Religion is important to most people around the globe. As such, it has been always easy to exploit religion for ulterior motives. But probably never before in the history have we seen so much of abuse of religion or its misrepresentation of values by zealots or extremists.
Religious extremism is on the rise all over the globe. And it is as much an Islamic problem, as it is a Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh problem. Not a single religious tradition is impervious from its deadly embrace.
All these religious extremist groups are abusing their religion to create a world of fitnah and fasad. I have chosen these two Arabic words because of the loaded meanings that each carry. The first word in Arabic means trials/tribulations/persecutions/misguidance and the second word: anarchy/confusion/corruption/mischief.
Look, for instance, at the group: ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī ‘l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām, with the acronym Da’ish, Da’eesh, or DAESH in the Middle East. It is more commonly known here in the West as ISIS or ISIL (or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Levant). In spite of its bold claim, it has very little to do with Islam or what it stands for. As rightly noted by all Islamic scholars, it is a terrorist group, which is making a mockery of Islam. Boko Haram in West Africa is another such terrorist outfit, which has up till recently benefited from government abuses and neglects in Muslim majority territories. They need to be defeated politically and ideologically.
Hindutvadi or the so-called Hindu nationalist (read fascist) organizations like the RSS, Shiv Sena, Hindu Mahasabha, BJP, VHP, Dharm Jagran Manch and Bajrang Dal are doing their vicious part in India. Worse, yet, they have succeeded in putting their fascist organization, the BJP, and its controversial leader, Narendra Modi – considered accountable for the Gujarat massacre – into power in New Delhi, thus giving full authority to change the secular fabric of India and make it more Hindu. Since Modi’s coming to power Hindutvadis have forcibly converted many Muslims and Christians to Hinduism under what they call the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ (returning home) program in places like Bihar, UP, Gujarat and West Bengal.
In nearby Buddhist state of Sri Lanka, Bodu Bala Sena (or “Buddhist Power Force”, BBS) is making the lives of religious minorities, esp. ordinary Muslims and Christians very difficult. It wants the government in this multi-ethnic and –religious country to serve the interest of the Sinhala Buddhist community only. It is opposed to democracy and says that the island nation’s ‘democratic and pluralistic values are killing the Sinhala (Buddhist) race’. Like the Hindu fascists in India that destroyed the historic Babri mosque in Ajodhya, BBS wants to destroy a 10th-century mosque in Ratnapura District. The fascist group has staged anti-Muslim riots in various parts of the country, which have led to deaths of many innocent Muslims and destruction of their properties.
And, as to the Buddhist majority Myanmar (formerly Burma) the least said the better! There, anti-Muslim pogroms have become a national project enjoying widespread support from top to bottom. Buddhist monk Wirathu and his terrorist group Ma Ba Tha enjoy special privilege and are putting Gautam Buddha’s precepts to shame and have been terrorizing Muslims and other non-Buddhists. As a result of decades of Buddhist violence against the religious minorities, every other Muslim has been forced to a life of a refugee; some 150,000 members of the Rohingya community, considered the most persecuted people in our time, have been made internally displaced since 2012; all the Christian-populated Border States are fighting wars of secession from the fascist central government.
Inside Israel the Jewish terrorist groups have long been involved in firebombing Palestinian homes and properties almost with impunity since the successive Zionist governments have been reluctant to punish their own criminals. Extremist Jewish settlers have been carrying out what they call “price-tag attacks” since at least 2006 in response to Palestinian violence or any action by the police or military that these settlers deem unjust. The attacks have included the destruction of property—setting fire to cars, livestock, and homes—and the desecration of mosques and churches. ‘You evacuate a settlement, we will hurt the Palestinians,’ Avi Mizrahi, the former head of Central Command, told Israel’s Channel 10, in a report on the phenomenon in 2013. Fifteen Palestinian homes have been set on fire in recent years, but not one of the arsonists has been put behind bars. While the police opened investigations into twelve of the cases, ten of them ended without indictments, according to Yesh Din, an Israeli human-rights organization. The human-rights group B’Tselem said that the latest firebombing attack in the Palestinian village of Duma, which killed an 18-month old infant was the result of “the authorities’ policy of not enforcing the law against Israelis who attack Palestinians and their property.”
In the Christian West, very little attention has been given to Christian fundamentalist groups in the popular media. Many of these groups have gun-totting militias who would be called terrorists by many outsiders. They are a dangerous bunch, and are deemed by most experts as being more deadly than other non-state actors. Many of the lawmakers in the US are also Christian fundamentalists, if not fanatics, who want to use the American super power to bring about a change of their liking into the political landscape of our world. By intent, they are potential Crusaders for the Christ. As Bible-thumping literalists they see the current events as a prelude to the coming of their ‘messiah’ and would rather hasten that process, culminating into an Armageddon, by tying knots with fellow extremists from Judaism. Already we have seen the toxic effect of one such failed experimentation with former president George W. Bush when he invaded Iraq under false pretexts. Rather than his declared aim of bringing in stability and democracy in that part of the world what we have seen is just the opposite: an orgy of unending wars and violence affecting the entire region where no one is safe. Drone attacks in civilian territories have become the new norm. Victims don’t know why they are getting maimed or killed. Rather than sobering the future US leaders, the presidential hopefuls, the toxic cocktail of Christian Zionism and extremism is emboldening them to finish Bush’s unfinished mission! No one seems to learn from the past history!
And then we have also the secular fundamentalists who are also poisoning our world with their sickening arrogance and innate hostility against established religious communities. They are no better than religious extremists!
It is in deed a very messy world that we live in today. Extremism is humanity’s worst enemy, and it is growing fast like a cancer. It cannot be defeated by drone, bomb and missile attacks alone. Truly, such violent means only bring about the undesirable outcomes.
Will our generation ever learn to follow the middle path – wasat – away from extremes of all sorts?