Religion And Fanaticism
26/11 Mumbai was under siege, some 20 odd young men brandishing AK 47 rifles went on a killing spree at a busy railway station, and
five stars hotels killing hundreds. This incident brings back memories of the
now infamous 9/11 where a handful of highly motivated, misguided souls took
controls of aircrafts and banged into the World Trade
Center destroying it
completely and killing thousands. These incidents again make us realize how
susceptible we are in the face of such terror activities, where a group of
highly trained and motivated people inflict so much pain and agony to the
innocents. The very fact that the actors who perpetrate these acts are ready to
die makes them more dangerous, because the very fear of death, the ultimate
fear, itself is absent from their psyche and hence they can go to any extent to
inflict terror in the minds of people, or they can go to any extent to get the
authorities to bend on their knees. The very pertinent example would be the
Hijack of Indian Airlines Flight IC 864 to Afghanistan. Their ( Of the
hijackers, who were mainly terrorist from Pakistan owing allegiance to Taliban
) demand from the then Indian Government was to get their 20 operatives
released from various jails that they were put in and Indian Government had to
give in to their pressures as lives of 265 innocent Indians were at stake. The
Pilots of the United Airlines aircrafts very well knew that their lives will be
snuffed in seconds when they saw the world trade center getting larger and
larger in front of their wind screens. Their psychology was so strong that with
the knowledge of their death in seconds they kept flying straight into World Trade
Unfortunately majority of such terrorist activities are perpetrated by the religious fanatics of Islam. Such tendencies are not limited
to Islam alone but it is seen mostly in the abhramic religion ie Islam
Christianity and Judaism. I urge my readers not to misunderstand me as I revere
all religion as no religion in the world tells its followers to go and kill in
the name of religion. In its essence and origin, Islam is a religion of mercy
and peace, of kindness and tolerance, and of knowledge and enlightenment; it is
not a religion of violence, fanaticism and ignorance.
What happens is that because of a miniscule group of misguided souls the entire religion and the followers of it suffers. The pain
that a innocent Muslim goes through when their religion becomes the center
stage of any terrorist activity is very evident in the following article
written by a Muslim devout in Khalij Times. I reproduce that letter verbatim
for my readers.
“Khaleej Times: No Time to Hide for Muslims by Aijaz Zaka Syed (View from Dubai )
Every time innocents are targeted in the name of Islam around the world, one can't face one's
non-Muslim friends and colleagues. I
feel like burying myself in the ground.
Growing up in a religious family, one never thought one would see the
day when being a Muslim could be a source of shame.
A distraught friend who has devoted her life to speaking and fighting on behalf of Arabs and Muslims wrote in yesterday saying "I've
had it with the Arabs and Muslims and Islamic militancy. Forgive me but I am
throwing in the towel."
I couldn't write back to her but understood her pain... She grew up in Mumbai and is understandably upset.
My friend went on to say: "The Muslims and Islam have a problem and only they can solve it. If they do not, the whole world will turn against them."
Can you blame the world if it's turning against Muslims? What do you expect when not a single day passes without the name of our faith being dragged through the mud by fellow believers around the world?
Is this what Islam and the noble Prophet teach and stand for?
It's all very well for us to say Islam has nothing to do with extremism and terrorism. We can go on deluding ourselves these psychopaths do not represent us.
However, the world finds it hard to accept this line of argument because it sees the extremists increasingly assert themselves and take the centre-stage while the mainstream Islam remains silent.”
Religion seems to offer a particularly fertile matrix, in which fanaticism can grow, is religious
belief itself the cause of fanaticism? Or is religion simply one of many
catalysts that can transform desperation into extremism? We might find the
answers in the teachings of the Founders of the world's major religious
systems. What do they say about fanaticism and religious zeal? Did they espouse
it or promote it? And if not, where does it come from?
Some particularly sharp insights may be found in the Bahá'í Writings. Bahá'u'lláh clearly condemned fanaticism of all kinds. In a statement that seems to foreshadow our times, He wrote:
Religious fanaticism and hatred are a world-devouring fire, whose violence none can quench. The Hand of Divine power can, alone, deliver mankind from this desolating affliction.
(Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 13
Religion itself breeds fanatics. If the teachings of the Manifestations of God had been followed, fanaticism would never have taken root
within the religions they established. We can say this because fanaticism and
hatred are so clearly contrary to their explicit teachings. It uses religion as
a tool to further aims that have nothing to do with true religion. If we use a
hammer to open a jar, we're going to destroy the jar. Hammers are not meant for
opening jars, and they are powerful enough tools to do considerable damage when
misused. Religion is one of the most potent forces known to humanity. Misused,
it is capable of doing correspondingly great damage.
Why do the fanatics succeed? The answer lies in a short story. A man whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, Owned a
number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were
true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. 'Very
few people were true Nazis,' he
said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were
too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a
bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen.
Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and
the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up
in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories. The essence of this story is simple. The terrorists are very small
in number but they are very cohesive. Their negative attitude is cohesive as
well. Therefore they can inflict so much pain. The good and peace loving people
are much much larger in number but are not cohesive at all and hence their
positivity and goodness does not percolate down the society. The fanatics are
so cohesive that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the
fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars
worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal
groups throughout Africa and are
gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics
who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the
stoning and hanging of rape victims and
homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to
become suicide bombers. Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians , Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians,
Algerians, Indians including Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and many others have died
because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.
Each religion brings out its own doctrines and insists upon them as being the only true ones. And not only does it do that, but also it
thinks that he who does not believe in them must go to some horrible place.
Some will even draw the sword to compel others to believe as they do. This is
not through wickedness, but through a particular disease of human brain called
fanaticism. They are very sincere, these fanatics, the most sincere of human
beings; but they are quite as irresponsible as other lunatics in the world.
This disease of fanaticism is one of the most dangerous of all diseases. All
the wickedness of human nature is roused by it. Anger is stirred up, nerves are
high strung, and human being becomes like tigers."
Thus faith turns into fanaticism. The communal frenzy erupts and religious wars are fought with ensuing mass destruction and chaos. There is
no doubt that more blood is shed on religious wars and persecution than on any
other cause. But this is no fault of an individual. It is the evolutionary
weakness. It is not a crafty design of one individual, or one particular
religion. Our inability to convert faith into the knowledge of direct
perception (of the truths as preached by the religious seers) is responsible
for this. The mammal in us is still strong; we have as yet failed to evolve as
complete human beings.
When a person embodies values like spiritual wisdom, purity of heart, qualities of universal love and altruism, we call him a saint or a sage.
Sometimes such a person contributes to the welfare of humanity in such a great
measure that he is referred to as God -the founder of a religion. Such examples
are Sri Krishna, Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha, Mahavir, Guru Nanak, Sri
Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo, and many more. The list is unending; we encounter
such great souls in every religion of every continent and in every era. These great souls have intuitive knowledge of
oneness of human race. Their intuition is based on their experience or
realization and conforms to rationality and reason. They speak from the
experience of realization of Divinity acquired after transcending the
limitations of body-mind complex. They have the direct knowledge of Reality.
Millions of followers of these saints intellectually and emotionally grasp
their message of love and compassion; but cannot claim to have experienced
these values as direct knowledge. They believe in what the saints say.
None of the saints or their religion preaches hatred and killing. Every religion preach that humankind is a single family and the earth its common homeland. There is no place for fanaticism or the fanatics.