Politico-historical factors notwithstanding, the present crisis is a conflict between “Science and Religion.” Conservatives of all colours and all items and nations have resisted scientific, social changes. Today, the fanatical elements of the Islamic world violently resist social reforms in the cyber age that were confronted by western societies in 19th century. Equality of life and liberty are the new mantra that threatens all old traditions that are based on the exclusiveness of their religious paradise.
But, as we know, now there is no exclusive blood group identity that divides us in terms of gender, caste, race and region or religion. The democratic equality paradigm has undercut the very basis of exclusiveness. The principle of equality, irrespective of gender, caste, class, race, region or religion, is not found in the religious testament of any faith, or ancient religion.
In fact, all religions promise a safe heaven or paradise, liberation or moksha or nirvana but for their own flock. No religion speaks about the inclusive civil rights of all humanity. No world religion speaks of establishing a non-discriminatory social order. There is no fatwa against killing a non-believer. There is no testament against raping and stoning to death a female or Dalit. In fact, all religious preachers practise social discrimination, and have disfranchised the non-believers, women, the poor and the outcast.
Those who think the conflict is between the West and the East or Islamic world often justify terrorist violence due to the hopelessness of “the oppressed minorities” who turn to “violence and terrorism to avenge the majority oppression” But, according to the Concerned Scientists and Philosophers, it is an irrational political reasoning. (The 21st century Manifesto). For poverty and discrimination are not country-community-or religion-specific. In fact, there are no innocent followers of any caste, region or religion that have not violated the human rights of women and the weak. No race, region, religion or, caste, class or creed was or is free from wrongdoings against “other” humans.
In the Hindu belief system, the social status is determined by the Law of Karma. If you are born as a woman, poor, or Dalit, that is divine dispensation based on your karma (wrongdoings) in the previous birth. There is, however, some redemption for those who die drinking the holy water of the Ganga. But there is no constitutional provision to grant equal human rights to women and the poor in any holy book of any world religion.
Although banned under the Constitution, Hindutva votaries still worship satis (widow burned alive) and the neo-conservatives still commit “honour killing.” Raping and killing nuns by Hindu fanatics is symptomatic of the same sickness which drives Islamist jihadis to stone helpless women to death. We must be reminded of the ghastly act of burning alive an Australian Christian missionary, along with his two children, by Hindutva gangsters. But no Hindu saint or religious head cried of curse, or condemned Hindu rightist crimes.
Similarly, those who raped and killed thousands of helpless women, and massacred Bangladesh President Mujibur Rehman and his family were not the oppressed poor minority. The genocide of the majority Muslim Bengalis was committed not by Hindutva men but by the Muslim majority state of the Islamic Republic. Those who issued a fatwa and attacked Taslima Nasreen, author of Lajja (the Shame), were not oppressed Kashmiris.
Mrs. Malalai Kakar, 40, mother of six children, was a high profile first policewoman officer in Kandhar. She was investigating crimes against women and children in the Muslim majority Afghanistan. “We killed Malalai Kakar. She was our target and we successfully eliminated our target,” boasted a Taliban spokesman. In another case, a film director of the Netherlands was killed for making a film on the women’s struggle for equal rights in an African Muslim society.
A multireligious nation, India adopted a secular and democratic Constitution granting inclusive equal rights to all citizens, irrespective of gender, caste, creed, region or religion. But religious conservatives of all colours actively oppose the political theory of separation of state and religion. The Christian world faced this problem in the 18-19th century when the Pope ruled the West. But theological polity cannot survive the challenges of scientific restructuring of society.
(The writer belongs to Centre for Science Policy/Concerned Scientists & Philosophers, Dehradun. Email: www.psaindia.org)