situation can be improved. Perhaps, those religious leaders whose concern for the Muslim masses is genuine should be taken in confidence and explained the merits in ideas of rationality, gender-equality and use of science & technology.

    I have to clarify here that my opposition to religions (including Islam) is at three levels:

    1. At philosophical-logical level. I find the positions taken by religions illogical and dishonest. In formal philosophy, we have a field of study that deals with nature of knowledge and modes its acquisition. It is called epistemology. So epistemologically, the position that the Universe was created by a sentient, intention-driven, omnipotent, omniscient and all-good god is indefensible. So theism and religion are alike wrong on this note. Positions taken by Deist philosophies (including Advaita Vedanta) are not completely falsifiable but their propositions are still questionable.

    2. At ideological-ethical level. What do I think of people who seek to defend or who urge others to overlook the mindless violence and other ills espoused by religious texts? What is the motive behind insistent covering up of reprehensible aspects of religion? Is such position honest and ethical? I believe, not. That is why I gave the example of generous and 'benevolent' orphan-killer. Can I respect people who indulge in such covering up?

    3. At practical level. By which I mean all the problems of the real world that you were alluding to. All kinds of people do all kinds of wrong things (including atheists like me). But there are some kinds of wrongs that are purely religion-driven. It is the latter kinds of wrongs that can be tackled if religion's position weakens in the society and lives of individuals. These practical concerns are of very different nature than the concerns I highlighted in the above 2 points. My blog post was more specifically at the ideological-ethical level (point number 2, above)....

  9. ...Coming to Sanatana Dharma, there is somehow no authoritative text that forms a basis of it. People talk of the Vedas, but I guess, Vedas had largely contained hymns and instructions on how to conduct rituals; they had not contained many directives on how to lead one's life (unlike the scriptures of the Abrahamic religions). It was later that Adi Shankaracharya appended an explanation to Vedas and adding his own system of (highly sophisticated) epistemology. But I have my disagreements with him. Just like the Bible and the Quran, he claims the Vedas to be the unquestionable source of all knowledge. It is this caveat of not questioning the Vedas that I am strongly against. Because after all, whether we like to believe or not, every idea that humanity today is aware of was a creation of someone as fallible as you and me, by virtue of being a human being. So why regard any idea as unquestionable?

    Also, it is good that Sanatana Dharma espouses the concept of Vasudhaiva kutumba kama (which stands for inclusiveness of those with differing ideologies), but I believe we should follow the idea, not because it is dictated by some text, or our elders, but simply because it makes right sense! If we are more inclusive of differing ideologies, we allow for peace in the society, which would in turn result in happier individuals. So that is the logical reason we should be more inclusive. Moreover, at ethical level, who gives us the right to use violence against others simply because their beliefs are different than our own? Hence, we must not use violence even if we disagree with someone's ideas, except for if they are unethically/illegally causing harm to our well being or material possessions. But this inclusiveness must not be by ignoring the differences. We must question the bases of each others' ideas. Questioning of an idea must not be seen as offensive.

    Yes, Dr. Zakir Naik is far from being moderate, liberal or rational. He supports Shar'ia and other ideas like, it is haram to take and give loans with interest. If his ideas are accepted, I believe, Muslim community would not be able to compete with the rest of the World as they would be denied the financial support of conventional banks, e.g..

    Personally, I hardly celebrate religious festivals, but I judge people not by the attributes determined by birth (gender, religion, nationality, caste, mother tongue, appearance, etc.), but by their thoughts (if can be made out), words and actions. So, it is not difficult for me to be inclusive. But unfortunately, because of concept of memetics (click), it seems thoughts, words and actions are determined to an extent by circumstances of birth.

    Thanks for leaving your twitter handle! I have already added you there. :)

  10. Hindu Internet Defence Force,

    Thanks and welcome to the blog!

    I do not know if this is the most appropriate thing to say, but going by your ID and the contents of your blog, I want to point out that what I write here is not my attempt to defend the Hindus/Hinduism, but point out what I consider to be the most unadulterated truth.

  11. Congrats on your 100th post.

    I didn't read it though (It's pretty long but mainly cause I'm so not into religion). Will read some of the other posts in the next few weeks.

  12. Deepali,

    Thanks a lot! Your compliment was a pleasant surprise. So, you've been silently reading my blog posts or this was just a coincidence that you turned up on my 100th post? :)

    And I'd written this precisely for those who're into religion to point out why they better not be. :) So, this post was not meant to be read by you.

    Take care.

  13. Ketan, I really admire your ability to singlemindedly pursue an unadulteratedly rational train of thought. This post is ample proof of it.

    On a lighter note, Fareed Zakaria once joked that every revealed religion prescribes that if you dont follow the words of its prophet, you're going to hell. Therefore, a Christian will go to a Muslim version of hell and vice versa and that by this religious prescription, all of us are going to hell no matter which religion we follow!

    That joke alone shud have woken people up to the idea that these prophetic revelations are to be taken with a bucket of salt. :D

  14. TUIB,

    Thanks a lot! Somehow, I felt very happy reading your praise, don't know why. Perhaps, because it contained the word 'commitment'? :)

    Sorry, haven't yet replied to your comment on 'Re-contamination'. But I very much agree with the flaw you'd pointed out there. I'm very likely to edit that story.

    Yes, Fareed Zakaria definitely had a point. The problem with bucketload of salt's it causes hypertension in highly religious people. :D You see, using even minimum logic with some honesty is a highly stressful job for many. :(

  15. Well unfortunately I have not been silently reading anyone's blog. I haven't been writing either. Just pretty busy (and like with most people) my blogging has taken a back seat.

    So yup just a coincidence. But hopefully will be able to read some stuff in the future.

    Well even though I didn't read your post and therefore it would be wrong to put my views forward, I'd still like to mention it since it might be something you would either like to or most probably already have pondered upon. While I don't actively follow any religion etc I think it's a really important part of society. Sure there has been a lot of blood shed and LOADS of bad thing done on the name of religion, I find that there are lots of people who are either scared of punishment (in the after life or thank to Karma etc) for doing bad deeds or are waiting for rewards for a pious life lead. So in a way religion actually stop a lot of people from doing bad things which they might have very easily otherwise done. Of course this is not to say that people who are very religious are good and people who aren't religious are bad but on the whole I think most of humanity is a little less bad thanks to religion.

    [Of course I am not saying that only religion/spirituality is the only thing that keeps people from doing bad things. There are lots of them but religion is one].

    The other interesting thing about religion is how it gives hope. Again I find that if people were more logical they would see the silliness in a lot of the things they believe in but because people are the way they are (or choose to be), certain things just help them along the way. And often religion and its rituals are the things that help them.

    Shoot I was suppose to keep it short. Anyway maybe I should go back and read the post. I obviously have too much of an opinion on the topic myself :)

  16. Deepali,

    Thanks for a more elaborate comment! Though, I'd have liked to know your views on the topic of the blog post. I have noticed that many people (including many skeptics of organized religion) tend to not discuss the issue of specifics of individual religions at all - perhaps it is thought of as mannerless to discuss (just like asking a woman her age, and a man his income). But I find this situation very discomforting. That, religious beliefs are a matter of personal choice, that is granted, but why it is treated with such kid-glove treatment is beyond me. People buy cell phones, dresses, cars, bikes, and doing all of that is their personal choice, but look carefully, none of these enjoy what I call 'sanctuary' from scrutiny. In fact ironically, there are web sites, magazines and TV programs devoted to exculsively reviewing the automobiles as a whole and even their individual components. So, why should we avoid discussing individual religions (the whole automobile) and the individual tenets and associated beliefs (corresponding with discussing the engine, ride quality, fuel efficiency, etc.)?

    With this not so short prelude, if one of the reasons for your not reading/not commenting on the topic was hesitation as you would consider such matters too personal to discuss, I would urge you to reconsider your stance. But if it is plain lack of time or interest, then of course I am sorry for the above kind of argument. :)

    With regard to religion and morality, what you say (that religgious beliefs make people more moral) makes intuitive sense, but closer observation and even statistical analysis does not seem to support the claim, rather sort of contradicts it. You might like to read this blog post (click), which contains discussion of and link to a scientific study involving brain imaging (making it very reliable). The study shows that since people only invent their own God, they also invent the beliefs that their God holds, viz., what God considers moral v/s immoral. If you would like to think of the issue in another way, you must have come across quite a few people who gradually become less and less religious and more skeptical of God's existence, do their guides of behavior change significantly? In particular, do the etiquette they follow, their ethical and moral standards and how they treat fellow human beings change significantly?...

  17. ...I also noticed one more thing - for the good things that people do inspired by religion, or in places where religion (apparently) makes people avoid do bad things, you have given direct 'credit' to religion. Whereas for blood shed, you said "in name of". :) I am not accusing you of anything here. If I'm nitpicking on a mere semantic issue, do excuse me. But if in your mind, you actually feel that way, then I would again urge that religion should be held equally responsible for good as well as bad things it inspires people to do. It should not so happen that for bad things done by people, the individual gets the blame, but for good things religion gets credit (however subtle be that blame/credit).

    Yes, I Would tend to agree that religion gives people hope. But I cannot be sure if hope is a good thing in all situations. Hope can distract us from issues that require our attention, can make us callous, and can lastly prevent us from exploring those options that might be better solutions for the problem at hand. Of course, all that does not always happen. Hope might be a good thing when the problem is actually insoluble. :) You might like to read one of my long tweets (click), which contains an anecdote where hope pinned against wrong 'solution' produces really unfortunate results. Sorry for replying so late! And as it is easy to make out, I largely disagree with you. But knowing you, I am aware, you are not much into debating online (at least!).

    It was a difficult task to strike a balance between being truthful and also not sounding confrontational. Hope, I have not done too badly. :) Take care.

  18. As usual a long well argued post. I would have wrote such a post against religion in my 20s. I do not take religion that seriously now. Now I take more effort in opposing political mobilisation of ppl using religion.
    About why Christianity changed while Islam has not.....My take
    Capitalist revolution has not fully reached the Islamic countries. Feudalism still persists but I am sure it is in its last breath. In this century itself you will see more and more capitalisation and democratisation of Islamic countries. In a truly capitalistic society religion will be forced to reform.

  19. Charakan,

    Welcome to the blog!

    Actually, the anger (if any) that could be detected in this post is not against religion, but the attitude of people that compels them to consider a body of text with the verses of the above nature as 'divine', 'holy' and 'unquestionable'.

    You are right, there is lot of political mobilization that occurs in name of religion, but again I believe, such mobilization will keep on occurring as long as people are ready to compromise with logic and their conscience in order to keep up their faith in their native religion. For, such people are highly 'receptive' to any kind of provocation.

    You are right that capitalism has not reached the Islamic world and hence greater tyranny is somehow possible. It is curious to note that capitalism seems to bring with it greater egalitarianism, but that would be irrelevant here. The important question to answer is: why could capitalism not begin/reach the Islamic nations? I believe it is because of the reasons I discussed with 'mlost' above.

    Yes, I hope, whatever be the drive, all societies become more honest about the problems they are faced with. :)

    Thanks for reading, commenting and the compliment!

  20. Hi Ketan

    Long back, may be during my high school days, we participated in a competition as part of a course curriculum, a communication game. A team of five or six members, each serially numbered. The event was something like this. The jury would tell a story / narrative to the first person in the team. The narrative will deal with lots of specifics, opinions punctuated with lots of adjectives. The first member should then narrate the same to the next member, and so on. The last member of the team, will then write down the story / narrative. The team will be evaluated based on how well the final person has written down the story.

    The idea was to test how well the communication takes places in the team. How well the communication channel functions in the team. Invariably, the final narrative would be distinctly different from the original narrative. The persons in between either miss out of lots of points, or add a few of their own.

    There are various versions / variants of the game.

    The point is, most of these oral communications turn out to be incomplete. When somebody tries documenting these oral communications, it is his bias and opinions that creeps in. And it is this document that is being evaluated or judged upon.

    Most of scriptures or mythological drama were orally transmitted from one generation to another. It wasn't documented. When it did get documented, it wouldn't be far fetched to believe that the last person's bias could have crept in. Ramayana is reported to be written by Valmiki ages after Ram had ruled. The entire story was conveyed to generations orally before it was documented.

    I am not conveying or even trying to convey that Quran or any other religious scripture is affected by personal prejudice / bias of the person whose translation / writing is considered authoritative, thereby creating an escape route for the original creator.

    In fact, every scripture does impose penal clauses (!!) They do try to instill fear. May be such fear is required to lead relatively disciplined life. As most humans would happily jump signals should there be no cop around. Presence of cop also acts as a deterrence. When that doesn't, the cops (generally 3 or 4 together) stop the vehicle and impose penalty ranging from few hundreds to a thousand. If it weren't there, day in and day out, we would be witnessing more and more cases of road rage, and violence from hitherto soft people. So would be the case, if every commoner takes the same into his hands.

    When these so called penal provisions are exaggerated, and tried to be imposed by all and sundry, we would face turbulence in our life, which is what I think is happening around. There isn't unity of command from a sensible person(s) and influential person(s) who can properly interpret the true spirit of any religion, which is to basically lead an orderly life, and guide the common. Instead what we have are seniles promoting hate campaign to assert their supremacy, moral or otherwise.

    Though would have liked to articulate better, I just wish I have communicated what I wanted to, even if in broken fashion. Believing that there won't be any mis interpretation.


    G Saimukundhan


Well-articulated disagreement would be a very good indicator that I was understood, and would be appreciated more than perfunctory agreement or praise. But of course, you could agree and praise...

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