Defining Secularism

28 Comments

At the risk of being called a communalist, I must agree that any country that claims to be a modern, secular democracy must secularize and unify its legal system, and take power over women’s lives away, once and for all, from
medievalist institutions like Darul-Uloom.

Thus spake Salman Rushdie, husband of Padma Laxmi (almost tempted, for no good reason, to embed her picture here)—a man whose secondary achievements include having won the Booker of Bookers and of being acknowledged as one of the most influential writers of the last century.

The italics are mine. And that is because Salman Rushdie articulates the insecurity any unbiased commentator feels when talking about the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) —that of being dubbed a ‘communalist’ .

That’s something I personally never get. Securalism means being agnostic to all religions—-“in front of the state all religions are equal”. Right? And people who follow this ideal are called secularists? Right ?

Then why do secularists in India support the Haj subsidy, the rights of Muslims to have the privilege of being tried by their own religious courts (as opposed to a “secular” court) , the rights of Muslims to have a medieval Muslim education (one of its tenets being that Muslims owe allegiance to the Ummah and not to the Kafir concept of India) with this radical education, dispensed through Madrasas, being funded by the same people who bankroll terror all over the world?

And yet at the same time oppose Saraswati Bandana in public functions, RSS sakhas dispensing Hindu-nationalist education and funding bodies who pour money into Hindu charities. It’s not just “oppose” as in passive opposition— it means going to Capitol Hill to fulminate against the saffron dollar while remaining silent on the petro-stained dollars that rumble in, in far greater magnitude, to fund religious Islamic seminaries in India.

With respect to UCC, there is some history. Gandhi and by extention the Congress’s main counterpoint to the two nation theory was that Muslims in India would enjoy the same privileges they would get if they stayed in an Islamic state. Ergo there was no need to have a separate homeland for Muslims. And while princely states have been dissolved (contravening assurances given to rulers during independence), the Indian nation still believes that it has an obligation to provide Indian Muslims with special privileges as a kind of “bribe” for not going over to the other side.

Anyone who speaks to the contrary is dubbed a communalist. Speak out against Madrasas and you are a saffron person. Speak out for religious quotas in educational institutions, you are a fundamentalist. Not however if the religious community in question is Islam—-in that case, you can support religion-based quotas and still remain secular. Case in point, Shabana Azmi.

Reading a “liberal” (secular) blog on the recent London bombings, I was astonished to discern sympathy for the Islamic fundamentalists who masterminded this heinous attack—–the logic being that by its illegal invasion of Iraq and the humiliation of prisoners at Abu-Ghareb and by the reported desecration of the Koran, the Western powers “asked for it”. Acccording to these people, Americans make the mistake of believing that history started on 9/11—- in other words, America’s support for Israel is reason enough why a janitor working the 88th floor of WTC deserved to die.

Yet these same liberals will anoint Narendra Modi as the Hitler of the modern world for essentially mirroring their own arguments as justification of the Gujrat riots. What Mr Modi said was that the riots were a spontaneous reaction to the burning of Hindus in a train at Godhra—–now replace “riots” with the “bombings in London ” and “burning of Hindus in a train at Godhra” with “Abu Ghareb”. And you have got a perfect valid “secular” argument.

Now this is what I have to say.

Haj subsidy–get rid of it.

Muslim/Parsee/Christian/../ personal law–no place in secular India.

Saraswati Bandana–useless.

Religion-based reservations—bullshit.

Valentine’s Day—idiotic.

Madrasas—fine. Just as long as the students get taught science, mathematics and love for the country. But Hindu Shakhas would, by that token, also be fine.

No form of terrorism is justifiable. And neither are pre-emptive strikes.

That was my stand. (Sounding like an Allstate agent) What’s yours?

Advertisements

28 thoughts on “Defining Secularism

  1. Well, my gut feel is this. The BJP can’t survive on a Hindu hardliner strategy. The only other option is going secular, but not only that – “secular extremism”.

    For instance, I wouldn’t be surprised if the BJP now carried out demolitions of Hindu temples just to prove how secular they are.

  2. @Fads,

    Agree. Advani fired his salvo at PMship by boldly going where no “secularist” has ever gone before—calling Jinnah secular.
    Now let’s see where they pull the final frontier.

    @Anon,
    Thank you for your support. Now if I could only know who you were…I would make you a minister in my cabinet.

  3. @Gawker, It was our Mahatma Gandhi who started this dangerous trend of mixing religion and politics (Khilafat movement)—while it did enable him to mobilize the masses to get rid of the British, it left behind as its legacy a cancer that threatens to destroy the very fabric of the nation born on Aug 15, 1947.

  4. @Sunil,

    Depends entirely on the amount you bid for—low bids will get you Small Scale industries, Tribal Affairs, Health and Family welfare, middle bids get you Tourism, Steel, Coal or Textiles and high bids get you I&B, External Affairs, Home, Finance…..

    However the railway ministry is not for sale…it is reserved for Mamta Banerjee….I hope you understand.

  5. WOW…some outpouring…
    The basic problem comes to our tolerance for bullshit when it is backed by religion. As Richard Dawkins has said ” When someone says I cant turn off that switch cause its sabbath, we say its OK; and when someone says I cant come to office cause I am sick, we say its suspicious”….If I start a religion which forces its followers to go to prostitutes everyday, will the government subsidize this practice :0….All said and done the religious support shoulder given to Muslims has only worsened their situation. Look around our cities and the Muslims will appear the poorest…I am not so sure whose women are treated better though…And also we must not mix the condition of our Muslims with those of Middle East… I feel Palestinians have really been given a tough deal…

  6. greatbong i agree with you. The Gandhi-Nehru appeasement morcha basically started the country off on the wrong track. Hey shivaji good analogy about the workplace.

  7. A factual point. The Uniform Civil code does not mean a “unified legal system”, it basically says that every individual should have the same rights and privileges regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance and property matters. It does not extend to matters like right to education or right to religious congregation or pilgrimage etc. Any secular person must support the UCC.

    But it is not clear what is meant by a uniform legal system. The criminal justice system is already uniform in India. But laws do not cover just criminal and civil matters. There is a whole gamut of
    other issues. The whole ground for special privileges is “positive discrimination”, to help out the depressed classes. Now, theoretically, the best metric for measuring who is depressed is clearly economic, but unfortunately income data can be very easily fudged. That is the reason why ascriptive characterisitics like caste and religion (which are difficult to lie about) are used, entirely on implementational grounds. To say that any affirmative action is bad is a different debate though, but if there are any, I do not see any metric that will do better. However, I also believe that reservation should be bottom heavy (more subsidies at the primary and secondary level, lesser as one goes up) rather than top heavy (reservation in employment). But as long as the country cannot ensure uniform education, missionary schools (RSS Shakhas, Christian Missionaries, Madrasas etc) have a major role to play esp in the villages where the govt cannot reach. And yes, science and mathematics are indeed included in the Madrasa syllabus in most places. So far as love for the country is concerned, I don’t think that it can be taught at schools as part of a syllabus. Any attempt to do so will lead to obvious distortions.

  8. The criminal justice system is already uniform in India

    Yes of course ! I am sure many of the supporters of Muslim Personal Law would have serious objections to being tried under Muslim Criminal Law—-getting arms chopped off for stealing, public stoning….

    However, I also believe that reservation should be bottom heavy (more subsidies at the primary and secondary level, lesser as one goes up) rather than top heavy (reservation in employment).

    Could not agree with you more.

    But as long as the country cannot ensure uniform education, missionary schools (RSS Shakhas, Christian Missionaries, Madrasas etc) have a major role to play esp in the villages where the govt cannot reach

    Here again I agree. Except that secularists have problems only against Shakhas—–Shabnam Hasmhmi’s documentary on Gujrat riots depicted Shakhas as breeding grounds for terror. It is this bias that I am ranting against.

    So far as love for the country is concerned, I don’t think that it can be taught at schools as part of a syllabus. Any attempt to do so will lead to obvious distortions.

    Disagree. I dont know about love but hate can easily be taught to impressionable minds. Hatred towards modern ideas, hatred towards rational thinking, hatred for fellow non-Muslim Indians. That’s what Madrasas preach—funded by Saudi money they teach young minds that their real brothers are Arabs and fellow Muslims all over the world and that the Hindu boy next door is a Kafir and needs to be converted.

    Failing which…killed.

  9. Not so sure that madrasas preach that your real brothers are saudis..
    I havent ever been to a madrasa so I dont know whether this is true or just a piece in the propaganda chess….All the same I feel equally irritated when i hear the azaan over the loudspeakers and when i see RSS members spoiling the tranquility of my morning walk by making loud tribal gestures in our locality park

  10. While we are on abolishing personal laws , can we also add Hindu personal laws to the list.
    Why are you implying that Muslims in India have the previlege to be tried under their own laws in criminal cases? It is untrue. And then when it was pointed out to you, instead of acknowledgeing the mistake , you sarcastically pointed to the barbaric islamic criminal laws. So you think that Muslims have “consciously” made the decision to accept the Indian criminal laws ? It is a fact that all Indians of any persuasion are bound by the same criminal laws.
    The charge against Modi is not that he did a bad explanation of the Gujrat riots. Rather as chief minister of Gujarat he did nothing to prevent the loss of innocent lives , nay he in fact abetted the rioters.
    Seriously your blog shows a total misunderstanding of issues that you talk of and it is such talk in the public discourse that leads to consequences.

  11. Anonymous,

    The charge against Modi is not that he did a bad explanation of the Gujrat riots.

    When did I say that? WTF….first Mr Anon get yourself a name (and some courage) before getting into a discussion.

    So Mr Anon, froth all you want to.

    Because I refuse to be drawn into an argument with a nameless, faceless coward.

    @Shivaji,

    A few years ago there was an expose in Bengal (precipitated by a political battle of “recognizing” Madrasas) of what the madrasas actually taught the students….and this was one of the lessons….that a good Muslims only owed allegiance to the Ummah (and not the country of his birth).

  12. As an aside, it is interesting how a blog about “treating all religions equally rather than selective appeasement” gets turned into “anti-Islamism” by “secularists”—–the tone of anon’s comments vindicate everything I wrote in the blog.

  13. Hey GreatBong ,
    I should have signed my post, the last anonymous onw , where i was “frothing” , sorry about that. But I still will have to stay faceless :-).
    Sunil

  14. Sure Sunil,

    Now that you have a name—let me tell you that my blog was, in no way, anti-Muslim. All I ask for is equal treatment for all religions in a secular country.

    No Muslims did not have a choice when it came to adopting the criminal code.However the fact that minorities fight to keep their Personal Laws and yet never ask for their own Criminal Laws are because their Personal Laws suit them (ie the male members) while the Criminal Laws do not.

    No one is talking about Modi’s explanation or his culpability—all I am saying that secularists love to say–“Americans/Britons bring the terrorism upon them by the actions”. It’s the same thing as saying that “Muslims bring riots on themselves by their actions.” ( a line of reasoning secularists find despicable)

    I oppose both the statements.

    Noone brings violence on themselves.

  15. A few years ago there was an expose in Bengal (precipitated by a political battle of “recognizing” Madrasas) of what the madrasas actually taught the students….and this was one of the lessons….that a good Muslims only owed allegiance to the Ummah (and not the country of his birth).

    Well, all of a sudden we have assumed nation is more important than religion. Politically correct statement is I am first an Indian, then a Bengali and then blah blah…Since when did we have a universally accepted prioritization of identities. I see nothing wrong if someone thinks Ummah is more important than country of birth. After all country of birth is accident, while you do have control over the faith you choose or not choose- atleast I have…Religious affiliation and patriotism are both vague concepts (both serving as opium for masses)…I am not champion the muslim cause but just voicing my lack of enthusiasm for defining my life based on such vague and un-thought through abstractions like religion and patriotism..

  16. Exactly, Shivaji. I did not want to press the point too much in my comment, because I was sure that there I hold an opinion that is an exact opposite of Greatbong’s, and wanted to avoid a headon collision

  17. agree with what you say..regarding the role of Gandhi’s hand in the secularism situation, i am sure this was not what he had on his mind because he was not a politician (personal opinion formed after reading my experiments with truth).regarding secularism itself there are two approaches I think
    1. it can mean recognizing all religions at the same level and giving them the due respect that they deserve without any discrimintation. it is something like religious NEURALITY. This is something that we try to practice in India and hence the UCC makes complete sense
    2. Religions PROHIBITION: by this I mean not recognizing any religion when creating the laws on in any state ativities. eg would be something that France follows (which is the reason they banned burkhas “headscarves” from universities as it expressed a strong sense of religion).
    Also the fact that when it comes to civil law muslims are treated differently but when it comes to criminal laws they are not shows the deep rooted problem which can only be resolved through a uniform code as you have mentioned

  18. Completely agree with you. One needs a Uniform Civil Code in a secular nation. Pandering to each community differently is a vote grubbing excercise, which increases communal tension rather than unifies the nation. Politicians cannot see beyond the “divide and rule” strategy to reamain in power.

  19. Pingback: Hedging foreign exchange rate risk through futures.

  20. GreatBong, the problem with Indian secularism is that it intereferes (way too much) instead of staying away from religion.

    that’s when the freaks and weirdos and the fringe come out the woodwork and infringe upon the rights of the majority.

Have An Opinion? Type Away

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s