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Uprooting Fundamentalist Terror
|by Rajinder Puri|
Pakistan’s Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was shot dead by his security bodyguard Mumtaz Hussain Qadri because of the Governor’s liberal views and criticism of the death penalty given to a Christian lady on the charge of “blasphemy”. After he murdered the Governor many people congratulated the assassin and even garlanded him. Before being led away by the police Qadri shouted: “We are ready to sacrifice our life for the prestige of the Prophet Mohammed.” The assassin’s claims suggest that the crime may have had the sanction of security forces. Five hundred Pakistan ’s clerics and scholars issued a statement praising the assassin. They said Qadri had “revived the 14-century-old traditions of Islam” and made Muslims worldwide proud.
This murder was reminiscent of the murder of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh guards who also received praise from some Sikh clerics and followers for upholding the Sikh faith. Clearly, Pakistan is in the deepest trouble. Clearly, the world is in deep trouble. The spectre of fundamentalist terror continues to grow. How can it be checked? It can only be eliminated effectively if its root cause is countered. The root cause of terrorism is never specified for fear of treading on delicate ground. But as the crisis of fundamentalist terror escalates to engulf the entire world in its coils, the time has come for plain speaking.
This is what happens. People see other people die. It makes them wonder about their own death. At the deepest subconscious they think of their personal unknown future. The unknown makes them curious and it makes them scared. Spiritual personages considered divine by their followers explained the future on the basis of their inner experience. They gave their views to humankind about virtue and vice, about heaven and hell, about salvation and damnation. They offered a way out of uncertainty and anxiety. Because of their divine presence and the example of their own lives they influenced people. After they departed from the earth their followers codified their teachings and created religions.
To sustain and further promote the religion priests entered the process. The priests are not divine. They interpret and propagate the teachings of the divine. They are the self appointed guardians of a religious faith. In the absence of the divine soul they exercise the greatest influence upon devout believers. But they are human. They can make errors. There are good priests and bad priests. That is the start of the problem. There are bad priests with strong human failings in all religions. Christian priests are known to have sexually exploited children. Hindu, Muslim and Sikh priests are known to have likewise sexually exploited women and children. Thereby inferior individuals start laying the agenda for ethical living before the adherents of their respective religions. These inferior individuals have taken it upon themselves to interpret the messages of the great divine personages that inspired the creation of their respective religions. That is how priests started distorting religious teaching.
That is why Pakistan ’s clerics can hail the assassin of Salmaan Taseer as a warrior. The clerics of Pakistan who said this are beneath contempt. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, Nanak and other great personages who inspired religions did not descend upon earth to serve Christians, Muslims, Hindus or any other exclusive group. They came to earth to serve humanity. They belong to all who choose to revere them regardless if one belongs to a particular religion or not. That is why one can opine with assurance even without being a Muslim that the Prophet Mohammed would have treated the statement of Pakistan ’s clerics with extreme disfavour.
That one who accepted the duty of guarding a Governor should have shot him betrays extreme cowardice and treachery. That there are clerics who extol this act of cowardice as one of bravery betrays extreme perversity. Violation of dharma can never be condoned. One reiterates in these columns the episode of Hazrat Ali, the great warrior saint. In battle he pinned his adversary to the ground and was on the point of slaying him when his intended victim spat upon him. Ali stayed his hand and spared him. After battle asked why he showed mercy, the saint explained that when he was spat upon he was filled with hate. He refused to kill in a state of anger. All actions were to be dispassionate and in the pursuit of dharma. The much abused term of Jihad actually refers to a process of deep introspection and inner cleansing. It has been distorted beyond recognition by clerics to sanctify cowardly killing of innocents. The fundamentalist extremists swayed by the false teaching of priests become assassins and terrorists. Their less extreme brethren applaud them. This is the root cause of fundamentalist terror. How might it be checked?
The solution must start with reform of the priestly class. Fortunately in all religions good priests far outnumber bad priests. Unfortunately they are not sufficiently active or vocal. When religion is distorted some of them may occasionally write an article or make a statement to offer the correct interpretation. That is not enough. The world is in crisis. The good priests and religious scholars must speak up. They must campaign. They must take the bad priests head on to preserve the sanctity of their respective religions. They must help preserve world peace. Humankind is in a dangerous state of decay. That is why the better judges, bureaucrats, politicians and journalists have started to cleanse their respective ranks. Should priests lag behind?
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01/08/2011 22:56 PM
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