Christianity: West’s Default Religion
19/12/2009 01:21:35 http://vijayvaani.com/FrmPublicDisplayArticle.aspx?id=996
Switzerland’s recent vote against the construction of minarets as part of mosque architecture in that nation symbolises a frontal return of Christianity as the Western world’s default religion and culture, and a corresponding downsizing of the discourse on ‘secularism’ and ‘multi-culturalism,’ which gave Islam an opportunity to seize political and social space in the western public realm.
As other European nations gear up to challenge the public display of symbols of Muslim identity – most notably the hijab and head scarf, though the beard and skull cap may prove more difficult – a build-up of religio-cultural tensions is inevitable. Violent outbursts cannot be ruled out.
It is not a Hindu dharm-yudh
The Swiss vote has caused a frisson of excitement in traditional and secular circles in India, with some Hindus hallucinating about a ‘natural’ alliance with the Christian West to mutually crush Islam. This foolish hope once soared after the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers in New York, and Hindus in particular and Indians in general failed to comprehend why Pakistan emerged as the West’s leading non-NATO ally. Dr. Manmohan Singh is similarly clueless why two hostile votes in the IAEA against a friendly Iran still led to President Obama declaring China the leading Asian power.
Should Hindus respond to a Western Crusade against Islam, the result will be similar to our experience in World War II, where the 2.5 million-strong Indian Army won the war for the colonial West, only to be betrayed back at home. The British eventually quit India in 1947 only because of the military mutinies inspired by Subhash Chandra Bose, and they successfully cut up the nation before leaving, retaining critical territory in the form of a land bank called Pakistan, from which they (and the US) could overlook (and operate in) Tibet, Central Asia, China, Russia, and the Gulf. Further, they manipulated the mess in Jammu & Kashmir, and continue to stir the pot, to our discomfort.
The purpose of this article is to stress that Hindus lack the agility, self-confidence, or even stake, to participate in the emerging War of Religions in Europe. They would do well to keep out of this schism within the Semitic fold. The West will never support Hindu affirmation and primacy in India (or Asia), and will always support Indian (and Pakistani / Bangladeshi) Muslims and Jihadis against the Hindu nation and the Indian State, for its own geo-strategic dominance.
Terrorists David Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana are not accidentally linked to the CIA and FBI. [Ignore the denials; please understand that a ‘rogue’ CIA agent is only a person CIA has decided to ‘sacrifice’ once the job is done; that is, one who is not a voluntary suicide bomber. Remember that Mumbai terrorist survivor Ajmal Kasab revealed that the terrorists were all assured of an ‘exit’ plan, and were not suicide terrorists – a significant revelation). Similarly, Kashmiri separatists do not casually visit the United States and Britain.
The Jihadi menace in our part of the world is the direct consequence of Western politics, which we can ignore only at our own peril. The Sonia Gandhi-led UPA’s decision to appoint the Ranganath Mishra Commission and examine ways to extend constitutional benefits of Hindu Scheduled Castes to Christian and Muslim converts is part of this continuing assault on Hindu dharma and dharmis in this country. So is the ‘quiet diplomacy’ with Kashmiri separatists; the decision to declare a Muslim-centric Telengana state in the old Hyderabad domains of the Pak-oriented Nizam on Sonia Gandhi’s birthday; and the proposal to bring an Equal Opportunities legislation to push Muslim employment in the private sector.
Hindus must realise that they will have to fight for their rights vis-à-vis politically assertive and West-backed minorities (both Muslims and Christians) in India with their own innate skills and resources. To outsource legitimate Hindu concerns to the West is abdication of responsibility, a sell-out.
Hindus have no stake in a Christian-Islamic confrontation in Europe (or anywhere else). Indeed, such a conflict, if it concentrates Islamic energies and resources in Europe, is certain to reduce jihad in India. Rising incidents of jihad in Europe – especially a fight to make Christian Europe an Islamic Eurabia – could prove a saving grace for India, similar to the Mongol rush to Baghdad and Europe that bypassed India.
Europe’s forked tongue
Notwithstanding Western rhetoric aimed at undermining non-Christian traditions in the post-World War II era, religion has always been a marker of political identity. And religion and culture are intimately connected. In India, the Hindu religion and culture rose simultaneously from the same soil and people over the centuries, and cannot be separated. In Islam, the Arab tribes, Arabic language and culture centred round the minor irrigation near the oases and the caravan trade provided the core structure of the early community. To this day, Islam is uncomfortable with cultural traits not rooted in Arab Islam.
Christianity, however, rose as a political community in Europe long after the death of Jesus, by taking over the declining Roman Empire. It claims origin from a man born in Galilee (or Bethlehem, or Nazareth); its culture from the extinct Graeco-Roman civilisation, and has spread by cannibalizing the traditions and cultures it encountered on its onward march. The divide between religion and culture is thus exclusive to Christian tradition, and cannot be extended to the experience of more homogenous societies and peoples.
Equally pertinently, Christianity has no native bhumi, much less a native region or ethnicity to call its own, because Jesus led the early believers away from his native Judaism and roots, and opened the doors to other groups. When the fledgling community moved to Rome, it moved to another continent, and grew by gobbling up the religion, culture and people of the dying Roman Empire. The Christian claim to conquer and enjoy the whole Creation and its creatures, human and non-human alike, is grounded in the Jewish Old Testament. Ironically, the Jews like their Christian offspring, also lack a clearly defined place of origin (where was Abraham born, or Noah, or Moses?); the first kingdom established by Joshua in Jericho was by conquest and the complete annihilation of the native population there.
Post Second World War, Europe (including America) played a complex game to keep the Christian religion and culture as the default religion and culture of the world, while paying lip service to concepts of ‘secularism’ and ‘multi-culturalism’ which, as I have argued before, are nothing but the Masks of the Christian God to disempower the gods and cultures of other non-monotheistic civilisations. Hindus in India, and those who left in search of financial opportunities abroad, have been willing to make this compromise with the Christian West.
Islam, which views itself as an exclusive nationhood, or ummah, is unable to compromise its religious and cultural identity, especially as hundreds of ordinary Muslims feel that the West has politically and economically disempowered the Muslim world by purchasing a handful of elites in Muslim lands, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and made proxy colonies out of them.
In both the Christian and the Muslim mind, there is little doubt that the current contest is a continuation of the intra-Semitic struggle that began with the Prophet’s launching of his religious mission in Arabia, climaxed in the Crusades, and festered thereafter. All religions have a political facet. But Prophet Mohammad sought political expression and expansion for his religious community as part of his mission, and thus made Islam both a political ideology and a religious nationalism. He did not define racial, cultural, or geographical frontiers, which did not matter in the early heady centuries of conquest. Today, however, Islam does not know how to cope with limits to its expansion placed by other peoples and cultures; continuing tribal and old civilisational identities within Islam, modern nationalism, and the nation-state.
Yet without adjusting to the nation-state and the natural limits to its geographical expansion, Islam will not be able to combat the pro-Western political elites who have subordinated and humiliated Muslim countries and peoples to Western Corporate entities. Without being proud, stable, and ascendant in the Arabian homeland, Islam cannot hope to survive as a viable entity anywhere in the world. The Saudi refusal to permit other religious structures in Saudi Arabia is hollow as the dynasty survives on Western support, and operates as a subsidiary of the Imperial West.
The brutalized and brutalizing face of Islam in Pakistan and Afghanistan reflects an aridity and brittleness that is doomed to failure. The famed Hindu resilience after Mumbai 2008 and other less spectacular jihadi assaults is only an inward understanding of this deeper impotence; Hindus are not afraid of jihad; the real danger comes from the rampaging and manipulative West.
Initially, as Islam spread rapidly westwards, Christian Europe felt the heat. The Crusades were launched to recover the Holy Land, but more pertinently, to break Muslim control over the trade routes to Asia. Christendom lost the Crusades, but Europe’s mercantile class opened the sea route to the East, and later to Africa, putting Muslims at bay on two ocean fronts. Jerusalem was retaken in 1917; Gen. Allenby famously remarked that the Crusades were finally completed! Damascus was taken in 1920; the French commander went to the tomb of Salaudin in the Great Mosque and said: Nous revenons, Salaudin! (We are back, Salaudin!).
Post Second World War, the western world encouraged substantial Muslim immigration for cheap labour in the wake of prosperity stimulated by the Marshall Plan. Muslim intellectuals were encouraged to migrate west as ‘dissidents’ against their respective national regimes (mostly West-supported dictatorships!). Muslim integration into European civil society was not given a thought then; now Muslims are a dissatisfied and vocal minority.
Integration is now seen by both sides as accepting the Default Culture of the West, i.e., the culture of Christian Europe, and tailoring Islam to conform to this culture. [This formula works with Hindus in America, Europe, the Gulf, and even Australia, where Hindus cannot understand the growing white animosity to their presence there. This is because most Hindus sundered their links with religion and culture before leaving the shores of Bharat, egged on by ambitious parents who valued monetary success above everything else; a handful had other reasons].
But Islam is the last of the Revealed Semitic Faiths – supposedly the Final and most perfect Revelation – hence marginalised and besieged Muslim groups fight to retain their distinctive identity (hijab) and traditions (multiple marriages, Sharia). Islam challenges western secularism and multi-cultural claims with its insistence to live in its own way on soil long dominated by Christianity; the consequences of this increasing tension cannot but be volatile.
As part of its contest with Islam and quest for world dominion, the Christian-Colonial world made early inroads into the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires. Jesuit monk Rudolf Acquaviva came to Agra for religious debates at the invitation of Emperor Akbar; the Delhi Diocese was established in the reign of Akbar. Unnoticed by Indian historians, the white missionary and trader were fairly entrenched in many strategic locations by the time the Mughal Empire formally declined and the Maratha and Sikh Empires had peaked.
All this ultimately deepened the religious conflict and triggered revivalist movements in Islam, which Europeans proved adept in penetrating and manipulating. Wahabi Islam and indeed, all militant Muslim movements that have accompanied the rise of Political Islam in the modern Colonial Era have intensified the de facto disempowerment of the Muslim world, a reality Muslims cannot wish away, and to which they accord a frustrated recognition.
Ayatollah Khomeini’s success in overthrowing the pro-American Pehlavi dynasty failed to quieten the seething discontent in the Islamic world. As pro-Western Sunni regimes generally survived the growing radicalization of the Muslim world, the Khomeini Revolution only intensified the Shia-Sunni divide.
In India, the traditional structures of Hindu society (jati, varna, parampara, sampradaya) have the intrinsic elasticity to cope with and contain sharply divergent cultural streams. India’s unique civilisational ethos has learnt to co-exist with ethnic, racial, and religious groups (Jews, Parsis, Muslims) that do not desire to be assimilated into the dominant culture. Muslims have long been negotiating political space while protecting their religion and culture. This involved delicate balancing and was possible only because, as Aristotle observed (Politics), Hindus were the only people in the world to have successfully made dharma the basis of their public life. To this day, this remains India’s default cultural trait; it survived the colonial divide-and-rule that inhibited Muslims from adjusting to a larger pan-Indian unity.
The Christian West is incapable of accommodating the growing assertion of socio-cultural-religious identity by its Muslim population. Hence cultural pluralism, the suspension of the dominant cultural-civilisational framework so other groups can find space to define themselves, has to make way for a more overt assertion of Europe’s traditional Christian identity. In reaction, pan-Islamism compresses the religious traditions of Muslim groups into a one-dimensional Arabized identity to respond to the West’s economic-political hegemony in Muslim countries and regions where Muslims are minority populations.
As a corollary, the overt assertion of the West’s Christian identity is a natural extension of continuing Western economic, cultural, and religious imperialism. Hence the rising budgets for evangelism in non-Christian countries like India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Myanmar, but also Muslim regions like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia (first East Timor, now Aceh), and our own Srinagar Valley.
It is in this context alone that one must view the frenzied French ban on head scarves in 2004, on the plea that it involved the submission of women, and the even more specious argument that the harsh lampooning of the Prophet in a Danish magazine in 2005 was about free speech.
Pigeons come home to roost
For Europe, the pigeons have come home to roost. After decades of strenuous denial that religion is crucial in shaping national identity, and that the religion and culture of the majority must legitimately be the dominant identity in multi-religious societies like India, Europe is in a blue funk trying to manufacture a discourse over national identity without using the word ‘religion.’ Best of luck.
The truth is that religion is the bedrock of identity, and religion always expresses itself in culture. Islam cannot accept Christian culture without accepting Christian faith.
Another unpleasant truth is that religion cannot be kept out of the public domain, because it is not an individual or family affair, but has social and community aspects that demand expression and respect. The European Union’s 20 million Muslims are giving goose-bumps to 500 million Christians. Long centuries of familiarity and common descent from the Patriarch Abraham have failed to yield a common ground of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence. One country wants to put the Cross on its national flag.
Things can only get worse. The post 9/11 ‘War on Terror’ is viewed by both Muslims and Christians as another Crusade – a symbol of the West’s failure to separate the religious from the political.
For Islam, this is a moment of catharsis and choice. Islam stands at a major crossroad in its historical trajectory. Hitherto, it has been Janus-faced like the Greek god who looked simultaneously east and west.
Those days of luxury – of hating the west and hurting the east – are now over. To survive as a viable religion, culture, polity, Islam must free its own lands and peoples from the vice-like grip of the Crusaders and the Capitalists who are its real tormentors and oppressors. It must deny itself the temptation of crushing ‘soft’ targets like India that have the resilience and the resources to bounce back and to hit back.
Islam will do well to concentrate its fight on the Arabian peninsula, the European mainland, and the United States. Hindus should think in terms of restoring the Hindu civilisational frontier up to eastern Persia in the west, Myanmar and Nepal in the east and Tibet in the north.
The writer is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com