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
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
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.
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
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
As India's democracy reaches a critical juncture, with a very real danger of a authoritarian take-over, Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary is a perfect occasion to revisit the founding idea of India once again. There are many things in his politics that we may need to dust up and reconsider: Tagore's political ideas, because of his inherent aversion of popular nationalism and enthusiasm about Pan-Asianism and universalism, were outside the mainstream of the Indian National Movement, seen as impractical and effectively shunned. He was seen mostly as the Poet and the mystic, someone whose politics remains in the domain of the ideas rather than action. Tagore himself, after a brief passionate involvement in politics during the division of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, withdrew from political action: He never belonged to the political class, despite his iconic status and itinerant interventions, such as returning the Knighthood after the massacre of Amritsar in 1919.
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
I spent the last week at the Ideas for India conference in London. This conference had different strands, and brought the diaspora Indians, India watchers and a number of delegates from India together. Because Rahul Gandhi chose to attend - a rather last minute thing which changed the published agenda somewhat - the media narrative revolved around his 40-odd minutes of talk. And, of course, a sense of discomfort hung over the whole conference: A wholly new thing for me and it shows how much India has changed. Somehow, the people in India seemed to think that no conversation about India should happen anywhere else in the world, a strange thing for a country which is anxious to assert its global importance. Additionally, anything outside the official channel is seen as conspiracy. Gone are those days when the presumptive opposition candidate, the current Prime Minister, could freely interact with the diaspora Indians and slam Dr Manmohan Singh's lack of initiative; today, this wou
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.