Of Secularism

via Dr.TS Girishkumar published on April 28, 2006

This perhaps is one concept that is used and used in today’s world by any one and every one, and it becomes interesting to look into what it all might amount to. Even the Muslims make tall claims of being secular, and accuse the Hindus of being non-secular. In a place like Kerala, if you say that you are a Hindu, then you are a fundamentalist by the standard of the Muslim community, you are a fascist by the standards of the Marxists, and you are both by the standards of the Christians. And thus it become my right to claim to be a fascist and a fundamentalist, as I prefer to be a Hindu, as a Hindu is, no matter what all others call me.


But then, what is secularism? What is it to say that one is secular? Prima facie, secularism could mean two things. One, equal respect to all religions, and two, equal distance from all religions. The Marxists, being materialists and against religion are supposed to keep equal distance from all religions, and given the theory, for them, secularism ought to mean equal distance from all religions. This indeed does not serve any purpose of secularism and religion, so let us not give much attention to this implication of the concept of secularism. Let us thus leave the Marxists out of our discussion for now.


Secularism as equal respect to all religions is the implication of the term that we are interested in. I would leave out the idea of tolerance from a possible implication of the concept of secularism, as I strongly feel that it is only a nuisance that we tolerate, and religion is certainly not a non-sense that people are taught to tolerate. When you tolerate a religion, you are tolerating it without wanting to do so, but out of some kind of helplessness, even if this helplessness is helplessness out of Dharma. Gandhiji used to talk about religious tolerance, but I think he was not well aware of the negative connotation of the term, or he was not quite conscious about it. Thus it boils down to that, secularism ought to mean equal respect to all religions.


Now, which religion has a theology that teaches equal respect to all religions? Indeed, respect to other religions must spring forth from ones respect to ones own religion. How can one legitimately respect any religion, if he does not respect the religion of his own? Such claims of respect to other religion is indeed spurious, or that of a confirmed fraud. The respect to the other religion ought to be a development of intellect from that of the respect to his own religion. To that extent, it becomes mandatory for such a persons to be authentically religious as well. Let us take the case of the Christians. They have a theology that teaches that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Jesus himself says, “I am the way”. In fact Jesus was becoming an intermediary between Yah-Weh and man. He was rather distancing man from his creator, the Jehovah. The Christians went against the Jews and persecuted them for thousands of years, since the Jews were unwilling to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The Jews had a rich experience of many people claiming to be the redeemer, following the prophecy of Isaiah the prophet during Babylonian captivity. They had no surety indeed, that this one is a genuine redeemer! The idea of Immaculate Conception and Holy Ghost etc., are a story added much later, resulting from a wrong translation of the Hebrew Bible to Greek, which is the Septuagint Greek Bible, translated by 70 Greek scholars. They translated the Hebrew word “Almah” which is equivocal into the Greek word “parthanoe” which is univocal and created the transilational mistake known as “Parthenogenesis”. With all these, the Christians disliked the Jews, and tried their best to distance from them. Even the British poet, Shakespeare treats a Jew mercilessly, see how he calls Shylock as “Shylock the Jew” and see what punishment he gives to Shylock, which is to get him converted into Christianity. Shakespeare relishes Shylocks daughter Jessica’s eloping with a Christian boy. Indeed, the Christian world had been merciless to the Jews, and this comes directly out of the Christian theology. It is also interesting to note about a proto type “Aryan Invasion theory” “invented” by the 18th Century Christian intellectuals to disclaim their Jewish ancestry. The great voyage by the Europeans in the 17th Century gave the ideas about distant lands and Cultures, and they wanted to associate themselves with the idea of being an Aryan the word, which they learned from India. (In Sanskrit, Aryan is only a connotative concept that stands for stipulated quality, and not for any race etc.). To what extent, the Christians could be secular then? The very idea of converting others into Christianity goes against secularism and respecting other religions. Thus both the Christian theology and the Church itself do not respect other religions, and therefore cannot be called secular.


For the Muslims, the story is more serious. For the Muslims, the saying of their Prophet is final and indeed last word. They do accept the institution of prophecy, and many prophets, Moses and Jesus among them. But, Mohammad becomes the last and final prophet, and with Mohammad, everything else is either superceded or surpassed. He is the final, the very last of the prophets, to whom God spoke directly. After him, there shall not be any more prophets, religion etc. the last becomes the very right, and all others are practically cancelled. Thus the only right way becomes that of the way of Mohammad. The theology of Muslims obviously does not respect any other religions, and they do have a history of forceful conversions, say, Islam through the sword. The question of the Muslims being secular thus is ruled out.


It appears that this is the case with all world religions. May be it is natural for any religion to insist that they are the only right ones and all others are wrong. Perhaps this is the way they could develop and spread. Perhaps this is natural for the survival of a religion. Perhaps only such religions do survive. To claim that theirs is the only right way and at the same time to declare that all other ways are wrong may be the only way they go on in the world.


But then, this is not entirely correct. There are some funny people in this wonderful world of I am right and You are wrong. They are the Hindus. The Hindu religion teaches not only to respect other faiths, but also to accept the other faiths. But for the Hindu, accepting another faith does not make him a non-Hindu. Hinduism itself is a wonderful co existence of multiple faiths, rituals, and so on. In spite of your faith, you are a Hindu, if you are one. It teaches that the truth is only one, no matter how and who speaks of it in however different ways. Those Hindus who became Christians and Muslims did not keep this Hindu spirit up; they defied the Indian spirit of secularism, of respecting other faiths. They defied the Indian culture of accepting multiplicity and plurality as reality with nature. They gave themselves into the impossibility of homogeneity. And then, they claim that they are secular and have the cheek to call a Hindu fascist and non-secular. This indeed is the height of self-deception, ingratitude, and shamelessness. Poor miserable ones, they do not know what they are thinking and doing!


And with all these, a Hindu is comfortable when he is called fascist and fundamentalist. Kerala banned the entry of Pravin Togadia, but the Legislative assembly passed resolution to free terrorist Abdul Nazar Madini from Jail. Look who is talking of secularism! Given any theology, there is only one religion in the entire world that teaches its followers to respect other faiths, and that is the religion of the Hindus. And indeed, none other in the world can legitimately claim of being secular other than the Hindus. Both Muslims and Christians will have another face, if there comes a day when Hindus become a minority in India. But then, such a day will never come, that is the dynamicity of Indian culture and Philosophy that keeps producing reformers and spiritual persons who are Avataras, Amsavataras, if not Purnavataras like Shri Ram, which happens only once in a Yuga. The Amsavataras keep happening from time to time and it happens in every sphere, and every place in this mighty and rich country.



Dr.TS Girishkumar, Reader, School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala [email protected] & [email protected]  


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