Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Greatest Inferiority Complex On Earth?

The imperative for political correctness often serves as an excuse for refusing to take the bull by its horns. It's often believed that addressing the manifestation is an adequate response and we don't really have to bother about addressing the cause. To our own detriment. Let's just try to treat the patients who are showing signs of rabies, and keep them in isolation. There is no danger to public health to let the latent carriers be at large. They can freely intermingle, be welcome, be given no instruction to sanitize up, be given a carte blanche for living eternally in denial - of being carriers, be at liberty to keep infecting others with their virus knowingly or unknowingly, till their own immune system collapses and they become fully blown instances of rabies themselves. And then we can go back to our business-as-usual response of treating them as isolani, quarantining them, while assuring ourselves and everybody else that it was just one-off, and there is nothing wrong with anybody else, and nothing to require a mass-level fumigation programme to disinfect.

And that's what Islam and Muslim society today is all about.

A religion that has practically become synonymous with mindless terrorism. Of attacking with arms those who are unarmed, and proclaiming the glory of their religion and their Prophet in butchering the helpless. Bravehearts those -- Peace Be Upon Them, and their inspirers. They never dare to face anyone in an equal battle. Why would they? Have they not been the universally downtrodden, the universally victimized? No matter which corner of the world they live in, no matter what privileges and luxuries they have enjoyed without having to earn them, they are the perennially victimized souls. Shouldn't they have the right to avenge themselves, the poor souls, a right solemnized by the teachings in their scriptures which are nothing but the Word Of God, and which gives them the right to kill and maim the infidels, in return for a cozy afterlife in heaven?

Muslim society is what they come from. But whose members do nothing more than a post-facto disowning of the individual few, and huddle up together to claim that there is nothing wrong with the rest of us. Agreed, it could not but be a distortion of colossal magnitude for anybody to turn religious edicts into a license to kill. Agreed, it's not what Islam preaches, or any religion in the world preaches, for that matter. Agreed, it horrifies and pains all civil-minded Muslims too, to see the name of their religion being so tarnished. But what solution do they offer? They disown those who have got caught red-handed, after the fact. And say that they have nothing to do with us, or our religion. Mind you, disown only those who have got caught red-handed and beyond any chance of doubt. Every single other carrier amidst them is blamelessly, spotlessly innocent. 

Have you ever heard anybody being detected as a terrorist-to-be by the Muslims before they have actually had the chance of committing their depravity? They are never depraved till they are caught in the act. They are all angels. And we'll never believe anything could ever be wrong with the way we approach our religion, with the way we practise our religion, with the way we teach our children what the fundamental tenets of our religion are. Those are unimpeachably correct. Only when one of our brethren exposes the stink of it to the rest of the world, exposes it undeniably, in broad daylight, will we just wash our hands of them, and be done with. Excommunication is expiation. Nothing more needed. Everything before and after is faultless.

Yes, we'll grieve when we find one of our own sons indulging in such heinous act. We'll be shocked, and unable to believe it. We would never have thought that one of our dearest could have gone so outrageously wayward. And bringing horror and shame to all the rest of us. But we'll just treat it as an aberration. Occurring just out of the blue. Without anything being there to lead its way. Let's just get on with our lives. Let's just keep our eyes closed, like cats, and assume that no problem would be able to stare at us.

Is violence a Muslim invention? By no chance. It has been on earth since ages before Islam came into being. Is violence against innocents a Muslim invention? By no chance. The Nazis were not Muslims. Is violence for a cause a Muslim invention? No. From the Indian Revolutionaries, to the Irish Republican Army, to LTTE, political violence, sometimes of the most reprehensible kind, is a frequent enough occurrence that can easily refute any association of violence with Islam as such. But one must note -- none of the other examples are of violence for a global agenda. The Irish Army doesn't go and kill people in Russia for their cause. The LTTE does not go and kill in Australia for their cause. Those are all localized, and with specific objectives in mind. That is where the latest genre of violence perpetrated by Islamists stands apart. 

Islamic terrorism is not for defence. It's an offensive posture. With an offensive goal in mind. Of establishing the rule of Islam, however flawed their brand be, on all terra firma. Is that an objective espoused only by the terrorists among the Muslims? You'll be surprised by the answer. Absolutely not. Talk to any Muslim on this topic, and engage them for an hour or two. And you'll see that they are all unequivocally behind this. It does not matter whether you are talking to an illiterate Muslim, or a highly educated one -- you'll find that they are unanimous on this question. That Islam is infallible, and therefore has to rule on the earth. Openly or surreptitiously, they are all behind that.

Would they ever accept that there are any flaws in Islam? The only flaws they'll admit to are flaws of interpretation. The written verses are correct. Somebody just misunderstood them. I have been surprised to see that even folks who come to the best of universities, come to learn science and technology, and who are quite liberal and tolerant in general, are absolutely determined that if anything is found to be insulting to the Prophet or his purported sayings, it deserves to be annihilated. There are no two opinions on it.

Check with the followers of any other religion -- Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, anything. You'll find some or more folks among them who'll be willing to accept the shortcomings, and admit to rooms for improvement. They can absorb criticism and sarcasm. But among Muslims, you'll see that it's an absolute impossibility. No matter how genial the Muslim is in general, when it comes to anything against the Prophet or his words, the verdict is unanimous -- "Kaat ke fenk denge" ("we'll cut you to pieces and throw away"). And that thinking has universal support, whether overt or covert. You only have to persist a bit to unearth it.

Look at the progression and evolution of religious following the world over. Christianity was among the first to establish a separation among the Church and the State. I don't mean this was a separation brought about by the Church, but it certainly was effected by followers of Christianity. And that led to the growth of the scientific spirit and paved the way for innumerable discoveries and inventions which forged the technological world we live in today. You could find a Galileo defying the version of the Church as to cosmology, and a Darwin defying the version of the Church as to the birth of species. Hinduism too, after an initial period of brilliance and openness, had got itself tied to a prolonged period of dogma in the middle ages. That is when they fell to conquerors from the Persian region, and later Europeans. The Persians at that time, were less dogmatic than the Hindus, and their Islam had still the vibrancy of youth. The Islam of the times of Mahmud Ghazni was still producing the likes of Omar Khayyam and Al-Beruni. When they came to conquer India they could veritably claim to be the superior race, beset as Hinduism at that time was with dogma.

In Al-Beruni's words (describing India of the middle ages):

"The Hindus believe that there is no country but theirs, no nation like theirs, no kings like theirs, no religion like theirs, no science like theirs. They are haughty, foolishly vain, self-conceited, and stolid. They are by nature niggardly in communicating that which they know, and they take the greatest possible care to withhold it from men of another caste among their own people, still much more, of course, from any foreigner ... Their haughtiness is such that, if you tell them of any science or scholar in Khorasan and Persis, they will think you to be both an ignoramus and a liar. If they traveled and mixed with other nations, they would soon change their mind, for their ancestors were not as narrow-minded as the present generation is."

But then, Hinduism extricated itself from that morass through the efforts of numerous reformers, who challenged dogma, vanquished degenerate rituals and social practices, and led to a modern and progressive, forward-looking version of the religion. Of course, there are still many deficiencies to be plugged, many aberrations to be nipped. But on the whole stability has been established and there is no danger of tipping over. There are challenges from pockets of fundamentalists, which keep rearing their ugly heads. But Hindu society as a whole is capable of dealing with those in a resolute way. It's modernized and roundly in agreement with the value systems of the modern, democratic, secular, scientific world order.

But one could only wish if the same could be said of Muslim society today. And, yes, Muslim society as it cuts across national boundaries. Of course, cultural and ideological differences do exist even among Muslim societies separated by geographical boundaries. An Iranian coming from a more prosperous and culturally thriving society is less given to destructive thought, than a Pakistani or a Sudanese, who have less to show. But the phenomenon of dogma is universal among Muslim society.

A child born into a Muslim family is not brought up with the notion that "Look son, you are to be guided by reason in all matters. Not dogma. And there are NO exceptions to that." He is brought up with the idea that "Trust the Prophet no matter what. Subjugate reason to that, if need be, because the Prophet is infallible, and you aren't. Lay down your life if need be for the Prophet, because that's a noble cause." And along the way the child forgets that there is no way he could know what the Prophet said. What he hears of the Prophet is only through what other people tell he said, or write he said. But the child has never got his instincts developed for discriminating. He got his instincts developed for blind belief. And from "laying down your life for the Prophet" to terrorism, is only the journey of one block. You can always find one verse from the Quran which you can read as giving you the license to kill, so long as you can invent a cause. And you can be smug. Because you've mortgaged your own capacity to discriminate. And that's because your parents always inculcated that in you, telling you it was a virtue. Except that it was NO virtue. In fact, it's the fundamental vice, the root of all evil.

If you could see the point of Al-Beruni's -- "If they traveled and mixed with other nations, they would soon change their mind, for their ancestors were not as narrow-minded as the present generation is." -- you could easily understand why the Muslim world is stuck in such a rut for the whole of the last century and going only from bad to worse. They just can't see the need for a comprehensive reform in their value systems and their thought processes. They don't wear the same cloth that they did in the ninth century, they don't use the same camels for transportation today as they did in the ninth century, they don't gather their food and rear cattle in the same way as they used to do in the ninth century. But they want to keep their religion the same as it was in the ninth century. To say nothing of the fact that in the ninth century the followers were far more intelligent than you are today. They were breaking ground with novelty in their religious thought -- Islam was a new concept and they had the head to understand and adopt it, discarding the common beliefs of that time. Today you are trying to cook your meal with the same harvest that you made twelve centuries ago. Your food will not smell fresh.

And the Muslim today is incapable of realizing that the Muslim world lately has had no achievements to offer to the world. None of the inventions -- from television to automobiles, from aircraft to spacecraft, from penicillin to immunization, from wireless telegraphy to the internet, from the discovery of electromagnetism to quantum physics -- have had their origins in the Muslim world. No they haven't. They have all come from people who have learnt how to keep the secular and the religious aspects of their life separate, and not make their religion the center of their existence. The only thing you've achieved in doing, and to which you owe all your riches, is dig some oil. And that's your only export to the world (apart from terrorism). And what is oil? -- nothing but remains of the dead. And your conceit is such, that with this full a bag, you want to establish your own order all over the world.

The Muslim wants secularism wherever he goes, but does he have any secularism in his own backyard -- the cherished land of the Arabs? Can secularism be considered a Muslim value-system at all? It's only something that they expect from others, but not something they offer others. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling. You want to turn the whole world Muslim? For what? So that they could turn into the same ghettos that your Arab brothers have produced in the name of a state? Are you even aware of how derelict and repugnant they are to the rest of the world? You don't even have the mind to realize that religion exists in the personal domain. There is no religion that a state can believe in. And you have established grand Islamic states. Apart from Turkey, which is secular thanks to its military vehemently defending those principles, and which owes that to its proximity to Europe, there is no other state that Muslims have formed which is secular in nature. And in your brilliant Muslim eyes, Turkey happens to be a reprobate, not a model.

It's not that there aren't legitimate grievances in the Muslim world. Of course, if six hundred thousand Iraqis are killed for flimsy reasons, obviously a lot of anger is going to fester, and at some point it'll cost others. If riots kill thousands, and the system of justice is not perceived to be fair, a lot of grudge is waiting to explode. If the minority instead of being protected by the majority is threatened by its doings, obviously they'll respond with revenge by stealth. There is no alternative to having a world order that is respectful and reverent to others, if violence is to be kept off. You cannot walk over others when they are weak, and expect them not to ever retaliate.

But the Muslim world has to introspect and ask itself why it is at the bottom of the pyramid today? Why is the rest of the world so far ahead that you are always getting trampled upon, whether that be a correct perception or otherwise, a fact that you always claim to be avenging? Sure, you didn't have any WMDs in Iraq, and you were attacked for an invalid reason. But can you tell why you don't have an acceptable system of government that keeps pace and integrates with the rest of the world in a responsible way? Why do you have military dictatorships for a regime for decades on end, which crushes your own society and acts violently against other states? Why is there an absence of a civil system of governance, gross gender inequality, and why do you have barbarism in the name of laws? Why you create a Taliban for your ruling class, folks who can't even cross high-school, but rule at gunpoint? Why you can't learn from your Jewish neighbors, who so clearly have so much greater ability than you have, and emulate them? Your only response is to envy them, and wish their destruction. Why is it that your problems are always a creation of others, and you have no role in it yourself? You've surely had as much time and resources as the rest of the world. Why is it that you are so retrograde, with nothing that the rest of the world finds emulatable? Why can't you see the need for reform to pull yourself out of your pit, a need which is painfully obvious to others? 

Before you think of ruling the world, try to grow up to the rest of the world first. And have something to offer. Without that your assertions of superiority and desperate attempts to establish it -- attempts that you are using only to deceive yourself and nobody else -- will smack of nothing but a deep seated inferiority complex in you. As is well known, a person suffering from an inferiority complex does not regard himself as inferior. He instead uses aggression to establish his superiority. The Islamic terrorist today blasts bombs and sprays bullets to establish the "superiority" of his religion. Without realizing that a bus falling off a bridge kills more than your best coordinated attempt at terrorism, and an earthquake kills a thousand times more, without cowing any civilization down. You issue a fatwa to kill if someone writes a book that you consider offensive, or if somebody draws a cartoon of your Prophet. When have we seen you issue a fatwa against someone who starts a terrorist organization and naming it after your Prophet as Jaish-e-Muhammad? Sure you issue voluble denouncements, but where is the action? If you can't realize your shortcomings and modernize your religion you'll only succeed in bringing further disrepute to the great religion founded by the Prophet, and no glory. And your inferiority complex will only bring about your own downfall, and nobody else's.

The grave danger that your own religion is in today, for want of modernization, is proving to be a grave danger to the rest of the world too. But overwhelmingly you choose to live in denial of the fact. You've almost turned denial into your very reason for existence. It's not that there aren't sane elements among the Muslim world today. But their voice is too weak, and they are too cowardly. They allow themselves to be repressed by the militant sections and have clearly been taken hostage by them. 

But it was the voice of just one such sane element, an Egyptian cleric whom Thomas Friedman quotes in his book, that said: "They want to bring down towers. Because they know that they can't build them."


  1. As always, a great article that resounds with reason and sense. I suspect however that at its very roots the malaise that afflicts Islam today may have as little to do with religion as, say, a desire for being out of power might do with politicians and that it (i.e. religion) is of no more significance to those that wield the levers of power in the terrorist world than what one might accord to just another tool, another lever (albeit, a very useful one). Historically, humans have seldom allowed morality and good sense to interfere with greed and there seems to be little reason to believe that the case is different here. How ironical that devices such as religion, that are frequently an invention of man, created with the explicit intent of dealing with such vices as greed, must now be subverted to serve the very thing that it sought to overcome! And one might reflect on this in amusement and work a few laughs on a Friday evening in a cozy bar and be done with it had it not also been instrumental in the proliferation of such great tragedy.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I deleted the posted comment above because of being offensive and irresponsible in nature. Please post only if you have something sensible to say. Trolls are not welcome here.

    All posts must be civil in language and content.

  4. Very well written. Appreciate the way you have tried to deconstruct all aspects of the inferiority complex. I wish every muslim in the world reads it

  5. A plausible, though very extreme view. Surely the philosophy of the likesof Taliban is extreme and untenable (and porobably disliked by everyone that is not taliban!). But Taliban doesnt represnet the muslim world- thats why they need guns to enforce! There is sufficient "contemporary" devlopment even in parts of the muslim world- Turkey, Egypt, Dubai and few other parts of gulf. Rest of the muslim world is definitely not thrilled at the anti-muslimstance taken by countries like US (at the beshest of probably Israel- who probably have their own grief to handle). In short not a simple world at all. And definitely not as one sided as this article. (You must wantsh Khuda Ke Liye- that tries to capture this beautifully!)

  6. Thanks for reading the piece and your comment, Ramesh. Also, Raj earlier.

    Your point about Taliban needing guns to enforce their philosophy is well taken.

    However, my argument is not against the Taliban. As you yourself said, there is no debate on that issue as everybody is in agreement.

    My argument is that the Taliban-like phenomena are the manifestation of the problem. The cause is different. The Taliban are the executive wing -- they are not the ideological wing (which, say, the Al-Qaeda is, and which I believe is the phenomemon of dogma taken to its logical conclusion).

    Moreover, the Taliban's genesis was in guerilla warfare against military occupants, not in ideology per se. The Afghans have always been very proud warring tribes -- Taliban is only one such militant group. Only later, while they were put on the run, did they willy-nilly get entwined with the ideology-based Islamic terrorism.

    Despite the erosion of the delineation to a large extent, I still believe there is a difference between the Taliban, and the likes of Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Jaish-e-Muhammed, Indian Mujahideen, Bangladesh-based HUJI etc. They are not all similar thinking people, though for tactical reasons they have come together, mostly on the principle of the enemy's enemy being a friend.

    I have argued principally against the Muslim thought-process in general. That is far removed from what the state of the art is. It's almost entirely based on dogma than a spirit of openness and enquiry. It brooks no challenge to its core tenets. It's antiquated, and has failed to keep pace with the modern world. It's almost as if they employ wooden wheels to run their vehicles and insist on continuing to do so. In the modern scientific world, there can be no belief which is sacrosanct -- everything is open to challenge and review -- that is the essential process of growth. Muslims refuse to accept it.

    And this phenomenon precedes the emergence of terrorism as a large-scale problem, and is also likely to stay on even after terrorism is contained, unless a conscious effort is made on the part of Muslim society to separate the secular and religious aspects of their life.

    The problems with ideology faced by Muslims today have already been faced by other religions, but those have managed to extricate themselves from those, through the course of history. From the state-church separation, to St Joan's defiance of the clergy, to the reformist movements of Dayanand Saraswati and Rammohun Roy -- the clean up job has happened with other religions, except Islam. And they need that regeneration in order to thrive.

    That the US is against Muslims is just a propaganda. The US has never had any beef with places like Thailand, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Kyrghizstan, Turkey etc and within their own country they uphold exemplary standards of secularism. One is reminded in this context of Colin Powell's recent assertion on the question of Obama being a Muslim -- "As far as I know, he's a Christian, and has always been so. But so what if he is a Muslim? Is there something wrong in being a Muslim in this country?" That kind of assertion will never be imaginable in the Islamic states.

    The problems of the US have been with the Gulf countries like Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon -- even Saudi Arabia, who are ostensibly their ally. And the Gulf world is responsible in no small measure for that. What to make of the continued threat of wiping Israel off the map by Ahmadinejad? One could pooh-pooh it away as deliberate demagoguery of a single individual politician, but he's an elected representative, and definitely his views would be taken as having the endorsement of his people.

    If the Gulf countries had a democratic set up with sufficient freedom of speech and ideation, then these things could well have been nipped in the bud internally. But, that is something which is always suppressed, Taliban or no Taliban.

    (Continued below...)

  7. So, basically, my argument was that despite differences within the Muslim society on points of detail, when it comes to the larger questions, their ideology converges. Converges to dogma. They may put up an outward show of adjustment with the rest of the world, without any real motivation to shun their dogma. It's a mental block for them.

    My case is not to say that there are no exceptions. Of course, there are voices of modernity within Muslims too. But, as I wrote in my main article itself, those are few and far between. And they are not winning. The maximum they can achieve is perhaps sign truce. But that doesn't suffice. They have to win.

  8. i was randomly surfing net , came across this article. this is excellent work, goes beyond the regular hate posts against islam sponsered terrorism.its a shame to see why indian politicians cant adopt this tone and do the right thing. ban the madarsas preaching extremism within indian boundaries.

    excellent article again man , good work!