By Sandhya Jain
As America leads a resurgence of imperial muscle in Britain and France, India finds herself in a precarious position as battleground of a fresh Evangelical assault on her civilisational ethos and as a launch pad Washington hopes to use in its containment of Russia and China, having effectively crushed much of the Islamic world and confident of being able to trounce the rest. In other words, it is the West against Everyone else, and we can ignore this reality only at our own peril.
Central to the evangelical mission recently led by Vatican’s Cardinal Jean-Pierre Louis Tauran (called inter-faith dialogue) was a tacit isolation of Islam along with a tactical split of the seamless native Indian tradition into Hindu-Jain-Sikh.
There is merit in Vatican keeping Islam out of the purview of its inter-faith dialogues in India. Foremost is the fact that a dialogue between faiths claiming descent from the patriarch Abraham is an intra-Abrahamic dialogue, and would have to be conducted at a different level, which would mostly make it a diplomatic engagement. A realdialogue can only aim to settle which Abrahamic cult (possibly which sub-sect within that cult) is the true revealed faith with the right to conquer the world (sic), while the rest must submit.
As that is unlikely, another objective of dialogue could be to arrive at an understanding regarding the regions of dominance allowed to each cult. That too, is ruled out as the Christian Colonial Western world is deep into a new crusade against Islam, as witnessed in the actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya (beaten to pulp), Sudan (divided on demographic lines), with Iran, Syria and Lebanon in the crosshairs. Even loyal stooges in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen were abandoned to new geopolitical calculations, a reality dawning on old faithful Pakistan.
Anyone doubting this assessment must explain the sudden haste among Western nations to reassert their Christian credentials, from Australia, France, Switzerland, and now the United Kingdom: “We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so. The Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend” - Prime Minister David Cameron
Behind this affirmation lies the Western Christian assault upon Muslim communities in the west, which are practicing identity politics (beard and burqa) as a way of carving out cultural space to counter their growing marginalization. Suffice it to say that Islam is in a terrible bind; it remains to be seen if it can find the intellectual and moral energy to rescue itself from the current morass.
The writer avers that as orthodox Islam experiences growing Western Christian pressure and admits its worst enemies are brethren allied with the crusaders, it must logically seek friends outside the Abrahamic fold - among Non-Monotheistic traditions. This explains the response even West-friendly Muslim nations have given to the People’s Republic of China, a country that has abandoned its communist (Abrahamic) ideology and suppressed its Confucian-Taoist-cum-Buddhist identity (the latter being dangerous, in the writer’s view).
Islam’s quest for rapprochement with non-Abrahamic traditions may have broken new ground in India with Darul Uloom Deoband vice chancellor Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani defending Srimad Bhagwad Gita against a “Russian diktat” and urging Hindus and Muslims to unite on the issue. Maulana Nomani denounced the “allegation portraying Gita as extreme literature.” He asked both communities to fight against anti-Islamic bans that Muslims face in the west, as on the issue of hijab. Simultaneously, Maulana Khalid Rashid, head of Lucknow’s Firangi Mahal seminary, denounced “Russian arrogance” and said Muslims must offer unflinching support to Hindus in this direct attack on their private space. He wanted the government to take a firm stance so such blasphemous interference is not repeated.
With respect, the writer wishes to gently state that under the East India Company and British Crown, Hindus and Muslims received the colonial stick. But ultimately Hindus suffered as Muslims (as Abrahamic brothers) allowed themselves to be manipulated to demand separatism from a Common India. The journey from the Shimla Delegation and formation of the Muslim League to the Lahore Resolution and Partition gave Muslims a sense of false empowerment, as our brothers in Pakistan are now discovering to their own chagrin.
Indian Muslim leaders must understand that by insisting upon some form of separatism even after independence, they debilitated the Hindu community and the nation, with no commensurate benefit to themselves. Hence, even as we welcome their support, we request them to revisit the history of the past century or more and introspect whether the extreme positions taken by the community on any issue have advanced the community in any way. It is our contention that worldwide, the disempowerment of the Muslim community has proceeded in tandem with its extreme radicalization.
Regarding the proposed ban on the Bhagvad Gita by a court in Tomsk city, Siberia, we must differentiate between Russia’s natural suspicion of the white western monks of the Krishna Consciousness movement (ISKON, who are not much liked in some Indian cities), and the circulation of a commentary of one of the most powerful texts of the Hindu tradition.
After the US-NATO assault upon and dismemberment of Yugoslavia and attempts to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church which is one of the pillars of Russian nationalism and statehood, Moscow has naturally been wary of Christian evangelism from the West and attempts to infiltrate white monks into the country in the name of Krishna Consciousness. New Delhi cannot ignore the role played by the Vatican and America in funding in the Coloured Revolutions in former Soviet Republics, and the continued manoeuvring to contain Russia (more later).
The complaint from an orthodox organisation with poor understanding of Hindu dharma and philosophy to ban the Bhagvad Gita – which caught Moscow by surprise – could well be an inspired mischief to strain relations between New Delhi and Moscow at a time when the Russian nuclear venture at Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu, stands checkmated at the behest of the Catholic Church and reported heavy external funding (which Delhi is investigating). It is significant that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who has for some years been celebrating Mass at her residence, recently allowed the media to photograph her celebrating Mass with the Archbishop, where she announced free pilgrimages to Jerusalem for Christian converts (at the expense of the taxpayer of a Secular nation!).
The timing suggests the Gita ban move was intended to appear as a Russian tit-for-tat. But after its initial surprise, Moscow quickly got its act together and the Russian envoy to India, Alexander M Kadakin, himself a student of Indian civilisation, expressed unhappiness at a holy scripture being taken to court, and said his country accorded equal respect to scriptures of all faiths, viz., the Bible, the Holy Quran, Torah, Avesta, and the Bhagvad Gita.
Actually, the issue is neither religious nor academic, and will be tackled with political wisdom by the Kremlin. Already it has been clarified that it was not the Bhagvad Gita itself which was under scrutiny in the Tomsk court, but some comments in the 20th century Russian translation of Swami Prabhupada’s translation of the text, which are alleged to be insulting to non-believers. The Gita itself, the sources said, was first published in Russian in 1788 and has since been published in several editions and translations in that country. Russian Indologists favour dismissal of the charges, and that may still happen.
What Indian Hindus must understand is that protests to the Russian Embassy in Delhi were organised by a White sanyasi, so the West is definitely injecting itself into the controversy. As someone who distrusts even native globe-trotting sanyasis and their addiction to modify tradition to cater to the needs of white disciples with agendas at variance with the dharma of this land, the writer fully appreciates Russian discomfort with ISKON. We need not hyperventilate on the matter; Russians have produced some of the world’s best renowned Indologists, and for decades they performed the Ramayana in ballet while we were busy distancing ourselves from Sri Rama.
To put the issue in perspective, note how Vatican operates in tandem with the US-led Western colonial countries. Observe the synchronicity between Cardinal Tauran’s trip to India and the Asia-Pacific paradigm unveiled by President Barack Obama in his recent visit to Australia. Add the global moves of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and you get a complete picture of Empire and Church, marching hand-in-hand. Can you hear the trumpets?
Canberra and the Asia-Pacific
On Nov. 17, 2011, American President Barack Obama addressed the Australian parliament and lamented the loss of Australian lives in the 9/11 Twin Tower tragedy and acts of al Qaeda terror in the years since. He also announced a new American shift towards the Asia Pacific, causing misgivings in several quarters.
Reduced to essentials, this means [vis-à-vis China] –
- America will strengthen its presence in Japan, the Korean peninsula, and generally in Southeast Asia
- It will seek allies and partners like Indonesia [selling 24 F-16 fighter jets], Malaysia, Singapore,
Vietnam, Cambodia, and of course India
Vietnam, Cambodia, and of course India
- Mr Obama became the first American president to attend the East Asia Summit at Bali, in order to curb the rising trade ties between East Asia and China
- The main point of confrontation is the South China Sea
- Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar and just prior to her arrival the Thein Sein regime suspended a China Power Investment-funded dam project. WilkiLeaks exposed that the “Burmese NGO’s which organized and led the campaign against the dam were heavily funded by the US government” (Financial Times, Dec. 2, 2011, p. 2).
- America has placed a maritime and aerial armada facing the Chinese coast. Under a military agreement with Australia, Washington will send warships, warplanes and 2500 marines to the northern-most city of Darwin, directed at China.
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton devoted much of 2011 egging Vietnam, Philippines, and Brunei to escalate their maritime disputes with China.
- America has strengthened military ties and sales with Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, and increased the presence of battleships, nuclear submarines and over flights of war planes along China’s coastal waters.
- The White House is promoting a Trans-Pacific Partnership wherein Asian trade agreements will exclude China in favour of US multinational companies.
- All moves seem designed to increase Chinese vulnerability in the global energy scenario – China’s domestic oil production is around 4 million barrels per day and it imports around 3.8 million barrels/day, which will rise of 11.6 million by 2035. Any instability on the sea lane from the Gulf, Africa and Latin America – where the US Navy patrols – will adversely affect its economy [despite pipelines from Kazakhstan and Russia]. As all oil tankers will have to cross the South China Sea, US activity in these waters can only enhance Chinese paranoia.
- US has moved forward missile sites and Air Force bases in Poland, Rumania, Turkey, Spain, Czech Republic and Bulgaria
- Several missile loaded warships in Spain also encircle Russia
- New all-out effort to secure and expand US military bases in Central Asia among former Soviet republics.
- Washington, via NATO, has launched major economic and military operations against Russia’s major trading partners in North Africa and the Gulf. The NATO war against Libya has paralyzed or
nullified multi-billion dollar Russian oil and gas investments and arms sales
nullified multi-billion dollar Russian oil and gas investments and arms sales
- UN-NATO economic sanctions against Iran undermine Russia’s billion-dollar nuclear trade and joint oil ventures.
- NATO + Turkey + Gulf monarchical dictatorships’ sanctions and funded terrorist assaults on Syria where Russia maintains its sole naval facility (Tartus) on the Mediterranean Sea
Vatican’s ‘peace’ diplomacy
On 27 October 2011, the Vatican invited over 200 spiritual leaders from all over the world, including Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Confucianists, Baha’i, Jews, Taoists and Zoroastrians to a multi-faith meeting to promote world peace. The Indian guests included Rajmohan Gandhi, which suggests that much of the guest list could have been cherry-picked by the Vatican rather than deputed by the different faith-denominations.
Pope Benedict XVI took his guests on a pilgrimage to Assisi (to the Basilica of St. Francis) on the occasion of the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World. Recalling that 25 years ago [27 Oct. 1986], Pope John Paul II had invited representatives of the world’s religions to Assisi to pray for peace, the Pope observed that at that time, “the great threat to world peace came from the division of the earth into two mutually opposed blocs. A conspicuous symbol of this division was the Berlin Wall which traced the border between two worlds right through the heart of the city. In 1989, three years after Assisi, the wall came down, without bloodshed. Suddenly the vast arsenals that stood behind the wall were no longer significant. They had lost their terror.”
Can anything be more political, specifically, can anything be more ideological, geopolitical, and outright imperialistic and militaristic? Is further proof needed that Vatican moves hand-in-hand with the Western Christian Colonial objectives?
Yet it all seems to have gone above the heads of the Indian members of the audience, for not one of them returned home to sound the alarm in concerned quarters that new methodologies of colonial conquest or subordination are being refined and will soon be unleashed on the non-Christian world.
Warning that the world remained even today full of discord, Pope Benedict said there were basically two new forms of violence, which are the very antithesis of each other in terms of motivation. Firstly there is terrorism, which makes targeted attacks at key points, with no regard for the lives of innocent human beings.
If there was any doubt that Islam was the target of this homily, the Pope intoned gravely, “We know that terrorism is often religiously motivated and that the specifically religious character of the attacks is proposed as a justification for the reckless cruelty that considers itself entitled to discard the rules of morality for the sake of the intended ‘good’. In this case, religion does not serve peace, but is used as justification for violence.” He moved smoothly to put all the crimes of Christianity firmly in the past, ignoring the truth that they remain with us to this day – as witnessed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, now Syria, and the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo which derive from Inquisition torture techniques + twenty-first century advances.
Cardinal Tauran in India
That India is central to the Western-Vatican new imperial quest is obvious – we are at the centre of the globe; our geo-strategic position is precisely what made us the Jewel in the British Crown.
Hence, close on the heels of the Assisi proclamation, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, landed in India in early November for inter-religious dialogue with various faith denominations. He swept his Indian audience off its feet by quoting the Vedas - ‘reality is one but wise men perceive it differently’. Continuing glibly, he said, “Every religion promotes peace. We know how much India needs peace and harmony and the world needs it too.”
What India does need is respite from the relentless intrusions of evangelists so that Indians may live in peace and harmony, as was their way until it was disrupted by the monotheistic invasions.
But the Hindu, Jain and Sikh dharma-gurus whom the Cardinal met in separate meetings in different parts of the country had no notion of the political or strategic threat posed by the Western Christian colonial edifice, and entertained the Crusader with pious homilies, little realizing that every time they spoke against ‘violence and terrorism in the name of religion’ they were specifically demonizing Islam in a manner conforming to Western wishes!
This is not to exonerate any of the crimes committed in this country in the name of Islam or jihad, or any other combination of anti-Hindu mischief – that is not the subject of this column.
The point being underlined is that none of the native Indian spiritual leaders who met Cardinal Tauran and got carried away by his smooth diplomacy would ever on their own volition make politically charged statements on terrorism, not even after heinous acts of terror such as Mumbai 2008. No Hindu religious leader chastised Congress leader Digvijay Singh when he went to Azamgarh, U.P., and blamed the Delhi Police for the Batla House encounter in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar area.
The broad national consensus in India is that politics and law and order are the realm of the State; religious leaders have generally refrained from taking public positions on such sensitive and explosive issues. Never have they tried to polarize communities, not even when minority clergy often push the envelop.
This is why non-minority dharma-gurus do not do advocacy of any political party during elections, and this is why politicians as a class do not seek their ‘blessings’ during elections (though individual politicians may be devotees).
The bottomline is that Inter-Faith Dialogue is a deeply political business with a very political agenda. Hindu Civilisation does not have a global political agenda; hence there is no legitimate reason for Hindu/Indian dharma-gurus to engage in an exercise which can only weaken our defences and facilitate the siege of our own citadels.
The author is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com