Islamic Terrorism has made news and focused minds in the recent weeks. It did not help that a section of the Turkish Military tried a coup against its Government - perhaps in the Secular cause against the Islamic politics of Mr Erdoğan - and it counted as another instance of Islam being violent. The Egyptian government is intent on putting to death more than a hundred Muslim Brotherhood leaders and members - the Government is tacitly backed by the Americans - but it also is counted as Islam being violent. As someone told me recently, "All Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims", as if that proves Islam is a violent religion. I did tell him, after the religious scholar Reza Aslan, that taking one example and generalising it to a whole community is indeed bigotry, but this is unlikely to stop him in the future. Using a term which is now very popular in India, he called me 'psuedo-liberal'.
I am fascinated by this term, not least because I get this label all too often. And, I am risking earning it again by writing this post. But, so be it: I like the fact that those who use the label think being Liberal is a good thing (and, therefore, being a 'psuedo-Liberal' should be bad) and each post I write on my political views, I think, would betray my liberalism. [Indeed, I am aware that this is a vain hope and the term, 'psuedo-Liberal', only shows how hopeless hateful vocabulary can be. For those who use the term, I am both 'psuedo' and a 'Liberal', just doubly bad!]
But, anyway, these claims should be considered and questions should be asked whether (a) all terrorists are Muslims; and (b) Islam promotes violence.
To be sure, many terrorists in the recent months are of Muslim faith. But this can be equally because how we define terrorism. For example, when a mentally ill Lufthansa pilot crashes a plane in the Alps, we chose not to call it terrorism. Ditto for the East Ukranian separatists downing a Malaysian Air Jet using a missile. We also exempt the American man who gunned down several people at an abortion clinic, and the young man who massacred school children using an Automatic Rifle or even the Norwegian who wiped out an entire summer camp of young people because they were 'liberals', but count in when a mentally ill person commits a terror act in Germany, a deranged man drives a truck through a festival crowd in Nice or a gay man kills several in a gay bar because they were all Muslims by faith. We do not even count how many of these terror acts were committed by mentally ill, and talk about the Mental Health problem in our societies. And, indeed, as a newspaper helpfully tried to remind, we do not really look at what is most common attribute of the terrorists - they are all men - and start questioning whether the male stereotype that we have built our societies around is the problem.
As for the second claim, I know of people who can tell you exact passages of Koran, and the ideas in it which are particularly violent. But then, I also know of people who compared The Bible and The Koran and came up with the pointless insight that The Bible has more references, and justifications, for violence than the Koran. The faith I was born into, Hinduism, is also supposed to be built around tolerance and acceptance of diversity, but then we have a book, one of the most important, Bhagbad Gita, which is basically a cosmic justification of violence and killing, even one's own kin, for the right cause. Now, we can indeed endlessly argue about the nature and degree of violence in each of the texts, but the essential argument should be different. I would much rather defer to a scholar of religion, Reza Aslan (or if you prefer a Christian scholar rather than a Muslim one, you may try Karen Armstrong), who argues that a religion is not, can not be, violent in itself - it is the person and what he (it is always he in this context) brings to it. A viable religion survives because, within the context of its world-view and living ethic, it still accommodates a range of aspirations, ideas and attitudes - and that is indeed its difference from what we will call a 'cult'. To see a religion that guides the lives of 1.6 billion people worldwide as a terrorist cult is nonsense.
In context, it is also important for us to consider what violence is and how it is perpetrated. We all recognise what Slavoj Žižek would call Subjective Violence, the immediate physical violence committed by a clearly identifiable agent - all those guns, bombs, trucks and planes that caused mayhem and all those terrorist mugshots in the newspapers! However, there is another, more prevalent, widespread and equally damaging violence that happens everyday: Žižek would call it Objective Violence, the systemic and symbolic violence. Getting shouted down as a 'psuedo-Liberal', a label that seeks to reposition my reasoning as some sort of justification of violent acts, is one of the more blatant examples of such violence: Claiming Islam to be a violent religion - with the hope that most people would accept the claim on face value - is another. The prevalence of Objective Violence does not justify the Subjective Violence, and I am not bringing it up to justify all those terrible acts and making a claim to some kind of victimhood. In fact, if anything, violent groups such as ISIS want to take advantage of these unexamined claims - all those claiming Islam to be a violent religion are actually working as recruiting agents for violent cults such as ISIS, as more and more marginalised people may chose to take out their anger on the rest of us by adopting an ISIS identity (just as we may have seen in the recent incidents in France and Germany).
One final point: Violence is an instrument of power and all those seeking power over our minds, bodies and imaginations use violence as its means. Claims such as 'all terrorists are muslims' and 'Islam is a violent religion' are designed to make us part of a worldwide landscape of violence, by coopting us as victims or tools. And, by living an examined life, by making these claims subject to reasoning and enquiry, we can gain control over our own ideas and futures. This, as a proud 'psuedo-Liberal', is my only plea.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.