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As intolerant as jihadists?

Reader comment on item: In Mideast, Bet on a Strong Horse
in response to reader comment: Rita Datta's liberal naivette

Submitted by Rita Datta, India (India), Feb 6, 2011 at 10:12

Tch, tch, Gopal. You were so provoked by my comments that you resorted to personal remarks. ("did Datta ever read a history book; she claims to be a teacher".) However I don't mind you calling me naïve. Because, know what, I'm in fantastic company, starting with one Gautama who preached that people should follow the middle path in order to check desire. How stupid is that in today's consumerist society? Imagine Jesus telling his followers to turn the other cheek when one is slapped! The prophet of Islam tried to socialize the Arabs through the concept of the umma and the practice of zakt. And the Bhakti preachers of India had the message of mercy for all creatures and brotherhood among men. Scientists and explorers were no less impractical. Would Galileo have stared at the stars for hours if he had been very practical-minded? No, he would have been inventing gee-gaws to earn quick money. Or think of Columbus taking a Western route through uncharted waters to come to the East. Practical considerations would lead you to Social Darwinianism, with the old, the sick and disabled simply exterminated because they had no contribution to make to society!

Now for the points you made. Critical investigation into the nature of the divine, WAS NOT, I'm afraid, encouraged in Judaism and Christianity. Religious wars between Protestants and Catholics raged for more than a century before the Peace of Westphalia in mid 17th century. Would that be deemed the middle ages? As Dr Pipes will know, religious persecution of minorities was a way of life. And this was only an intra-Christian conflict. As for the way Jews were treated, even though they were a very small minority. Nothing need be said about it since you are aware of it already. Some right-wing WASPs though insist it wasn't SIX million Hitler exterminated, but ONLY (!!) FIVE million or maybe even a million or so less!!!! Daily abuse at the hands of Christians can be glimpsed in Merchant of Venice, particularly, in Shylock's "Many a time and oft…."

But then the Jews thought themselves God's chosen people. Let me inform you that Gentile (or non-Jew) was something of a Kafir. And I quote from a site you can access:

"To begin with, every Gentile child, so soon as born, was to be regarded as unclean. Those [Gentiles] who actually worshipped mountains, hills, bushes, etc, idolaters, should be cut down with the sword. But as it was impossible to exterminate heathenism, Rabbinic legislation kept certain definite objects in view, which may be summarized:

  • To prevent Jews from being inadvertently led into idolatry
  • To avoid all participation in idolatry
  • Not to do anything which might aid the heathen in their worship; and, beyond all this...
  • Not to give pleasure, or even help, to heathens. The latter involved a most dangerous principle, capable of almost indefinite application by fanaticism." (http://www.realtime.net/~wdoud/topics/jewsheathen.html)

The parable of the Good Samaritan tries to combat this attitude.

By the way, there was NO separation of Church and State in Christian countries till after the Reformation. Even now school prayers can become an emotive issue in the States.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam come from the same tradition. The Judeo-Christian weltanschauung is partly shared by the Muslims too. Historical circumstances have brought about great changes in the Jews and the Christians. The churning that is going on among the Muslims reminds me of the upheavals Christendom faced in the 16th /17th centuries, which isn't exactly the medieval age. If this is happening in Islam now that's not surprising because it is the youngest of all the religions. And let's not forget that Hindusim came to be reformed ONLY IN THE 19th century. Rammmohun Roy who was eventually able to get the Company govt to ban SATI and Vidysagar who campaigned for widow marriage faced great and concerted obstacles and abuse from the conservatives.

Now for the comparison between the Israeli and the Nazi states. Please understand that what I said was a manner of speaking. But remember, Hitler didn't herd the Jews into concentration camps from day 1. He began with hate speeches, went on to different kinds of discrimination on coming to power and THEN began deporting them to concentration camps. Isn't it strange that the price of Christian atrocities against Jews had to be borne by the Arabs of Isreal? How nicely Britain promised Arabs independence from Turkey while planning out a Jewish state! And please read Jewish Israeli author Susan Nathan's Other Side of Israel to understand the policy that the state has been following towards the Arabs in Israel.

You close your comments by stating that Islamic thought is several centuries behind Christian thought. It seems you believe in steady progression which I do not. Technologically, yes there's been steady progress. But in the realm of thought and social practice, not really. For example, the status of Rig Vedic women did not improve but declined in the Later Vedic Age. Another example: not only was Arybhatta's amazing attainment NOT matched by those who came after him, superstitions about crossing the seas only encouraged insularity in Indian thought and society. And again, Akbar's liberalism was reversed by Aurangzeb. So passing simplistic judgments on the "progress" of different cultures in different ages isn't accurate.

It seems to me some of the contributors display as much intolerance towards Islam as the Osama bin Ladens display towards other religions.

I'm sorry if this seems too much like a lecture. But you know what teachers—especially History teachers—are like. :-)

Submitting....

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