Tag Archives: religion

Religion, Rushdie and the Red Rag…

Do I see a red rag?!

I have just finished reading Salman Rushdie’s article in which he is quite vociferous in denouncing Pakistan as a terrorist state and all Pakistani bureaucracy and government agencies as allies of the fundamentalists.

‘Fundamentalists? The word itself is a misnomer and a huge one at that. Islam as a religion and a way of life is based on fundamentals and if you remove those the essence is lost.

Rushdie’s sentiments are strongly pro-Indian and equally anti-Pakistan. Below the article is a stream of supportive comments from all around the world. The article in question in addition is being circulated widely amongst international facebook and twitter users. There are very few who (judging by the feedback) hold back their passions rather than leapfrogging into a dynamite like rhetoric against ‘terrorism’, jihadis, fundos, beards and the like.

Let us for a moment leave religion out of this debate. What is left then? Salman Rushdie as one human denouncing a whole country full of millions of other humans on the basis of  something that was or was not done by the ruling powers – that is shield Osama Bin Laden?

Alright, let us also suppose that they did shield him… and succeeded… on their own?

If Rushdie’s claim is correct, suddenly I feel like giving Pakistan a pat on the back! We succeeded in shielding OBL from the eyes of Big Brother? I’m dumbstruck.

Does anyone notice that the common man in Rushdie’s fantasia of a terrorist state has also been suffering due to intermittent bomb blasts and attacks? Does anyone care that several areas in the north ofPakistan had become no-go areas and that it is only recently that the army, which certain intellectuals have been denouncing repeatedly, has managed to clear those areas partially using its manpower – again the common man soldiers?

Religion happens to be one concept that ironically evokes passions in the breasts of even those who do not believe in any religion. Yet when Muslims protest against defamation of their ideals, it is taken as something akin to a stereotypical illiterate, uncouth, barbaric version of Conan the Barbarian.

Pronouncing judgement on a country never creates dialogue – it only creates hatred which in turn breeds more. Suddenly we have a rise of two clearly distinct viewpoints on the web. One professes the kill all the bearded ones hate tirade and the other sticks  to its see what they are like? – Get-them-before-they-get-you part of the conversation.

And every debate has an audience. The ‘humans’ are watching and waiting – for judgement or Judgement day…

Karen Armstrong. The Great ‘Ego’ Divide?

If peace were to be distributed in sugar-coated pills, Dr Karen Armstrong’s face would well adorn its cover. ‘Ego is a barrier  to dialogue’ was the crux of her message in the face of a barrage of questions  aimed at her at Carlton Hotel’s Karachi Literature Festival today 6th  February 2011.

The idea of an ‘Ego’ is far from simplistic despite  its plain garb. The questions thus raised are diverse. Take the case of two  persons in direct confrontation with each other. One decides not to indulge in  dialogue till the other initiates conversation. Carrying on from the tradition
of Eric Berne we would label it kindly as a ‘game’ and be done. National pride  and identity raise many more dimensions. Would we be right in raising our  non-egoistic eyebrows at the Cold War? Are we to say that the ever  controversial Kashmir ‘issue’ is an issue only due to ‘Ego’. Or are we to say  that the enraged sentiments on M.F Hussain’s drawings are a result of ‘Ego’  between the artistically liberated tolerant mindsets and the masses? Closer to
home ground, would it become a battle between religion and tolerance of all  kinds of sentiments in the name of not showing one’s ‘Ego’?

Arguments and counterarguments would be counterproductive, diabolical and lead nowhere. The need of the hour perhaps is to lean towards the message beneath the surface. The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Whether it is the race for nuclear
warheads or the corresponding sanctions, we seem to be caught in a never ending  debate of the primacy of the chicken and the egg.

Karen Armstrong’s 2008 Charter of Compassion was one of the major subjects of discussion in her discourse. While signatories like Prince Hassan of Jordan and the Dalai Lama have their own perspective regarding the Charter, a lot can be learnt from Armstrong’s own life influences that may well have proved to be the driving force for humility, compassion and the passion behind it all. Touching stories about her own experiences at Convent as a young nun being broken in, strictly but not unkindly – a vivid illustration of her superior dying of cancer yet not taking sedatives in order to say perhaps her last words of kindness and hope to the young Armstrong provide the emotional ground for her next words. With a wave of her hand she brings to mind and then swiftly dismisses any idea that ‘sticks and stones may break your
bones but words will never hurt you’. Kind words are the balm that soften past wounds and lend grace to new ones. And these she remembers more than anything else in times of sadness, in times of distress.

We all remember.

So can we be generous enough to dole these out? Will we remember that?

The mental image built up using Armstrong’s own words is that of a ‘cool’, ‘funny’, ‘clever’, ‘kind’ character who would usually turn up when things seem to be going wrong. Sesame Street and the younger generation may benefit from that surely and hopefully in a few years’ time but
modern society as it is, has its own terminology for such a person: “Fool”. Will the bud blossom? A few shakes from side to side and off goes the all-knowing-Head into the shadows to think of schemes for its own glory.

If Armstrong is the torchbearer for the monotheistic convention, and preaches the message of peace, solidarity and dialogue, how many of us will take to compassion with passion? Or will ‘Ego’ rule the Earth still?

Published on http://www.chowk.com/Views/People/Karen-Armstrong-–-The-Great-Ego-Divide 10th Feb 2011