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Two Islamic Soldiers

By damon in Op-Ed
Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 01:43:48 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

The lives of two men, who had a major impact on life in Pakistan and Afghanistan last century, offer much to aid our understanding of the role religion plays in creating carnage and building peace. These men, General Akhtar Abdur Rahman Shaheed, and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, were soldiers strikingly different to one another. Akhtar led the Afghan Jihad against the Soviet Union. Khan in the 1930s and 40s formed and led a remarkable nonviolent Muslim movement against British colonial rule in the northwest of Pakistan, creating a nonviolent army 100,000 men strong.


Religion was the compelling moral force that propelled planes into buildings on September 11, 2001. To understand why the carnage took place, some level of understanding of this moral force is essential. For those who are religious, and who do not support the overwhelming use of violence, this moral force can be written off as a mutant strain of religion, blatantly wrong, and quite different from their own understanding. For those who are skeptical of religion, or hostile to it, this moral force can be viewed as yet another indicator of the irrational and perhaps dangerous basis of religion, not to speak of its capacity to rouse people to commit atrocious acts with the moral insulation of alleged divine justification. For instance, Richard Dawkins opined, "To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns." (Guardian, Sept. 15).

Interestingly, both perspectives prioritize this moral force as some other peoples' force, who are unsurprisingly seen as dangerous and possibly quite mad. Someone else's ignorance, someone else's craziness, is in focus. While convenient, this approach is not useful. For the religious, it does not encourage reflection on how commonly held religious understanding may well be implicated too, including beliefs they themselves may hold dear. For the skeptical or hostile, it becomes all too easy to write off religion and even those who are religious as one of the primary problems, at the expense of missing significant efforts that contribute to genuine, constructive peace building.

Both perspectives are inadequate if we are to take peace, and quite likely our survival, seriously. Instead, genuine critical inquiry into the nature of this moral force is a vital step if we are going to collectively learn from September 11, and help prevent such tragedies in future.

A look at how movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan have used religion when clamoring for socio-economic and political change is an interesting place in which to start, beyond the obvious reason that the alleged perpetrators of the carnage hold base there. It is also an area where Western powers have had a major impact, through formal colonization and subsequent political, economic and military interventions. Its people have a vigorous sense of Muslim identity.

While we could focus attention on the Taliban, who emerged in the mid 1990's, with their extreme interpretation of Islam based on Saudi Arabia's official state religion Wahhabism, for a number of reasons it is more useful to turn to earlier movements. For a start, the Taliban were nurtured and fully backed by the Pakistani government. The Taliban violently seized power in a war-ravaged country rendered susceptible to state-sponsored totalitarianism. In Pakistan itself, meanwhile, such extreme religious interpretations are popular for only a minority of the population. The Pakistani government used the Taliban to further its own economic and political goals in Afghanistan--certainly not for any concern of Islamic purity. While studying the Taliban is useful to see how extreme fanatics can use religion, it is arguably more useful to understand how more mainstream interpretations allow extremists to emerge using religion to justify their fanaticism.

Instead of focusing on the Taliban, we can turn to a couple of earlier movements in Afghanistan in Pakistan that explicitly drew upon religion. The first is the Afghan Jihad against the Soviet Union, which contributed decisively to the conditions that led to the Taliban's emergence. The second, a remarkable nonviolent Muslim movement against British colonial rule in the northwest of Pakistan, is strikingly different. In this article, we will take a look at the lives of two individuals who led these movements--General Akhtar Abdur Rahman Shaheed, and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan--for some perhaps surprising lessons. Both men were distinguished soldiers, and are little known outside the region.

The Silent Soldier

General Akhtar, 1924-1988, lead the Afghan Jihad against the Soviet Union and associated Afghan communist regime. He was Director-General of the ISI, Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA, from 1979-1987. Unlike the CIA, the ISI is responsible for domestic as well as international spying and covert operations, with its leadership consequently feared by many, including much of Pakistan's military. Given the length of Akhtar's tenure, and the power of the position, he was a central figure in military dictator President Zia-ul-Haq's administration.

Of East Punjabi descent, Akhtar joined the military in 1946 as a young man, and after the partition of India, and subsequent creation of Pakistan, was to fight in three wars against India. Introspective in nature, Akhtar preferred anonymity to being in the public eye (unlike some of his military colleagues), and was referred to by colleagues as the silent soldier.

Drawing upon his extensive military experience and knowledge of tribal culture and methods of fighting, Akhtar planned and directed the Afghan Jihad, supported by American, Saudi and to a lesser extent, Chinese funds. Akhtar worked closely to carry out the Jihad with CIA head William Casey in an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation. Casey apparently shared with the Afghan Mujahideen leaders a deep respect for Akhtar's military cunning and demanding personal leadership. Akhtar would often tell the Mujahideen leaders, "Kabul must burn." Some 70% of American funds for the Mujahideen went to Islamic extremists, again not for reasons of religious purity, but because of the extremists' wartime effectiveness. Ultimately, Akhtar was the only military leader since World War II to take the Soviet Union on in the battlefield and inflict vast and telling losses.

Akhtar explicitly acknowledged to Zia-ul-Haq while planning the Afghan Jihad that it would be seen as having a compelling moral force. Indications are that he not only viewed this as a useful propaganda weapon, but that he faithfully believed it himself, for he drew upon his Muslim faith and identity throughout his military career. India's partition influenced this when he was almost killed by Hindus while on duty because he was Muslim, being saved only by the arrival of fellow Muslims. According to a Brigadier who worked particularly closely with him during the Afghan Jihad, the massacres of Muslims by Hindus and Sikhs during partition was "never forgotten and never forgiven," and for the rest of his life, "he regarded India as an implacable enemy, both of his country and his religion." A fellow military officer, recalling an incident in the 1970's, remarked "One evening we were out together in a forward locality, and from my vantage point we could clearly see a big town in Indian held Kashmir. He stood there and stared at the town for a long time. The lights in the houses were coming on one by one. He ground his teeth and said, 'if only once I get the orders you will see what I do.' He walked around like a caged lion ... his own eyes reflected the intense feeling he felt for the pain and suffering of his fellow Muslims over there." Akhtar's great ambition, said the Brigadier, was "that after the Soviet defeat he would be able to visit Kabul and offer prayers to Allah for freeing the city from His enemies."

The Nonviolent Soldier of Islam

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, 1890-1988 (Akhtar died the same year), was a nonviolent soldier who fought for freedom and justice for more than 70 years. Incredibly, he raised a large nonviolent Muslim army to fight British colonial rule from the midst of a proud and largely tribal people, the Pathans (also referred to as Pashtoons or Pakhtoons), who had a renowned history of fighting using handmade guns, daggers, and at times outrageous cunning. This army, called the Khudai Khidmitgars ("Servants of God"), remained resolutely nonviolent in the face of severe repression and humiliation from British colonial rulers. The British violence was of similar savagery and intensity to that which the Taliban has dished out in the last few years, except it lasted for many decades. There were no pretensions of "civilized" warfare for the British: in the words of one of their 1930 reports, "The brutes must be ruled brutally and by brutes." The British regarded the area, the North West Frontier Province, as being of great strategic significance, as it was the gateway to India, and they wanted their crown jewel colony to remain under their control. The last thing they wanted to see were organized, unified Pathans. The Pathans, meanwhile, had a burning desire for freedom. So the British cut down the Khudai Khidmitgars with ruthless violence, and tried to sow dissension among the Pathans through divide and rule, using their usual methods of bribery and coercion.

Khan's achievements in leading the Khudai Khidmitgars are not easy to overstate. It was astonishing not only that they could remain nonviolent in the face of such horror, but also that they should do so to begin with, given their warlike way of life and easy access to weapons. As British violence like mass shootings, property destruction, and torture (including genital torture) was inflicted, the Khudai Khidmitgars' numbers increased, swelling to around 100,000. Jawaharlal Nehru, who later became India's first prime minister, was stunned by the Khudai Khidmitgars' nonviolence, and found it incredible that "the man who loved his gun better than his child or brother, who valued life cheaply and cared nothing for death, who avenged the slightest insult with the thrust of a dagger, had suddenly become the bravest and most enduring of India's soldiers."

One striking characteristic of Khan throughout his lifetime was his dogged determination to represent the truth, even at great personal expense. As an old man, flying in the face of official propaganda he declared the war in Kashmir was not a Jihad but a façade, hardly endearing himself to the many thousands of Pakistani families who lost their sons in the war. As a young man, when looking for opportunities to serve his people, he began by opening schools and organizing people socially. He was arrested, and brought before a deputy commissioner who wanted to know why officials had allowed him to return to the country after he had gone on pilgrimage to Afghanistan. Khan replied, "First you take our country from us and now you won't even let us live in it?" For this, he was imprisoned three years at hard labor. He was to endure a total of 15 years in British prisons before partition, and a further 15 years in Pakistani prisons after partition, more than one-third of his adult life (and more than Nelson Mandela).

Khan took on not only British imperialism, but looked with a critical eye at his own society, and encouraged reforms. He rallied against the privilege and power of the big landlords and worked to dismantle the local caste system, saying ordinary, working people such as craftsmen should be able to own land. He was almost killed by resentful landlords for doing so. He directly confronted religious ignorance, like the belief that children who attended school would go to hell. He wanted to see women play their rightful role in society, instead of being crushed by the burden of tradition and neglect.

The Khudai Khidmitgars were formed from a largely illiterate society, so in addition to publishing a journal, the Pakhtun, in the early years Khan spread his message of sacrifice, work and forgiveness by personally visiting 500 Pathan villages. While his people may not have been educated, they could recognize selfless action when they saw it. Khan valued selfless service to others as a foundation of religious action. He wrote, with the authority of his life's example, "Religion is also a movement. If selfless, undemanding and holy men and women join this movement and dedicate themselves to the service of their country and the people, this movement is bound to be successful. Such people will be a blessing to mankind. Through their contribution their country and their people will flourish and prosper."

Most of all, Khan directly challenged the role of revenge in society. The culture of the Pathans was tribal, and as Eqbal Ahmad points out, "The tribal code of ethics consists of two words: loyalty and revenge. You are my friend. You keep your word. I am loyal to you. You break your word, I go on my path of revenge." Pathans were long adherents to taking revenge to uphold honor, being somewhat notorious for engaging in bitter family and tribal feuds that could last generations. Khan directly appealed for his people to forgo revenge, and adopt nonviolence. It was an explicit precondition of joining his army. In a society where not to take revenge, and therefore lose one's honor, was considered worse than death, this was a stunning achievement.

Lessons for the Present

What lessons can we learn from the lives of General Akhtar and Abdul Ghaffar Khan and the movements they were associated with if we are to take peace seriously? That is, what do their respective approaches to resolving conflicts and achieving justice tell us about how we can move forward in the present situation?

Combating Communalism

The first, and most obvious lesson to be learned is that when religion is viewed as being communal, it can be rapidly be turned into a highly destructive force. "Crowd psychology is a blind force," wisely remarked renowned Indian literary figure Rabindranath Tagore. "Like steam and other physical forces, it can be utilized for creating a tremendous amount of power. And therefore rulers of men, who out of greed and fear, are bent upon turning their peoples into machines of power, try to train this crowd psychology for their special purposes. They hold it to be their duty to foster in the popular mind universal panic, unreasoning pride in their own race, and hatred of others."

While the same communal forces that almost killed Akhtar at the time of India's partition were overwhelming much of Northern India, the Khudai Khidmitgars patrolled their communities protecting people who belonged to minority religions, saving many lives.

Communalism builds on the belief that one religion is superior to another, or the belief that religious truths are mutually exclusive between religions. These beliefs are in fact the official doctrinal positions of many religious institutions, all of which claim to be speaking with divine authority. For many believers, they are a common sense truth about their beliefs. Khan specifically opposed such brazen foolishness. He proclaimed, "My religion is truth, love, and service to God and humanity." It was his "firm belief" that all religions are based on the same truth, and should be given equal respect. He remained a devout Muslim while eager to learn from other religions. Regarding those who promote communalism--of which he saw a great deal in his life, and the vast suffering it inflicted--he commented "those who are indifferent to the welfare of their fellowmen, those whose hearts are empty of love, those who do not know the meaning of brotherhood, those who harbor hatred and resentment in their hearts, they do not know the meaning of Religion."

The fact is, beliefs of religious superiority are a prime target for extremists to expropriate and twist into their terrible logic. If instead religious believers held a common notion that beneath the surface, all religions teach much the same--naturally with differences reflecting temperament, culture and time--then it would be nonsensical for extremists to claim that alleged divine wrath is on their side. Only fools would take them seriously.

Rejecting Revenge

As we have already noted, Akhtar was unable to forgive Hindus and Sikhs when they massacred Muslims (just as many Hindus and Sikhs were unable to forgive Muslims when they were likewise massacred). Instead he worked to strengthen institutions that depend fundamentally upon revenge, just as the U.S. and British governments are currently doing. The leaders of the Taliban do the same themselves.

Much of the time the U.S. and British governments hide their vengeful focus behind language like "retaliatory strikes," or "bring the perpetrators to justice," and so forth, but revenge is essentially their focus. Ditto for the Taliban. The three are determined to convince respective recipients of their propaganda that this path is the only effective way forward to provide security and make up for the death of their people, irrespective of their falsehood.

It is wise, however, to learn from the experts on revenge before confidently asserting this to be true and proceeding to kill people. The Pathans are experts on revenge. They practiced it fearlessly for hundreds of years, against outsiders and amongst themselves. They celebrated it in their poetry, sang of it in their songs. Presumably all cultures are familiar with husbands taking revenge against adulterous wives and their lovers by killing them, but how many have tales of women rallying their menfolk to take revenge long after the men have been exhausted by it? The huge numbers of Pathans who joined the Khudai Khidmitgars did not give up revenge simply because they admired their leader. They did so because they appreciated the grueling cost of revenge to their society, how it tore apart their families and tribes, and in the context of outside domination, made them susceptible to divide and rule. The Khudai Khidmitgars renounced revenge not from a position of weakness, but one of strength and courage. They held strongly to this belief in the face of severe humiliation and destruction. As outsiders, we can choose to learn from them, and apply the universal insights they worked with to our own lives, or we can ignore them and inflict the consequences upon others and ourselves.

What are these universal insights? Revenge occurs when those who hold onto their hate, and have the ability to channel it into action, do so. Hatred and resentment prosper where there is no forgiveness. To seek protection from violent revenge, a person, family or country can try to suppress it through further violence, or work to create conditions for forgiveness. Essentially, there is no alternative to these two. The consequences of further violence are often quite certain: more violence. As Gandhi once famously remarked, "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

These insights have already been demonstrated in Afghanistan since September 11. As soon as retaliatory violence in Afghanistan was initiated, bin Laden's followers immediately threatened further violence in return. The U.S. and its allies will try to crush them, but as many observers have tirelessly pointed out, a terrorist operation is extremely difficult to crush, and the violent response is an ideal recruiting drive for more terrorists. Terrorism in fact, thrives on revenge.

A counterargument to all of this, of course, is that the bin Laden's of this world are so extreme, that their view of their religion or ethnicity is so deranged, that only war will keep decent people of the world safe from such rouges. This is where it becomes vital to remember the forces that created bin Laden to begin with. Pakistani and U.S. intelligence services masterminded the war in Afghanistan, the same war bin Laden was recruited for and sharpened his teeth in. It is not important whether bin Laden received training directly from American, British or Pakistani officials (he certainly interacted with them), but what is important to acknowledge is that the type of resistance towards the Soviets aggressively promoted by the U.S., British and Pakistan governments was not the only choice. Yes, the Soviet invasion was a brutal one, but no more brutal than that of the British in the region not so long before. As the Khudai Khidmitgars proved, war was not the only possible response: a more protracted, nonviolent resistance could have saved a lot more lives on both sides, and done much to improve the future development of Afghanistan.

Of course, institutions like the CIA and ISI do not include nonviolent soldiers among their soldiers of choice. This is not a reflection of the effectiveness of nonviolence. Rather, it is merely another indication of the danger of the narrow mindset that is nurtured by such institutions, and if these institutions cannot change their approach, a call for their replacement.

Spiritual Struggle

Rational, detached arguments against the follies of war and revenge are all very well, some claim. But people are profoundly angry, they point out: enraged in the United States, and enraged in the Middle East. Their anger is justified, so the argument goes (a point claimed by all sides in the conflict). Justice must be done.

Now, remarkable as it may seem to some people, religion actually has something rather useful to say about this (Richard Dawkins, are you listening?). It is perhaps most eloquently expressed by Gandhi: "I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world."

The struggle to contain and transform anger is an inner struggle. Through the centuries, inner struggles like this have been the specialized domain of the spiritual dimension of religion. It is worthwhile spending a little time pondering this, for in this matter, religion itself is confusing and contradictory.

We can start by taking another look at Khan's statement about those who do not know the meaning of religion. By Khan's reckoning, people like Akhtar are religious only in the sense they identify themselves as belonging to a religion, and perhaps carry out its rituals and customs, and believe in its dogmas. But they have failed to undertake the arduous task of transforming natural feelings of fear and anger, and the desire to retaliate, into positive forces that genuinely contribute to life, rather than take away from it. In short, they identify as religious, but are not spiritual.

When Khan was talking of people whose hearts are empty of love, he was signifying something more than an intellectual or rational struggle. These are absolutely necessary, of course. However, he was talking of a demanding spiritual struggle, of taming forces that can overwhelm us with their intensity: burning anger, seething resentment, and jealous hatred, just to name a few.

"It is my inmost conviction that Islam is amal, yakeen, muhabat [work, faith, and love] and without these the name Muslim is sounding brass and tinkling cymbal," Khan said. He would have fully agreed with the Buddha's statement, "Hatred can never put into hatred. Love alone can."

To talk of love in a time of war may seem preposterous and hopelessly idealistic, but this is what Khan and others like him did during their lives, and they were on the front lines. They did this not as part of a post-war reconciliation process, but in the thick of devastating conflict. They went through tremendous suffering fighting tyranny, and despite this they never clamored for revenge. Instead, they called on us to undertake a war within the mind, so that our highest aspirations will be better reflected in our daily realities.

Spirituality itself is nothing other than the interplay between humanity's very highest aspirations and the demands of daily living. With it is an awareness of a dialogue that takes place deep within our minds, urging us to make wise choices, based not on often-tempting short-term satisfaction, but lasting goodness. To be spiritual is to reflect these aspirations in one's thought and actions, very often an arduous and sometimes thrilling undertaking. Spiritual people engage in this noble duty with a sense of purpose; often failing, they pick themselves up after their inevitable mistakes, and encourage others to do the same by their own example.

Spirituality is why Gandhi said to a world focused primarily on the external, "turn the searchlight inwards."

Reforming and Revolutionizing Religion

Religion is the social manifestation of spirituality, the attempt to take the lessons of spiritual traditions and give them institutional status. People are not equal in their spiritual inclinations. We learn from others by example. Spiritual truths, by their very nature, are difficult to communicate. When spirituality is institutionalized into a system of religious thought, and when structures are erected to promote that thought, the very essence of that thought is often lost. Lessons are codified into rules, experiential discoveries transformed into hardened declarations of fact, and questioning and innovation is replaced by a mass of customs and institutions.

Religion may have spirituality for its heart, but all too often creeds and dogmas have been its clenched fist. Throughout history religion has been used to fervently justify staggering levels of violence and social decay. It may often seem that religion is doomed to perpetual failure, trafficking mystery posed as unchallengeable fact, rationalizing authoritarianism, and at best acting as a battered ambulance for the wounded and distressed.

Perhaps Tagore had this in mind when he continued his discussion on crowd psychology by saying, "Therefore I do not put my faith in any new institution, but in the individuals all over the world who think clearly, feel nobly, and act rightly, thus becoming the channels of moral truth. Our moral ideas do not work with chisels and hammers. Like trees, they spread their roots in the soil and their branches in the sky, without consulting any architect for their plans."

For religious believers, Tagore's observations, however accurate they might be, are not an excuse to give up the fight to make their religious institutions relevant to contemporary needs. Without significant structural reform and changes of focus, religious institutions will continue, by and large, to pose a threat to genuine peace. Their spiritual basis must be manifested in their institutional outlook. Religious institutions should be participatory, where members and formal representatives are partners in exploring their inner and outer worlds together--all interested parties right there on the edge, participating and learning from one another. The great ambassador of the unity of religions, Swami Vivekananda, made the point powerfully: "[Y]ou must remember that freedom is the first condition of growth. What you do not make free, will never grow. The idea that you can make others grow and help their growth, that you can direct and guide them, always retaining for yourself the freedom of the teacher, is nonsense, a dangerous lie which has retarded the growth of millions and millions of human beings in this world. Let men have the light of liberty. That is the only condition of growth."

For skeptics of religion, the Khudai Khidmitgars are not evidence justifying religion. They can point out, truthfully, that just as religious believers hold fast to wildly diverse opinions on violence and nonviolence, so do the nonreligious. They can argue that religion is not necessary to practice nonviolence. Yet skeptics must acknowledge that religion was not some kind of optional attachment for potent nonviolent movements like the Khudai Khidmitgars; it was integral. When religion identifies, names and connects forces within the mind and society that contribute to peace and justice, it can be an empowering moral force. Skeptics as well as believers can learn from the universal spiritual insights these nonviolent movements and their religions have to offer, even as they discard the rituals, ceremonials, dogmas and creeds.

The Task Ahead

Abdul Ghaffar Khan is not a respected name for many Pakistanis outside of his home province. The level of hatred and contempt for Khan among elder generations, who heard little but sensationalized propaganda about him from despotic rulers, is significant. To an outsider, it may seem surprising that a man and an entire movement who fought bravely and truthfully could be so successfully demonized. However, this kind of aggressive ignorance towards good people who profoundly challenge society is not found only in Pakistan. "Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it," advises a traditional Arabic saying. These are fighting words, appreciated by anyone who engages in the struggle to make our world a more peaceful place in which to live.

Stakes at the moment are high indeed. Millions of Afghans are on the brink of starvation, and many are surely dying, an entirely avoidable tragedy. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and while its current leadership is not extreme, it is not inconceivable that extremists could seize power, and decide that they ought to give Americans a dose of their own nuclear medicine. Likewise, there are sure to be many in the Islamic world who fear the use of nuclear weapons by either side.

"The present-day world can only survive the mass production of nuclear weapons through nonviolence," Khan said not long before his death. "The world needs Gandhi's message of love and peace more today than it ever did before, if it does not want to wipe out civilization and humanity itself from the earth's surface."

Selected Bibliography

Ahmad, Eqbal. Confronting Empire: Interviews with David Barsamian. South End Press, 2000.

Eknath, Easwaran. Nonviolent Soldier of Islam: Badshah Khan, A Man to Match His Mountains. Petaluma: Nilgiri Press, 2000. Can be ordered at http://www.nilgiri.org/Html/Books_Audios_Videos/islam.html

Hussain, S. Iftikhar. Some Major Pukhtoon Tribes Along the Pak-Afghan Border. Area Study Center Peshawar and Hanns Seidel Foundation, Univ. of Peshawar, 2000.

Khan, Abdul Ghaffar. My Life and Struggle. Delhi: Hind Pocket Books, 1969.

Shah, Sayed Wiqar Ali. Ethnicity, Islam and Nationalism: Muslim Politics in the North- West Frontier Province 1937-1947. Islamabad: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Yousaf, Mohammad. Silent Soldier: The man behind the Afghan Jehad. Lahore: Jang Publishers, 1991.

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Two Islamic Soldiers | 93 comments (73 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
Gandhi doesn't apply here (3.66 / 6) (#3)
by raahi on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 05:40:16 AM EST

Though it is too early to say, I think the war in Afghanistan has had less bad consequences than I feared before the war, and in the long run it might make Afghanistan more peaceful than before.

It was argued Bin Laden and others would retaliate against everyone and that this war would be percieved as one against Islam, therby dividing the world into Muslim and Non-Muslim and that everyone would fight with each other and we would all burn, or something like that. Well, that didn't happen.

Another example from history: Terrorism in Punjab in the 70s was not stopped by diplomacy, it was crushed by a very ruthless police operation with a violent aftermath. That operation was not one which India is proud of, but it did, in the long run, make Punjab the peaceful place that it is today.

Different Adversaries
Gandhi was fighting the British rule, which even with several incidents of inhuman brutality was not by any means similar in nature to the Taliban and bin Laden. The British were not driven by fanaticism or faith or any moral reason. India was far too big and diverse to be ruled like the Taliban ruled Afghanistan.

Second, the British listened to petitions, did not censor speech as much as the Taliban did, and their punishments against "crimes" were not as severe; indeed for the common man in some parts of the country, the British rulers were not any worse than the princely ones before them.

The war in Afghanistan was against a small group of fanatics, whose sole purpose in life was violence. No worse government than the Taliban is possible. No meaningful dialogue with them was possible. If an Afghan spoke against them, he was killed.

What exactly is your proposal for a peaceful end to terrorism ? I am all for sitting down at a table and talking things over with anyone. But Jean luc Picard's universe is fiction.

Different Situation
The British wanted profit. The Taliban wanted you and me to become like them or die. (This is not to say that the British were kind and gentle, but to point out that the situation was vastly different.)

Second, a non-violent struggle with the British was possible, because the British rule could be disrupted by the subjects themselves, i.e. by non-cooperation. No such thing was possible against the Taliban. Sanctions affect the Afghan people much more, the Taliban very little, and bin Laden not at all. A diplomatic solution was also not possible, because there wasn't anything to negotiate about.


You can't apply Gandhian methods everywhere. Do not overgeneralise in any direction. Often we should be non-violent, diplomacy should usually be tried first. But sometimes we need to use force---yes, innocents die, that's horrible, but in this particular situation it was the only way.

I beg to differ (4.25 / 4) (#7)
by jd on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 10:37:12 AM EST

First, there are worse governments than the Taliban. I'd argue that England's King John, who's rule was so brutal and so evil that no monarch in England has been permitted to bear the name, and who's savagery was so great that the barons and commoners joined forces to compell the King to sign the Magna Carta, was worse than any Taliban ruler.

Almost by default, he WAS the worst ruler of any nation, through virtually all recorded history. There are very few leaders who incited so much hatred - twice - as to forment outright rebellion even from those who nominally profitted from his rule.

*Historical note: King John is also the only ruler to have claimed the British Crown twice. The first time was when the actual King, King Richard, was off Crusading. Prince John seized power, in a royal coup. He lost the crown back to Richard, who (amazingly) forgave the turd. On Richard's death, he regained the Crown, fostering one of England's darkest times. It was in this time that the legend of Robin Hood (or Robyn Hode) started circulating.

Let's see... other governments that were worse than the Taliban... Nazi Germany springs to mind. What's the guesstimated death toll, from the death camps? Somewhere in the 20-40 MILLION range? Makes a petty 3,000 seem like a very trivial affair.

Victorian England was hardly a happy place and time, either. Islamic law argues that if you steal, you lose you hand. Victorian Law argued that if you steal, you get publicly flogged and hanged. If you were lucky. Unlucky people got hung, drawn and quartered. (Probably one of the most painful, agonizing, gruesome methods of killing another person that any Government, anywhere in the world, has ever devised.)

Victorian England was also infamous for child abuse (ranging from confining children in closets to "fashion" their skeletons, burning child chimney-sweeps alive, if they were too slow, to child brothels), mistreatment of women (the women in Victorian England had about the same treatment as in the Taliban's Afghanistan), murders (many of the most notorious killers come from this time), slavery, and some of the worst brutality in England's campaign to rule the world.

IMHO, the Taliban don't even come -close- to the cruelty and savagery that Europe has been guilty of, throughout history. America has a few skeletons locked up in it's cupboard, too.

Let's start with the Federal execution of a couple who were accused of spying for the Russians. The evidence was a (wildly inaccurate) child-like sketch drawn by the brother of one of the two accused. On the basis of this sketch, the Federal court issed the death penalty. How is this different from the Taliban's own behaviour?

Then we move onto more recent times. The eventual release of a Spaniard, accused of murder, proven insane and incapable, but put on death row anyway. And kept there, by a certain George W. Bush. The Spaniard was released as a part of President Bush's tour of Europe, to "pacify" the Europeans. Who were by no means pacified. The continued executions of the mentally ill, and the promotion of this activity by the current US President, is hardly a sign of an enlightened society, blessed with wisdom and compassion.

Of course, let's not forget Vietnam. The hushed-up massacres of civilians. The fudged enquiries into those that couldn't be kept under wraps. The practice of throwing prisoners out of helicopers (so-called "helicopter rides"), at high altitudes, to terrify people into talking. (When a prisoner -did- talk, they got thrown out, anyway, to remove any unwanted evidence.) The use of poison gas - a practice banned by that time, under International Law. And once everything was over, and America was forced to flee, the good ol' US of A abandoned any American prisoner they could possibly could. Many did not return home until a LOT later, after the US Government was publicly humiliated and shamed into confessing that they'd abandoned their own people. Even after the final-final prisoner exchanges, there has been some lingering suspicion that even that wasn't the final word. Which is no great surprise. Being betrayed that deeply hurts.

Germ warfare is no new thing to the US, either. Early US administrations massacred unwanted Native Americans by giving them smallpox-infected blankets. As far as I know, there's never been any attempt to formally apologise for that, never mind making any kind of amends. Then, there's all this recent Anthrax stuff. Interesting, how the Army denied it had any Anthrax stock, and yet later admitted it not only had a laboratory for making Anthrax, but that the Anthrax in the letters was of the same strain. Germ warfare research is NEVER "defensive", as the only way to test a defence is to attack it. The lack of any progress in the investigation begs the question as to whether the Army (which would have been under instruction by the Chief of Staff - the President) had tried - and fudged - a "simulated" germ warfare attack on the population, to see how the defences would function in real life. If that is the case, then can you honestly not call that an attrocity?

[ Parent ]

Oops (2.00 / 2) (#14)
by Ken Arromdee on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 03:22:51 PM EST

Let's start with the Federal execution of a couple who were accused of spying for the Russians.

Assuming you're referring to the Rosenbergs, new information after the fall of the USSR confirmed that they were, indeed, guilty as charged, despite decades of leftists bringing them up as an example of persecution of innocent Communist sympathizers.

Your post reminds me of creationist screeds giving 100 reasons for a young earth. The key is that whether the reasons are good are just about irrelevant--it's just that few people will have either the time or the expertise to be able to give full criticisms of everything on the list.

[ Parent ]

not quite true (none / 0) (#50)
by mikeliu on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 12:23:47 AM EST

OK, I don't quite agree with the original poster's thesis either, but I also don't like the way you're trying to tear him down using misinformation yourself.

http://www.salon.com/news/wire/2001/12/05/rosenberg_perjury/print.html

So it would seem that Julius was in fact guilty, while Ethyl was the example of persecution of innocent Communist sympathizers that the "leftists" portrayed her as. And frankly, Greenglass just makes me sick.

I think the real difference between something like the Rosenbergs and the Taliban is more a question of scale. A couple instead of a population. Requiring a brother willing to perjure his own sister instead of not requiring any evidence at all. I would fully agree that the American government has problems, and has done some pretty damn shady things in the past, but claiming that makes us worse than the Taliban seems like a pretty hard to backup claim.....

[ Parent ]
A few nitpicks. (4.50 / 2) (#25)
by Alarmist on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 10:50:30 AM EST

Let's see... other governments that were worse than the Taliban... Nazi Germany springs to mind. What's the guesstimated death toll, from the death camps? Somewhere in the 20-40 MILLION range?

You overstate yourself. The best estimates put the range at closer to 10 million. Hardly an improvement, but not the inflated figures that you here present.

On the other hand, the Soviet Union under Stalin experienced something on the order of 30 million dead during the industrialization and dekulakization programs of the 1930s. Another 20 to 30 million were killed during the Second World War, not all by the Germans. Let us also not forget the sixty years and more of the GULAG - countless lives taken in the most horrible ways imaginable.

Makes a petty 3,000 seem like a very trivial affair.

Even one life taken before its time is a tragedy. Don't trivialize.

mistreatment of women (the women in Victorian England had about the same treatment as in the Taliban's Afghanistan)

This is an overstatement. While women in Victorian England were mistreated, they were not consistently denied education. Husbands generally were not allowed to murder them openly with the approval of the courts and society.

In overstating your examples, you diminish the meaning of what really happened. You obscure the real horrors of history behind a terrifying facade of macabre fantasy. You do injustice to the suffering that really occured.

On the basis of this sketch, the Federal court issed the death penalty. How is this different from the Taliban's own behaviour?

We don't do it on a daily basis. It is not sanctioned by the whole of society.

The lack of any progress in the investigation begs the question as to whether the Army (which would have been under instruction by the Chief of Staff - the President) had tried - and fudged - a "simulated" germ warfare attack on the population, to see how the defences would function in real life.

This is preposterous. Firstly, government exercises carried out in recent years (as recently as last year, if I recall correctly) showed how poorly the United States would deal with an outbreak of smallpox. Secondly, the United States government, as awful as it is and has been, wouldn't have sent live anthrax through the mail to members of Congress. If they were truly interested in experimenting with live anthrax, they'd have done it in an out of the way place, in an innocuous manner, and with enough attention to detail that few people would know about it. They certainly would not have relied on the postal service for any part of the exercise and you can bet your bottom dollar that they wouldn't have done it where the public could see it.


[ Parent ]

Victoriana (4.00 / 1) (#54)
by pietra on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 02:39:30 AM EST

Couple of notable glitches here:

In 1845, a law was passed allowing women to inherit property in Great Britain. One hundred and fifty years later, the Taliban passed a law preventing women's inheritance of property in Afghanistan, even if they were the sole surviving heirs.

The fashion of corsetting young children is an early eighteenth-century phenomenon, and one that was exclusively (and extremely) upper-class.

Victorian women didn't diet. In fact, eating disorders in women are an exclusively 20th-century phenomenon. A lot of recent scholarship suggests that your average Victorian woman was generally a heck of a lot better-adjusted in terms of body image than modern women.

And the most obvious dissimilarity: The Taliban didn't allow any women in any part of the government. The Victorian Age was, as the name might just suggest to you, ruled by Queen Victoria. She wasn't exactly a figurehead, either.

Believe me, as a woman, if I had the choice, I'd rather live in the 19th century in Great Britain than in the 11th century (in the 20th century) under the Taliban.



[ Parent ]
Germ Warfare (none / 0) (#84)
by sonovel on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 06:59:42 PM EST

I know that a British officer in prerevolutionary North America wrote a letter about using smallpox against Native Americans.

However, I haven't been able to confirm that _U.S._ authorities used the same tactics. I know it is a popular thought that they did, but do you have an authoratative source to support this claim?

[ Parent ]
the British violence was severe (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by damon on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 09:26:53 PM EST

The direct violence of the British towards the people of the Northwest frontier Province was nasty and brute-like. I'm not making that up. The British said so themselves. They tortured people publicly in the streets, executed others, opened fire with weapons on crowds of non-violent protesters, ran over people with military vehicles (completely crushing their bodies), threw people into jail for years and years, banned them from the province, etc.. Furthermore, they destroyed crops and stores of grain, as well as a whole villages, while people were freezing and dying in the snow in winter time. Winston Churchill celebrated this as a reporter in the war. The British wanted to keep the Russians out of the crown jewel in their empire, and the Pashtoons were equally determined to win their freedom. Why you think that is so different from the Taliban is not clear to me. This does not mean, however, that the British where acting the same in a place like Kerala in the South of India, for instance. They did not need to. Had they needed to, I'm sure they would have.

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

overhaul CIA (none / 0) (#46)
by svillee on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 09:47:43 PM EST

But sometimes we need to use force--yes, innocents die, that's horrible, but in this particular situation it was the only way.

You are one of several people who have asked for specific proposals on how we can deal with criminals like OBL without killing civilians. My suggestion: a better CIA.

On 9/11 as we watched the smoke rising from the WTC, a coworker remarked, "this was a complete, utter failure of our intelligence." I agree with him. People knew it was OBL's handiwork right away. He was the only one with the right combination of hatred for the U.S. and resources to pull it off.

So how on earth did the CIA not see it coming? The fact that an American (John Walker Lindh) was able to join the Taliban, get into an Al Qaeda training camp, and even meet OBL personally goes to prove just how easy it should have been for the CIA to infiltrate Al Qaeda.

The CIA should be overhauled, or whatever it takes, so that it can effectively keep track of people who are likely to launch an attack such as 9/11. We should obviously try to prevent the attack from happening in the first place, but failing that, at least we should know exactly where their "Tora Bora" is, so that we can go after them without endangering civilians (at least not nearly as much).

Also, this new policy of attacking countries that "harbor terrorists" seems wrong to me. Quite apart from the issue of killing civilians, I don't think this is very effective in the long run, and it actually makes the CIA's job harder. Wouldn't it be better to let terrorists congregate in whatever country is friendliest to them? That way, we will know where they are, and we can watch them more closely.

[ Parent ]

CIA (none / 0) (#61)
by damon on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 04:12:34 PM EST

What do you think of the fact that the CIA got the Islamic extremists rolling in the first place? After all, 70% of CIA money given to the mujahedin went to the fundamentalists. Furthermore, the CIA was a strong supporter of Zia-ul-Haq, who in turn supported fundamentalists within Pakistan. The fundamentalists were practically the only people in Pakistan who would support Zia-ul-Haq.

When the mujahedin had almost done the job, the CIA abandoned them, to fight amongst themselves. Because the mujahedin were tribal, they never forgot this betrayal of loyalty, and as Eqbal Ahmad has said, this was a stupid thing for the CIA to do.

The fact is, the CIA has a lot to answer for. I very much doubt they will be held accountable, just like they were not held accountable for atrocities they engineered supposedly on behalf of an unknowing American people.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

Uh (none / 0) (#68)
by tjb on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 04:35:57 PM EST

That's not even a remotely accurate assessment of the CIA's role in .af during the 1980's.

Check this link, a free-to-read book written by a rather high-level Pakistani ISI officer who was deeply involved in that situation. It reads kinda rough, likely due to the translation, but it provides a very, very good picture of what was happening.

Essentially, the CIA had little to no direct contact with the resistance fighters. *Everything* went through Pakistan's ISI. China, the US, and Saudi Arabia sent weapons to the ISI and the ISI would redistribute them to the resistance fighters, usually on an effectiveness basis. If special training was need, like for the Stinger, the US would train ISI officers and the ISI officers would then train the resistance fighters. Direct contact with the CIA beyond intelligence missions was verboten.

Read it, its good stuff.

Tim

[ Parent ]

Perhaps you might like to read Eqbal Ahmad (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by damon on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 08:44:28 PM EST

Thanks for the link. Mohammad Yousaf authored the book Silent Soldier.

I think you grossly underestimate the power the US can influence over Pakistan. Of course there will be a lot of tensions and differing aims on either side, but lets face it, the US has the guns and the cash, and Pakistan's elite feel they have no choice but to follow what the US says.

I draw much of my info on the CIA from the brilliant late Pakistani intellectual Eqbal Ahmad, who had he not died a few years ago, would undoubtedly be providing the most insightful analysis of all commentators now.

Check out: "TERRORISM, THEIRS AND OURS"
Many links out there, but one is:
http://www.indymedia.org/print.php3?article_id=64732
Audio version
www.freespeech.org/ramfiles/eqbal.ram

Brilliant.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

Thanks (none / 0) (#78)
by tjb on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 02:17:34 AM EST

But I can't get to your link. I've had some routing problems, but even bouncing off of anonymizer I still couldn't get it, and frankly, I don't have the patience for an audio version, so if you've got another link I'd much appreciate it.

Also, Silent Soldier is also on that site, and is on my to-read list as soon as things at work calm down (long story, but suffice it to say my stress level has gone through the roof and all I want to do lately is sleep)

Completely OT, and maybe its my NYE festivisties getting the better of me, but this is really what I see K5 being about: people offering arguments and supporting them with the vast information available on the internet. My slightly arrogant (apologies, I'm a little agressive) first line aside, any information that you have as a counter would be much appreciated. Much better than the frequent flame fests these things often devolve into.

And, BTW, who, exactly, is Eqbal Ahmad?

Tim

[ Parent ]
another link to the same article (none / 0) (#79)
by svillee on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 09:21:59 AM EST

Try this one at the Institute for Race Relations.

[ Parent ]

nice layout but missing the Q&A (none / 0) (#81)
by damon on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 03:26:31 AM EST

Thanks for the comments! Hopefully we are all learning something through the exposure of our assumptions!!

Did you do a google search for the talk? I think the talk is all over the place, from memory. The Q&A session which the previous link is missing is worth checking out.

Eqbal Ahmad was an intellectual who had an incredible capacity to know obscure but significant facts the world tends to forget. He was a human who had respect for those to toiled with honesty, real respect, for culture and tradition as well. I find these rare on the Left, but he had them in abundance. He also led a very interesting life, joining a revolutionary movement in Algeria, urging nonviolence in Palestine, arrested for allegedly plotting to kidnap Henry Kissinger, ..... and a whole lot more! A man the world misses now, I think.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

Non violence & practicality (none / 0) (#48)
by pamri on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 10:15:32 PM EST

You can't apply Gandhian methods everywhere. Do not overgeneralise in any direction. Often we should be non-violent, diplomacy should usually be tried first. Very right. Actually, Gandhi is misrepresented as a peace fanatic. Rather, he was a person who knew, how to carry out a successful non-violent struggle. In fact, when Pakistan backed tribals invaded Kashmir right after partition, after some initial hesitation, since his non-violent methods would not be applicable there, he gave the go ahead to the indian army to drive them out. Similarly, even if all religions talk about peace most of them also have a provision for a just war in extreme circumstances. eg: muslims -jihad, hindus - as defined in the gita,etc. a search for "Frontier Gandhi" (title given to Khan Gaffar Khan).

[ Parent ]
Bhagavad-Gita and Jihad (none / 0) (#53)
by damon on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 01:40:28 AM EST

War in the Bhagavad-Gita is a metaphor for the war within the mind, between our ego and what is self-less. Jihad also has strong links with this. Eqbal Ahmad has written eloquently on this subject.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

Gandhi & Gita -clarifications. (none / 0) (#92)
by pamri on Sun Jan 06, 2002 at 02:55:38 AM EST

War in the Bhagavad-Gita is a metaphor for the war within the mind, between our ego and what is self-less, Yes, I agree, every religion emphasises more on the war with inner evil. But i am talking of actual combat with the another person or army. This section makes it very clear Where are you getting the information on Gandhi giving the go ahead for Kashmir? .... Gandhi was not in a position to give any go-aheads, as he had no official role in the new govt. and was not in close communication with it. The only statement of his on Kashmir I've heard, and that indirectly (in the GoI documentary years ago) was that since the cause of the Kashmiris was just they could have prevailed by nonviolent means. 23. Gandhi allowed for injurious force to be applied in an emergency, but never in *preparation* for an emergency. Other stringent conditions also apply. Excuse me, You are getting confused here. The insurgency in kashmir started in 1988 & ended in 1994 & was taken over by pakistan & ISI backed jehadi's. So, when gandhi was alive, Kashmiri's did not have much of a prob with india. Here are some info about Gandhi & kashmir.Qouth from the site: "What we have taken as dharma is not dharma. We commit violence on a large scale in the name of non-violence. Fearing to shed blood, we torment people every day and dry up their blood. " Also note: I saw the current head of the Nobel prize committe say on tv(CNN), that when gandhi was nominated for the peace prize in 1948, most of them did not approve of Gandhi, since he approved violence & was not pro non-violence, as it seemed. I personally do not agree to this, because he was not violent, but only professed violence in extreme circumastances, as an alternative to cowardice. Also check this out - http://www.ishipress.com/kashmir.htm Also check out the legal documents pertaining to kashmir on that site. And secondly, what happened during Gandhi's time was, The maharaja of kashmir had aceded to kashmir & the pakistan backed tribal's (non-kashmiri's) invaded Indian kashmir. They were not kashmiri's as you have (mis)understood.

[ Parent ]
Some further clarifications (none / 0) (#93)
by damon on Sun Jan 06, 2002 at 04:15:43 PM EST

1. "Gandhi would have sent the Kashmiri refugees back to their homes, provided them security, and also provided them arms and training so that they would be able to defend themselves." -- according to Koshur Samachar. Frankly, this is unfounded speculation, and were Gandhi to still be alive, this would be one of the last things he said. I imagine, furthermore, that his position on the situation in Kashmir may not be to your liking...

2. The section you quote from the Gita is a metaphor for the war in the mind. The translation you link to (which is very brief considering the material it covers) has at the end what Gandhi considered to be the essence of the Gita. Now, do you really think Gandhi would have taken as his essential spiritual approach something that espoused violent war? I don't think so.

3. Just because someone says something on CNN doesn't mean it's true :-) Perhaps Gandhi was not given the nobel prize simply because the British did not want him to get it?

4. The tribals who invaded Kashmir were Pashtoons. Khan was not able to work with all the Pashtoons because there were large areas of his own country where the British declared it was illegal for him to travel. Where he was able to work with these "tribals", the results were very favorable.

5. I am not sure why you think I am misunderstanding the Kashmiri issue. I trust and hope you are making a good effort to understand the perspective of people who are working for peace on the Pakistani side. Koshur Samachar may be well meaning but he does not understand Gandhi.

Damon


Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

What evidence for Gandhi & Kashmir? (none / 0) (#59)
by damon on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 03:43:06 PM EST

Where are you getting the information on Gandhi giving the go ahead for Kashmir?

I am not an expert on Gandhian history, but I asked someone who knows a lot more than me, and this is what they had to say:

1.I doubt it. Gandhi was not in a position to give any go-aheads, as he had no official role in the new govt. and was not in close communication with it. The only statement of his on Kashmir I've heard, and that indirectly (in the GoI documentary years ago) was that since the cause of the Kashmiris was just they could have prevailed by nonviolent means.

2. Just war theory does not apply to war under modern conditions -- that is widely recognized by Catholic theologians. At this time, when the (known) civilian casualties in Afgh. equal the number of slain in NY on 9/11, it is a travesty to invoke just war theory. It is correct that there is a concept of just war (dharmayuddha)in Hinduism, but there is no agreement on how to apply it. Jihad is even more complicated, as someone like Khan feels that it means inner struggle, never war against others.

3. Gandhi allowed for injurious force to be applied in an emergency, but never in *preparation* for an emergency. Other stringent conditions also apply.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

To pick out a single point.. (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by Rift on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 09:48:53 AM EST

Nonviolence seems to be advocated strongly here - as if saying "US, use nonviolent means instead of using revenge on sept 11th.". But there's a big problem with that.

Nonviolent means only work when
  • You have, control, or strongly influence some resource the force you are contesting wants or needs, or
  • You are morally right, and the 'world at large' sees it.
Note that the second point is really the first point; PR and Image are the resource that is wanted. If Image isn't cared for, then number two is not going to work.

The proble here is, neither applies. The Taliban obviously don't care (actually preferr) if the world sees them as taking terrorist actions against the 'evil' U.S. And what we control isn't really at issue here - it's what they have. Oil. Let's face it, the vast majority of our foriegn activity centers in the oil rich regions. Sure, there are U.S. troops throughout the world, but where do we really stick our noses?

So really, what nonviolent method can we use? I suppose embargoes, blockades, etc. that make the citizens suffer first could work, but that's not really the kind of nonviolent means Ghandi advocated. Besides, I think that using the term 'nonviolent' to describe what really amounts to 'making sure the local government gives use the oil we want' is a bit hypocritical.


Sorry about the rambling- it makes sense in my head. But I've been up for 75 straight hours.

--Rift
A pen is to a car what a meteor is to a _____
Making the civilians suffer. (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by Alarmist on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 10:57:11 AM EST

So really, what nonviolent method can we use? I suppose embargoes, blockades, etc. that make the citizens suffer first could work, but that's not really the kind of nonviolent means Ghandi advocated.

No. Gandhi's non-violence is best practiced by the oppressed against the oppressor.

As you point out (rightly), making the civilians suffer probably wouldn't work. It hasn't worked in any campaign that I'm aware of. It tends either to kill innocent people who haven't the means to resist a terrible regime (in the case of the sanctions against Iraq), or it galvanizes the populace against the people making them suffer (the British during the Blitz; the Germans during the Allied bombing campaigns; the Japanese during the U. S. bombing offensives, to name only a few examples).

The way to get a corrupt and terrible regime out of power is to act agains the regime directly. Trying to force the people to do it themselves by starving them is idiocy.


[ Parent ]

nonviolence was not like that for Khan (none / 0) (#40)
by damon on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 08:19:43 PM EST

Are you saying that it is perfectly OK for the United States to dominate other countries so they can control access to oil? For instance, are you saying you have no problem with the interventions in Iran over the last 40 years?

I have not heard anybody with a reasonable understanding of nonviolence who justifies colonialism or imperialism. Khan certainly did not--that is why he was fighting it.

Furthermore, the experience of the Khudai Khidmitgars is at odds with your understanding of nonviolence. The British sealed off the province when they were carrying out some of the worst atrocities. There was no independent media coverage. Fellow Indians had some idea of what is going on, but not much, and the details emerged only later after the Congress Party prepared a detailed report.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

I think you misunderstand... (none / 0) (#90)
by Rift on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 01:08:39 PM EST

Are you saying that it is perfectly OK for the United States to dominate other countries so they can control access to oil? For instance, are you saying you have no problem with the interventions in Iran over the last 40 years?
No, I do not say that is is OK... in fact, the opposite. I simply think that when someone says we should use Ghandi-esque "nonviolence" to counter the terrorists, what they are really saying is to stop meddling in the affairs of others.

I don't know why you think I'm justifing imperialism.. I'm simply saying that staging a sit-in hunger strike or passive resistance will do nothing. The U.S. needs to adress the issues that caused the attack - not ignore it. Unfortunately, the government (with the cheering of most people) seems to be selective in ignoring some issues and focusing hard on others.

And I don't believe that my understanding of nonviolence is at odds with the Khudai Khidmitgars at all... They had something the Brits wanted. It wasn't PR or media coverage, it was an important area. Nonviolence does not work against atrocities simply because you appeal to a concience - otherwise there wouldn't be any atrocities to begin with.

--Rift
A pen is to a car what a meteor is to a _____
[ Parent ]
I am curious (none / 0) (#91)
by damon on Fri Jan 04, 2002 at 07:39:04 PM EST

How did you come to formulate your theory of the usefulness or otherwise of nonviolence? Was this from personal experience of that of others?

Personally, like I mentioned, if the U.S. had supported forces like Khan's movement instead of the people they have been, things could be a lot different now. They *could* have supported nonviolent forces in the past instead of rascals like Zia.

The question is--now that we are in the present, what do we do? Shoot the donkey and not the rider, as many Afghans think the U.S. is doing?

No, a better response would be to work with people in the region to overthrow the Taliban, as RAWA and other groups have advocated.
Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

Blah blah blah peace blah blah (3.75 / 4) (#28)
by trhurler on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 02:12:57 PM EST

Well, this is long, and contains lots of interesting facts. In that way, I really do like it. The conclusion the reader is being led to draw, however, is ridiculous. Peace is a noble goal, but you don't achieve it by letting other people do you violence at will. Yes, that sort of thing has occasionally succeeded, but there were always reasons other than nonviolence, and even if there were not, it would not then follow that we are obligated to turn the other cheek.

Many people are talking about US "aggression." These people clearly do not know what "aggression" means. "Aggression" is the unprovoked use of violence. Killing several thousand civilians for no better reason than disagreements over foriegn policy is aggression. Responding to that with force is not. Remember, the primary complaint of bin Laden is the US "occupation" of Saudi Arabia. He isn't claiming we're killing Saudis or anything like that, and his talk of an occupation is pretty silly in any case; we don't have enough troops there to occupy much more than a few buildings, let alone a city or a whole nation. He's killing us because we're there at the request of a government with which he has problems. If he wants a revolution, he should be fighting Saudi government troops, not civilians from ANY nation.

Incidentally, the Saudis have a very logical reason for wanting us there. Simply put, as long as we've got more than a handful of troops in Saudi Arabia, nobody would dare invade that country. Doing so would inevitably draw in the US, and nobody is stupid enough to deliberately start a conventional war against the US. Not even the likes of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. It also makes overthrowing the government there a lot harder, though mainly for political reasons. The latter is bin Laden's real gripe, but he should make it against the people responsible - ie, not US civilians.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

I don't think so (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by decaf_dude on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 03:08:03 PM EST

If you take first letters on every page of Dr. Seuss' "Grinch Who Stole Christmas", you get the following sentence: US troops in Saudi Arabia are there exclusively to guarantee the stability of that dictatorial regime, thus ensuring continuous flow of cheap oil; without this protection, there would be a popular uprising in KSA that would actually use it's enormous oil wealth for pursuit of national interest (which are almost perpendicular to those of US) rather than fitting their bathrooms with golden fictures.

If you read the last page of that same book backwards, you get: US administrations support oppresive totalitarian regime in Egypt because given enough time in freedom and democracy, Egypt could galvanise the Arab and Islamic world into a single, very powerful economic and military bloc that would without a doubt flush Western interests in the region down the toilet, as it has almost done in late 60's and early 70's before the West realised that and orchestrated the assasination of their president.

--
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89158&cid=7713039


[ Parent ]
Um... yeah. (none / 0) (#32)
by trhurler on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 04:17:29 PM EST

I didn't say the US didn't have its own goals. I said that Saudi Arabia wants the troops there too. In any case, Saudi interests pretty much ARE US interests, because Saudis depend on oil for money, and we're the biggest consumer of oil.

Anyway, if you call Egypt's government an "oppressive totalitarian regime," then you clearly are an idiot. By comparison to most of the world, Egypt is an enlightened paradise. Also, there are two silly claims you made: first, that the US arranged the Anwar Sadat incident(Israelis do not need or wait for our permission or request to kill their perceived enemies, as they've shown time and time again,) and second, that assassinating one man is, ever was, or ever will be all that likely to totally change the history of a region. There is always another man. The question is not about killing one man, but about economic and military power, and it is a fallacy to think that simply because these may rest with one man, killing him will give you control of them.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
You're so certain aren't you? (none / 0) (#33)
by theantix on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 04:22:08 PM EST

Your post is utter gibberish. You Chomsky-ites have adopted a worldview that could be true, but yours is no better than any other. My worldview states that the US is consistantly protecting their interests at home and abroad, as any rational entity would do. You've go no more proof that "the West" assassinated Sadat than I have that you did. It takes a lot of conjecture and leaps of faith to drink down everything that you wrote, but you state it as if it were simple fact. Take a deep breath and grow up.

--
You sir, are worse than Hitler!
[ Parent ]
no way man (none / 0) (#31)
by Ender Ryan on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 03:21:41 PM EST

You are obviously wrong, as the U.S. is an evil empire bent on conquering the whole world!

The U.S. Empire is bent on revenge! The war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with taking out Al Queda and the Taliban to stop further terrorism, it is simply about revenge.

It doesn't matter that Al Queda is a terrorist organization that has murdered thousands of innocent people from all around the world and that the Taliban supported Al Queda and the fact that destroying them will probably save countless lives in the long run, because that hurts my extreme liberal, anti-U.S., socialist/communist agenda and should just not be mentioned. Also, it should be ignored that so far the "war on terrorism" has been going quite well. The Al Queda network is severely disrupted, the Taliban is mostly gone, women in Afghanistan will be able to learn again, men won't be forced into the Taliban military under threat of being murdered, children will no longer be indoctrinated by terrorists, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, but that can simply be ignored because it was caused by the evil USians and their Western allies.

Yes, it IS only propaganda when it is told by western media or government. From the mouths of extreme liberals only comes truth.


Damn, I am so sick of the extreme liberal bullshit. It's absolutely ridiculous, they have not been correct about a single one of their predictions thus far. America has waged war in Afghanistan and has thus far been remarkably successful. The Taliban is all but gone, Al Queda has taken a severe blow if not been ruined, and Afghan women are already going to school again in some areas, younger Norther Alliance soldiers are planning to lay down their arms when this is done and go to school. Much good has come from waging this war so far and not many here are willing to admit that because of their eariler claims that millions of Afghans would die, U.S. soldiers would be lost in countless numbers fighting in Afghanistan as happened with Russia, etc...

I'm not saying war is good, it sucks, but sometimes it's the best alternative available.


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

ok fine (none / 0) (#43)
by damon on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 09:02:14 PM EST

I wonder if Ryan ever noticed that much of his or her rhetoric sounds much the same as the other side? Swap a few words, like place names and names of people, and it all sounds much the same....

I wonder if he/she would care to elucidate which aspects of the article he/she factually disagrees with?

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

bullshit (none / 0) (#51)
by Ender Ryan on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 12:27:30 AM EST

bullshit.

complete... utter... bullshit...


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

well (none / 0) (#52)
by damon on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 01:29:41 AM EST

the nice thing about your responses is you supply no evidence for your assertions, seemingly content to do without them.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

well nothing! (none / 0) (#57)
by Ender Ryan on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 10:09:17 AM EST

You can take my original statement, swap some names and things around and you would end up with a statement supporting extreme liberal views. But you would have a completely false statement.

The more extreme liberal contributors to K5 have been making all kinds of wild accusations, comspiracy theories, and predictions. All have turned out to be completely false. This was the point of my original statement, and you can turn it around, but the new bastardized statement would then be false.

This is some really fucked up kind of doublethink going on here amongst the more liberal, much the likes of what is in Orwell's 1984. Different causes, different situations, same fucked up contradictory reasoning.


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

argument? (none / 0) (#71)
by Commodore Sloat on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 01:28:33 AM EST

The more extreme liberal contributors to K5 have been making all kinds of wild accusations, comspiracy theories, and predictions. All have turned out to be completely false.

such as? I think damon is asking for specific evidence/arguments here. He's right; you're just ranting aimlessly; you don't even seem to have read the article (you certainly aren't addressing anything specific in it).

[ Parent ]

such as? (none / 0) (#77)
by Ender Ryan on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 02:07:14 AM EST

Oh, Jesus fucking Christ, like every fucking thing that's been said on this dumb fuck of a site since 09/11?!? Like, about how millions of Afghan civilians were going to be displaced from their homes and starve to death, like how America could not affectively wage war in Afghanistan, like how bin Laden wasn't guilty, like how bin Laden was/is a freedom fighter(bull-fucking-shit, he's fighting for power, _HE_ wants it), like how Al Queda wasn't in any way affiliated with the Taliban, like how the Taliban wasn't in any way responsible for Al Queda, like how the FBI/Secret Service/3 letter acronyms is/are taking away all our freedoms(ummm hmmmm... "Well, you DO have the right to free speech? Anything else you want to say? Ok, bye..."), etc, etc, fucking etc.

The extremist liberals on this Goddamn site have jumped way the hell off the deep end, maybe they'll hit the bottom in two-million years and start coming back up to reality...

I won't hold my fucking breath, my, or any human's or living creature on this earth, lung capacity isn't that large...

Every dumb fuck of a liberal on this site has repeatedly resorted to fucking moronic scare mongering the past couple months and it is getting completely ridiculous...

Ahhh... but that's how it goes with extreme liberals... they're proven wrong over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over agin and they still fucking rant and rave about the evils of America, Western culture, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc,...

Of course, this whole post will be refuted and forgotten on the basis of I myself being a raving lunatic, even though I have pointed out that the extreme liberals have been repeatedly wrong, which is true, my lunacy will be the only thing discussed about this post.

"If you're not a liberal before you're 18, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative before you're 25, you have no brain." - Someone

disclaimer, I am not a conservative


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

Dude (none / 0) (#85)
by gbd on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 10:30:12 PM EST

Oh, Jesus fucking Christ, like every fucking thing that's been said on this dumb fuck of a site since 09/11?!?

Dude. Calm down. Take a few deep breaths. Go for a run. Do something.

Like, about how millions of Afghan civilians were going to be displaced from their homes and starve to death ..

I don't know about the figure of "millions", but certainly hundreds of thousands of Afghani civilians were displaced. I suppose you could make the claim that all the stories about the exodus from the cities and the crises at the refugee camps were made up by a liberal media, but you would have to explain the motivation for fabricating such stories, as well as the digital technology used to assemble the footage. Thankfully, now that the Taliban is out of power, people are starting to return to their homes, but many still remain in refugee camps (and one can understand why when a couple of recent bombing mistakes are examined.)

As far as starvation is concerned, Afghanistan is an exceedingly poor country with harsh winters. People starving is always going to happen under such conditions, whether there's a war on or not. Hopefully, with a more stable government, things might start to improve, but until that time I don't see any particular reason to ignore the humanitarian situation there.

.. like how America could not affectively wage war in Afghanistan ..

There is some truth to this. Now, certainly the fall of the Taliban has been dramatic, but remember that the US military was responsible for none of the actual ground acquisition; this was a task that was left to the Northern Alliance (and, in recent weeks, the "Eastern Alliance.") Obviously, the military gains of these internal groups would not have been possible without the overwhelming airpower of the US military, and all US citizens should be proud of them. But there's a huge difference between dropping smart bombs from 30,000 feet and actually moving into an occupied city and taking control of it. This much is obvious: were it not for the internal groups doing the ground work for us, we would still be up to our necks in Afghanistan and the situation would be nowhere near resolved.

.. like how bin Laden wasn't guilty, like how bin Laden was/is a freedom fighter(bull-fucking-shit, he's fighting for power, _HE_ wants it), like how Al Queda wasn't in any way affiliated with the Taliban, like how the Taliban wasn't in any way responsible for Al Queda ..

I agree that these are silly sentiments, though I don't recall seeing them expressed with any particular regularity.

.. like how the FBI/Secret Service/3 letter acronyms is/are taking away all our freedoms ..

Some of the actions taken recently by the Justice and Defense Departments raise Constitutional questions. It doesn't mean that these actions are not justified in this time of war, but the duty of the American citizens to be vigilant has not changed. I can think of few things more unpatriotic than blindly following the Ashcroft Doctrine of "Eat what we're feeding you and don't ask any questions." Such a sentiment is in direct contradiction to the basic foundation on which America is built, and I will have no part in it.

Every dumb fuck of a liberal on this site has repeatedly resorted to fucking moronic scare mongering the past couple months and it is getting completely ridiculous...

No offense intended, but if this is the level of discourse at which you feel it is appropriate to discuss these issues, then you have no reason to be surprised when people suggest that you are a "raving lunatic" (your words, not mine.)

Ahhh... but that's how it goes with extreme liberals... they're proven wrong over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over agin and they still fucking rant and rave about the evils of America, Western culture

I cannot say that I am an "extreme liberal", and I do not recall posts about the "evils of America" on a systematic basis, but I will say this: America is the greatest nation in the world, but it is capable of doing wrong. Furthermore (you may want to sit down for this) it has done wrong, on several occasions in the past. Denying that your country or your culture has any faults is not patriotism; it is cultism. I can think of few things more dangerous than having a government run by people who are convinced that they are incapable of doing anything wrong. If you choose to construe this belief as "ranting about the evils of America", then you are of course free to do so.

"If you're not a liberal before you're 18, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative before you're 25, you have no brain." - Someone

This is generally phrased as "If you're not a liberal at 20, you have no heart; if you're not a conservative at 40, you have no brain", though people often adjust the actual numbers in order to more closely correspond to their own age. ;-) It is attributed to Winston Churchill, though many claim that this is an urban myth and he never said it at all.

--
Gunter glieben glauchen globen.
[ Parent ]

dude (none / 0) (#87)
by Ender Ryan on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 11:49:14 AM EST

Hey man, I agree with you entirely. I never said that the U.S. could do no wrong, on the contrary I am often very vocal about things the U.S. does that I disagree with. My ranting and raving lunacy is directed at what is probably only a few individuals who have been making more noise here than the whole of K5 combined who are being unreasonably anti-American.

Then it gets extremely frustrating when these people seem to forget that every single claim they have made has turned out to be completely wrong, and continue making more extreme claims over and over again. Many of these claims originate from the rantings of people such as Chomsky, who have the ears of many of the more extreme liberals here on K5.

It's just impossible to have sane discussion with those who choose to ignore facts and history. These people often resemble the mindset of the "Party Members" in Orwell's 1984, where truth and facts are forgotten as fast as the passing of the present.

Of course civilians were killed in Afghanistan, that's a fact of war and is indeed very tragic and terrible, but it was no where near what many persons here claimed it would be. And of course I don't agree with everything Ashcroft has done, in fact I quite dislike the man, and the FBI, NSA, CIA, etc. However, everything is being blow entirely out of proportion in an irresponsible scare-mongering manner.

One thing though...

"Now, certainly the fall of the Taliban has been dramatic, but remember that the US military was responsible for none of the actual ground acquisition"

That is actually not entirely true. While we didn't send in a whole lot of ground troops, the U.S. did have a large number of special forces units fighting with the Norther Alliance, and there were in special-forces fact casualties that were not reported in the media. The media reported on some rumors of this, but from what people I know who are in some special forces units this is in fact true.


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


[ Parent ]

Nonviolence (none / 0) (#45)
by damon on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 09:29:47 PM EST

Peace is a noble goal, but you don't achieve it by letting other people do you violence at will.

Of course not. The idea motivating nonviolence is to stop violence.

Do you honestly believe that the Government of Saudi Arabia would last five minutes without Western support? Do you think the people who run the western oil corporations would be satisfied if Arabs decided that were going to run their own affairs without being dominated by foreigners? I don't think so. The fact is, that people who run these operations are doing so for the benefit of themselves, not the greater good.

It is surprising how quickly people forget the legacy of colonialism in the Middle East and Asia, and treat it as if it was a natural and justifiable phenomena, when it is not.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

incentive (none / 0) (#65)
by anonymous cowerd on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 08:06:04 PM EST

Incidentally, the Saudis have a very logical reason for wanting us there. Simply put, as long as we've got more than a handful of troops in Saudi Arabia, nobody would dare invade that country.

By "Saudis" in the quote above I presume you mean the House of Saud. Everyone else in Arabia is a rights-free subject.

Well, the presence of U.S. troops (outnumbered about six to one, by the way, by rather costly American mercenaries) might indeed dissuade a Saddam from sending his tanks across; on the other hand it considerably increases the likelihood of an internal revolution, to replace the House of Saud with, say, an Islamic fundamentalist regime, sort of like the guys who took over in Iran in 1979, but about a hundred times more vicious.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

A drowning man asks for pears from the willow tree.
[ Parent ]

house of Saud (none / 0) (#70)
by Commodore Sloat on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 01:18:57 AM EST

to replace the House of Saud with, say, an Islamic fundamentalist regime, sort of like the guys who took over in Iran in 1979, but about a hundred times more vicious.

That describes the house of Saud perfectly. Oh - you mean an anti-Western Islamic fundamentalist regime ....

[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#88)
by trhurler on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 12:35:10 PM EST

Nobody is going to attempt a military action against the Saudi government(incidentally, the House of Fahd, not Saud,) while our troops are there - not internally or externally. Why? Because there is too much fear that we'd oppose it, and too little hope if we do. Granted, the fear is worse than the reality, as we really can only do so much half way around the world without significant time to build up forces, but the fear is all that is necessary. Why do you suppose the US gets involved in peacekeeping so often? As a Canadian air force guy said to me, the reason is simple: fifty US troops in uniform are as good as a thousand from any other nation when the goal is to deter violence, because fear of the US military is so much greater than fear of any other military. (Granted, fifty guys can only do so much alone in practical terms, but in larger numbers and with large non-US forces also deployed, they're effective beyond their actual numbers in this particular role because of psychological factors, and that was his point.)

All this may be viewed in positive or negative light of course, and probably is viewed both ways by most people depending on the circumstances, but I'm not making any moral claims here; I'm just stating what I am fairly certain to be the factual case.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Religion an excuse, not a cause (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by karb on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 03:18:05 PM EST

If instead religious believers held a common notion that beneath the surface, all religions teach much the same--naturally with differences reflecting temperament, culture and time--then it would be nonsensical for extremists to claim that alleged divine wrath is on their side.

First of all, I always take issue with this position ... it is an integral part of many religions that they consider themselves sole truth. You can't just arbitrarily decide that they should no longer be exclusive without gutting the religion.

Most importantly, as a christian who has had to come to grips with untold suffering inflicted 'on behalf of christ', you just have to realize that evil people will do whatever they can to justify their actions.

The real problem is usually different ethnicities. That the ethnicities happen to practice different religions is of no consequence (but usually used in the propaganda machines of both sides). The disputes between protestants and catholics in northern ireland have nothing to do with religion. The 'catholics' are mostly descendents (sp?) of irish nationals that want to be part of ireland, while the 'protestants' are mostly descendents of english immigrants that want to remain part of england. If they were all atheists they would keep on killing each other (fortunately, it's slowed down a great deal lately).

There are many examples of peaceful practitioners of 'communal' religion as well as many examples of warlike practitioners of all sorts of religions. Don't blame ethnic hatred on religion.
--
Who is the geek who would risk his neck for his brother geek?

Inclusive is better (none / 0) (#35)
by damon on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 05:56:33 PM EST

One of the world's oldest religions is Hinduism. Many Hindus have traditionally not considered their religion exclusive, and this is somewhat true today, even in a climate of fundamentalism within India. Hinduism, for instance, accepts the divinity of Jesus Christ. There is no question of this religion being gutted because of these beliefs. In fact, Hinduism has been enriched by these beliefs. Consider the example of the famous Hindu figure from Bengal, Sri Ramakrishna, who embraced Christianity and Islam as well as all the major schools of Hinduism. Ramakrishna was the teacher of Vivekananda.

One reason for this is probably the lack of a central hierarchical authority. Unlike other religions, Hinduism has never had this. Another is a tolerance for diversity of spiritual approaches to religion. Unfortunately, however, this has been not matched by a tolerance in the social sphere, as I'm sure all of us are aware.

I do agree, to an extent, that people who are intent on doing dreadful things will use what they can to justify their actions, including religion. But decent people can take steps to mitigate this, some of which I outlined in that article. Furthermore, all religious people should ask themselves to what extent their beliefs contribute to intolerance and violence, and how they can change them.

I disagree that the "real" problem is ethnicity. The real problem is that we must learn to get along with one another, despite differences in culture, belief, and history. We must find unity in diversity.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

But Inclusivity is Impossible (none / 0) (#36)
by joecool12321 on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 06:36:50 PM EST

Hinduism may attempt non-exclusivity, but it is impossible. When one accepts the divinity of Jesus Christ, one must also then beleieve what he says. And He says in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Acts 4:12: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." It is impossible for all religions to be a part of the 'same thing'. One religion is correct. It may not be Christianity, it may be Islam, but they are not all right.

I address elsewhere the fact that, at least in Christianity, one is called to tolerate people, and to not be violent.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
non-exclusive religions can exist (none / 0) (#37)
by karb on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 07:21:08 PM EST

I was not saying that they can't exist. I was simply saying that taking a religion which sees itself as sole truth and saying, all of the sudden, "oh, we can accept other religious beliefs", doesn't really work.

The new testament spends a lot of time talking about how jesus is the only way to salvation. Period. To change christianity to say "well, other religions can provide ways to our salvation, or their version of salvation, and even things like reincarnation", you would have ignore large swaths of the bible. And then it isn't really christianity anymore.

I guess what I'm saying is that the "embrace everything" mantra necessitates throwing out a lot of stuff. It is impossible to embrace everything because so much of it is contradictory. You have to ignore logical paradox or pick and choose what you will keep. And then you've become what you are trying to avoid.
--
Who is the geek who would risk his neck for his brother geek?
[ Parent ]

What are we focusing on? (none / 0) (#39)
by damon on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 08:07:41 PM EST

It seems to me that following your line of reasoning presents difficulties when focusing on one religion, let alone many. Christianity itself is contradictory. The Catholic Church claims to represent Jesus Christ, but is this the same Jesus Christ that had nowhere to rest his head? Some Christians sincerely believe that Jesus claimed that no church was needed to experience God. Obviously, millions disagree. Who is correct? Who should be followed? There are valid reasons on all sides of the argument.

I am not saying that these questions are bad questions. Rather, I am appealing for people to look beyond the institutional basis of religion, to embrace its spirituality. And I think we will find, they have much in common.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

logical contradictions in christianity are ok (none / 0) (#42)
by karb on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 08:56:25 PM EST

I'm enjoying this discussion, btw, and the article was extremely well-written :) (I'm from /. and this place is wonderful.)

I'm not sure if you understand what I'm getting at. Any choice in belief destroys the idea of non-commonality, because the choices themselves can claim to be mutually exclusive.

And, again, I feel your call to mutual spirituality has the same problems. Christianity is centered around spirituality _and_ scripture. We can get away from scripture, but then we aren't really being christians anymore. We're abandoning christianity for another religion, and, again, there's the choice that we're trying to avoid. And where there's choice, there's ...? (kids : COMMONALITY!! YAAAY!!)
--
Who is the geek who would risk his neck for his brother geek?
[ Parent ]

What is a Christian? (none / 0) (#44)
by damon on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 09:17:44 PM EST

Thanks very much for the compliments! I am enjoying this too, and actually, I find the feedback valuable .

Take the life of Ramakrishna, who I mentioned above. He was a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim. He advocated knowing the essence of the scriptures, with a focus on directly experiencing the spiritual life, rather than reading about it or over-intellectualizing it. He said that when you have experienced God, paradoxes in theory will disappear. For instance, he said God has form, and is without form. Logically, this does not make sense. Scriptures have been written justifying both perspectives. He said, take your devotion and do something with it, experience it, and when you have done so, then these apparent contradictions will make sense.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

Re: What is a Christian? (none / 0) (#76)
by danceswithcrows on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 09:25:03 PM EST

The answer to that question has been different at different points in history, and also differs depending on where in the world you are. Lots of people in medieval Europe never read the Bible and worshipped various saints and/or the Virgin Mary more than God/Jesus, yet they were nominally Christians. ISTR the Pope, Martin Luther, and John Calvin instigating a big dust-up over that question too.

For instance, he said God has form, and is without form. Logically, this does not make sense. Scriptures have been written justifying both perspectives. He said, take your devotion and do something with it, experience it, and when you have done so, then these apparent contradictions will make sense.

Also, there are branches of Christianity (Eastern Orthodox comes to mind with the conception of the Holy Trinity there) where paradoxes like that are essential and useful in the minds of the practitioners.

A useful starting point for understanding some of this is Karen Carpenter's _A History of God_, which attempts to make sense of the various conceptions of God as experienced by the Big THree monotheistic religions. Her main point is that people follow a particular religion not because it makes sense or is logical, but because it satisfies a deep emotional need. The "religious experiences" that people of all faiths who fast extensively or practice mystical discipline have are very similar in character.

As for religions that are ultra-inclusive, check out the Discordians and the SubGenii sometime. Don't worry, we don't bite... much. ;-)

Matt G (aka Dances With Crows) There is no Darkness in Eternity/But only Light too dim for us to see
[ Parent ]

Embracing a god != embracing a moral philosophy (none / 0) (#55)
by cthugha on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 07:15:19 AM EST

Consider the example of the famous Hindu figure from Bengal, Sri Ramakrishna, who embraced Christianity and Islam as well as all the major schools of Hinduism. Ramakrishna was the teacher of Vivekananda.

I'm curious as to how Ramakrishna reconciled the strictures of the Hindu caste system with Christ's embrace of the poor and other members of the 'lower' classes (prostitutes, etc). Advocacy of such equality and tolerance is completely at odds to the "science of righteousness" that underlies the caste system and dictates that people can be treated unequally solely because of the circumstances they were born into.

It seems to me that choosing between gods doesn't mean much, it's the moral philosophy associated with each of the world's religions that marks the most significant difference between them. You pointed out elsewhere in this thread that there are many different Christian churches, and asked whether they believed in the same God. The answer is yes, of course they do, but the moral systems they have developed from holy writ differ drastically (but usually have a lot to do with the social and cultural contexts in which each particular denomination arose), and that is why there are so many different Christian denominations.



[ Parent ]
Ramakrishna (none / 0) (#60)
by damon on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 04:00:04 PM EST

When in his self-imposed spiritual training Ramakrishna went to the home of the poorest lowest caste person he could find and cleaned their toilet with his long hair to eradicate any feelings of caste superiority he may have had. He also said people of any caste could experience God.

Later in life he had a remarkable vision of Jesus. Some years before that, for a time he lived life as a Muslim, including all the customs (eating beef etc.) and had a vision of the Prophet Mohammed.

If you're interested, I would recommend the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. It has a long and excellent introduction.

I was not suggesting that Christian churches are believing in different gods, and but I do agree with you that there are quite different moral philosophies associated with different branches of Christianity, and differing beliefs as to the necessity of structures like the Catholic Church.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

A response to the conclusions (4.25 / 4) (#34)
by joecool12321 on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 05:25:16 PM EST

On Communalism and Religion

Lynch first argues that religious communalism is dangerous. I assume that he's using communalism in the sense of a "strong devotion to the interests of one's own minority or ethnic group rather than those of society as a whole" (AHDEL 4ed). The danger, however, arises not out of the religious aspect of a commune, but rather from the commune itself. Communalism does not build on the belief that one religion is superior to others, but rather, that one group of people is better than another group of people. The history of slavery provides a clear example. The community utilizes their supposed superiority to demean and dehumanize a separate race, thereby justifying slavery. The offensive part is not religion per se, but rather, radical communalism. Lynch equivocates religion with radical communalism.

The diversity of religion then falls under attack. Because Lynch equivocates religion with radical communalism, he assumes that any time a religion claims to be correct, it is elitist and extremist. This is simply false, in at least one religion. The followers of Christianity are told to love. Matthew5:43-45 reads, "You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven . He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Clearly, Jesus here denies the old idea of hate, and teaches the necessity of love. This doctrine is further taught elsewhere. Matthew 22:39: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Luke 6:35&36: "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." Clearly, it is possible to both think you are right, and yet love others.

Lynch further argues that all religions are part of the same belief system. However, if the "official doctrinal positions of many religious institutions, all of which claim to be speaking with divine authority" says, "this way or no way," then certainly they cannot all be part of the same Truth. And Christianity claims there is only one way. John 14:6 says that, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Clearly it is not part of the `elephant'.

Extreme communalism is the danger. Religion in and of itself brings no danger. Even when a religion teaches it is the only way (like Christianity), it also teaches the need for love (or at least Christianity does, I cannot speak for other faiths). And it is impossible for all religions to be true, or part of the same system. These things are acceptable though, even to Lynch. Lynch, in concluding, tells what the true danger is. Lynch warns of extremists that twist logic, contorting a belief system that denies core teachings. That is what one must guard against, and against what we are warned. 2 Peter 2:1-3 teaches, "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up." (On a side note, it is not the business of man to punish these people, but to avoid them.) Lynch presents here a fantastic call to logic, especially in religious matters. It is not necessary to deny that at least one religion is wrong. It is necessary to love others, despite their beliefs.

On Rejecting Revenge

Revenge serves no purpose. Revenge is not necessary from a Christian perspective (I cannot speak for other faiths). Romans 12:19: "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."

On the Spiritual Struggle

Lynch writes quite convincingly of the need to transform anger into love. It is a statement of intent with which I do not completely disagree. However, I question the feasibility and justification provided. Many people experience the frustration of attempting change. Resolutions for the New Year are a few short days away. Memberships at gyms over the next few months skyrocket. Yet few people manage to maintain their resolutions throughout their lifetime, even in trivial areas. This proposed change from anger to hatred seems infinitely more difficult. Paul expresses this frustration when he says, "What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." That is, he performs those actions he despises. The human condition strikes with unrelenting force. Lynch provides us with no explanation of how one might change. His only attempt is to uphold "spirituality". What spirituality is, how it operates, what its purpose is, and how to obtain it is left to the imagination. The solution is this: One loves others in proportion to the love one receives. It's as if the sunlight from love reflects off the weak self, and onto others. The nearer one is to that source, the brighter the reflection.

There is a second fundamental change necessary. Not only must one receive love, one must also see others as having value. It is impossible to love something one does not value. The banker loves money, because she sees its value. The conserver loves trees, because he recognizes their value. The humanist loves humans, because he sees their value. But from whence cometh that value? "They have value because they're human," seems to be the reply, a simple form of question-begging, the humanist fallacy. The only satisfactory answer I've been able to find, regarding human value, is that humans have value because they are "endowed by their Creator" with a certain nature, created in His image. Thus, they have value, and are worthy of love. (How does the humanist uphold the value of humans? This is a question on which I am totally ignorant. I can't seem to make it make sense. I eagerly await feedback, that I might better understand.)

Spiritualism seems to lacks substance. "Where's the beef?" Where's the rationality we were warned against eschewing?

Reforming and Revolutionizing Religion

Lynch again presents the incredible harms of religion. Again, this presentment of information is true of any radical communalism. Lynch also manages to ignore the good which comes from religion. First, the support of the community. Perhaps the two best examples are Mormonism and the Catholic Church. Mormonism's support, especially economically, even of non-believers, is fantastic. Their giving nature and ability to support members is one of the reasons they are among the fastest growing religions in America. The Catholic Church also does an exemplary job at supporting the community. They use their resources to better the society around them. Second, religion breeds education, it does not destroy it. The universities were brought about by the church, not destroyed by it. The church preserved ancient texts, providing scholars today a glimpse into ages past. The institution is not a "threat to genuine peace" During social conflicts bred by warring Monarch in the 1000's, the church was the last bastion of stability. Religion also has a history of empowerment. Christianity was attractive for many reasons, one of which being its equality. It taught that all are created by God, in His image. The peasant is no less important than the king. Buddhism grew out of a recognition of the pain of the lower classes, as well. Now, has `institutionalized spiritualism' failed in the past? Yes, but so has any institution. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Rather, be on guard against mindless devotion to a single person's word, whether religious or irreligious. Rather, use the mind and be rational. Question everything, yes, but use the answers to help others. And recognize that, although all religion may be false, or there may only be one right one, they cannot all be correct.

The Task Ahead

The task ahead it to destroy hatred. The task ahead is to love. The task ahead is not the abolition of religion, but a careful, rational inquiry into its verifiability. The task ahead is arduous and long. However, do not walk away from religion because some people twist it. People will always seek power. People, even with good intentions, seek after the one ring. In their minds, they "shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the morning and the night! Fair as the sea and the sun and the snow upon the mountain! Dreadful as the storm and the lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!" Good intentions, even noble ones, are corrupted by power. The beauty of Galadriel is reduced to the shadow-man of Gollum. Deny the urge for power in all its forms. Sit fast, and be still.

--Joey

none (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by hstink on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 07:24:31 PM EST

Humanists purport to fight the consequences of radical communalism by enshrining individualist rights, upheld under threat of physical restraint, with the enduring loophole of "national security". Religionists purport to fight it by codifying a set of values, under threat of eternal torture in the afterlife, with the enduring loophole of "god told me to do it".

Seeing that people will strive for power regardless of their moral indoctrination, I think that giving others the benefit of the doubt, without any recourse to strip them of said power, will result in fleeting self-congratulation and swift enslavement. The only dependable recourse is a population, whatever their religious views may be, that is willing and able to defend their interests.

On another note, encouraging critical thinking does create interesting feedback for established religions.

-h

[ Parent ]

it's a bit more complex than that I think.... (none / 0) (#41)
by damon on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 08:54:54 PM EST

Hi Joey,

I did not equate religion with radical communalism. Religion is vast and complex, and to describe it so simply is false. I stated "when religion is being viewed as communal...", not "religion is communal."

Your view of religion seems naive to me. Religious institutions and their followers have persecuted scientists, labeled women as witches and burned them on the stake, executed mystics, silenced free speech, and we could go on and on. Yet you say "religion in and of itself brings no danger." Huh?

One major difference between your and my perspective is that you are focusing on a system of beliefs and doctrines; I am focusing on the underlying spiritual basis to all religions. Of course, if you look at the doctrines, everything is contradictory. However, if you look at the spiritual basis to religion--love, forgiveness, selflessness, etc.--there is a great deal of happy harmony.

You are completely correct that I did not go into practical measures in how to transform anger into love. This would have been a whole other article, or even book. I merely wanted to point out its necessity, and by the example of Khan and the Khudai Khidmitgars, its possibility.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

Maybe (none / 0) (#47)
by joecool12321 on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 09:48:31 PM EST

On Equivocation

The issue is not whether or not you say you equivocate religion with radical communalism, but whether or not your arguments rely on that equivocation. There are two possibilities regarding the relationship between radical communalism and religion. Either religion requires radical communalism, or it does not. If religion does not require radical communalism, then there is no reason to reject religion for the harms you stated. If religion does require radical communalism, then perhaps it should be rejected out of hand - assuming a certain religion can be falsified (because if a religion is right, one should do what it says, even if it means attacking others). However, it is obvious that religion does not require radical communalism ("Love your neighbor as yourself"). Thus, it is no reason to reject religion. The reason you equivocate is because your arguments rely on religion always begetting radical communalism.

On Naiveté

First, here is where the issue of your equivocation comes into play. Each of these results follows from any form of radical communalism, not religion alone. Again I repeat, slavery. It's basis was not religious, but communal. "We are human, they are not. Therefore, we have the right to enslave them." The bone you need to pick is not with religion, but any form of radical communalism. Second, you ignore the good brought about by religion (science, music, art, hope, love, goodness).

On Spiritualism

Spiritualism is empty. Again I ask, where is the substance behind "love, forgiveness, selflessness, etc."? Pretty words, no doubt, but what does it look like in action? Paul says, "Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law." Love has no meaning without a definition. Who would you hold up as a definition of love? What does forgiveness look like? Why is "happy harmony" happy? Religion provides us with that example, and you would destroy it.

On Practice

Why is it necessary to love, apart from a religious perspective? I am wholly ignorant. Is it possible to love despite human nature, apart from religion?

In Conclusion

Religion does not require radical communalism. When religion breed communalism, good things happen, such as support of the family and the community. You cannot reject the bad of religion without also rejecting the good. Rejecting the doctrine of a religion is rejecting the religion, leaving only spiritualism, which is empty. It is impossible to love without a reason to love, and without a perceived value in the object. Without religion, there is no perceived value. Religion is necessary to love. "The only satisfactory answer I've been able to find, regarding human value, is that humans have value because they are `endowed by their Creator' with a certain nature, created in His image." To complete the task ahead, one needs religion, one cannot throw it away. What is needed is not a destruction of religion, but a rational inquiry into which one(s) may or may not be right.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
Too black and white (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by damon on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 11:06:32 PM EST

Your dichotomy is a false one. Take schools. Sometimes bad things happen in schools: children are abused, taught propaganda, and made to feel like they can have no part in making the world a better place. Likewise, sometimes good things happen in schools too. Few people advocate the destruction of schools, but people do advocate that they be reformed, revolutionized even. In pressing their case with respect to reform, few people say schools are inherently good or inherently bad. They can be either--it depends on what we make of them. What we can do is create structures of education that we believe respond to the needs of the times. Likewise for religion. I am arguing that if particular religions argue for their exclusive mandate on the truth, that is asking for trouble. The dropping of this ridiculous arrogance is not the destruction of religions as you seem to believe, just the opposite, in fact.

You asked for an example of love in action. Is not the story of Abdul Ghaffar Khan such a story? Do his words on what religion is not move you? He was very clearly a spiritual man, one who argued for the unity of religions, yet you appear to be rubbishing this as something that is invisible or vacuous.

As for a definition of love, I do not believe it needs to be defined to be experienced. We can experience what community means without being able to define it in a particularly satisfactory way, and more so with love.

You are correct to say that religion does not require communalism, but there are certainly some religious beliefs that contribute to it. We can evolve religion to transcend these stumbling blocks, thereby improving religion so that it better reflects the needs of life.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

That's not my point (none / 0) (#58)
by joecool12321 on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 01:08:24 PM EST

My argument was not "Religion: for it or against it." I don't see how you could read that in my postings. Rather, I was pointing out your error of wholesale rejection of religion, simply because some bad happens. Statements like, "Religious institutions and their followers have persecuted scientists, labeled women as witches and burned them on the stake, executed mystics, silenced free speech, and we could go on and on," ignore the benefits received from religion. Thus, one should not reject religion simply because of some failing (just like one does not reject school because of some failing).

You no longer seem to be opposing religion simply for religion's sake, but only when it makes an "exclusive mandate on the truth". There are three problems with that argument. First, it rejects rationalism. A blanket statement against religions that claim to have the truth ignores that one of them may be right, or all of them may be wrong. When one rejects, out of hand, someone or something because they claim to know the truth, one uses "terrible logic," the dangers of which have already been discussed. Second, it presupposed an unknown truth. Arguing that all religions claiming exclusive truth practice "ridiculous arrogance" and are prima face wrong is as much a claim to exclusive truth as are the religions. See, without rational investigation into the religions, one becomes as close-minded as those one opposes. Third, it assumes that because there are problems, a system must be rejected. It may be true that, "if particular religions argue for their exclusive mandate on the truth, that is asking for trouble," but what follows from that? What follows is that one must be on one's guard against "trouble", not that one rejects religion.

Obviously destroying religion will destroy religion. It may not destroy spiritualism, but spiritualism is empty.

I ask again, why is it necessary to love, apart from a religious perspective? I am wholly ignorant. Is it possible to love despite human nature, apart from religion? Again I ask, where is the substance behind "love, forgiveness, selflessness, etc."? These are important questions. What's interesting to note is that your example of love (I assume you're speaking of Khan's "selfless service") is that it draws from religious examples. Why is selflessness an example of love? Because "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Thus, we recognize selflessness as an aspect of love. As to the un-need of definition, that is wholly foolish. Let us look, for example, to sadism. Often times a bond grows between `master' and `slave'. Because the `master' often justifies his or her actions because `I love you', the `slave' grows to see the beatings as an aspect of love. Yet, this `definition' of love is repulsive. You don't beat someone you love. Love needs to be defined. The definition of love comes from religion. Even if you reject religion, it so infects society that one cannot help but be influenced by it. The traditions live on, even to this day. But reject religion, and soon those you love will be beaten, too.

"We can evolve religion to transcend these stumbling blocks, thereby improving religion so that it better reflects the needs of life." No, we change ourselves, not religion. We actually practice, "Love your neighbor as yourself." This isn't transcending religion, but submitting to it.


In conclusion, radical communalism needs to be rejected, because it leads to atrocities. The reason one recognizes the atrocities is because there is an objective definition of `the way things should be'. Religion codifies this `way', and should not be rejected, but embraced. Individual spiritualism provides no objective viewpoints that can be tested. Embracing spiritualism is ignoring rationalism. Loving actions can still be practiced by those that deny religion, but they are recognized as loving because of the definitions provided by religion. Why is it necessary to love, apart from a religious perspective? Is it possible to love despite human nature, apart from religion? Where is the substance behind "love, forgiveness, selflessness, etc.", without religion?

--Joey


[ Parent ]
Before we go on..... (none / 0) (#62)
by damon on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 04:17:49 PM EST

Please point out any place in my article or subsequent postings I have called for the destruction or wholesale rejection of religion. I never did that, and I think you did not understand what I was saying.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

Clarify first if you think I misunderstand (none / 0) (#80)
by joecool12321 on Tue Jan 01, 2002 at 02:22:37 PM EST

Sorry it took so long, I've been busy.

First, it would have been nice for you to clarify what you are saying, if you think I'm misunderstanding it. The reason I think you call for the destruction of religion follows:

1. If instead religious believers held a common notion that beneath the surface, all religions teach much the same [thing].
We've already been over this. If you force religions that currently claim exclusivisity to drop this claim (that's most of them) then you are calling for the wholesale destruction of religion.
2. You would destroy religion for spirituality, an empty word. I'd still like to hear answers to my questions on this subject.

For those two reasons, I think you call for the destruction of religion

--Joey

[ Parent ]
Let's try this.... (none / 0) (#82)
by damon on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 04:13:18 AM EST

There is no need to apologize if you cannot respond within a few days, that is normal! But thanks anyway.

Joey, I'm not sure what I can do besides giving you concrete examples of people who do not have exclusive approaches to religion, yet would be described by most people as deeply religious. Abdul Ghaffar Khan was such a person, and so was Sri Ramakrishna. If you look at the life of Sri Ramakrishna, with its inclusivity and tolerance, you would see that he had a deep impact on the spiritual and religious development of India in the 19th century. Around him, religion flourished; it was not destroyed. If you look at the historical records of the world parliament of religions at the end of the 19th century, held at Chicago, I think you will find it is Swami Vivekananda, his disciple, that is most vibrantly remembered. He argued for an inclusive approach to religion there, and the impact he had on the event was compelling. Most other people were arguing that their religion was the best one, and they are forgotten.

You talk of love, of which Christianity emphasizes a great deal. I think that the Khudai Khidmitgars were one of the great movements last century that came close to returning hatred with love. I am not suggesting they could have done better, but I am saying they undertook an almost unbelievably amazing task, and stuck to it. That is spiritual.

Unlike yourself, I do not view spirituality as something that is vacuous. Could one call the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi vacuous? I do not think you would agree in the affirmative. The ideals of that prayer are deeply spiritual, stunningly so, very direct with almost no room for misinterpretation. Yet in that prayer I did not see him talking about a church or a huge structure that proclaims only men can be priests. That kind of setup is religion. As I was trying to say in the article, religion is the institutionalized aspect of spiritual traditions. Greatly imperfect they are. But I am not calling for the destruction of these institutions, but their reform and revolution, so that they better reflect their spiritual roots.

To come back to an earlier point of yours, about defining love: I agree that some sort of definition would be useful, but I'm afraid to say have not seen anything that is even close to adequate, and it is beyond my skill to formulate something myself. I think much the same thing is true when it comes to describing community, a seemingly impossibly hopeless task. Yet we all know what it means to some extent. Hopefully, most of us understand what love is, at some stage in our lives, without having to read it in a book or on the Internet.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

WW1 + 2 anyone? (1.00 / 1) (#56)
by sto0 on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 09:52:01 AM EST

I know that this is slightly off-topic, but:

For instance, Richard Dawkins opined, "To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns."

Do you think he ever heard about World War 1 or 2? It's a fallicy that religion increases the amount of "bad things" in the world, and a rather naive understanding of the way that humans can twist anything to be bad. Humanity can succeed in changing things which benefit us into things which don't very easily, and religion is just one of those many things.

Plenty of people agree with Dawkins (none / 0) (#67)
by damon on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 04:42:13 AM EST

Of many progressive or leftist people who have commented on the article, quite a number say they agree with Dawkins. Obviously I'm not one of them but I would have to say there are plenty of people, (decent honest people), who really do dislike monotheistic religions rather intensely. It surprised me just how much they do. They seem to think Khan is a good man in spite of his religious beliefs and do not give much thought to the positive role religion played in his life.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

Inconsistent beliefs (none / 0) (#69)
by sto0 on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 05:00:00 PM EST

It's good that those people think that Khan did good things with his life, but I feel that if you attach such negative attitudes to religion and only focus on the bad it has done (which I do not deny for a second), then you must also acknowledge the good it does, too. I know that this is not your belief, but I challenge those like Dawkins who question the value of religion. Unfortunately, like many things in this world, religion can almost be approached in an amoral way (I don't think it should, but that's the way we treat it as a society) -- it has the capacity for good and evil.

Being a Christian, I fully understand the negative and positive aspects of religion. I would question the terms we are using, however, since many of the negative aspects which religion (e.g. Chrisitianity) encompasses really don't have a place in the true nature of faith. In my own view, "religion" encompasses ritual, traditionalism and institutionalisation; whereas "faith" is ignoring these things as irrelevant and adopting a more fundamentalist approach. By this, I'm speaking directly from my own faith -- I do not consider myself religious, but to have a faith. To be religious in my own view is to follow rituals etc. because you are trying to earn your way into whatever religion you have chosen. The Christian standpoint is that you don't need to do this, God is not interested in people who follow blind religion; God finds you rather than you working your way to God.

For me, this viewpoint destroys Dawkins' argument since he's missed something fundamental about what true faith is. It's clear from his statement that he dislikes the apparent brainwashing nature of religion and appears to be attacking the ritual, traditionalism and institutionalisation of religion, rather than the actual faith angle.

Well, I hope that made some sense!

[ Parent ]
I dont buy it (4.00 / 1) (#63)
by angry android on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 04:48:29 PM EST

Damon defines religion as a moral force. This religious moral force is what caused september 11th. If I were to write the radical attackers off as followers a "mutant strain of religion, blatantly wrong, and quite different from my own understanding," according to Damon I must be in some sort of denial. I suppose he has never heard of Occam's Razor. He also commits one of the fallacies of reverence, converse accident. "Religion caused Sept 11, therefore all religions are bad and should be banished." Damon isn't proving anything by this excessively long and winded article. The argument gives the appearance of logical argument and understanding, but Damon has already convinced himself that religion is not necessary, and his rhetoric will generally appeal to readers of similar belief.
"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14)."

I agree... (none / 0) (#64)
by m0rzo on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 06:54:58 PM EST

This is, like you say, a very long-winded article. To blame religion for the events of September would not only be preposterous but also dangerous.

Like 'Christians', who throughout history have slain in the name of Christianity, the 'Muslims' who carried out those despicable acts on September 11th were not acting within the terms of their religion.

One of the fundamental codes of Christianity is; "Thou shalt not kill". That hasn't stopped many so-called Christians from killing people. Islam, similarly to Christianity, has similar codes and ethics.

What I'm saying, and forgive me if this appears disjointed (it's late, i'm tired), is that those 'folks' that flew planes into the WTC were not true adherants to Islam. For God's sake, they were getting drunk, and fucking strippers before they went to their deaths.

Bin Ladin et al, are simply dreamers living out some sort of bizarre and twisted saga. Bin Ladin imagines himself in the great times of the Quran; he thinks he's at the forefront of some mythical epic. He, and his cronies, are nothing but quixotic fantasists. They use the Islamic faith as a stepping stone, for their own personal aspirations.

True religion, and fanatic religion are two very different concepts.
My last sig was just plain offensive.
[ Parent ]

Huh? (none / 0) (#66)
by damon on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 04:36:52 AM EST

Did you actually *read* it? Your first sentence is *wrong* -- I described differences between religion and its spiritual basis somewhat near the end of the article. Your second sentence is *wrong* -- I have not heard anyone claim this. The rest is not much better. Only the most simple minded people would believe a statement like "Religion caused Sept 11, therefore all religions are bad and should be banished." Frankly I have never been one of them, and never will.

If you want to keep religion cast in stone and deny the possibility of its evolution to something better than it currently is, then do so, but please provide good evidence as to why you wish too. Religions evolve and grow, and we can make them better than what they are now. Do you have a problem with that?

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

a clarification.... (none / 0) (#83)
by damon on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 04:18:27 AM EST

First let me apologize if I was a little too direct and harsh. I will try to clarify one of the points I was trying to get across.

Supposing you read the following sentence:
Lust was the compelling force that made the husband cheat on his wife.

Is this defining lust? No, clearly it is not. It is merely claiming that it was a motivating force in the actions of somebody. Likewise for the first sentence in Two Islamic Soldiers.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

Profound Disagrement (none / 0) (#72)
by eliwap on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 01:48:51 AM EST

"The first, and most obvious lesson to be learned is that when religion is viewed as being communal, it can be rapidly be turned into a highly destructive force." The problem with this is that communities can only survive by a common belief and pracitce. Generalizations of religious beliefs into secular laws enable the establishment of communities of communities. Democracy is not anarchy where the individual is exalted above the community, but rather the opposite where communities are established by consensus rather than force. "If instead religious believers held a common notion that beneath the surface, all religions teach much the same" This sounds to me like you are build a community. "Much of the time the U.S. and British governments hide their vengeful focus behind language like "retaliatory strikes," or "bring the perpetrators to justice," and so forth, but revenge is essentially their focus. Ditto for the Taliban. The three are determined to convince respective recipients of their propaganda that this path is the only effective way forward to provide security and make up for the death of their people, irrespective of their falsehood." The problem here is that non-violent tactics are effective only when the opponent actually cares about life. If the only consideration is the afterlife then life, death, suffering indeed the well being of the world have no meaning. The only consideration is the afterlife. We see this method in the suicide cults that have sprung up recently and in its opposite manifestation in the indiscriminant destruction of lives in the acts of religious militants. Both are abominations because they either: 1) reject G-d's world and/or 2) the leaders or followers liken themselves as a god (implicitly or explicitly) rather than a fallable human being capable of making errors in judgement and/or deeds. Either fallacy leads towards the fanaticism of moral certitude that finds no dissuasion in the arguement, " common guys play nice. Share the sandbox." It would be a wonderful world if everyone determined to live in peace. But it doesn't always work that way.

"Understanding is the basis of communications. Enlarge your mind to multiple points of view. The world is infinitely larger than your huge ego. -- Hey I said that :)"

Commualism and religion (none / 0) (#75)
by damon on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 09:02:11 PM EST

one of the meanings of communalism is "loyalty to a sociopolitical grouping based on religious or ethnic affiliation".

I am not suggesting everything about communities is bad. It makes no sense. Naturally religion is embedded and forms community.

Sometimes it does so very badly and that is why we have the word communalism. Sometimes it does rather better and we can name examples of that easily as well.

As for the comments on nonviolence, I was trying to show that the Muslims who fought against the brutish British violence did so having come from a past full of figthing back with severe violence. They saw nonviolence as a superior fighting force, they were religious, and they did not step back despite the worst humiliations.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

One Word: (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by xWakawaka on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 09:42:09 AM EST


T i b e t



Excellent photos of Khan (none / 0) (#86)
by damon on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 11:52:35 PM EST

See: here

Some seem rare, as I don't recall seeing all of them before, not even in Khan's family home in Walibagh, NWFP, Pakistan.

Also, much to my surprise, an outfit called OutlookIndia.com published the article in India (on the web at least). It seems to be pitched as a debate between myself and Dawkins.... scary ;-)

See it here

They did not email me for permission which is ironic I suppose....

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com

Updated URL (none / 0) (#89)
by damon on Thu Jan 03, 2002 at 06:19:24 PM EST

Hi, I need to update the URL for Outlook India. It should be:
http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20011227&fname=khan&sid=1

Sorry about that!

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com
[ Parent ]

Two Islamic Soldiers | 93 comments (73 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
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