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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Christian Europe was a snake pit of bigotry up until the 16th Century

India can never be an imitation Pakistan by T J S George Indian Express 23 December, 2002
It is true that Islamic and Christian fundamentalism triggered a counter fundamentalism among "Hindu nationalist" political groupings; Modi is the beneficiary of that extremist upsurge cleverly put to political use. But it is just as true that fundamentalism has always failed because it blocked progress.
Christian Europe was a snake pit of bigotry up until the 16th Century. Protestant England had to pass a Toleration Act in 1689 to give dissenting Protestants the freedom to worship their own way. This, when all of them professed to worship the same God. After Europe separated the Church from the State and after the Church shed much of its obscurantism, Europe began achieving great progress both materially and intellectually.
Continuing pockets of bigotry in Christendom _ be it in the Bible Belt of the American South or the Conversion Belt of Central Travancore _ are a menace, but not big enough to threaten progress. By contrast, Islam has remained stuck in an anti-modern groove because most Islamic rulers have found safety in fundamentalism and autocracy. Saudi Arabia has even been exporting the Wahabi brand of fanaticism.
Turkey, alone among Muslim countries, dared to go modern. Today it is on the verge of being admitted to the European Union. Among modern Muslim rulers Malaysia's Mahathir Mohammed is the only one who has shown the courage to proclaim that fundamentalists have brought Islam to its lowest point in history. India's own experience is instructive. Under Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir and Shahjahan, art and culture grew phenomenally. Akbar achieved greatness by practising the policy that India could be ruled only on the basis of moral foundations and equal justice to all citizens.
The decline of the Mughals began when this moral premise was abandoned by a ruler who chose to be intolerant of other faiths. Aurangazeb's bigotry was matched only by his cruelty: he put to death his own three brothers besides imprisoning his father. As one historian put it, this was a fundamentalist who "would not bend, so he was broken." His dynasty broke with him. In fact, all the power-wielders of history who relied on war and suppression, on hatred and evil were broken _ the Byzantines and the Ottomans, Alexander and Genghis Khan, the Crusaders and the Imperialist colonisers.
But Buddhism prevailed _ despite determined efforts to crush it _ because its basic theory was that you can reach Truth not by excluding its opposites as falsehood but by including them as another form of the same Truth. Hinduism prevailed _ despite prolonged onslaughts by fundamentalist Islam and predatory Christianity _ because, in its essence, it is a conglomerate of mutually accommodating doctrines, abiding and eternal in the profoundness of their universalism. That inherent greatness will help it prevail over the new onslaught by small men who see it merely as a political expedient.
Politicians who use religion always diminish religion. Those who exploit Hinduism for purposes of power can at best turn India into a mirror image of Pakistan. The people of India would not accept this. Therefore _ The reductionist approach to the inclusive philosophy of Hinduism will pass. The Modis will pass. The power-seekers will have their fifteen minutes of glory and pass. The timeless values of Sanatana Dharma will return and the meek shall inherit the earth.

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