Saturday, May 5, 2018

Spirituality vs Religiosity

Number of people who are displaying the affection, love and loyalty for the religion of their birth and parent are increasing alarmingly. Most of them have been brainwashed by their parent, society and the state. This is a dangerous trend considering following :

1. In 21st century, the battle-line is already drawn-it is man vs machine. Our kids, children have to be educated differently, more efficiently so that their skills should be unmatched by the machines. Incidentally be in America or in India, politics is so skewed towards religion and race, politicians who can think of the future need, are not emerging or getting to the top. Because all of a sudden twisted vision of history become a priority instead of future.

2. Every human being has his/her spiritual need simply because there is no absolute purpose of life. This issue of existentialism is well known and well understood. Question is for most of the people, they do want to raise a good family, good children and want to live a secured life. Surely this requires a strong state mechanism which can ensure this level of security. It must be understood that the states which will adopt technology at faster rate-be it for agriculture or policing will be able to offer this to their citizen at much faster and better rate. Do we need religion for that? Absolutely not.

3. Even if I agree spiritual or transcendental need is real & necessary, it is a personal affair. You read and try to understand beauties of all religious practice, all traditions. Don't confine to one if you want to define your own path of purpose. Being religious is imprisonment while being spiritual is liberation.

4. And finally religious politics. It exists because majority of the people feel they are Hindu, Christian, Muslims etc before they think they are human being and want to be productive. There is a dangerous predicament if you want to define your identity by religion. Because all religions were born as a part of the history and geography that have nothing to do with you in 21st century and unknowingly you will impose traditions which are harmful your competitive ability to grow bigger. Because you won't be open to examination of what is better for you.

Incidentally during the time Buddha and Mahavira, India has exactly that kind of society where everyone was free to select his or her path of spiritual journey. So unfortunate Buddha and Mahavira would be killed in 51 Islamic countries and India today for being apostate and heresy.

Think carefully, are we progressing or retrogressing ?

Saturday, March 4, 2017

I like Hinduism but not Hinduvta

I need to explain why I do not like Hinduvta or Hindu nationalists despite, I am follower of Indian philosophy in my own life. In fact, it is precisely because I follow or try to follow life/wisdom suggested by Upanishad, I would be distancing myself from any kind of Hinduvta element.

Ancient India had wonderful understanding of life. They realized a life and society can't be led without a proper foundation of philosophy that should guide them. In Ancient India, everyone was free to select his own way of salvation-his own journey of realization. India never stressed on religious identity and religion-it was all about everyone of us should find our own place in the universe and live in harmony.

A summary of what Indian wisdom stands for, can be found in the story of Astavakra debating with scholar Bandi in the court of King Janaka.  We have defined "Bidya" or true learning as  knowledge of self recognition. Abidya or ill fated learning for us -is the knowledge that makes us parochial, that instigates a division that I am different than others-I am not part of this cosmos. Avidya is what instigates us to hate others.

Now when you read fathers of Hindu nationalist movement, either it is Savarkar or Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, it is clear they were not guided by core Hindu Philosophy.  Hindu philosophy has no place for identity politics-as for us, we are all but one. Their writing is full of hatred towards Muslims and danger they pose to India. I am not debating the fact, Islam is bad for India- clearly Islam is an ideology that is a clear cut political fascism for most of the practiced version ( again Islam is not monolithic and Sufism is certainly very close to Vaishanvite cult of Hinduism ) and I get that. But to stop Islam or its spread in India, Hindu Gurus have shown the way. Didn't we hear the story of Javan Haridas? He was a Muslim who embraced Sri Chaitanya for which he was beheaded by local Kazi for his apostasy which is condemned by death in Islam.  On his death sentence, he commented to Kazi, he has no regret of leaving Islam because in reality division created by religion only deters the people from way to salvation.

Chitayna was born in a time, when almost whole Bengal was being converted to Islam being influenced by Sufi Guru. Bengal was Buddhist for a long time during Palas and then during Sen dynasty, Brahmnical Hinduism was imposed on Bengali population. They didn't like exactly that Vedic religion and revolted.  So when Muslim rulers came to Bengal with Sufi Gurus, they embraced them as liberator. By beginning of 14th century, Bengal was almost on verge of being converted fully into Islam. And then Shri Chaitanya launched his movement of love and passion-many converted Muslims embraced back Hinduism. Mass conversion of Hindus into Islam stopped forever as lower caste Hindus embraced his casteless version of Hinduism that promotes love and devotion.

Even when British and European came with their pastors, they couldn't succeed with their Christianity in INDIA- but they have baptized everywhere in Africa and America. Why? Because Ram Mohan Roy, Vivekanda reformed Hinduism and made it attractive for most of the people. They didn't need to fight politically like Savarkar.

Hinduvta movement alienated the Muslims in India because it is spreading parochialism which Hinduism is not- it is the most liberal humanist form of ideology. Hinduism is criticized for its caste system but if you read Mahabharata, castism has been totally condemned. Chaitanya condemned and abolished it. Castism is the worst form of misinterpretation of Hinduism.

My point is- it was possible to win the heart of the Muslims by love and humanism of Hinduism -most of them would have converted back to dharma of the soil by its strength of love and compassion. Instead, Savarkar and SP Mukherjee created a movement which alienated Muslims of India.  And the communalism in India is only getting worse.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Terrorism in Bangladesh -when politics of appeasement is sinking a whole continent

I looked at the FB profile of one of the terrorists (Nirbas Islam) in Gulshan attack in Bangladesh.   Nirbas looks perfectly normal teenager coming from affluent family  and his profile shows no inclination that he is at all a radicalized religious youth. However, it is quite clear the guy had a deep interest in international politics. He shared a post, which was apparently made to protest against refugee policy of the Europe, describing how Europeans flooded to North Africa for safe shelter during second world war. There is no doubt, a kid like him was deeply influenced more by International politics and religion served him a purpose to the concerns he had for something he found unjust.

In 2003, when I started writing in Mukto-Mona forum founded by Avijit Roy, we thought Internet will dawn a new civilization of knowledge, wisdom and rationalism in our part of South Asia which is deeply buried under ignorance and toxic influence of religions. We thought now that knowledge is made free, wisdom will flow like a free flowing river. We hoped people will adopt to science and rationalism over superstition and fictional tale of religion. Least we knew, within a decade, it  would turn out to be other way around. Internet will spread  more radicalization of Islam. ISIS will use social media more effectively to radicalize gullible Muslim youths who are already soft to Islamic cause given their family culture which may not be hardliner but surely believes in all sort of conspiracy theories for injustice meted out to Muslim populations in Middle East, India and Myanmar.

However, I am deeply introspecting everything I thought and preached about rationalism. Did I miss something? I think I did. For once, I never thought root cause is religious text unlike many of my friends in MM forum but I was sure it was more political than religious. Most likely,  I failed to understand deep empathy created by religious culture for fellow religious people-they call it brotherhood. It defies all rationalism when someone seating in Bangladesh feels more strongly for a suffering Muslim in Syria or in Palestine ignoring probably half of the Bangladeshi people are suffering a lot more living in abject poverty.

Empathy for the people suffering from illness, political persecution, poverty is the at the heart of all religions and very basic reason why religion is still surviving despite most of it is merely fairly tales and fictional prophets.  However, when such a blind sighted empathy is created, when you can only see suffering of the people of your religion while ignoring people who are living in slum next to your palace, clearly such empathy has been manufactured by media, family culture and politicians who aspired to profit from such blindness.

Children of internet age are vulnerable to media propaganda.  We need to encourage critical thinking from very childhood. Let them be critical of each and everything we tell them to be true and traditional. They must be enabled to handle information with their critical mind so that they can easily find inadequate logic and ill reasoning in every propaganda and every thought presented to them. They must be taught to understand there can be several contradicting truths of same reality. For example, if we blame America for suffering of people of Iraq, it will again be a half baked truth. Fact is --such suffering is a combination of multiple things starting from feudal Islamic culture of  the Middle East to imperial design of the West.

 Nirbas, like many Muslims ( and many leftists) were only convinced of imperial design of the West while forgetting stagnated Islamic culture is also equally responsible for not having democracy in that part of the world. You can blame West as much as you want and West won't mind. But you can't conveniently forget Mullahs in Iran think democracy is a sham, and men should have no power to make law when Allha made Sharia laws for them. If anything, West gave them a complete opposite kind of governing system in the form of liberal democracy.

When kids like Nirbas turns to radical political ideology, I am not surprised. Most of the Muslims in South Asia hail radical preacher  Zakir Naik as a hero whose knowledge will not surpass that of a class 4-th grade student. For me that is the real concern when even highly educated Muslims are unable to comprehend unscrupulous nature of radical preaching because formal education failed to build a foundation of critical mind.

Practically I don't see a solution to the problem of Islamic terrorism unless and until we all admit, we need to change our school education system for developing a more scientific and critical mind. Cry as much you want, speak as loud as you want, roar as thunder as you want against terrorism, denounce as hard as you can -but Islamic terror will only escalate. Unless we all understand, we are not doing a good job to develop critical, rational and scientific mind in schools and homes so that our kids are not vulnerable to radical preachers in the Internet. It is already late. There are too many radical preachers and millions of vulnerable kids getting ready to be next Jihadi John. None of us are safe.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Keep your children safe from ISIS online recruiters..

In first glance, we may feel, it's a difficult time. You or your family can be a victim of terrorist attack any time, any where. Nobody is immune. No country is safe. Your skin color, wealth, apolitical standing nothing can save you. Only death appears to be more certain than terrorism.

 Unfortunately, when I explored history, I couldn't find a place or time which was safer for humanity for a long time. Yes, there was relative peace and prosperity for a decade but world was always torn by war, skirmishes and genocides.

However,  we are experiencing unprecedented high volume of terrorist attacks globally that is unparallel in world history. Who are those terrorists ? Why do they kill? What do they want?

    This is where ground reality gets far more complex than what most of us love to think - a simple hypothesis of Islam inspired Jihad. Islam does play a critical central role in global terrorism but for that matter if we pump money and arms to any religious extremist group, dis-chanted and disillusioned from harsh reality of society and state politics, terrorists can be manufactured like a factory assembly line.

 Which country suffered mercilessly at the hand of terrorists  more than any of us ? It is country of Colombia. Where even presidents and ministers were not safe and have been killed at will by mafia sponsored terrorism. Pablo Escober, the most notorious nacro terrorist of all the times, literally wiped out Supreme court of Colombia and killed any presidential candidate which vowed to eliminate drug smuggling. What we have seen in Paris and 9/11 is a child's play compared to what Colombians experienced throughout 90s.

From Colombia to Paris, lesson for terrorism remains simple. If there are vested interest groups which can profit from terrorism, and a weak democracy where leaders clasp with that interest group either for vote or money, none can stop growth of terrorism. Why Paris is burning today? Their intelligence agency is admitting they have a potential list of 5000 jihadist but they can't monitor or detain them for political pressure. In India and Bangladesh-situation is worst. These jihadists are needed and wanted by many political parties to secure minority vote bank.

This is where issue of Islam becomes complex and murkier. As a religious text or fundamentals of religion, Islam is no different than other religion. Purported text of violence or Jihad , cited by many from Koran are not exclusive to Islam-it can be found in Bible too.

                   But it is not through religious text, Islam become a dangerous religion. It has become so by not allowing criticism to its religion. Islam is a political system as well. If criticism of Islam is not allowed, all the Muslim majority countries will be governed by Islamic law.  This is where major riddles played out in 20th century. Post colonial modernization movement by Atartuk or Gamal Abdel Nasser have largely failed because Islam has an alternative political system which is contradictory to western liberal democracy.  Clearly to control Middle East, a large number of dictators were supported by the western powers  since democracy was leading to the way of more Islamization and thus medieval barbarism. As it happens in all dictatorial rules, a large section of population have seen their political right  confiscated and thus whole Middle East become larva breeding ground for terrorists. Terrorists are born in middle east like mosquitoes.

    However, at this point, focus is more on home grown terrorism where Muslim youths are radicalized even when they are born in France or USA.  This is probably a very small tiny faction but still a happening and dangerous trend because of their callous immigrant parents who started thinking their children are becoming more pious Muslim!  Least they know their children are being exploited by online ISIS sponsored radicals who are teaching and showing them how their Muslim brothers are suffering in Middle East because of Iraq invasion.  And a religious person without critical thinking is a danger to society. He is religious because he believes in myths of his religion-which are fairly tales.  And if he can be made to believe in fairly tale because he is not rational, he can be made to believe in all kind of stories in which USA is a villain.  And that is where radicalization of Muslim youth is becoming an issue in USA because they are vulnerable to online recruit of ISIS. Only Muslim parents can stop them-they must keep strict vigil on their children if they do not want to bring shame to their family reputation and want their children to be safe.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Whom to blame for Islamic terrorism ?

Incidents of Islamic terrorist attack have gone up from couple of times a month to couple of times a week.  However that didn't change the discourse of debate in social media. Every time such heinous attack shocks us in disbelief ( primarily because we have convinced ourselves that we live in a progressive civilized society and therefore in our Utopian world, barbaric massacre of medieval propensity can't happen any more ), social media splits vertically to defend and accuse faith of Islam.  This blurs and obliviates real masters and fundamentals behind act of terrorism.

     First let's scrutinize whether or not to blame Muslims and Islam for act of terrorism perpetrated by Islamic Jihadist.  There is no doubt terrorists are inspired by their religion.  Debate of whether Islam or Quran sanctions such act of violence is useless one.  Arguments can swing both way since religious texts are weak text and therefore can be interpreted whichever way you want. A comparative study of all religious texts will tell you, all religious texts barring Jainism and Buddhism, do have elements of violence. Bible is more violent than Quran. Therefore correct statement on this matter is perhaps- Yes, Islam is responsible but it is wrong to isolate Islam in this matter. Most of the major religions produced their own version of terrorists historically. Therefore even if Islam is not an unique ideology for terrorism,  principle of Islam, that instills sense of justice does play a big role in psychological mold of the terrorists. It is undeniable. Whether that is right or wrong version of Islam is also immaterial because no religion has correct or incorrect version. All religions by nature is heterogeneous and never practiced uniformly. Therefore this extremist Jihadi version is also very much part of Islam. Similarly, we must acknowledge all religions have their extremist version. It is a different issue that extremist elements of Islam have political sponsors. And that is where, we have a real problem.

  Question is-what is the role of Muslims on this issue of Islamic radicalism. I agree most of them don't support such extreme version of Islam.  Their world view and aspiration is no different than ours.  Unfortunately that kind of thinking will also be naive and oversimplification.

  I will cite a simple example to defend my argument. Aggressive US foreign policy is also responsible for this mess-specially in Iraq and Syria.  When people outside USA, blames us for bringing miseries in their lives,  whom should we or they should blame? Only policy makers, war monger factions of US Govt?  After all, I want peace. I will never endorse such war effort. Then can I be blamed for aggressive US foreign policy ?

  Answer is absolutely yes-as US citizen I can't absolve myself from crimes of bringing miseries to millions of people who have suffered for wrong US foreign policy no matter how opposed I might be to those policies. Reason is simple. Did I ever do enough to oppose the politics of war mongers in the democracy? Answer is no. I am busy making money and in pursuit of happiness for me and my family.  Miseries of Iraqis don't touch me at all!

 A Muslim, if he is still endorsing his faith as Islam -is definitely responsible for such heinous act of terrorism in the name of their religion. They have not done enough to stop hijacking of their religion to the extremist elements. How many Muslims are vocal against radical version of their religion?  It is tiny, minuscule faction. Worst survey reveals, quite a sizable moderate portion of Muslims endorse Sharia laws or believe Islamic laws are the best!! Which is no different than what these terrorists believe in!!  They should be held responsible for providing passive moral support. Period.

 However, we must understand,  terrorism and its root cause is much bigger  than Islam.  Nothing is possible without money. And money doesn't flow without vested interest in politics. Who are financing these terrorists ? Where are they getting moral support from ?  How they could smuggle AK-47 ?

 More we dig deeper into it, no matter how naive we pretend to be, we will end up in some uncomfortable questions of US foreign policy that used this brand of Islam during cold war. And matter didn't end there. US repeated same mistake even for ISIS. They are former Syrian rebels whom US was funding against Bassad.  When we try to use venomous snakes as weapon of war by domesticating them, they can bite back their masters too!

Progressive liberal ideas can't stop totalitarian barbaric Islamic radicalism.

French president promised merciless response. That is a joke. Liberal progressive society can't be merciless in response. It reminds me of a dialogue between Hun legend Attila and Roman general Arnegisclus before Battle of Utus.  Arnegisclus wanted to know why Attila is so confident of winning against Romans everytime. Attila replied, that he knows Romans have become too civilized to defeat Hun's barbarian army. His specific point was-civilized societies when challenged by the barbarians, never fared well historically because civility limited their response-all civilized societies are fearful.

 How can they be merciless? Thousands of Muslim youths have been radicalized all over the world. Are they going to kill them all? Killing will bring no solution. It will produce more terrorists.  Killing doesn't kill an idea.  Good or bad.

We all need to think this problem as structural issue of politics of our time. Failure of democracy and failing to strike right balance between liberal and collectivist ideas. It is clear religious ideas can be deadly-at least some of them and it can damage minds of the youths as it did to millions of Muslim youths. And as a counter response, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist-all kinds of radicalism is on rise.

 Freedom of religion and ideas must be restricted. Govt needs to impose strict laws against those spreading radical version of any religion or political ideas-either in social media or in place of worship. Preachers, writers of these deadly ideas must be prosecuted by law and by the society.

Liberal progressive ideas can't stop totalitarian barbaric radicalism.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Murderers of the atheist bloggers of Bangladesh-will the nation of Bengal fall in the hand of the Islamic extremists ?

I knew religion breeds hatred  and specially religion of Islam is nothing but another deadly virus of faith, but stark reality of merciless killing of atheist bloggers of Mukto-mona rattled me to the core. Avijit brought me to Mukto-mona platform in 2004 and since then, I have been in touch with most of the Mukto-mona writers either through email or facebook.  Therefore, each death is so personal to me, I can barely express my anger and frustration on inaction of Bangladesh Govt to bring justice and ensure security of the atheist bloggers. I have not only lost faith in whatever I believed in but for sure, I am leaning towards more extremist ideology which I myself categorized and denounced in several writing.

   Death does not frustrate me that much as death is the final destiny and supreme reality. Almost a decade back, when Mukto-mona founder Avijit Roy wrote to me for being vigilant and being careful as writing against extremist elements will ire many, I wrote him back stating,  I would consider myself fortunate if I have to die for a cause than for no cause. After all in Mahabharata, Duryodhana wanted to fight against Kaurava all because he thought death with glory is much better than living with a defeated soul. I firmly believe all of my dearest friends of Mukto-mona who have given their lives to safeguard the supreme principle of humanity and reason over darkness of religion, have attained that glory in their lifetime.  This does not make me sad at all. After all we are all soldiers fighting against dark and evil forces of religion. 

  What is frustrating is the politics of South Asia. I am a firm believer of democracy and I was delighted when democracy was established in Bangladesh in 1991. It is difficult to describe the system of politics in West Bengal and Bangladesh as ruling party makes sure victory by every possible vile means. People's choice is reflected sometimes but most of the time voting and therefore selection is rigged. All the parties are involved in rigging the election. So I would prefer to call it a "semi-democratic system". Yes, change does happen sometimes when anger of the people can no longer be managed. 

 My frustration starts with our evolution. We the Bengalis are peace loving, fish eating, music loving race from land of river-translated as Bang+aal-meaning land of river. Thousand years back, we had our own religion-commonly known as Sahajiya or easy path. Which is a relaxed form of paganism where poetry and music from deep understanding of life formed the core of our spiritual practice. That religion knew no king, no superiority, no killing.