There is an old saying which goes like this, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance you baffle them with bullshit”. If this saying was ever going to apply to someone it is Shri Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul ji is touring UAE and during one of his speeches in Dubai, he has been talking to the Indian diaspora. I came across a small excerpt of his speech on Twitter where Mr Gandhi says “Tolerance is inside our DNA, and it is been embedded not from 50 years, Mahatma Gandhi was a great exponent of non-violence, but Mahatma Gandhi ji picked up the idea of non-violence from our great religions, from our great teachers, Mahatma Gandhi picked up the idea of non-violence from ancient Indian philosophy, from Islam, from Christianity, from Judaism, from every great religion, where it is clearly written that violence will not help anyone achieve anything.”
Mahatma Gandhi was a great exponent of a particular type of non-violence/ahimsa, no disagreement on that account Mr Rahul Gandhi. But what did Gandhi ji mean when he used the word ahimsa? Was it the ahimsa that Krishna talks about in the Bhagavad Geeta? Or was it the Ahimsa that is expounded in Jainism? Because there is a fundamental difference between the two. Shri Krishna’s ahimsa was not pacifism, but, ahimsa, as it is understood in Jainism, is pure pacifism. A Jain cannot even hurt a small insect
And Gandhiji’s ahimsa was deeply inspired by Jainism and not by Hinduism. Gandhiji was from Gujarat and Jainism has a deep influence on the larger societal discourse of Gujarat.
Gandhiji had once adviced the Jews by saying “If I were a Jew and were born in Germany… I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German may, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon… And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy… The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant.”
To say that Gandhiji got that idea from every great religion is not only factually incorrect, it is insulting and condescending to the many religions at a fundamental level. As Mr Rahul Gandhi was spinning his yarns of non-violence I could do nothing but pull my hair in anguish. Because this line of thinking is a standard shtick that has been peddled to every person in India since time immemorial. Indians, especially Hindus have a unique problem.
We will constantly hear the line “all religions are the same” from our elders or religious gurus on different platforms/situations ad nauseam. Just start a discussion on religion and their differences and see the resistance that comes. Rajiv Malhotra calls this trait as “difference anxiety” in his book Being Different.
As a dharmic sceptic/atheist who has been a humble student of religion for the last 15+ years, I agree with Mr Malhotra. Yes, all religions are not the same. Different religions make different claims and one has to merely read the religious scriptures to realise this basic fact. Islam and Hinduism are not the same, in fact, Islam does not even consider Hinduism to be a legitimate faith system.
Idolatry is “shirk” as per Islam. According to Islam Hinduism is a false faith and people who follow Hinduism will go to hell! Do not believe me? Well, let us check the Quran out ourselves.
Surah Al Baqarah 2.54
Sahih International: And [recall] when Moses said to his people, “O my people, indeed you have wronged yourselves by your taking of the calf [for worship]. So repent to your Creator and kill yourselves. That is best for [all of] you in the sight of your Creator.” Then He accepted your repentance; indeed, He is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.
Surah Al-Ma’idah 5.90
Sahih International: O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah ], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.
If all religions are the same and preach nice things why does the Quran criticise something that is a key aspect of many sects of Hinduism? Now let us take the claim made in the 2nd part of Mr Rahul Gandhi’s speech head-on. Mr Rahul Gandhi said that Mahatma Gandhiji learnt his idea of non-violence/ahimsa from all religions including Islam! But does Islam preach non-violence? Let us take a look at some verses from the Quran.
Surah Al Baqarah 2.191
Sahih International: And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al-Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.
Surah Al E Imran 3.151
Sahih International: We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve for what they have associated with Allah of which He had not sent down [any] authority. And their refuge will be the Fire, and wretched is the residence of the wrongdoers.
Surah Al E Imran 3.157
Sahih International: And if you are killed in the cause of Allah or die – then forgiveness from Allah and mercy are better than whatever they accumulate [in this world].
Now the usual apologist of Islam will come back at me by saying these verses are in a particular context, they are based out of a certain situation and a reaction to that situation. The next line of defence are the verses Surah Al-Baqarah [2:256], Surah Al-Ma’idah [5:32] & Surah Al Kafiroon [109:1-6] where Allah says there is no compulsion in religion or your religion to you and my religion to me. These verses are used to state that Islam believes in tolerance and has nothing against idolators and atheists.
Even if we were to buy their apologetics (which I don’t) it still does not prove that Islam preaches non-violence as it was understood by Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, if we did a proper search of the entire Quran we will not find a single verse that preaches the concept of non-violence as it was preached by Mahatma Gandhi. The best one gets is a conditional temporary truce in the Meccan verses which gets superseded by the later Medinan verses by the argument of abrogation which is used by most mainstream scholars of Islam. Even Hinduism does not preach the concept of non-violence that was expounded by Mahatma Gandhi!
Also, I would like to remind Mr Rahul Gandhi about one more very interesting factoid. He made this speech in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE happens to be one of the 13 countries in the world today where atheism is considered to be a crime, and it is punishable by the death penalty. Talk about irony committing suicide.
Mr Rahul Gandhi could not have chosen a better spot to talk about tolerance and non-violence. He picks the one nation where you cannot even criticise the religion of Islam or leave it. Because if you do that you can be killed for that! How tolerant isn’t it?
When Mr Rahul Gandhi talks about the tolerance in Islam he basically rubs salt on the wounds of the millions of atheists who are trapped in the Islamic world. He rubs salt on the wounds of Raif Badawi who is languishing in a jail in Saudi Arabia. Just this week we saw how a young girl named Rahaf Mohammad Al-Qanun was struggling to escape from the clutches of Islam.
If Mr Gandhi wants to know a real horror story he can check out this story of an atheist in Pakistan named Spartacus. We are hiding the real name for security reasons.
The aim of this article is to point out a fundamental flaw in the thinking of the Indian left and Mr Rahul Gandhi who is their leader personified. The Indian left likes to celebrate diversity. But the same Indian left hates the diversity in religious thought. All religions have to be preaching the same thing. They cannot be different.
But hang on, if all religions are the same why do Abrahamic religions convert? Has anyone ever asked themselves this basic question? Also, if all religions are different and make different truth claims why is it so bad? Islam does not tolerate idolatry, so can one make the claim that Islam is a tolerant religion from a practising theistic Hindus point of view? Is Islam tolerant towards Hinduism?
Indian religions/Darshanas have been built on the principle of “Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti”. But that does not mean other religions that originated outside India follow the same rules. In fact, the larger Indian society needs to realise this basic fact of life. The sameness disease that is seeped deeply into Indian society is because of this Hindu notion of acceptance of the multiplicity of viewpoints. While the trait by itself is beautiful and we should be supporting/accepting of multiple viewpoints we cannot deny the basic fact that all religions are not equally tolerant.
In fact, we should not demand tolerance, what we should be demanding from every person is mutual respect. Stable societies are those that believe in mutual respect. Dharmic Darshanas believe in that principle of mutual respect.
The aim of this article is to point out the muddled thinking of Mr Rahul Gandhi and the mainstream Indian left. Not for one moment should the critique of the tenets of Islam be taken as a critique of the larger Muslim population in the world. In my view Muslims around the world are not tolerant/kind because of Islam, they are tolerant/kind in spite of Islam because we as human beings are more than our religious ideologies.
We are nice towards each other not because our religions make us that, we are nice towards each other because of the inherent altruism that has seeped into us through our evolution over thousands of years. And if we want to credit religion for all the nice things we do, then the same religious ideology has to be blamed for all the horrors that are committed on its name today or in the past. And this logic applies to each and every religious idea that exists today on planet earth.
Religions are different, hence the problems and solutions that emanate from them will be different too. I will leave you with a small excerpt from a book written by Stephen Asma titled Why We Need Religion (p. 197) “ Can we just love our enemies into submission? Can our own piety transform all our enemies into friends? Sometimes, that is a real option. ISIS magazine Dabiq makes it clear that sometimes that is not an option.
“The fact is,” ISIS warns us, “even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam. Even if you were to pay jizyah [tax for infidels] and live under the authority of Islam in humiliation, we would continue to hate you.”