Reverend Doctor Sathiyanathan Clarke is a renowned professor of Theology at the Wesley Theological Seminary. In his epoch making work ‘Competing Fundamentalisms’, he analyzes fundamentalism in Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.
‘Religious fundamentalism in the 21st century is a beast with many heads’. Clarke seeks a dialogical interpretation of fundamentalism. The aim of religious fundamentalism is to generate violence and breed terror. There is a strong link between religious fundamentalism and terrorism.
Four Theories that underestimate the Role of Religion
Clash of Civilizations
In the Clash of Civilizations theory the author draws patterns of conflicting cultures. There is an interpretative analysis on how religions clash with culture on the one hand and there is a growth of multiculturalism and hybridity on the other.
Resistance to Empire
Resistance to Empire thesis proposes that religious fundamentalism arose as a resistance to the big powers imperialistic designs. There is a clash of interests between the commercial and the religious world. Religious fanaticism can be seen as a protest to challenge neo-colonial interests.
It’s the Economy Stupid
Here the author looks at the economic interpretation of history. From the Marxian point of view, religion and culture belong to the super-structure of the society. There is a paradox here, of poor economies and its people being driven to religious zealotry and at the same time the big rich like Osmana Bin Laden being driven to Islamic extremism.
The writer makes crucial point in formulating psychological theories to analyze religious bigotry. Lack of self esteem, hatred towards the other, belief in reward of heaven all are contributing factors in driving people towards radicalism.
Christian Fundamentalism was a reaction against secular world view. Under the New Christian Right NCR, evangelists used digital and social media. After September 11, Christian fundamentalism grew its claws to claim American Society
Throughout centuries American missionaries have worked globally to proselytize people to Christianity. Absolutism in Christianity can be traced to the Scripture—the Bible being the infallible world of God. A charismatic pastor in America burned the Quran. The absoluteness of Christ God being a redemptive savior and being an agent that will surpass evil with good forms an important ingredient in theo-politics. Christian fundamentalism started as a thorough rejection of enlightenment.
I would like to disagree with the author whether Christianity is a fundamentalism. Christian evangelists spread peace and love and work independently without being contextual in the geo-political scenario.
It is not an irony but a celebration to point out that in the 21st century there has not been a single instance of Christian terrorism. Conversion is a protestant culture and aims at winning souls rather than winning battles.
The author begins to explain that Western societies are suffering from Islamic-phobia. Amongst the various strands of Islam, there are the Sunnis who cover predominant parts of the world and have a deep rooted fundamentalism in their character. The Shya Muslims on the other hand possess a liberal theology.
Islamic militancy has two fold objectives: one, using Islamic laws as a solution to social, cultural and economic problems and two, creating a community of Islamic believers.
The attack of USA’s Twin Towers by Sunni Muslims and the retaliation made by America’s invasion of Iraq increased the storm and rage the Jihadists. The concept of an all global Islamic State remarks one scholar is psycho-pathological.
Islamic fundamentalists adhere submission to the one and all powering God Allah and obedience to the Sharia. They carry a bitter hatred for the otherness of people. The diehards also embellish the view that Quran is the voice of God conveyed by the angel Gabriel and recited by memory (Muhammad did not know to read and write) and written down by its faithful adherents.
Modernity and Globalization have transformed fanatic devotees of Islam into a worldwide movement.
There are two forms of Jihad—the lesser Jihad and the greater Jihad. Greater Jihad is waged against people who are un-Islamic and who threaten the religious order of Islam.
It’s a moot question to ask which of these fundamentalisms Christianity, Islam or Hinduism is the worst. The answer is left to the discretion of the reader.
Hindu Fundamentalism is oxymoronic. Hinduism is a paradox—on the one hand it is diverse, tolerant and permissive and on other hand it is veering towards violent extremism.
The beginnings of Hindu fanaticism can be traced back to the Mughal invasions in India and systematic destruction of temples. Mughals also had the aim of conversion of infidels to Islam.
Hinduism in the 21st century involved the resurgence of what is popularly known as the Hindutva or violent, terrorizing Hinduism.
Savarkar a Hindu extremist said : ‘I want all Hindus to get themselves reanimated and reborn into a martial race’.
Savarkar defined India as being Hindutva’s sacred space. Savarkar’s ideas were greatly admired by the RSS (a militant wing of the Hindus) chief and founder Hegdewar. Hindu militancy acquired fire during the 80’s
The RSS and the VHP both being militant outfits conjoined with the BJP, the political party of India which came to power in 2014. Its chief driven purpose was to create a Hindu state for India.
The Hindu zealots want to change Nehruvian Indian secularism to a hard faceted Hindutva ideology.
The mosque that was built by Babar at Ayodhya which is considered to be the birth place of Lord Rama (Holy for the Hindus) was desecrated and demolished by Bajranglal (militant Hindus) activists and it created animosity between the Hindus and the Muslims.
The BJP government also plays a sinister role of infusing Hindu ideology into the curriculum of schools.
It is because of the prevalent caste system in Hinduism, that the subaltern, pariahs like the Dalits and the Adivasis get converted to Islam and Christianity.
There was violent attack on a railway carriage leading to the killing of scores of Muslims that too women and Children during the Modi (now Prime Minister of India) regime in Gujarat.
Bible burning, rape, murder and humiliation of Christians (a Christian missionary and his wife were paraded naked) became the disharmony of the day.
The VHP Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (a fanatic Hindu organization/ Trump are you listening) allocated 55 Million dollars for promoting Hindutva.
To conclude I would like to say that we need dialogic theologies of all religions that would harness peaceful coexistence and sustainable democracies for the future of hope and peace in the world.
We all know that the democratic president of Zimbabwe, Mugabe, has been placed under house arrest following a coup d’ etat. As idiom it means the arrest of democratically elected leader by the junta.
Example: The military of Zimbabwe has put a Mugabe.
Mugabe happens in many countries.
Arnold Toynbee is a world famous historian known for his penetrating insight into civilizations of the world. In his epoch making work: A study of World History, he does not consider civilization as discrete entities but views them as a continuum. In his analysis of civilizations he has bifurcated them into Egyptian, Hellenic, Chinese and contemporary civilizations.
The Egyptian civilization was marked by the emergence of Kingship and large class of serfs. It was basically an agrarian civilization. The most significant contribution of the Egyptians was the invention of writing. Religion in ancient Egypt was polytheistic. The systematic idea of a state evolved in ancient Egypt. Another significant contribution of the Egyptians was the Pyramids. Culturally and anthropologically speaking the Egyptians were an ethnic bourgeoisie, a ruling aristocracy embedded in cultic rituals, exploiting the weaker sections of the society. The Egyptian civilization also saw the Diaspora of the Jews into Egypt. Looking at Egyptian civilization we can interpret that it was civilization canonized by monarchs, satiated in excess catharsis and stimulated by the ecumenism of a cosmopolitan culture. The Egyptian civilization is noted for its architecture. Ancient Egypt bore the semblances of a religious and cultural syncretism.
The Hellenic culture on the other side saw the emergence of art, literature, philosophy and above all democracy. The great Philosophers of Greece were Plato Socrates and Aristotle. The Hellenic gift to the contemporary world was the gift of democracy. The Iliad and the Odyssey were epic poems written by the Greek poet Homer. In ancient Greece there was a shift from a religious attitude to a philosophical speculation. Ancient Greece also laid the foundations of modern science. Athens flourished because it was democracy. Philosophically speaking Greek civilization is marked by a mental Diaspora of historicity caught up in the eclectic balance of pristine culture in the throes of evolution.
Next I would like to analyze the modern world. The modern world went through a series of world wars. The modern world also saw the emergence of two contrasting isms Communism and Capitalism. It was during this time that large parts of Africa and Asia were colonies. The modern world also saw the rise of dictatorships which paved the way for the horrendous holocaust. The modern world also saw the rise of the press. Then there developed the rise of the Cold War. There was also the development of space journeys and nuclear missiles. The television became a personalized czar at home. Artistic movements like impressionism and surrealism gave a new lease of life to individuality.
The postmodern society is quite different from earlier civilizations. It was marked by the evolution of the internet. Media became a personalized entity. There was also the emergence of multinational corporations and patent rights. There was also the rise of gay culture. The postmodern society saw the demise of communism and the bipolarization of the world. The postmodern era is also characterized by the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism. Many of the colonies of Africa and Asia were decolonized. The postmodern society also saw the breakup of the nuclear family and the rise of gay marriages. Philosophy was characterized by disintegration and fragmentation. Postmodernism promoted nihilism and anarchy. The idea of what constitutes individuality became a question mark.
Nirad C Chaudhri lived during the time of India’s freedom struggle and he had recorded his experiences in the book: Thy Hand Great Anarch. He was a polished man supportive of the British regime and he was highly critical of the freedom struggle.
He begins his memoir by recording his life as a clerk. Having failed his MA he could get no other job. He rails at the Non Cooperation Movement stating that it was a mass brainwashing of the people. The non cooperation movement was a civil disobedience movement started by Mahatma Gandhi to eject the British from India. The non cooperation movement included withdrawal of Indians from work areas and civil protest. The aim of the non cooperation movement was to paralyze the British government. The agitating masses were illiterate and Chaudhri records an instance where he was physically harassed by the non cooperation agitators.
After the Non Cooperation Movement came the Chauri Cahuri incident when an irate mob torched a police station and burnt to death British policemen. Then Gandhi withdrew the non cooperation movement. This was followed by the massacre at Jalian Wallah Bagh incident where peaceful protestors gathered and they were shot to death under the orders of Colonel Dyer. This brutal assassination was met with a storm of protests from the country.
Then came the Simon Commission to placate the Indians and to offer partial autonomy to India. The Simon Commission was met with hostile resistance. People waved placards saying: ‘Simon go back’ and burnt effigies. After the Simon Commission, Gandhi adopted the Salt Satyagraha at Dandi where people marched to the shores of sea to make salt. This was done in protest against the harsh taxes imposed on commodities by the British. For Chaudhri: Gandhi was no apostle of peace and he indulged in moral and psychological violence.
The times leading to the independence were severe for India. There was much causality. The British were fed up of ruling India so they decided to leave. Lord Mount Batten was appointed as the British representative in India. Along with India the Muslims in Pakistan wanted a separate nation. Jinnah was vociferous in the creation of Pakistan. Gandhi was very disturbed Independent India was besieged with many problems. They were unemployment, poverty, death and starvation. Nehru decided to make India a socialist country.
Chaudhri’s struggle is so poignantly portrayed in a pristine language. For the average India life was queasy. The British exploited India’s economy by taking away its resources and bringing in finished goods. Cottage and handicraft industries the backbone of the Indian economy was severely in a ditch. A positive development of the British rule in India was the spread of the vernacular press the development of the railways. Railways united the country. Post independent India was one of quarrelsome princely states. It was the iron man of India Sardar Vallabhai Patel who united India and made it into a single country. The press played an important role in spreading the gospel of freedom. Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan created a lot of problems. There was a mass exodus of refugees from Pakistan to India and from India to Pakistan.
Chaudhri’s work is highly philosophical and literary synthesizing India and its turmoil into a political catharsis. Nehru remarked in his opening speech that we have made a tryst with destiny. When the world sleeps India will awake to freedom. Chaudhri marvelous rendition of India’s political and cultural landscape is an essential reading.
Pharisees and the Sadducees were people who questioned the integrity of Jesus and finally accused him of blasphemy and had him condemned to death by crucifixion. As an idiom it means a person who condemns an innocent person.
Example: The Police were not Pharisees when they arrested the Malayalam film star Dileep on having connived the sexual molestation of an actress.
McCarthyism in America was action of Pharisees.
Pharisees are hypocrites of the society.
References to Simon the Wizard are rife in the New Testament. Simon the Wizard was a warlock who became astounded when the disciples of Jesus were healing people by laying their hands on them. Simon the Wizard said: ‘can I also get this power and for that, I will give you money’. The disciples rebuked him and his demons. As an idiom Simon the Wizard refers to an unscrupulous person.
Example: in my life I don’t wish to be Simon the Wizard.
Nazi Hitler and the Fascist Mussolini were Simon the Wizards.
The God Father is Simon the Wizard.
We all know that Gamalial was the wise teacher of Paul the apostle. As an idiom it means an intellectual
Example: Ravi Zachariah is the Gamalial of Christian apologetics.
Philosophers are Gamalials.