“Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odour.”
Similarly Osama bin Laden and his terrorist squads, have sullied the fair name of Islam. Except for the “lunatic fringe,” most Muslims including his own family are eager to dissociate themselves from the activities of this self-appointed leader of the Jehadis. He hides like an elusive mole, in his underground lairs beneath the desert sands of Afghanistan , or in the inaccessible crannies of the Palmir mountains – a fugitive on the run, and impossible to capture. Yet since the September 11 th incident, photographs of him are plastered across the pages of newspapers and on the small screen, displacing other important issues. He has certainly gained enough international publicity and created a climate of fear, all around the world. It must be a smug Bin Laden who at evening prayers, gloats over his spectacular coup in humiliating the most powerful nation in the world. The credo of his organization Al Qaeda, is “ American blood must be split on its own soil.”
And though thundering threats of revenge echo everywhere, he is confident that his network of terrorism is firmly ensconced in every country he wishes to target. Even in the unlikely event of his capture, terrorism will go on and on, until this ‘decadent society’ is cleansed of evil, even if it means mass murder of innocent people.
The term “Holy War” is itself a misnomer. No war can be holy, irrespective of the banner under which it marches. Any man who does not know the mind and heart of God – the embodiment of love, compassion and forgiveness, is anti-God and contributes to “ the abomination that makes desolate.”
Which God would inspire the killing of innocent people, in His name? Which God would condone such intense hatred for one’s fellowmen? Hatred, brutality, vengeance and anger are anything but marks of godly men. Is Jehad as we see it today, not ‘Evil” masquerading as ‘Godliness?’ The cycle of violence and vengeance has assumed cataclysmic proportions. No country is free of this scourge. Rogue nations around the world, are sponsoring small groups of terrorists, who unleash these premeditated attacks on unsuspecting people. Stealth and Cunning leave no scope for precautionary measures. We have seen it in Kashmir , where more than 25,000 innocent people have died over the years. The world couldn’t have cared less, until it happened in USA . And there is no guarantee that it will care. When their humiliation is avenged, the US might yet disappear, leaving behind an arsenal in the neighborhood as it did in Afghanistan, as reinforcements for the “freedom fighters” hiding in POK camps. There is certainly some truth in what Freud said,
“Religion is the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity, and civilization needs to grow out of it.”
Psychologists believe that religious fanaticism is overcompensation for inferiority and ego frustration. Religion becomes an opiate, to which the weak become easily addicted. A person protects himself against unconscious guilt, behind a facade of religiosity. British graphologists who have analyzed Bin Laden’s handwriting, say he has a “rampant ego compensating for possible perceived childhood slights. He is fundamentally unsure of his talents, chronically unhappy, and in need of protection.” The experts also add, that “ he is beset by a strong libido, which is driving his actions.”
If religion helps to free a person from evil and antisocial impulses, then it has served its purpose. But if it evolves into a warped private religion of hate and brutality, then it has crossed over the fine line that separates sanity from insanity, into the realm of madness.
A man’s religious convictions are shown in his conduct. Factors like emotional instability, low intelligence, cultural and social handicaps, insecurity, low self-esteem, can distort religious conduct, resulting in character aberrations with demonic goals. Killing innocent people evokes no guilt. This absence of guilt is a sure sign of psychopathic behaviour.
The task of religion is to promote health and wholeness. Jung perceived man as a ‘spiritual being’ with religious dimensions like love, compassion and brotherhood. He considered religious orientation crucial for the development of an all round personality.
But when God is left out of religion, it takes a bizarre turn, evolving into the psychopolitics of hatred. These soldiers of religion have deceptively innocent faces. They are young, impressionable and crafty. Brainwashed into believing that theirs is a sacred mission, they become detached from reality, and believe they have direct access to heaven.
History is replete with instances of nations trying to monopolize God exclusively. The ‘Holy Wars’ of the Old Testament were bloody and brutal, wiping out entire nations. In the first century, the fanatical Pharisees persecuted the early Christians. They were martyred for their faith.
The rise of Islam in the 7 th century, was partly due to the failure of the Christian Church, which was bogged down in doctrinal controversies. Then followed three centuries of persecution for the Christian minority. Muslims took up arms on behalf of Islam, and conquered Egypt , Syria , Iraq , Persia and Spain . The old view was that Muslims appeared with a sword in one hand, and the Koran in the other, crying death to all kafirs. But many historians believed that those who converted to Islam, did it voluntarily, as conversion opened up avenues to wealth and privilege. The Muslim Arabs were more interested in conquest than conversion. Military service was mandatory for Muslims. Jews and Christians only had to pay ‘jizya’ or ‘poll tax.’
In the 12 th and 13 th centuries, the Pope stirred up all Christian countries of Europe, to liberate the holy places in Palestine from the control of the Seljuk Turks, through holy wars. The Papacy asked for armed volunteers to battle against the enemies of the Christian faith. The Turks were perpetrating merciless atrocities against Christians. Recovery of Jerusalem the seat of Christian pilgrimage, was the motivation behind the Crusades. Pope Urban II pronounced absolution from sin, for all those who were fighting for a religious cause. Soldiers wore red crosses on their chests, indicating they were ‘pilgrims under arms.’
Christians and Muslims had been fighting in different countries for years. But now it was given a religious twist, with the Pope assuming moral leadership. Here again, within the crusading movement was the ‘lunatic fringe,’ who mercilessly butchered 10,000 Jews and Muslim inhabitants. In July 1099, Jerusalem was taken by storm, because the Muslims were divided among themselves.
But the concept of Jehad began earlier in 1092 when a group of Arabs calling themselves ‘Assassins,’ took up arms against the Seljuk Turks, swearing to wipe out their political and theological enemies.
The second Crusade was fought against the Turks in 1147, because they had captured Edessa , a Christian stronghold. Saladin an able Muslim leader, united the whole Muslim world and mobilized a Holy War against all Christians. He recaptured Jerusalem in 1187.
And so it continued through eight crusades, with severe reverses for the Soldiers of the Cross. But the most despicable of them all was the Children’s Crusade launched in 1215. The Pope thought he would shame Christians into a new effort to defeat the Muslims. 30,000 French children and 20,000 German children sailed from Marseilles to Palestine .
Most of them were butchered, and some sold into slavery by the Muslims. At the end of this Crusade, only one French child and 200 German children could be accounted for. Doesn’t it remind us of the child recruits in Kashmir , Pakistan , and Afghanistan who are being trained as jehadis by the Taliban?
The Crusades brought home the futility of militant religious idealism. Militarism was not the answer to religious differences. It sowed the seeds of hatred between Christians and Muslims, which still plagues the politics of the Middle East . Europe was also able to shrug off the misguided influence of the Papacy.
Hindu fanaticism is a comparatively recent phenomenon, and unless it is nipped in the bud, it poses a serious threat to the secular, pluralistic fabric of Indian society. The infamous Babri Masjid incident can never be forgotten, nor the vandalism against churches and various incidents of violence against nuns and priests.
Islam today, is the religion of a fifth of the world. Muslims are increasing in number, wealth and importance. The twentieth century has seen an incredible surge in Muslim Revivalism. Unfortunately, fanatics are hampering its growth. This time, the Crusade is for “Islamic domination and American destruction.” The frightening aspect is the ruthless single-mindedness of the fundamentalists.
The massive upsurge of terrorism began in 1967-68. Terrorists are recruited from mosques and Islamic education institutions. Money is in abundance. Patronage both from Royalty and religious centres, is unstintingly given. Intelligence networks are sophisticated, and weapons of mass destruction are easily available. Bombs can be rustled up in one’s kitchen. Explosives are simple to construct and easy to transport. It is alleged that there are 100 million land mines strewn across the world. Assassinations, hijackings, suicide bombers, biological warfare, radioactive material, nerve gas – the methods are mind-boggling and the obsession with jehad implacable. But the greatest fear of all is the nuclear threat. Albert Einstein once said, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything.……we are drifting towards unparalleled catastrophe.”
There is no such thing as a ‘just war’ today. It is blood thirsty aggression in which innocents are killed. There is no mechanism of control, and the outcome is unpredictable.
America created a Frankenstein monster in the shape of Bin Laden. It left weapons of destruction within easy reach. The monster spawned a multitude of other monsters, and the world is now being held hostage by them, in the name of God. Right in our neighborhood is one such monster, which is not limited by insecurities. It has been continuously baring its fangs in our direction. When the war with Bin Laden is over, there is no doubt that many toys of destruction will be left over for its diabolical amusement. India beware!
Pro-terrorists like Jean Paul Sartre and Franz Fenon may have glorified violence for its own sake as ‘liberative’ and ‘cathartic.’ But Terrorism is merely “ a weapon of the weak pretending to be strong,” as Paul Wilkinson says. There are ways to change people without violence. God is Love. “ If any one says ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
The “Holy War” is a grotesque lie. The Koran says that one of God’s names is PEACE.