August 2009


Islamic intolerance

 

by Ibn Warraq

When the storm over Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satantic Verses broke in February 1989, government leaders and editorialists throughout Europe and the United States piously trotted out sentimental homilies about communities living together in harmony and so on; they invariably ended by invoking Islam’s “traditional tolerance.” There followed a spate of articles and books that can only be described as works of “Islamic propaganda” or “Islamic apologetics”; in other words, there was no hint of criticism of Islam, its founder, or its doctrines. The myth of Islamic tolerance was built up during the eighteenth century for reasons I cannot go into here. With more sympathetic appraisals of Islam in the twentieth century, we have a situation whereby, to quote Maxime Rodinson:

The anti-colonial left, whether Christian or not, often goes so far as to sanctify Islam and the contemporary ideologies of the Muslim world…. A historian like Norman Daniel has gone so far as to number among the conceptions permeated with medievalism or imperialism, any criticisms of the Prophet’s moral attitudes, and to accuse of like tendencies any exposition of Islam and its characteristics by means of the normal mechanisms of human history. Understanding has given away to apologetics pure and simple.(1)

Here we have the real trahison des clercs. The myth of the Golden Age of Inter-Faith Utopia is just that–a myth. Islam, that is, the Koran, Muhammad and his deeds and words, Islamic law and its interpretation, has always been totally intolerant in theory and in practice of non-Muslims. Christians, Jews, heretics, apostates, unbelievers, and atheists–indeed, as Bernard Lewis has reminded us, tolerance would have been seen not as a merit but as a dereliction of duty.(2) How could it be otherwise, given that Islam is monotheistic? Monotheism is inherently intolerant, as Hume and Schopenhauer clearly saw, and this same thesis provides the philosophical framework for The Satanic Verses.

Schopenhauer writes:

Indeed, intolerance is essential only to monotheism; an only God is by nature a jealous God who will not allow another to live. On the other hand, polytheistic gods are naturally tolerant; they live and let live. In the first place, they gladly tolerate their colleagues, the gods of the same religion, and this tolerance is afterwards extended even to foreign gods who are, accordingly, hospitably received and later admitted, in some cases, even to an equality of rights…. Thus it is only the monotheistic religions that furnish us with the spectacle of religious wars, religious persecutions, courts for trying heretics, and also with that of iconoclasm, the destruction of the images of foreign gods, the demolition of Indian temples and Egyptian colossi that had looked at the sun for three thousand years; all just because their jealous God had said “Thou shalt make no graven image,” and so on.”(3)

Muslim theologians are unanimous in declaring that no religious toleration was extended to the idolators of Arabia at the time of Muhammad. The only choice given them was death or the acceptance of Islam. Similarly, no tolerance is shown to atheists and unbelievers. The Koran is full of lurid descriptions of the punishments awaiting them.

Surah XXII.9 states: “As for the unbelievers for them garments of fire shall be cut and there shall be poured over their heads boiling water whereby whatever is in their bowels and skins shall be dissolved and they will be punished with hooked iron rods.”

The Koran also enjoins all Muslims to fight and kill nonbelievers: When you meet the unbelievers, strike off their heads; then when you have made wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives” (Surah XLVII.4).

As Bertrand Russell once asked, can God or Allah be so vain and cruel as to punish someone who does not believe in Him? Apostates do not fare much better. According to Islamic law apostasy is punishable by death. In France alone, between two and three hundred Muslims convert to Christianity each year; however, the real figure is difficult to assess, especially for outside Europe, as, out of fear, the majority of Muslims who convert do so secretly.

Christians are marginally better regarded than the Jews, but the Koran still accuses them of falsifying the Scriptures: “They surely are Infidels who say, ‘God is the third of three’: for there is but one God; and if they do not refrain not from what they say, a severe punishment shall light on those who are unbelievers” (Surah V.75. See also Surah IV.157 where the crucifixion is denied).

They are also accused of worshiping Jesus as the son of God and, like the Jews, they have been led astray and must be brought back to the true religion, that is, Islam. According to many traditions, Muhammad himself was determined to destroy Christian churches.(4) Lane, in his classic Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, recounts how a young Muslim “receives lessons of religious pride, and learns to hate the Christians, and all other sects but his own, as thoroughly as does the Muslim in advanced age.”(5)

According to the Koran, Jews have intense hatred of all true Muslims, and, as a punishment for their sins, some of them had, in the past, been changed into apes and swine, and others will have their hands tied to their necks and be cast into the Fire on Judgment Day. The attitude enjoined upon Muslims toward the Jews can only be described as anti-Semitic, and certainly not conducive to a better understanding, tolerance, or coexistence: “Believers, do not take Jews or Christians as friends. They are but one another’s friends. If anyone of you takes them for his friends, then he is surely one of them. God will not guide evil doers” (Surah V.51).

O Believers, do not take as your friends the infidels or those who received the Scriptures before you and who scoff and jest at your religion, but fear God if you are believers. Nor those who when you call them to prayer, make it an object of mirth and derision. This is only because they are a people who do not understand.

People of the Book: isn’t it true that you hate us simply because we believe in God, and in what He has sent down to us, and in what He has revealed to others before; and because most of you are evil doers?

Why don’t their rabbis and doctors of law forbid them from uttering sinful words and eating unlawful food? Evil indeed are their works.

The hand of God is chained up, claim the Jews. Their own hand shall be chained up–and they shall be cursed for saying such a thing. (Surah V.56-64)

Jews are often accused, in the Koran, of perverting the scriptures, and of holding doctrines they never held:

Declare war upon those who the Scriptures were revealed but believe neither in God nor the Last Day, and who do not forbid that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, and who refuse to acknowledge the True Religion |i.e., Islam~ until they pay the poll-tax without reservation and are totally subjugated.

The Jews claim that Ezra is a son of God, and the Christians say, “The Messiah is a son of God.”

Those are their claims which do indeed resemble the sayings of the Infidels of old. May God do battle with them! How they are deluded! (Surah IX.29-30)

And they deserve fully any punishment they get:

Wretchedness and baseness were stamped upon them |that is the Jews~ and they drew on themselves the wrath of God. This was because they |the Jews~ disbelieved the signs of God and slew the Prophets unjustly, and because they rebelled and transgressed.” (Surah II.61)

Because of the wickedness of certain Jews, and because they turn many from the way of God, we have forbidden them good and wholesome foods which were formerly allowed them; and because they have taken to usury, though they were forbidden it, and have cheated others of their possessions, we have prepared a grievous punishment for the Infidels amongst them. (Surah IV.160-161)

Such are some of the sentiments expressed in the Koran, which remains for all Muslims, and not just fundamentalists, the word of God Himself. It is valid for all times and places; its ideas are, according to all Muslims, absolutely true and beyond any criticism. Muslims are unwilling to accept any criticisms of Muhammad, which for them would constitute blasphemy and are punishable by death in many Islamic countries. Such punishment was applied in October 1992 in Saudia Arabia. But, unfortunately, the Prophet himself is not above reproach in his treatment of the Jews.(6) All the men of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayzah (between 600 and 900 men), unjustly accused of helping the enemy, were cold-bloodedly executed, in batches of fives and sixes, on the edges of trenches especially dug for the occasion. The women and children were taken prisoners. Muhammad declared that this was none other than Allah’s decision. Where was compassion and mercy?

A little later, a defenseless delegation of Jews hoping to negotiate with the Prophet set off with a Muslim escort. On the way, the Muslims turned upon the unarmed Jews, killing all but one. In 624, Muhammad either commanded or approved of, and certainly did not punish, the assassination of two pagan poets–one an old man and the other a woman with an infant at her breast–for having written satirical verses about Him. The precedent had been set long ago for Khomeini.

The Muslim army was defeated at the Battle of Uhud in 625 C.E. Muhammad desperately needed a victory and so decided to attack the Jewish tribe of Nadir. He very conveniently received a divine message saying that the Nadir were planning to kill him. The Nadir did not put up much resistance and surrendered on the condition that they be allowed to leave with their goods except their arms, and go and join their coreligionists at Khaybar. But the Nadir won only a temporary respite. A few years later, in 628, Muhammad also attacked the Khaybar, which after a brief resistance also capitulated. Though the Jews of Khaybar were spared, all the Jews of Nadir were massacred. Later all Jews and Christians were driven from the Arabian Peninsula, in accordance with Muhammad’s wish, for he famously said that there was no room for two religions in Arabia.(7)

The years after Muhammad’s death in 632 saw the extraordinary expansion of Islam northward to Palestine, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, and further west to Egypt and North Africa. This rapid rise of Islam is a sad story of, to quote Professor Bosworth, “human intolerance and fanaticism.” The subsequent treatment of the Jews and the Christians has been described in two extremely courageous books by Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam (1985) and Les Chretientes D’Orient Entre Jihad Et Dhimmitude (1991). Bat Ye’or had the courage to tell the unvarnished truth. Reading these two books, can anyone ever again talk of Islamic tolerance? What follows relies heavily on them.

The totalitarian nature of Islam, to use Professor Bousquet’s phrase, is nowhere more apparent than in the concept of Jihad, the Holy War, whose ultimate aim is to conquer the entire world and submit it to the one true religion, to the law of Allah. Islam has always claimed for itself universal and exclusive truth–the possibility of salvation outside it is inconceivable. Indeed it is the sacred duty–an incumbent religious duty established in the Koran and in the Traditions–of all Muslims to bring it to all humanity. Jihad is a divine institution and enjoined specially for the purpose of advancing Islam. It is the religious duty of all Muslims to fight and kill in the name of Allah:

Kill those who join other gods with God (i.e. idolators) wherever you may find them. (Surah IX.5-6)

Those who believe fight in the cause of God…. (Surah IV.76)

I will instill terror into the hearts of the Infidels. Strike off their heads, then, and strike off from them every fingertip. (Surah VIII.12)

It is a grave sin for a Muslim to shirk the battle against the unbelievers; those who do, will roast in Hell:

Believers, when you meet the unbelievers preparing for battle do not turn your backs to them. Anyone who does – shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home: an evil dwelling indeed! (Surah VIII.15-16)

If you do not fight, He will punish you severely, and put others in your place. (Surah IX.39)

Those who die fighting for the only true religion, that is, Islam, will be amply rewarded in the life to come.

Let those fight in the cause of God who barter the life of this world for that which is to come; for whoever fights on God’s path, whether he is killed or triumphs, We will give him a handsome reward. (Surah IV.74)

It is abundantly clear from many of the above verses that the Koran is not talking of metaphorical battles or of moral crusades; it is talking of the battlefield. Mankind is divided into two groups–Muslims and non-Muslims. The Umma possess territories in the Dar Ul Islam, the Land of Islam, where the edicts of Islam are fully promulgated. The non-Muslims are the Harbi, people of the Dar Ul Harb, the Land of Warfare, any country belonging to the infidels that has not been subdued by Islam but which, nonetheless, is destined to pass into Islamic jurisdiction either by conversion or by war (Harb). All acts of war are permitted in the Dar Ul Harb.

Once the Dar Ul Harb has been subjugated, the Harbi become prisoners of war. The imam can do what he likes to them according to the circumstances: have them massacred, sold into slavery, exiled, or treated as dhimmis who are tolerated as second-class subjects as long as they pay regular tribute.

At the death of the Prophet, the caliph Abu Bakr organized the invasion of Syria. During the campaign of 634, the entire region between Gaza and Caesarea was devastated; four thousand peasants, Christians, Jews, and Samaritans who were defending their land, were massacred. During the campaigns in Mesopotamia, between 635 and 642, monasteries were sacked and the monks killed, Monophysite Arabs executed or forced to convert; in Elam the population was put to the sword; at Susa all the dignitaries suffered the same fate.

In Egypt at Nikiou the entire population was destroyed. In Armenia the entire population of Euchaita was wiped out. In 642, it was the turn of the town of Dvin to suffer. It was the same ghastly spectacle in North Africa: Tripoli was pillaged in 643; Carthage was razed to the ground and most of its inhabitants killed. So many communities were destroyed that one runs out of expressions to render all the carnage–sacked, devastated, massacred, looted, pillaged, put to the sword, razed, ravaged, burnt, etc.

As Bat Ye’or says, apart from the killing and looting, the whole history of Islamic conquests is punctuated with forced conversions. For example, in August 1198, the Jews of Aden were ordered before the Caliph, and any Jew who failed to turn up was killed. Those who appeared as ordered were humiliated and forced to convert; anyone who defected from Islam later was beheaded. Tavernier, the seventeenth-century French traveler, describes how in Anatolia, “il y a quantite de Grecs qu’on force tous les jours de se faire Turcs” (“There are numerous Greeks who are forced every day to become Turks”).

To maintain their safety and the right to worship, non-Muslims had to pay a poll tax and a land tax, which proved such a crushing burden that many villages were abandoned as the villagers fled to the hills or tried to lose themselves in the anonymity of large towns to escape the tax-collector. In Lower Egypt, for example, the Copts, utterly ruined by the taxes, revolted in 832. The Arab governor ruthlessly suppressed the insurrection, burning villages, vineyards, gardens, and churches. Those not massacred were deported.

The Koran expressly excludes all dhimmis from taking any public office (Surah III.27, 114-115; V.56). Various Hadith (traditions) also forbid a Christian or a Jew to exercise any authority of a Muslim. In the Middle Ages, any appointment of a dhimmi to a high public office often resulted in public outcries, fanaticism, and violence.

Muslims were convinced of their own superiority over all non-Muslims, and this was enshrined in law. In litigation between a Muslim and a dhimmi, the validity of the oath or testimony of the dhimmi was not recognized. Any fine imposed on a Muslim for a crime was automatically halved if the victim was a dhimmi. No Muslim could be executed for having committed any crime against a dhimmi. Accusations of blasphemy against dhimmis were quite frequent and the penalty was capital punishment. Since his testimony was not accepted in court, the dhimmi was forced to convert or die.

Some of the disabilities of the dhimmis are summarized in the “Pact of Umar“:(10)

We shall not build our cities or in their vicinity any new monasteries, churches, hermitages, or monks’ cells. We shall not restore, by night or by day, any of them that have fallen into ruin or which are located in the Muslims’ quarters.

We shall keep our gates wide open for passersby and travelers.

We shall not shelter any spy in our churches or in our homes, nor shall we hide him from the Muslims.

We shall not teach our children the Koran.

We shall not hold public religious ceremonies. We shall not seek to proselytize anyone. We shall not prevent any of our kin from embracing Islam if they so desire.

We shall show deference to the Muslims and shall rise from our seats when they wish to seat down.

We shall not attempt to resemble the Muslims in any way. …

We shall not ride on saddles.

We shall not wear swords or bear weapons of any kind, or ever carry them with us.

We shall not sell wines.

We shall clip the forelocks of our head.

We shall not display our crosses or our books anywhere in the Muslims’ thoroughfares or in their marketplaces. We shall only beat our clappers in our churches very quietly. We shall not raise our voices when reciting the service in our churches, nor when in the presence of Muslims. Neither shall we raise our voices in our funeral processions.

To which was added, “anyone who deliberately strikes a Muslim will forfeit the protection of this pact.”

Even in their religious affairs, non-Muslims were not entirely free. Muslims often blocked the appointment of religious leaders. The dhimmis were in constant danger of being made into slaves. For example, when in 643 Amr conquered Tripoli, he forced the Jews and Christians to hand over their women and children as slaves to the Arab army. Between 652 and 1276, Nubia was forced to send an annual contingent of slaves to Cairo. The treaties concluded under the Umayyads and the Abbasids with the towns of Transoxiana, Sijistan, Armenia, and Fezzan (modern northwest Africa) all stipulate an annual tribute of slaves of both sexes. The principle source of the reservoir of slaves was the constant raids on the villages in the Dar Ul Harb and the more disciplined military expeditions that mopped up more thoroughly the cities of the unbelievers. All the captives were deported en masse. In 781, at the sack of Ephesus, seven thousand Greeks were deported in captivity. After the capture of Amorium in 838, the Caliph Al Mutasim ordered the captives, as there were so many of them, to be auctioned in batches of five and ten. At the sack of Thessalonica in 903, 22,000 Christians were divided among the Arab chieftains or sold into slavery. In 1604, the Seljuk Sultan, Alp Arslan, devastated Georgia and Armenia. Those he did not take as prisoners, he executed. Records for Palestine, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Armenia, and later Anatolia and Safavid Persia reveal that those families who could not pay the crushing jizya or poll tax were obliged to hand over their children and to “deduct” their value from the jizya.

Christians, for at least three hundred years, suffered one other humiliation not often discussed: a process known as devshirme.(11) It was introduced by the Ottoman Sultan Orkhan (1326-1359) and consisted of periodically taking a fifth of all Christian children in the conquered territories. Converted to Islam, these children aged between fourteen and twenty were trained to be janissaries or infantry men. These periodic abductions eventually became annual. Children were taken from among the Greek aristocracy, Serbs, Bulgarians, Armenians, and Albanians, and often included children of priests. At a fixed date, all the fathers were ordered to appear with their children in the public square. The recruiting agents chose the most sturdy and handsome children in the presence of a Muslim judge. Any father who shirked his duty to provide children was severely punished. The recruiting agents often took more than the prescribed number of children and sold the “surplus” back to their parents. Those unable to buy back their children had to accept their being sold into slavery. This institution was abolished in 1656, though a parallel system where young children between six and ten were taken to be trained in the seraglio of the sultan continued until the eighteenth century.

Each century has its own, full account of the horrors of Muslim intolerance.

In the ninth, there were the massacres of Spanish Christians in and around Seville; in the tenth, the persecutions of non-Muslims under the Caliph al-Hakim are well known; in the eleventh, the entire community of Jews (about three thousand people) in Grenada was exterminated and a further five thousand were killed in Fez in 1033; in the twelfth, the Almohads of North Africa spread terror everywhere they went.

In the thirteenth century, the Christians of Damascus were killed or sold into slavery; their churches burnt to the ground. In the fourteenth, we have the terror spread by the infamous Timur the Lame, otherwise known as Tamerlane or the “Bloody and insatiate Tamburlaine” of Marlowe’s play. As Rene Grousset put it in his Empire des Steppes, in Timur we had a symbiosis of Mongolian barbarism and Muslim fanaticism; Timur killed out of “Koranic piety.” Timur systematically destroyed the Christians, and as a result the Nestorians and Jacobites of Mesopotamia have never recovered. At Sivas, 4,000 Christians were buried alive; at Tus there were 10,000 victims. Historians estimate the number of dead at Saray to be 100,000; at Baghdad 90,000; at Isfahan 70,000; at Delhi under the pretext that the 50,000 Indian prisoners presented a grave risk to his army, Timur ordered their execution in cold blood. He killed thousands and had victory pillars or towers of their heads and skulls built.

So far we have been concentrating on the fate of the People of the Book, that is to say, on the Jews and Christians. In their encounter with “heathens and idolators,” the Muslims were merciless, with their implacable moral certainty, arrogance, encouraged by the ferocious words of God Himself, as given in the Koran, to kill unbelievers. In the ninth century, the persecutions of the Zoroastrians of Persia pushed them to migrate to the more tolerant lands of Hindu India, where to this day they form a respected minority known as Parsis.

We shall now turn to the spread of Islam beyond Persia, and its arrival in the land of “idolators,” India.

The Muslim conquest of Sind was masterminded by Hajjaj, the governor of Iraq, and effected by his commander Muhammad Bin Qasim in 712 C.E. After the capture of the port of Debal, the Muslim army took three days to slaughter the inhabitants. When Hajjaj received Bin Qasim’s report of his victory, he wrote: “My dear cousin, I have received your life-augmenting letter. On its receipt my gladness and joy knew no bounds…. But the way of granting prescribed by the law is different from the one adopted by you…. The Great God says in the Koran: ‘O true believers, when you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads.’ The above command of the Great God is a great command that must be respected and followed….” Later, he wrote: “My distinct orders are that all those who are fighting men should be assassinated, and their sons and daughters imprisoned and retained as hostages.”(12)

Obedient to a fault, Bin Qasim, on his arrival at the town of Brahminabad, “ordered all the men belonging to the military classes to be beheaded with swords. It is said that about 6,000 fighting men were massacred on this occasion; some say 16,000.”

The real conquest of India by the Muslims dates from the beginning of the eleventh century. In 1000 C.E. the head of a Turco-Afghan dynastic, Mahmud of Ghazmi, first passed through India like a whirlwind, destroying, pillaging, and massacring. He was, as one historian put it, a “zealous Muslim of the ferocious type … who felt it to be a duty as well as a pleasure to slay idolators.”(13) Mahmud was also after booty, and he certainly derived a handsome profit from his holy wars. In the course of seventeen invasions, Mahmud, in the words of the great Arab scholar Alberuni, who had been brought to India by Mahmud, “utterly ruined the prosperity of the country.” He destroyed Hindu temples in his lust for gold. In the holy Hindu city of Mathura, he gave orders that all the temples be burned to the ground. In his iconoclastic fury, Mahmud destroyed irreplaceable works of ancient Hindu art, and at the same time sowed the sees of hatred of all things Muslim in the minds of Hindus. And yet, Muslim historians see him as one of the glories of Islam. He was an avaricious bandit little deserving of admiration.

In 1351, Firuz Shah ascended the throne and became ruler of the north of India. Though in many ways an enlightened man, when it came to religion he was a bigot of the first order. Once he went in person to a village where a Hindu fair was being held. He himself wrote: I ordered that the leaders of these people and the promoters of this abomination should be put to death. I forbade the infliction of any severe punishment on the Hindus in general, but I destroyed their idol temples and instead thereof raised mosques.

Later a brahman was burnt alive for practicing his rites in public. Firuz Sha was simply carrying on the tradition of the early Muslim leaders, and, to quote Vincent Smith,(14) “believed that he served God by treating as a crime the public practice of their religion by the vast majority of his subjects |i.e. Hindus~.”

Buddhists fared no better than the Hindus. Indeed most historians attribute the disappearance of Buddhism from India, in part at least, to the intolerance of the Muslim invaders of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. For example, in the sack of Bihar by Muhammad Khilji, in 1193, thousands of Buddhist monks were put to the sword, a great library destroyed, and many ancient monuments irretrievably wrecked. These Muslim invasions were fatal to the existence of Buddhism in northern India. The monks who escaped massacre fled to Nepal, Tibet, and the south.

Intolerance in Islam extends even to other Muslims. Right from the beginning of Islam, there were rivalries, often bloody, between sects, groups, and factions, with each group convinced of its own, exclusive “truth.” For instance, a subsect of the Kharijites, known as the Azraqites, developed a puritanical theology that became a justification for terrorism and numerous massacres. They themselves were exterminated at the end of the seventh century by Umayyad armies.

At the beginning of the ninth century, Islam had its own Inquisition, mihna. In 827 C.E., the Abbasid caliph, al-Manum, gave his allegiance to a doctrine about the origin of the Koran. Henceforth, officials throughout the empire were obliged to publicly confess their agreement. This policy was violently pursued under al Mamun’s successor, al Mutasim. Any challenge was brutally suppressed.

In modern times, Pakistan’s treatment of its Ahmadi sect is a disgrace. The Ahmadi sect was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (born 1835) in 1889. He came to believe that he was the Mahdi or the Promised Messiah, an idea that is deeply abhorrent to most Muslims, who believe that Muhammad was the final Prophet. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then prime minister, to win over the Mullahs, the Muslim clergy, and because of pressure from Arab leaders declared all Ahmadis non-Muslims in 1974. Then in 1984, the military dictator, Zia ul Haq, began the systematic persecution of Ahmadis who were denied their civil rights–they were denied the freedom of religion; they were continuously harassed and arrested; their mosques were demolished. Zia himself vowed to exterminate the “cancer” of Ahmadism. “The teachings of Ahmadiyat were misrepresented so as to create hatred among the members of the community. The mullahs were let loose by the government and they roamed about in cities and villages, using the pulpits of mosques to incite the people to kill the Ahmadis and burn their property. This situation continues to this day. The Bahais in Iran have suffered similarly.

As the story of Islamic intolerance moves to modern times, it is increasingly a story of massacres, fanaticism, hostility, and intolerance. Even Islam’s staunchest supporters will testify to the uneasy and precarious position of non-Muslims in the Muslim states of today–the Copts of Egypt, the Jews in Syria, the Christians, and Hindus in Pakistan.

Notes

1. Maxime Robinson, ed., The Legacy of Islam (Schacht & Bosworth: Oxford, 1974), p. 59.

2. Bernard Lewis in the New York Review of Books, March 26, 1992. Though Lewis agrees that discrimination against non-Muslims in the Islamic world was “structural, universal, imposed by doctrine and enforced by popular consent,” he in my view, always minimizes the actual persecution of non-Muslims.

3. Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, vol. 2, O.U.P., p. 358-359.

4. Dictionary of Islam, p. 57.

5. Ibid., p. 106.

6. See in general The Jews of Arab Lands, N. Stillman.

7. Bat Ye’or, Les Chretientes D’ Orient Entre Jihad Et Dhimmitude, p. 27.

8. G. H. Bousquet, L’Ethique Sexuelle de L’Islam, p. 10.

9. Dictionary of Islam, p. 243f.

10. Quoted in Stillman, op. cit., pp. 157-158.

11. Bat Ye’or, op. cit., p. 128.

12. Quoted in V. S. Naipaul, Among the Believers, p. 131.

13. V. Smith, The Oxford History of India, p. 205.

14. Ibid., p. 259.

“Ibn Warraq” is a pseudonym for the author, a former Muslim living in Western Europe. He is now at work on a book about Islam. His identity is being withheld because of his fear of reprisal.
Islamic intolerance

Magazine article by Ibn Warraq; Free Inquiry, Vol. 13, Summer 1993

Why Malaysia alone?

Isn’t it true all over the world, whenever Muslims have a say and specially wherever they are the majority?

Didn’t we see it during the Amarnath land transfer case or the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhist statues?

Don’t we read it everyday about the plights of Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan,  Afghanistan or the Middle eastern countries?

The author does attempt an act of political correctness, by highlighting secular Muslims’ efforts to denounce the incidence and then trying to equate such barbarism with stray acts of ‘thuggish Hindus’ but, let it be clear, no effort is enough to minimize the inherently intolerant and violent, religious convictions of the followers of Islam. 

 shah-alam-cowmarch-aug28 (picture from http://www.malaysiainsider.com/index.php/malaysia/36272-protesters-threaten-bloodshed-over-hindu-temple)

 

The Myth Of A Moderate Malaysia

Sadanand Dhume, 08.31.09, 12:00 AM ET

 

If you’re looking for an image that captures the conflict between fervent Islam and basic human decency, look no further than the Malaysian city of Shah Alam, about 15 miles west of Kuala Lumpur.

On Friday, a group of about 50 men, agitated by plans to relocate a 150-year-old Hindu temple to their neighborhood, made their feelings clear by staging a protest march from a mosque to a government building. Amidst the usual cries of “Allahu Akbar” and “takbeer,” the protesters deposited the freshly severed head of a cow–an animal sacred to Hindus–before the building’s gate. The group’s leaders made threatening speeches and, perhaps caught up in the spirit of the moment, hammed it up for the cameras, stepping and spitting on the cow’s head. The police–who have been known to arrest people for such crimes as attending a candle light vigil or wearing black in support of the opposition–stood by and watched.

Ironically, those scanning the globe for a Muslim-majority country that inspires neither dread nor despair often alight upon Malaysia. Until a few years ago, the Southeast Asian nation boasted the world’s tallest building, the iconic 88-story Petronas Towers. Powered by electronics, palm oil and petroleum, Malaysia is the world’s 20th-largest exporter, ahead of Sweden, Australia and India. Per capita income, about $14,000 in purchasing parity terms, is about the same as in Argentina. Apart from the obvious prosperity of downtown Kuala Lumpur, the casual visitor notices the comforting trappings of a British colonial past–a parliament, a judiciary, a professional police force.

But most strikingly, Malaysia (along with next-door Indonesia) can claim something increasingly rare in the Muslim world: a large non-Muslim population. About four in 10 Malaysians are Buddhist, Christian, Hindu , Sikh or Confucian. (By contrast, Turkey, the poster-child for an Islam at peace with the 21st century, is 99.8% Muslim.) Recognizing the power of this statistic in our multicultural age, Tourism Malaysia promotes the country’s allegedly harmonious blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian communities with an odd but nonetheless catchy slogan: Malaysia, Truly Asia.

The reality, of course, is a lot less sunny. Unlike neighboring Singapore, which shares the same colonial past and ethnic mix–albeit with a Chinese rather than a Malay majority–Malaysia has rejected secularism in favor of a kind of ethnoreligious apartheid that belongs more in a medieval kingdom than in a modern democratic republic.

In Malaysia, Islam is the state religion. Higher education, the bureaucracy and vast swathes of the economy are operated as a kind of spoils system almost exclusively for Malays, whom the state defines as Muslim. Race and religion determine everything from your odds of getting into medical school to the amount you’re expected to put down for an apartment. The conversion laws, based on sharia, bring to mind the Eagles’ classic “Hotel California”: You can check in (to Islam) any time you like, but you can never leave.

Over the past 30 years, encouraged by the government and influenced by the Middle East, Malaysia’s growing prosperity has gone hand-in-hand with a heightened piety. But instead of making the country more humane, this has had the opposite effect. Friday’s protest was part of a larger pattern.A 32-year-old Malaysian Muslim model, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, faces a sharia-prescribed caning, suspended at the moment on account of Ramadan, for the crime of drinking a beer. Muslims have been barred from a Black Eyed Peas concert next month sponsored by Guinness. Two years ago, a Muslim-born woman, Lina Joy, failed in her famous eight-year quest to convert to Christianity to marry the man that she loved. (Interfaith marriages are forbidden.) In another high-profile case, Revathi Masoosai, a practicing Hindu, was forcibly separated from her husband and infant daughter and sent to a religious re-education camp after it was discovered that technically she had been born a Muslim.

Taken together, these cases illustrate two issues–both central to the debate about Islam and modernity–that Malaysia is struggling to come to terms with. Can a Muslim majority live with a non-Muslim minority as equals, or must the former be explicitly dominant–in law as well as in day-to-day life? And can Muslims reconcile piety with a culture where the rights of the individual (say, to order a beer) are given precedence over communal beliefs?

To be sure, not all Malays, perhaps not even a majority of the sharia-minded, approve of the acts of boorishness committed in the name of their faith. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has ordered police to take action against the Shah Alam protesters, and members of parliament have cut across racial and party lines to condemn the incident. The English-language Malaysian blogosphere is alight with outrage, much of it Muslim. Nor are questions about secularism and individual rights absent in non-Muslim societies. In recent years, thuggish Hindu groups have developed a penchant for roughing up women in bars and castigating young couples for the high crime of celebrating Valentine’s Day. America has yet to come to terms with a woman’s right to an abortion.

Nonetheless, only in Muslim-majority lands are religious bigots given such broad leeway by their secular co-religionists. An Indian feminist is apt to laugh in the face of a pious Hindu who tells her that gender relations need to be ordered by the ancient laws of Manu. In America, the so-called new atheists–most prominently Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins–don’t need to think twice about ridiculing religious beliefs or savaging the most powerful priest or pastor. But in Malaysia, as elsewhere, secular liberals tend to tip-toe around Muslim religious sensibilities. They wield the word “un-Islamic” as an insult rather than as a compliment. Unless this changes, unless Malaysians can find a way to treat Islam like any other set of ideas, scenes like those in Shah Alam on Friday aren’t about to disappear.

Sadanand Dhume is a Washington-based writer and the author of My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with a Radical Islamist(Skyhorse Publishing, 2009).

Despite the folklore and the glamorization, it does not appear to be as ‘tolerant’ and ‘softer’ as we have been made to believe.

One can imagine that, perhaps the suffering Hindus under the Muslim rulers, living in constant fear of death or destruction, at one time may have felt attracted  to and even welcomed the so called ‘mystic’ version of Islam rather than the more prevalent, crude and violent Islam.  Our ‘secular’ historians of modern times certainly have helped to perpetuate the myth and to keep the gullibles among us,  vastly ignorant of the harsh truth.

 

Unraveling the Sufis of India: Villains in the Guise of Saints

by Ibrahim Lone

25 Dec, 2008

 

India has always was a land of diversity. Secularism and peaceful co-existence is not a concept in this land, it is a way of life. The credit goes to the understanding of our great Vedic ancestors (I count Hinduism as practiced today as not Vedic in spirit or essence) who were men of great letters and a mighty spirit. Christianity reached the Indian shores much before it reached Europe. There are Christians, know as Syrian Christians, whose links with the Christian doctrine far outdates that of any other country outside the Middle East. Jews, Zoroastrians, Bahai’s all have found home and safe refuge in this great country.  

However the only exception to these immigrants was the Muslim, who did not come here to adapt himself to the local culture and live in peace and harmony. He had only one aim, which was to subdue the native populations and wave the flag through the length and breadth of this once great Nation which extended from Dhaka in the East to Khyber in the west. 

Islam changed smeared the face of this country with a paint so horrific that the colours still refuse to wither out. While there is no denying the fact that Islam was spread in India mostly by the sword, there is another aspect of Islamic proselytization, which is ignored. This face is that of Sufism and the Sufis. 

Most people in the India have been mislead into believing that the Sufis mostly by their own soft-headed scholars, to cherish the fond belief that the Sufis were spiritual seekers, and that unlike the Mullahs, they loved Hindu religious lore and liked their Hindu neighbors. The Chistiyya Sufis in particular have name chosen for such fulsome praise. The orthodox among the Muslims protest that the Sufis are being slandered. But the gullible Hindus remain convinced that they themselves know better. Professor Aziz Ahmad, a renowned scholar of Islam in India, clinched this matter in the following words: “In Indian sufism anti-Hindu polemics started with Muinal-din Chisti. Early sufis in Punjab and early Chistis devoted themselves to the task of conversion on a large scale. Missionary activity slowed down under Nizam al-din Auliya, not because of any new concept of eclecticism, but because he held that the Hindus were generally excluded from grace and could not be easily converted to Islam unless they had the opportunity to be in the company of the Muslim saints for considerable time.” In other words the native Hindus were as a nation, not fitting to become Muslims. This is the sort of hatred that the Sufis had for the Hindus. 

Of course, the Auliya who lived in a sprawling mansion and received rich gifts out of plunder was convinced that he himself was such a Muslim saint. His temper and teachings can be known easily from the writings of Amir Khusru, the poet, and Ziauddin Barani, the historian. Both of them were leading disciples of the Auliya. Both of them express intense hatred for Hindus, and regret that the Hanafi school of Islamic Law had come in the way of wiping out the “curse of infidelity” completely from the face Hindustan (India).

A similar Sufi saint who died a mere 79 years before Waliullah’s birth, was Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624). He was always foaming at the mouth against Akbar’s policy of peace with the Hindus. He proclaimed himself the Mujaddid-i-alf-i-sdni, (renovator of the second millennium of Islam). Besides writing several books, he addressed many letters to several powerful courtiers in the reign of Akbar and Jahangir. His Maktiibctt-i-Imdm Rabbant have been collected and published in three volumes. According to Professor S.A.A. Rizvi, “Sharia can be fostered through the sword’ was the slogan he raised for his contemporaries.

Let us see a few specimens of his writings in which he expressed the love for the Indian infidels: “The honour of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One who respects the kafirs dishonours the Muslims. The real purpose of levying jiziya on them is to humiliate them to such an extent that they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling. It is intended to hold them under contempt and to uphold the honour and might of Islam.” In Letter No. 81, he said: “Cow-sacrifice in India is the noblest of Islamic practices. The kafirs may probably agree to pay jiziya but they shall never concede to cow-sacrifice.” After Guru Mun Deva had been tortured and done to death by Jahangir, he wrote in letter No. 193 that “the execution of the accursed kafir of Gobindwal is an important achievement and is the cause of the great defeat of the Hindus.”

Sirhindi ranks with Shah Waliullah as one of the topmost sufis and theologians of Islam. Referring to his role, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (Former Preident of Post Colonial India) has written in his Tazkirah that “but for these letters Muslim nobles would not have stood by Islam and but for the efforts of Shaikh Ahmad, Akbar’s heterodoxy would have superseded Islam in India.” ‘Later on, when K.A. Nizami published a collection of Shah Walilullah’s letters addressed to various Muslim notables, including Ahmad Shah Abdali, he dedicated it to Maulana Azad. The Maulana wrote back, “I am extremely happy that you have earned the merit of publishing these letters. I pray from the core of my heart that Allah may bless you with the felicity of publishing many books of a similar kind.” That should give us a measure not only of ‘Muslim Revivalism’ but also of many Maulanas who masqueraded as ardent nationalists in order to fight the battle for Islam from within the Indian National Congress.

It is strange that most of the present-day Muslim scholars refuse to cite the actual statements made about Hindus and Hinduism by their heroes such as Ahmad Sirhindi and Shah Waliullah while praising them to the skies as saviours of Islam in India. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Allama lqbal were shining examples of this intriguing silence. The late Professor Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi published two significant books on the history of Islam in India – Ulema in Politics (1972), and The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (1977). He has devoted many pages to Ahmad Sirhindi and Shah Waliullah in both the books. But he has not cited a single sentence written or spoken by the ‘great sufis’ on how they looked at Hindus and Hinduism. I have no doubt that Nizami has also suppressed those letters of Shah Waliullah in which the latter has poured out his heart about kufr and the kafirs. It is only Professor S.A.A Rizvi who has taken us into the secret chambers so to say. Professor Rizvi is a Shia. And the venom which characters like Ahmad Sirhindi have poured on Hindus and Hinduism is quite comparable to that which they poured out on Shi’as and Shi’ism.

Professor Rizvi has cited select passages from the original Persian of Ahmad Sirhindi’s letters. It is only recently that the letters have become available in Urdu translation. Ahmad Sirhindi wrote to many Muslim notables in the reign of Akbar and Jahangir. Some of these letters were in strong protest against Akbar’s liberal, equitable policies vis-à-vis Hindus. One of Sirhindi’s patrons was Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan whom many Hindus cherish as a Hindi poet and a devotee of Krishna. It is unfortunate that quite a few recipients of these letters cannot be identified straight away because they are addressed by their titles and not by their names. As the letters are not dated, it is difficult to say whether the bearer of a particular title belonged to the reign of Akbar or Jahangir. The same title was given to several persons in succession. I reproduce below some passages from these significant letters in order to show how the mind of this great sufi functioned. He was the leading light of the Naqshbandi sufi silsila, and the foremost disciple of Khwaja Baqi Billah who brought this silsila to India in the reign of Akbar. I may add that the Prophet appeared quite frequently to both Baqi Billah and Ahmad Sirhindi in their dreams or states of trance, and gave guidance to them.

Some of his statements translated from the original Urdu script have been reproduced below:

“It is said that the Sharia prospers under the “shadow of the sword” (al-Shara’ tahat al-sait). And the glory of the holy Sharia depends on the kings of Islam.”

“Islam and infidelity (kufr) contradict one another. To establish the one means eradicating the other, the coming together of these contradictories being impossible. Therefore, Allah has commanded his Prophet to wage war (jihad) against the infidels, and be harsh with them. The glory is Islam consists in the humiliation and degradation of infidels and infidelity. He, who honours the infidels, insults Islam. Honouring (the infidels) does not mean that they are accorded dignity, and made to sit in high places. It means allowing them to be in our company, to sit with them, and talk to them. They should be kept away like dogs. If there is some worldly purpose or work which depends upon them, and cannot be served without their help, they may be contacted while keeping in mind all the time that they are not worthy of respect. The best course according to Islam is that they should not be contacted even for worldly purposes. Allah has proclaimed in his Holy Word (Quran) that they are his and his Prophet’s enemies. And mixing with these enemies of Allah and his Prophet or showing affection for them, is one of the greatest crimes.”

The abolition of jizyah in Hindustan is a result of friendship, which (Hindus) have acquired with the rulers of this land… What right had the rulers to stop exacting jizyah? Allah himself has commended imposition of jizyah for their (infidels) humiliation and degradation. What is required is their disgrace, and the prestige and power of Muslims. The slaughter of non-Muslims means gain for Islam. To consult them (the kafirs) and then act according to their advice means honouring the enemies (of Islam), which is strictly forbidden.”

“The prayer (goodwill) of these enemies of Islam is false and fruitless. It should never be called for because it can only add to their numbers. If the infidels pray, they will surely seek the intercession of their idols, which is taking things too far. A wise man has said that unless you become a dewanah (crazy) you cannot attain Islam. The state of this mania means going beyond considerations of profit and loss. Whatever one gains in the service of Islam should suffice…”

Ram and Krishan whom Hindus worship are insignificant creatures, and have been begotten by their parents… Ram could not protect his wife whom Ravan took away by force. How can he help others? It is thousands of times shameful that some people should think of Ram and Krishan as rulers of all the worlds. To think that Ram and Rahman are the same, is extremely foolish. The creator and the creature can never be one… The controller of the Cosmos was never called Ram and Krishan before, the latter were born. What has happened after their birth that they have come to be equated with Allah, and the worship of Ram and Krishan is described as the worship of Allah? May Allah save us!”

“Our prophets who number one hundred and twenty four thousand have encouraged the created ones to worship the Creator. The gods of the Hindus (on the other hand) have encouraged the people to worship them (the gods) instead. They are themselves misguided, and are leading others astray. See, how the (two) ways are different!”

“Before that kafir (Guru Arjun Dev) was executed, this recluse (meaning himself) had seen in a dream that the reigning king had smashed the skull of idolatry. Indeed, he was a great idolater, and the leader of the idolaters, and the chief of unbelievers. May Allah blast him! The Holy Prophet who is the ruler of religion as well as the world, has cursed the idolaters as follows in some of his prayers – “O Allah, demean their society, create divisions in their ranks, destroy their homes, and get at them like the mighty one.”

It is required by religion (Islam) that jihad should be waged against the unbelievers, and that they should be dealt with harshly. It is obligatory on Muslims to acquaint the king of Islam with the evil customs of false religions. Maybe the king has no knowledge of these evil customs. Some Ulama of Islam should come forward, and proclaim the evils present in their (unbelievers’) ways… It will be no excuse or, the Day of Judgment that they did not proclaim the tenets of the Sharia because they were not called upon (to do so).”

“Therefore, it is necessary that infidelity should be cursed in order to serve the faith (Islam). Cursing unbelief in the heart is the lesser way. The greater way is to curse it in the heart as well as with the body. In short, cursing means to nourish enmity towards enemies of the true faith, whether that enmity is harboured in the heart when there is fear of injury from them (infidels), or it is harboured in the heart as well as served with the body when there is no fear of injury from them. In the opinion of this recluse, there is no greater way to obtain the blessings of Allah than to curse the enemies of the faith (be impatient with them). For Allah himself harbours enmity towards the infidels and infidelity…”

“Once I went to visit a sick man who was close to death. When I meditated on him, I saw that his heart was layered with darkness. I intended to remove those darkness. But he was not yet ready for it… When I meditated more deeply, I discovered that that darkness had gathered due to his friendship with the infidels. They could not be dispersed easily. He had to suffer torments of hell before he could get purged of them.”

“Every person cherishes some longing in his heart. The only longing which this recluse (meaning himself) cherishes is that the enemies of Allah and his Prophet should be roughed up. The accursed ones should be humiliated, and their false gods disgraced and defiled. I know that Allah likes and loves no other act more than this. That is why I have been encouraging you again and again to act in this way. Now that you have yourself arrived at that place, and have been appointed to defile and insult that dirty spot and its inhabitants, I feel grateful for this grace (from Allah). There are many who go to this place for pilgrimage. Allah in his kindness has not inflicted this punishment on us. After giving thanks to Allah, you should do your best to ruin that place and their false gods … whether the idols are carved or uncarved. Let us hope that you will not act slow. Physical weakness and severity of the cold weather, comes in my way. Otherwise, I would have presented myself, and helped you in doing the job. I would have liked to participate in the ceremony and mutilate the stones.”

This is short history of the love that Sufis has for the native Indians. With the advent of Wahabism in India more and more Muslims are abandoning the practice of going to the tombs of these Sufis and offering Fatiha to them. However the funding to these shrines continues as Hindus visit these tombs. In fact many of these tombs in India get more Hindu visitors than Muslim visitors. Needless to say large amounts of money are dolled out by the gullible non believers at these tombs. What exactly this money goes on to fund is anybody’s guess. However all I can say here is that : Viva Hindus keep it up! 

But isn’t Pakistan a victim of terror? Why, even the Prime Minister of South Asia  said so.

Does the US really care against whom their missiles are used? That is their main “industry” and they have to sell it to somebody. Besides they ‘need’ Pakistan and its puppet government, the ISI and its machinary and personnel  for their ‘frankenstein’  – the Talibans and the Al Qaedas. They need Afghanistan and its government too for the oil pipelines. What does it matter if some missiles are ‘misdirected’ to India? What if a ” few more thousand Indian lives” is the price for their misadventures.

 

U.S. Says Pakistan Made Changes to Missiles Sold for Defense

By Eric Schmidt and David E. Sanger

 

WASHINGTON — The United States has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying American-made missiles to expand its capability to strike land targets, a potential threat to India, according to senior administration and Congressional officials.

The charge, which set off a new outbreak of tensions between the United States and Pakistan, was made in an unpublicized diplomatic protest in late June to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and other top Pakistani officials.

The accusation comes at a particularly delicate time, when the administration is asking Congress to approve $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan over the next five years, and when Washington is pressing a reluctant Pakistani military to focus its attentions on fighting the Taliban, rather than expanding its nuclear and conventional forces aimed at India.

While American officials say that the weapon in the latest dispute is a conventional one — based on the Harpoon antiship missiles that were sold to Pakistan by the Reagan administration as a defensive weapon in the cold war — the subtext of the argument is growing concern about the speed with which Pakistan is developing new generations of both conventional and nuclear weapons.

“There’s a concerted effort to get these guys to slow down,” one senior administration official said. “Their energies are misdirected.”

At issue is the detection by American intelligence agencies of a suspicious missile test on April 23 — a test never announced by the Pakistanis — that appeared to give the country a new offensive weapon.

American military and intelligence officials say they suspect that Pakistan has modified the Harpoon antiship missiles that the United States sold the country in the 1980s, a move that would be a violation of the Arms Control Export Act. Pakistan has denied the charge, saying it developed the missile itself. The United States has also accused Pakistan of modifying American-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions, another violation of United States law that the Obama administration has protested.

Whatever their origin, the missiles would be a significant new entry into Pakistan’s arsenal against India. They would enable Pakistan’s small navy to strike targets on land, complementing the sizable land-based missile arsenal that Pakistan has developed. That, in turn, would be likely to spur another round of an arms race with India that the United States has been trying, unsuccessfully, to halt. “The focus of our concern is that this is a potential unauthorized modification of a maritime antiship defensive capability to an offensive land-attack missile,” said another senior administration official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter involves classified information.

“The potential for proliferation and end-use violations are things we watch very closely,” the official added. “When we have concerns, we act aggressively.”

A senior Pakistani official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity because the interchanges with Washington have been both delicate and highly classified, said the American accusation was “incorrect.” The official said that the missile tested was developed by Pakistan, just as it had modified North Korean designs to build a range of land-based missiles that could strike India. He said that Pakistan had taken the unusual step of agreeing to allow American officials to inspect the country’s Harpoon inventory to prove that it had not violated the law, a step that administration officials praised.

Some experts are also skeptical of the American claims. Robert Hewson, editor of Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, a yearbook and Web-based data service, said the Harpoon missile did not have the necessary range for a land-attack missile, which would lend credibility to Pakistani claims that they are developing their own new missile. Moreover, he said, Pakistan already has more modern land-attack missiles that it developed itself or acquired from China.

“They’re beyond the need to reverse-engineer old U.S. kit,” Mr. Hewson said in a telephone interview. “They’re more sophisticated than that.” Mr. Hewson said the ship-to-shore missile that Pakistan was testing was part of a concerted effort to develop an array of conventional missiles that could be fired from the air, land or sea to address India’s much more formidable conventional missile arsenal.

The dispute highlights the level of mistrust that remains between the United States and a Pakistani military that American officials like to portray as an increasingly reliable partner in the effort to root out the forces of the Taliban and Al Qaeda on Pakistani territory. A central element of the American effort has been to get the military refocused on the internal threat facing the country, rather than on threat the country believes it still faces from India.

Pakistani officials have insisted that they are making that shift. But the evidence continues to point to heavy investments in both nuclear and conventional weapons that experts say have no utility in the battle against insurgents.

Over the years, the United States has provided a total of 165 Harpoon missiles to Pakistan, including 37 of the older-model weapons that were delivered from 1985 to 1988, said Charles Taylor, a spokesman for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The country’s nuclear arsenal is expanding faster than any other nation’s. In May, Pakistan conducted a test firing of its Babur medium-range cruise missile, a weapon that military experts say could potentially be tipped with a nuclear warhead. The test was conducted on May 6, during a visit to Washington by President Asif Ali Zardari, but was not made public by Pakistani officials until three days after the meetings had ended to avoid upsetting the talks. While it may be technically possible to arm the Harpoons with small nuclear weapons, outside experts say it would probably not be necessary.

Before lawmakers departed for their summer recess, administration officials briefed Congress on the protest to Pakistan. The dispute has the potential to delay or possibly even derail the legislation to provide Pakistan with $7.5 billion in civilian aid over five years; lawmakers are expected to vote on the aid package when they return from their recess next month.

The legislation is sponsored by Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the top Democrat and Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as Representative Howard L. Berman, a California Democrat who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressional aides are now reconciling House and Senate versions of the legislation.

Frederick Jones, a spokesman for Mr. Kerry, declined to comment on the details of the dispute citing its classified nature but suggested that the pending multifaceted aid bill would clear Congress “in a few weeks” and would help cooperation between the two countries.

“There have been irritants in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship in the past and there will be in the future,” Mr. Jones said in a statement, noting that the pending legislation would provide President Obama “with new tools to address troubling behavior.”

Many ‘100 days’ have passed and will pass again ….. 100s of promises, 100s of lies, 100s of blunders, 100s of cover-ups ….. perhaps a hundred years may be required ……. that is, if India the nation, is still intact and around …..

 

UPA’s 100 days and a 100 lies later…

 

Anupam Trivedi, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, is moderator of the forum http://www.lkadvani.in

I wanted to write this piece on August 15. But I did not do so, realising that the country was on an extended holiday and would not really bother if we had the 61st/62nd or 97th Independence Day. But a bigger media event was round the corner when the brand new version of the government of the oldest party in India would complete its first 100 days in office.

You can’t miss the irony when a government completing its five years in office claims to set right in the next 100 days of its new tenure what it could not do in five years! Well, in this particular and peculiar case, the party in question has governed this country for nearly 54 out of its 62 years of Independence. Yet, the ever gullible voter gets taken in by a 100 days promise!

Let’s not get into the list of promises that UPA-II made as you would be seeing them in all the newspapers in full-page ads with pictures of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the PM-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi and PM-at-peace Shri Manmohan Singh [in that order]. I also will not get into the nitty-gritty of data and spreadsheets. But, isn’t all this obvious now?

The prime minister’s joint statement debacle, the shadow of scams and undemocratic activities surrounding the communications minister, the lack of assertiveness in the foreign minister’s statements in Parliament, the petroleum minister’s ‘uncalled for’ interference in private gas price deals, the Haj subsidy scam, spiralling prices and hoarders making hay… etc, to quote a few.

Having had a miraculous survival from the ICU, many thought the UPA-II would fare better than UPA-I. But, it has not changed. It remains what it was — a party of convenience and connivance. A review of their performance in the last 100 days will force any sensible person to lose trust in them.

Let’s look at the government’s functioning and some of the famous promises concerning the man on the street, from his eyes. Our eyes.

First, the Economy.

The revival of the economy was on top of the prime minister’s 100-day plan. The UPA was to revive the economy and ensure food security with many other measures to boost growth.

Addressing the press in Mumbai on April 25, 2009, Dr Singh had promised that, if voted back to power, within 100 days he would roll out an action plan to revive the economy. Of late, a few RTI applications have been filed by the disillusioned voters including one by Sri Yogacharya Anandji, a social activist, who filed an RTI at the PMO last month, asking when did the 100 days begin and when were they likely to end.

‘It was a promise made by none other than the prime minister and I wanted to know just how serious he was while he promised something to the nation,’ Anandji is quoted to have said. In a reply, the PMO dismissed his application citing the reason that ‘the query related to a reporter’s election campaign coverage, can neither be authenticated nor disputed, as no records are maintained in this office on election-related statements.’ It was signed the deputy secretary and central public information officer, PMO. The promise buried. Period.

But RTI or no RTI, don’t we all know where the economy is? The falling industrial outputs, the huge army of the unemployed, the enormous struggle to earn two square meals by the common man? All this cannot be hidden behind any data or advertisements.

More so, in the last 100 days, under an economist PM, we have seen a spectre of zero or negative inflation while the prices of essential commodities went through the roof! Forget the common man, it even dumbfounded the students of economics. But the government had a ready answer, ‘We calculate inflation on the wholesale price index.’ Oh yes. In a ‘sachet economy’, we calculate inflation on the wholesale price index. It’s another matter that even China, France, UK etc think it better to calculate inflation on consumer-price index.

So, the next time buy provisions wholesale if you want a good price and stop blaming the government. But in a country where nearly 70 per cent of the population survives on Rs 20 a day, the poor man on the street thinks thrice before buying 100 gms dal (lentil). Deenaram in his village is happy to afford the luxury of drinking tea from a Rs 1 sachet and his daughter with a Rs 2 sachet of Head & Shoulders. They won’t understand economics. Would they?

Even the poor middle class is unhappy paying more for their colas and chips. But not to worry, by the time the Challenger Trophy comes along, they will forget it all!

Agriculture and Food Security

The country is hungry. The poor are struggling to stay alive. The crops have failed. More than 246 districts have already been declared drought-hit.

The agenda included a promise to enact the National Food Security Act and provide 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3 a kg to below-poverty-line households in both rural and urban areas. But then, you must not have heard of the great rice scam and the thousands of quintals of wheat getting eaten by rodents in Food Corporation of India godowns?

We are being told that it is all because of the drought. The rain gods have been playing truant. What can the government do?

But did we not hear the agriculture minister say that we have enough food grains in the country? And that our granaries were well stocked? And why just food grains, we were told by this part-time sugar baron that there was no shortage of sugar. Now, even the Congress is asking him where all the sugar has gone.

Now, don’t listen to those BJPwallahs who say that the sugar lobby in Maharashtra is behind all this, in preparation for the forthcoming assembly election. [The DMK effect, did someone say?]

And what about the millions of drought-hit farmers who are committing suicide at the rate of 1 every 30 minutes? Looks like, they will have to wait till we have the next big election or they can try to bribe the local sarpanch and get employment in the National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme but with very little or no payment.

And just recently, the minister has told the nation that ‘we should shift our focus on Rabi crop.’ Well, Kharif is as good as gone. So, why cry over spilt milk? Now, give the poor man a few months’ respite. At least, till the Rabi growing season in December. He has so many businesses to attend.

In case you do not know, there is a three nations tournament in Sri Lanka followed by the Challenger’s trophy in South Africa. And in between, he has to sort out the mess in his home state and try to win the election again for the Nationalist Congress Party to maintain his bargaining power. And you guys keep bothering him!

Internal Security and External Affairs

What internal security? We will come to that when the next blast occurs and next genocide takes place. Till then, let P Chidambaram keep answering the questions framed by the crooked examiners across the border.

But how can you forget the biggest 100-day achievement here — the shame at Sharm-el-Shaikh. Now, all talks with Pakistan will be possible without mentioning the dreaded T-word. And, so, Insha-Allah, we will have a one-day series soon too. Besides, every time, we mention Kashmir, they can say Baluchistan. Score equal. No hard feelings.

And haven’t we got a fantastic foreign minister now, who has just proclaimed that ‘we will keep on giving proofs to Pakistan.’ Great. And they will keep on attacking us!

And the rest

We all know that the environment ministry is in the able hands of Shri Jairam Ramesh and he has earned laurels from the Opposition benches also. But when over 6,000 fully grown, mature trees were brutally cut in neighbouring Noida, within a 20 kilometers radius of the nation’s Parliament and the Supreme Court, to make way for Mayawati’s rock garden and seriously endangering a nearby bird sanctuary, his ministry did not even have an inkling about it.

The hyper active, very able lawyer, Shri Kapil Sibal, is busy working overtime on education. We all await the Right-to-education bill. Great, but what about the state of present education? The rich keep getting fleeced and the poor keep getting deprived. No visible change seen. Forget the rest of the country, the school in the National Capital Region keep harassing and robbing parents in the name of the Sixth Pay Commission.

In one bizarre incident, a wealthy group running a multi-million dollar education business, held 200 students captive for many hours after school was over for the day. As if it were demanding ransom from the parents. This insensitive nation, the blind education ministry and its able minister did not even blink an eye.

The health, they say, is in god’s hands. There is no better proof of this than in our health system. The country is battling H1N1. The government cannot handle or control it effectively. It is only adding to the ensuing panic. The health minister is clueless. The government has let the situation get worse. Till the deaths started getting reported, it kept saying all was well. It delayed taking action. Instead, the country’s health minister came up with an insensitive statement blaming the spread of flu on patients!

A young, promising girl Rida Sheikh lost her life. Imagine her parents’s trauma when their late child was also blamed for the spread of the very disease that claimed her life! How insensitive one can get?

And just before the 100 days are over, the telecom ministry has finally announced the much awaited 3-G spectrum auctions. Hurrah! But, unfortunately, after the 2-G scam, we now have a potential fiasco in hand under Communication Minister A Raja. Why? Because the world over, the companies are already waking up to the possibility of 4-G. Now, who would bother to invest mega-sums for 3-G spectrums? What if all this delay, sloth and corruption costs the government thousands and thousands of crores of rupees in possible revenues? That will be a crime in times of bad economic conditions.

And talking of bad economic conditions, did we all not hear the great news of every Congress MP, MLA etc taking a 20 per cent cut in their salaries? What a great sacrifice! But wait a minute, what about the bombardment of television ads singing paeans for Sri Hoodaji in Haryana. And did you miss the timing? The assembly election is round the corner, silly!

And when we are talking about the 100 day plans, how can we miss the next big deadline of the Commonwealth Games. Ask any Delhi wallah about what he thinks about them or whether Delhi is prepared to host them, you are guaranteed to see an expression of a murderer and a victim combined. Everything is way off the target. Delhi’s infrastructure can shame any Third World country. Hope you did not miss the visuals during the recent rains. A 30-minute rain crushed the ego of this city. The brand new airport got badly bruised and the city was thrown into utter chaos with traffic jams everywhere.

And what did we hear from the chief minister of Delhi? Must note this: ‘When it rains, the jams happen,’ she said. Beat that logic. Yet, Sheelaji is enjoying her third term now. Damned the daily jams and harried commuters and scared citizens of the city which is ‘also the crime’ capital of India. Either the voters in Delhi are crazy or she has a big fan following. That includes at least Khushwant Singh and now, the PM-in-waiting Shri Rahul Gandhi!

Why Rahul? Well, you probably missed how all the tabloids went gaga over Rahul’s Metro ride in Sheela Dixit’s Delhi? And the way, the Page 3 brigade was praising this, made it seem as if Rahul had helped another Kalawati. But, alas, Mr Rahul Gandhi did not take the metro to connect or empathise with the masses. He did this simply to avoid a traffic jam in a city that is ruled by his own party! He left his cavalcade, spG commandos etc at Dwarka station only to be greeted by another set of cavalcade and commandos at Rajiv Gandhi chowk. Wonder if Mr Mehta whose car broke down that day at Keerti Nagar could do the same?

So folks, 100 days or not, life goes on. Do not fool yourself that things will get better in 100 days or 1,000 days. Do something if you can. Or pray to god.

And where is the main Opposition party in all this? Can’t it come to the rescue? Yes, it can. But right now, it’s busy. Away from price-rise, drought, farmers’s suicides, Kashmir, Baluchistan, it’s stuck somewhere in Kandahar and fighting over a character certificate for Jinnah!

The late Sharad Joshi, the famous Hindi satirist, once said in the 1980s when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister, ‘Do not think that this country is being run by Rajiv Gandhi or by Indira Gandhi or Lal Bahadur Shastri or Nehru. It’s just running and will keep on running Ram Bharose (at God’s mercy).’ Sounds true. Isn’t it?

Anupam Trivedi

‘Lord Krishna existed. School texts are wrong’

 

Last updated on: August 29, 2009 

Raj Nambisan

Did Krishna exist?

Most certainly, says Dr Manish Pandit, a nuclear medicine physician who teaches in the United Kingdom, proffering astronomical, archaeological, linguistic and oral evidences to make his case.

“I used to think of Krishna is a part of Hindu myth and mythology. Imagine my surprise when I came across Dr Narhari Achar (a professor of physics at the University of Memphis, Tennessee, in the US) and his research in 2004 and 2005. He had done the dating of the Mahabharata war using astronomy. I immediately tried to corroborate all his research using the regular Planetarium software and I came to the same conclusions [as him],” Pandit says.

Which meant, he says, that what is taught in schools about Indian history is not correct?

The Great War between the Pandavas and the Kauravas took place in 3067 BC, the Pune-born Pandit, who did his MBBS from BJ Medical College there, says in his first documentary, Krishna: History or Myth?.

Pandit’s calculations say Krishna was born in 3112 BC, so must have been 54-55 years old at the time of the battle of Kurukshetra.

Pandit is also a distinguished astrologer, having written several books on the subject, and claims to have predicted that Sonia Gandhi would reject prime ministership, the exact time at which Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati would be released on bail and also the Kargil war.

Pandit, as the sutradhar of the documentary Krishna: History or Myth?, uses four pillars — archaeology, linguistics, what he calls the living tradition of India and astronomy to arrive at the circumstantial verdict that Krishna was indeed a living being, because Mahabharata and the battle of Kurukshetra indeed happened, and since Krishna was the pivot of the Armageddon, it is all true.

You are a specialist in nuclear medicine. What persuaded you to do a film on the history/myth of Krishna? You think there are too many who doubt? Is this a politico-religious message or a purely religious one?

We are always taught that Krishna is a part of Hindu myth and mythology. And this is exactly what I thought as well. But imagine my surprise when I came across Dr Narhari Achar (of the Department of Physics at the University of Memphis, Tennessee, in the US) and his research somewhere in 2004 and 2005. He had done the dating of the Mahabharata war using astronomy.

I immediately tried to corroborate all his research using the regular Planetarium software and I came to the same conclusions. This meant that what we are taught in schools about Indian history is not correct.

I also started wondering about why this should be so. I think that a mixture of the post-colonial need to conform to western ideas of Indian civilisation and an inability to stand up firmly to bizarre western ideas are to blame. Also, any attempt at a more impartial look at Indian history is given a saffron hue.

I decided that I could take this nonsense no more, and decided to make films to show educated Indians what their true heritage was. The pen is mightier than the sword is an old phrase but I thought of new one: Film is the new pen.

Any ideas I have will receive wide dissemination through this medium.

I wanted to present a true idea of Indian history unfettered by perception, which was truly scientific, not just somebody’s hypothesis coloured by their perceptions and prejudices.

Why not a documentary on Rama, who is more controversial in India today? Proof of his existence would certainly be more than welcome today…

A documentary on Rama is forthcoming in the future. But the immediate reason I deferred that project is the immense cost it would entail. Whereas research on Krishna and Mahabharata was present and ready to go.

Further more, Rama according to Indian thought, existed in the long hoary ancient past of Treta Yuga, where science finds it difficult to go.

There is a controversial point in your documentary where someone Isckon monk alludes to Krishna as being the father of Jesus. How can you say that since there is an age gap of roughly 3000 years between the two spiritual giants?

Is Krishna the spiritual father of Jesus? That is what the person who was training to be a Roman Catholic priest, and who now worships Krishna, asks. The answer comes within the field of comparative religion and theology.

The Biblical scriptures qualify Jesus as the son of God. Most Indians have no problems accepting this as Hindus are a naturally secular people. However, then the question that arises is, if Jesus is the son, then who is the Father or God Himself?

Now, Biblical scriptures do not really give the answer except to say that the Father is all-powerful and omnipresent. Now, of course, we know that Jesus does not say that he is omnipresent or omnipotent.

Now, no scripture can live as an island, all by itself, and the Srimad Bhagavatam and other scriptures such as the Bramha Samhita all call Krishna as an all powerful, omnipresent being.

So, if we use these words of Bhagavatam, there can be no other truth, which means that Krishna is the father of all living creation.

But it does not mean that Jesus is not divine. Jesus is indeed divine. What I liked about the monks in my documentary is that they do not denigrate Jesus although they worship Krishna as God. They keep Jesus in their hearts, while worshipping Krishna. What could be more secular or more Christian?

3067 BC is when the Mahabharata war took place, says Dr Achar. How did he arrive at this?

There are more than 140 astronomy references in the Mahabharata. Dr Achar used simulations of the night sky to arrive at November 22, 3067 BC, as the day the Mahabharata war began.

He used the references common to Udyoga and Bhisma Parvan initially, and so Saturn at Rohini, Mars at Jyestha with initially only the two eclipses, Lunar at Kartika and Solar at Jyestha.

Let me tell you how rare this set of astronomical conjunctions is.

The Saros cycle of eclipses is periodic at 19 years and so is the Metonic cycle of lunar phases.

So if I say that Amavasya has occured at Jyestha, then this will occur again in 19 years, but if I say that a solar eclipse has occured at Jyestha, then this occurs again at Jyestha only after 340 years. Add Saturn at Rohini and we take this to 1 in 7,000 years. This set of conjunctions takes all of these into consideration, but also takes all the other data into consideration.

So now, we know about Balarama’s pilgrimage tithis and nakshatras, and believe it or not, all that fits the 3067 BC date perfectly.

And to top it all, so does the repetition of the three eclipses described at the destruction of Dwarka 36 years later.

This would explain why so many other researchers tried and failed to find the date of the Mahabharata war as it is based on such a unique set of astronomy that it occured only once in the last 10,000 years.

So essentially, your thesis is that since the Mahabharata war actually happened, as confirmed by astronomical deduction, Krishna was also a living entity since he’s the fulcrum of the Great War?

Not just that, but the fact that archaeology, oral and living traditions point to the same. And yes, we cannot separate the Mahabharata war from Krishna. If one is shown to have happened, then the other must be true as well.

What’s your next project?

The next project is called Indian Jesus. It is already 80% complete. It is very controversial but needed to be done. Living in India convinced me that there are definitely many paths to God. Anybody who lives in India and does not subscribe to that concept should be termed intolerant, but instead the opposite is happening. There are some people today who call their God as God and mine as the devil, this is unacceptable, and I will see to it that those intolerant concepts are demolished. I long to see a one borderless world where we live in mutual respect. I cannot say much on the project but to say that I will prove that the underlying basis of religions is the same.

There is talk of a banyan tree which the documentary says was a witness to the Battle of Kurukshetra, where 4 million people are said to have died in 14 days. Where exactly does this exist? Has the tree been carbon-dated to confirm its age?

There is indeed a banyan tree at Jyotisaar in Kurukshetra which is worshipped as such. This concept is similar to the tree in Jerusalem, which is thought to have witnessed Jesus’s arrival. Carbon-dating of this banyan tree is unlikely to give any concrete answers. I have included it in the documentary to show the living tradition of India — like worship of the Ganges cannot be carbon-dated to give any answers.

There is a gentleman named Ram Prasad Birbal, who said he has found many bones which are said to belong to the Kurukshetra battle. Has this been scientifically proved?

Ram Prasad Birbal is a resident of Kurukshetra. I am not aware of carbon dating of those bones. But I am informed that thermo-luminescent dating of other relics as well as carbon-dating at other sites in Kurukshetra have given dates far older than the Indus valley civilisation. Further, Euan Mackie, an eminent archaeologist, had found a clay tablet of Krishna’s Yamalaarjuna episode at Mohenjedaro, a site of the Indus Valley civilisation proving that even in 2200 BC, there was a culture of worshipping Krishna.

You said Hinduism spread across South East Asia in those times … how big was this religious empire?

The Hindu religious empire extended across the whole of the Asian sub-continent to South East Asia, from Afghanistan to Thailand (where Ramayana and Krishna are still shown through dances), Burma, Cambodia (Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon, etc), Vietnam, Laos (little Kurukshetra and temples), Malaysia (which was Hindu until recent) up to Java (more temples), Bali (where Hinduism is still the religion) and Indonesia, where Bhima’s grandson is said to have performed a thousand fire rituals at Yogyakarta. Afghanistan was of course home to both the Yadu race and Shakuni (Kandahar or Gandhar).

Dr Achar said the Kurukshetra war must not have happened on a full moon day…

The Mahabharata war did not start on an Amavasya. That is straight forward.

Krishna tells Karna “Saptama chappi divasat Amavasya Bhivasyati” and says that Karna should tell Drona and Bhisma to do the ayudha (weapons) pooja on that date. But not start fighting the war on that date.

The documentary is quiet crisp. I am told this is the first time you held a camera, and learnt how to shoot. How many days did this take and what was your budget?

I learnt film editing first using a variety of software such as Final Cut 6 as I realised that a film director must be able to do decent basic editing to realise what to shoot, from what angles and for what duration.

I bought a professional grade HD movie camcorder initially and then learnt to shoot before we went filming in 8 major Indian cities, the US, UK and Cambodia.

However, nothing prepares you as thoroughly as filming on your own. Most of this was done with a skeleton crew, mostly handling audio.

I later was funded to buy the latest Cinealta tru HD movie cameras, which are not available in India, and which I am now proficient in using. I also taught a few crew members how to shoot.

Then came the task of assembling a team of professionals to do editing, graphics, voice over and all else, so that I had a team of people for my next set of documentaries.

It was a steep learning curve, as I never went to film school, but it has worked out well, with people within the industry who are veterans complimenting my work. I personally think that it was all God’s grace.

The budget was 15,000 pounds or approximately Rs 12 lakh. It took me 18 months to complete.

Your documentary says India did not have a tradition of putting down everything in writing till 325 BC, when Alexander the Great arrived. How did you come to this conclusion?

This is what the current scientific belief is. Although people have talked about deciphering the Indus Valley “script”, there is no straightforward conclusion about the same, so we stuck to the “official line” there. We will deal with these issues in a future documentary.

S R Rao, the marine archaeologist from the National Institute of Oceanography, found a 9th century building, and an entire city. Where was this and when did he find it?.

S R Rao found the sunken city of Dwarka a few years ago at Beyt Dwarka in the early 1990s.

Apparently, this city near Dwarka was set up 36 years after the Mahabharata war. Is this the summation of Rao?

It is believed that due to damage and destruction by the sea, Dwaraka has submerged six times and the modern-day Dwarka is the 7th such city to be built in the area. Scientifically speaking, we see that 36 years after the war there were the same repetitions of an eclipse triad as we have shown in the documentary.

From Dwarka to Kurukshetra is more than 1,000 km. How do you think Krishna travelled to help the Pandavas?

As a scientist, I believe that they travelled on horses which would enable them to reach pretty quickly. If you consider 1,000 km, that should take him 7 days if he had a string of horses. Of course if you take faith into account, then it could happen in a twinkling of an eye.

What’s the link between the two comets that Sage Vyasa talked about, the retrograde motion of Mars (Mangal or Kuja) at Antares (Jyestha) to all this

The idea that comets are harbingers of doom is well-documented. The thing is that there is a set of statements describing comets and their positions. Only Dr Achar has arrived at the correct deduction, that those sentences in Bhisma Parvan relate to comets, not planets — which is where previous researchers found it difficult.

We know that Halley’s comet was seen in that year as well.

Dr Achar interpreted verses from the Bhism Parvan and Udyog Parvan to arrive at various conclusions. One of them is that when Saturn in at Aldebaran (Rohini) it brings great bad tidings. The last time this happened was in September 2001, when 9/11 happened. When does this happen next?

Actually Saturn at Rohini is long known to be a bad omen by astrologers. Rohinim Pidyannesha Stitho Rajan Shanischarah. This transit happened in 1971 where a million or so were killed, and again in 2001 September, when 9/11 happened. The next time is in 2030/2031 AD approximately.

When is the next time Mars will be in Antares?

Mars at Jyestha has to be taken in conjunction with the other things mentioned by Karna when he talks to Krishna, as it occurs every year. In any case, those people were great astronomers and not just warriors, so we don’t know what the extent of their knowledge was regarding these events, In my personal humble opinion it was perhaps even better than that which we have today.

Contact Dr Pandit at manish@saraswatifilms.org 

Cross Cultural traces of Vedic Civilization

 

by Sadaputa das (Dr Richard L. Thompson)

1991 The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.

 

The ancient Greek writer Aratos tells the following story about the constellation Virgo, or the virgin. Virgo, he says, may have belonged to the star race, the forefathers of the ancient stars. In primeval times, in the golden age, she lived among mankind as Justice personified and would exhort people to adhere to the truth. At this time people lived peacefully, without hypocrisy or quarrel. Later, in the age of silver, she hid herself in the mountains, but occasionally she came down to berate people for their evil ways. Finally the age of bronze came. People invented the sword, and “they tasted the meat of cows, the first who did it.” At this point Virgo “flew away to the sphere”; that is, she departed for the celestial realm.[1]

The Vedic literature of India gives an elaborate description of the universe as a cosmos — a harmonious, ordered system created according to an intelligent plan as a habitation for living beings. The modern view of the universe is so different from the Vedic view that the latter is presently difficult to comprehend. In ancient times, however, cosmogonies similar to the Vedic system were widespread among people all over the world. Educated people of today tend to immediately dismiss these systems of thought as mythology, pointing to their diversity and their strange ideas as proof that they are all simply products of the imagination.

If we do this, however, we may be overlooking important information that could shed light on the vast forgotten period that precedes the brief span of recorded human history. There is certainly much evidence of independent storytelling in the traditions of various cultures, but there are also many common themes. Some of these themes are found in highly developed form in the Vedic literature. Their presence in cultures throughout the world is consistent with the idea that in the distant past, Vedic culture exerted worldwide influence.

In this article we will give some examples of Vedic ideas concerning time and human longevity that appear repeatedly in different traditions. First we will examine some of these ideas, and then we will discuss some questions about what they imply and how they should be interpreted.

In the Vedic literature time is regarded as a manifestation of Krsna, the Supreme Being. As such, time is a controlling force that regulates the lives of living beings in accordance with a cosmic plan. This plan involves repeating cycles of creation and destruction of varying durations. The smallest and most important of these repeating cycles consists of four yugas, or ages, called Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. In these successive ages mankind gradually descends from a high spiritual platform to a degenerated state. Then, with the beginning of a new Satya-yuga, the original state of purity is restored, and the cycle begins again.

The story of Virgo illustrates that in the ancient Mediterranean world there was widespread belief in a similar succession of four ages, known there as the ages of gold, silver, bronze, and iron. In this system humanity also starts out in the first age in an advanced state of consciousness and gradually becomes degraded. Here also, the progressive developments in human society are not simply evolving by physical processes, but are superintended by a higher controlling intelligence. 

It is noteworthy that Aratos’ story specifies the eating of cows as a sinful act that cut mankind off from direct contact with celestial beings. This detail fits in nicely with the ancient Indian traditions of cow protection, but it is unexpected in the context of Greek or European culture.

One explanation for similarities between ideas found in different cultures is that people everywhere have essentially the same psychological makeup, and so they tend to come up independently with similar notions. However, details such as the point about cow-killing suggest that we are dealing here with common traditions rather than independent inventions.

Another example of similarities between cultures can be found among the natives of North America. The Sioux Indians say that their ancestors were visited by a celestial woman who gave them their system of religion. She pointed out to them that there are four ages, and that there is a sacred buffalo that loses one leg during each age. At present we are in the last age, an age of degradation, and the buffalo has one leg.[2]

This story is a close parallel to the account in the Srimad Bhagavatam of the encounter between Maharaja Pariksit and the bull of Dharma. There, Dharma is said to lose one leg with each successive yuga, leaving it with one leg in the present Age of Kali.

According to the Vedic system, the lengths of the Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali yugas are 4, 3, 2, and 1 times an interval of 432,000 years. Within these immense periods of time the human life span decreases from 100,000 years in the Satya-yuga to 10,000 years in the Treta-yuga, 1,000 years in the Dvapara-yuga, and finally 100 years in the Kali-yuga.  

Of course, this idea is strongly at odds with the modern evolutionary view of the past. In the ancient Mediterranean world, however, it was widely believed that human history had extended over extremely long periods of time. For example, according to old historical records, Porphyry (c. 300 A.D.) said that Callisthenes, a companion of Alexander in the Persian war, dispatched to Aristotle Babylonian records of eclipses and that these records covered 31,000 years. Likewise, Iamblicus (fourth century) said on the authority of the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus that the Assyrians had made observations for 270,000 years and had kept records of the return of all seven planets to the same position.[3] Finally, the Babylonian historian Berosus assigned 432,000 years to the total span of the reigns of the Babylonian kings before the Flood.[4]

We do not wish to suggest that these statements are true (or that they are false). The point here is that people in the old Mediterranean civilization evidently had a much different view of the past than thedominant view today. And this view was broadly consistent with Vedic chronology. 

Although the Bible is well known for advocating a very short time-span for human history, it is interesting to note that it contains information indicating that people at one time lived for about 1,000 years. In the Old Testament the following ages are listed for people living before the Biblical Flood: Adam, 930; Seth, 912; Enos, 905; Kenan, 910; Mahaleel, 895; Jared, 962; Enoch, 365; Methusaleh,969; Lamech, 777; and Noah, 950. If we exclude Enoch (who was said to have been taken up to heaven in his own body), these persons lived an average of 912 years.[5]

After the Flood, however, the following ages were recorded: Shem, 600; Arphachshad, 438; Selah, 433; Eber, 464; Peleg, 239; Reu, 239; Serug, 230; Nahor, 148; Terah, 205; Abraham, 175; Issac, 180; Job, 210; Jacob, 147; Levi, 137; Kohath, 133; Amaram, 137; Moses, 120; and Joshua, 110.

These ages show a gradual decline to about 100 years, similar to what must have happened after the beginning of Kali-yuga, according to the Vedic system.  

Here we should mention in passing that the Biblical Flood is traditionally said to have taken place in the second or third millenium B.C., and the traditional date in India for the beginning of Kali-yuga is February 18, 3102 B.C. This very date is cited as the time of the Flood in various Persian, Islamic, and European writings from the sixth to the fourteenth centuries A.D.[6] How did the middle-eastern flood come to be associated with the start of Kali-yuga? The only comment we can make is that this story shows how little we really know about the past.

In support of the Biblical story of very long human life-spans in ancient times, the Roman historian Flavius Josephus cited many historical works that were available in his time:

Now when Noah had lived 350 years after the Flood, and all that time happily, he died, having the number of 950 years, but let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our         lives…make the shortness of our lives at present an argument that neither did they attain so long a duration of life….

Now I have for witnesses to what I have said all those that have written Antiquities, both among the Greeks and barbarians, for even Manetho, who wrote the Egyptian history, and Bersus, who        collected the Chaldean monuments, and Mochus, and Hestiaeus, and beside these, Hiernonymous the Egyptian, and those who composed the Phoenician history, agree with what I here say: Hesiod also, and Hecataeus, Hellanicaus, and Acuzilaus, and besides Ephorus and Nicolaus relate that the ancients lived a thousand years: but as to these matters, let everyone look upon them as he sees fit.[7]

Unfortunately, practically none of the works referred to by Josephus are still existing, and this again shows how little we know of the past. But in existing Norse sagas it is said that people in ancient times lived for many centuries. In addition, the Norse sagas describe a progression of ages, including an age of peace, an age when different social orders were introduced, an age of increasing violence, and a degraded “knife-age and axe-age with cloven shields.”[8] The latter is followed by a period of annihilation, called Ragnarok, after which the world is restored to goodness. 

The Norse Ragnarok involves the destruction of the earth and the abodes of the Norse demigods (called Asgard), and thus it corresponds in Vedic chronology to the annihilation of the three worlds that follows 1,000 yuga cycles, or one day of Brahma. It is said that during Ragnarok the world is destroyed with flames by a being called Surt, who lives beneath the lower world (appropriately called Hel) and was involved in the world’s creation. By comparison, the Srimad Bhagavatam (3.11.30) states that at the end of Brahma’s day, “the devastation takes place due to the fire emanating from the mouth of Sankarsana.” Sankarsana is a plenary expansion of Krsna who is “seated at the bottom of the universe” (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.8.3), beneath the lower planetary systems. 

There are many similarities between the Norse and Vedic cosmologies, but there are also great differences. One key difference is that in the Srimad Bhagavatam, all beings and phenomena within the universe are clearly understood as part of the divine plan of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In contrast, in the Norse mythology God is conspicuously absent, and the origin and purpose of the major players in the cosmic drama are very obscure. Surt, in particular, is a “fire giant” whose origins and motives are unclear even to experts in the Norse literature.[9]

One might ask, If Vedic themes appear in many different societies, how can one conclude that they derive from an ancient Vedic civilization?

Perhaps they were created in many places independently, or perhaps they descend from an unknown culture that is also ancestral to what we call Vedic culture. Thus parallels between the accounts of Surt and Sankarsana may be coincidental, or perhaps the Vedic account derives from a story similar to that of Surt. 

Our answer to this question is that available empirical evidence will not be sufficient to prove the hypothesis of descent from an ancient Vedic culture, for all empirical evidence is imperfect and subject to various interpretations. But we can decide whether or not the evidence is consistent this hypothesis.

If there was an ancient Vedic world civilization, we would expect to find traces of it in many cultures around the world. We do seem to find such traces, and many agree with Vedic accounts in specific details (such as the location of Surt’s abode or the sacred buffalo’s loss of one leg per world age). Since this civilization began to lose its influence thousands of years ago, at the beginning of Kali-yuga, we would expect many of these traces to be fragmentary and overlain by many later additions, and this we also see. Thus the available evidence seems to be consistent with the hypothesis of a Vedic origin.

 REFERENCES

 [1] E. C. Sachau, trans., Alberuni’s India (Delhi: S. Chand & Co., 1964), pp. 383-4.

[2] J. E. Brown, ed., The Sacred Pipe (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1971), p. 9.

[3] D. Neugebauer, History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1975), pp. 608-9.

[4] J. D. North, “Chronology & the Age of the World,” in Cosmology, History & Theology, eds. Wolfgang Yourgrau and A. D. Breck (N. Y.: Plenum Press, 1977), p. 315.

[5] D. W. Patten and P. A. Patten, “A Comprehensive Theory on Aging, Gigantism & Longevity,” Catastrophism & Ancient History, Vol. 2, Part 1 (Aug. 1979), p. 24.

[6] J. D. North, Ibid., p. 316-7.

[7] D. W. Patten, Ibid., p. 29.

[8] V. Rydberg, Teutonic Mythology, R. B. Anderson, trans. (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1889), pp. 88,94.

[9] Ibid., pp. 448-9.

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