Anti-Christian feeling in America, and anti-Muslim persecution in Pakistan


by Rumbold
27th December, 2007 at 12:09 pm    

As the American Presidental race continues, Mitt Romney has seen his religion come under severe scrutiny. He portrays himself as the candidate for the religious right, but many of that group are unhappy with his Mormon faith, which they consider to be un-Christian:

“Although Mormons are known for family centeredness, hard work and clean living, many Americans remain suspicious of them, maybe because so many aspects of their faith remain mysterious. A poll conducted in June by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg found that 35% of registered voters said they would not consider voting for a Mormon for President. Only Islam would be a more damaging faith for a candidate, the poll found.”

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, a Muslim sect is being persecuted once again because many Sunnis and Shias believe them to be non-Muslims who are insulting Islam by claiming to be Muslims:

“The two million-strong Ahmadiyya community, based in Rabwah in the Punjab, risks charges of “impersonating Muslims” under the country’s controversial religious laws. Shameen Ahmad Khalid, a community leader, said: “We have people serving long jail sentences for blasphemy or for ‘posing as Muslims’.”

The laws mandate three years’ imprisonment for Ahmadis who dare to call themselves Muslims, call their places of worship mosques, recite the Koran or announce the azan, the call to prayer.

Twenty years ago, the people of Rabwah were charged with impersonating Muslims. Since the charges are still outstanding, the town’s 50,000 inhabitants have to hide their Islamic habits, keep their beards trimmed and avoid using Muslim invocations.”

These persecutions have been going on for decades in South Asia, and led to a number of Ahmadi Muslims coming over to this country and founding mosques. Sadly, many Sunnis and Shias living in this country do not consider them proper Muslims either. Nor is the situation in Pakistan likely to get better soon:

“Despite recent improvements in voting rights for Christians and Hindus, Ahmadis are effectively still disenfranchised as they are permitted to vote only as “non-Muslims”. Pakistani popular rhymes defame Ahmadis in lurid terms and militants have stamped thousands of rupee notes imploring believers to “put them to death”.

Rabwah is surrounded by mosques whose clerics host prominent annual anti-Ahmadi rallies and bellow hateful slogans from their minarets’ loudspeakers. In 2005 gunmen burst into an Ahmadi village mosque at prayer time and killed eight people and wounded most of the 30-strong congregation.

An amendment to Pakistan’s constitution in 1974 declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims. The anti-Ahmadi laws, which allow Ahmadis to be charged with impersonating Muslims, were promulgated by late dictator Gen Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s.”

Both the Mormon and Ahmadiyya sects were founded in the 19th century, and this is where the bone of contention derives from. Mormons believe that Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was directed by an angel towards ancient artefacts which contained religious revelations; these later became the Book of Mormon. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who started the Ahmadiyya sect, claimed to be the reformer of Islam, whom some Muslims had been waiting for, and he tried to return Islam to its ‘true’ state.

One can see why these claims can be contentious. However, is that enough reason to persecute these people? As far as I can tell, both Mormonism and the Ahmadis follow the central tenets of their respective religions; Mormons believe that Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins, and the Ahmadis believe that there is no God but Allah, and that the Qur’an is the word of Allah. Who are those Sunnis and Shias, Protestants and Catholics to dictate to them that they are not Muslims or Christians?

If these religions are really divine, then it is up to the deity responsible to judge the believers and unbelievers, not the humans. Just look at the problems in past centuries when one group decided that another could not be part of its gang; The Religious Wars in Europe, or the Sunni-Shia conflict that still continues today in some parts of the world. If you believe that Ahmadis or Mormons should not be classed as the same religion as you, consider how you would feel if somebody told you that you were debarred. Religions should be open to anybody, not an exclusive club: that just breeds war and hatred.


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  1. Suzzy — on 27th December, 2007 at 1:34 pm  

    Benazir Bhutto is dead.

  2. Don — on 27th December, 2007 at 1:42 pm  

    So Romney hopes to win over the religious right by appealing to their sense of tolerance, openness and fair play?

    Well, not too open, as he has explicitly stated that , “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” If you parade your religious convictions around as a vote-catching exercise then you can’t complain about the consequences.

    ‘Religions should be open to anybody, not an exclusive club: that just breeds war and hatred.’

    Rumbold, if a religion is not an exclusive club then half the point of belonging vanishes.

  3. Boyo — on 27th December, 2007 at 2:10 pm  

    “Benazir Bhutto is dead.”

    I’m sorry for the Pakistani people.

    The other day I read the article below. At the time I thought it was unlikely, yet it was the first thing that came to mind when i saw the news.

    http://www.jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2373868

  4. Sam Ambreen — on 27th December, 2007 at 2:26 pm  

    I’ve come over all peculiar. I couldn’t give a monkeys arse about Pakistani politics but have seen the support for the Bhuttos both within my extended family and friends.

    It’s a sad day.

  5. Sam Ambreen — on 27th December, 2007 at 3:44 pm  

    What next? Civil war? Revenge attacks?

    Just got off the phone to an uncle that lives in Rawalpindi. It’s feeling a bit like the calm before the storm, people are being advised to stay at home, the streets are eerily silent.

    Where’s it going to end?

  6. Sofi — on 27th December, 2007 at 3:51 pm  

    isnt anyone covering the bhutto story??? come on PP..where is sunny..come back from yer holiday man!

  7. Natty — on 27th December, 2007 at 4:09 pm  

    Romney is an idiot who is asking people to accept his minority religion but has said clearly he won’t have a Muslim in his cabinet because they are a minority.

    Prat!

  8. Natty — on 27th December, 2007 at 4:11 pm  

    Sad news about Benazir Bhutto – no one deserves to die in such a way.

    Stupid people with stupid ideals who go round doing such things.

    Her kids will now suffer without a mother.

    She shouldn’t have gone back – somehow it wasn’t worth the price.

  9. Rumbold — on 27th December, 2007 at 5:17 pm  

    Don:

    “Well, not too open, as he has explicitly stated that , “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” If you parade your religious convictions around as a vote-catching exercise then you can’t complain about the consequences.”

    I agree, that was a terrible speech. I doubt that he believes it though, as it was clearly an attempt to appeal to the intolerant. Also, I suppose that I was thinking not of just him, but of all Mormons who face these sorts of attitudes.

    “Rumbold, if a religion is not an exclusive club then half the point of belonging vanishes.”

    But a religion is supposed to be different from a club, in that it is not supposed to be elite. Theoretically, most religions would like the whole world to be adherants, but then they dream up really narrow definitions of what you have to believe if you want to be a member of that religion. Of course you have to have a few fundamental beliefs (no point in Christianity without Jesus being the son of God), but I think that Mormonism and the Ahmadiyya sect accept these fundamental beliefs, so should not be excluded.

  10. DavidMWW — on 27th December, 2007 at 5:53 pm  

    If these religions are really divine, then it is up to the deity responsible to judge the believers and unbelievers, not the humans.

    Surely if any of these religions are really divine, then the texts upon which they are based are really divinely inspired/dictated. Therefore the adherents of those religions have access to divine will and divine opinion, which makes them more than qualified to judge the believers and unbelievers.

    There is nothing illogical or unreasonable about the religious believer judging who is or is not a “true” believer. Provided you accept their premises.

    Very sad about Benazir Bhutto.

  11. Kima — on 27th December, 2007 at 5:55 pm  

    It is not just the Christians in America who don’t consider Mormons as Christians or the Sunnis and Shias of Pakistan who don’t consider Ahmadiyyas to be Muslims. Inter-sectarian rivalry dwell much deeper. I have spent enough time with my Arab friends here in India to know for fact that many Sunnis don’t consider Shias to be Muslims and vice-versa. Similarly, about Christianity (my faith), I’ve had more than enough experience to know that some RC’s don’t consider Protestant groups to be a truly Christian group and even among Protestants, some denomination groups talk trash about other denomination groups.

    We live in an ethnocentric world where most of us consider our particular “sect” (group) to be the true form of that particular religion. After all, if you really think about it, the only real difference between a denomination and a cult is the number of its members. If there are many followers, then it is a denomination or a sect, but if there are very few, then it is a cult.

    For example, we each have our own views. Rumbold mentions above: “Of course you have to have a few fundamental beliefs (no point in Christianity without Jesus being the son of God)”.

    Then what about UPC (United Pentecostal Church of India) which is an offshoot of the Pentecostal movement of USA, that doesn’t believe in the Holy Trinity? Now, if you tell them that they aren’t Christians because of that belief, how different are you from those Americans who don’t consider Mormons to be Christians? What exactly would be a “fundamental belief” in this situation?

    People may call black a “black”. And there are others who may call “gray” a part of black and criticize those who don’t consider “gray” to be black as people who got no rights to do that. And then comes those who consider “blue” as “black” and thats where you set your limits by saying NO. Now the main problem depends upon who defines what “blue”, “gray” and “black” actually is.

    I have been a long (silent) reader of Pickledpolitics and thought I will just take part in the discussion for a change this time :)

    Warm regards,

    Kima,
    Mizoram,
    India.

  12. Saqib — on 27th December, 2007 at 6:01 pm  

    Rumbold:

    Regarding the Ahmadiyah, they don’t actually subscribe to fundamental tenets of Islam, for the testimony of faith in Islam known as shahadah is that Muhammad (pbuh) is the final messenger of God, whereas the Ahmadiyah believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad received revelation from God, and was (depending on which Ahamdi sect you belive) the awaited leader (Al-Mahdi) and/or Jesus.

    The Muslim Scholars from centuries have declared the belief in the final messengership of Muhammad as being fundamental to the faith. It is the same reason that the racist ‘Nation of Islam’ is considered outside the fold of Islam for they believe that Elijah Poole (their founder) was a prophet and then later God).

  13. Rumbold — on 27th December, 2007 at 6:27 pm  

    DavidMWW:

    “There is nothing illogical or unreasonable about the religious believer judging who is or is not a “true” believer. Provided you accept their premises.”

    There is, because it assumes that one person is better than another at judging what makes someone part of that religion.

    Kima:

    “We live in an ethnocentric world where most of us consider our particular “sect” (group) to be the true form of that particular religion. After all, if you really think about it, the only real difference between a denomination and a cult is the number of its members. If there are many followers, then it is a denomination or a sect, but if there are very few, then it is a cult.”

    You raise a very interesting point; what divides a cult and a religion? Is it numbers, or age, or openess? What are the hallmarks of a cult? The medieval Roman Catholic Church could well be classed as a cult under the modern terminology.

    “Then what about UPC (United Pentecostal Church of India) which is an offshoot of the Pentecostal movement of USA, that doesn’t believe in the Holy Trinity? Now, if you tell them that they aren’t Christians because of that belief, how different are you from those Americans who don’t consider Mormons to be Christians? What exactly would be a “fundamental belief” in this situation?”

    I have never heard of the UPC. However, I was aware of the Arian and Coptic rejection of the Trinty, which is was I do not consider the Trinty to be a fundamental part of Christianity (no moaning at the back you Chalcedonians). All that is required is that you accept that Jesus was the son of God, which Copts and Arians do, and I presume that the UPC does as well.

    “I have been a long (silent) reader of Pickledpolitics and thought I will just take part in the discussion for a change this time.”

    Glad to hear it. Feel free to contribute some more.

  14. Rumbold — on 27th December, 2007 at 6:33 pm  

    Saqib:

    “Regarding the Ahmadiyah, they don’t actually subscribe to fundamental tenets of Islam, for the testimony of faith in Islam known as shahadah is that Muhammad (pbuh) is the final messenger of God, whereas the Ahmadiyah believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad received revelation from God, and was (depending on which Ahamdi sect you belive) the awaited leader (Al-Mahdi) and/or Jesus.”

    But most Shias believe in the hidden Imam (Madhi). Should they be blacklisted too? Please don’t take this the wrong way Saqib, but how can you, a mere human, decide who is a Muslim and who is not? Sounds a bit like shirk to me. If they think that they are Muslim, follow the Qur’an, accept that Allah is the only god, and make the protestation of faith three times, then that is good enough for me. I know that you do not support how they are treated in Pakistan, but that is the result of people challenging their right to be Muslims. The ‘Nation of Islam’ is different anyway, because they followed someone who claimed that he was a god.

    Good to have you back by the way.

  15. Sid — on 27th December, 2007 at 6:40 pm  

    Great post Rumbold. Whatever is said about the Mormons, I doubt they have experienced anything near the violence and intolerance faced by the Ahmadiyya in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Almost all, it must be said, at the hands of the proto-fascist political party, the Jamaati Islami, and endorsed by it’s ideologue, Maulana Maududi.

  16. Don — on 27th December, 2007 at 6:40 pm  

    ‘Theoretically, most religions would like the whole world to be adherants’

    Other than Christianity and Islam, I’m not sure that is true.

  17. Sid — on 27th December, 2007 at 6:45 pm  

    The reason for which is that Islam and Christianity, and Buddhism, is open to all punters. Whereas with the other ones, it’s a birthright or a caste obligation.

  18. DavidMWW — on 27th December, 2007 at 7:02 pm  

    There is, because it assumes that one person is better than another at judging what makes someone part of that religion.

    Which, alas, is nearly always one of their premises.

  19. Saqib — on 27th December, 2007 at 7:12 pm  

    Rumbold:

    I wish my return could be more ‘permanent’, but really time is against. Actually before i try to address some of you points, i was wondering if you and Douglas, amongst others could help me with my dissertation. The title is “How far can it be argued that John Locke is the founder of ‘Liberal Democracy’?”

    What i would like is names of leading liberal thinkers today (excluding Sunny!!!), any works which purport that Locke’s role was crucial, or against, plus anything else you may think relevant. It is a tricky subject, for it presumes liberalism and democracy is one and the same thing, however it is very interesting…I am finally going to get to read Locke’s treatise on tolerance!!!

    The belief in the awaited Imam is part of the belief of orthodox Islam, the difference with the shia is that they believe he is already here…that is a different issue.

    There are some problems with other facets of shi’a belief with orthodox Islam, however this is a differnt theological debate, which i know is not what is intended here.

    Ultimately Rumbold, the Ahmadiyah have the right to say they are Muslims, no one can deny that right, however by the same token the mainstream Muslim community has also the right to define its faith, provided theological sanction exists, and i believe it does in Islam.

    Is it shirk? To be honest Rumbold, i have never thought of the issue in this light before, and am struggling to find an appropriate reply. What i can say at this stage is that the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did declare some types of belief outside the fold of Islam. I use the word belief and not people here – that is the key. If the belief is defined as such, then the inference is that people who subscribe to that belief, knowingly of its errors are blameworthy.

    There is a lot of talk of difference of opinion in Islam, however in reality there is much agreement of substantive issues of belief, and this has a tradition going back to the Prophet (pbuh) himself.

    “I know that you do not support how they are treated in Pakistan, but that is the result of people challenging their right to be Muslims.”

    I agree.

    However just because others will turn to extremism and persecution does not mean that we should shy away from confronting difficlut issues, and i genuinely mean that.

    This is why you won’t find me always complaining about the Islamophobic media, because ultimately people do have genuine issues with Islam, and if this is to be debated, freely, then some people, on the fringes of society will take some of the more harsh opinons as grounds for prejudicial acts. Unfortunately this goes with the territory, i accept this when it goes for me or against me.

    However what i do believe is that people should be genuinely committed to talking about the issues and not to try and incite hatred towards other people through ridicule, lies and fabrications. Sometimes we may get it wrong, however it is about being genuine, and continually steering the debate along.

  20. Don — on 27th December, 2007 at 7:13 pm  

    Still, if the slack-jawed yokels who make up the Christian Right find that Mitt’s beliefs are too blindingly absurd even for them, they can always fall back on Huckabee. Either way, the Republicans seem determined to find someone even more distanced from rationality than Bush.

  21. Cisoux — on 27th December, 2007 at 7:53 pm  

    The reason for which is that Islam and Christianity, and Buddhism, is open to all punters. Whereas with the other ones, it’s a birthright or a caste obligation

    It’s got little to do with them being open to all punters, and everything to do with them being imperialistic in mission and attitude. Buddhists, Jews and Hindus don’t think that the entire world has to bow down to them in order to achieve salvation. Christianity has reformed itself, Islam still has the silly self-image of it being the salvation of humanity. I think alot of the fundamentalism in that religion is the growing pains of facing the modern world and realising how irrelevant it is to human progress. It’s also made itself more inflexible to reform than other religions for this very reason. And what could be more ‘obligatory’ than considering an apostate worthy of death?

  22. douglas clark — on 27th December, 2007 at 8:15 pm  

    I know, as an absolute fact – so bananabrain will be along in a moment to correct me – that Jews do not seek converts. Neither do Hindus or Sikhs. There must be many more. I believe some sects of Christianity have more or less a closed door policy too. I’d imagine if you approached any religion as a humble seeker after truth, they might let you in. Which is a bit different from the aggressive proselytising that some go in for.

    I’d be interested to know if some branches of Islaam see themselves as exclusive too? What about other faiths?

  23. douglas clark — on 27th December, 2007 at 8:26 pm  

    Saqib,

    Sorry, I missed both your posts. Good to hear from you again. On Locke, I’ll see what I can do. Though you should realise my main claim to fame is being the front half of a donkey :-)

    See here:

    http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1616#comments

    seventh post in.

    Re your last paragraph @ 19, spot on.

  24. Rumbold — on 28th December, 2007 at 11:01 am  

    Sid:

    “Great post Rumbold. Whatever is said about the Mormons, I doubt they have experienced anything near the violence and intolerance faced by the Ahmadiyya in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Almost all, it must be said, at the hands of the proto-fascist political party, the Jamaati Islami, and endorsed by it’s ideologue, Maulana Maududi.”

    Thanks Sid. Mormons did experience some persecution, mainly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The persecutions have ended, but, talking to people, it does strike me that there is still a general distrust of Mormonism. I did not know that Jamaati Islami were involved, but I should have guessed.

    Don:

    “Other than Christianity and Islam, I’m not sure that is true.”

    I suppose that, like Buddhism, these religions seek converts, where others do not. However, I bet that the others would not complain if the whole world converted at once.

    DavidMWW:

    “Which, alas, is nearly always one of their premises.”

    Sadly, they assume an insight which is not there.

    Douglas:

    If you want to link to specific comments, click on the comment’s blue time. I only say this because our technological development has progressed together (for the most part).

  25. douglas clark — on 28th December, 2007 at 11:24 am  

    Err, Rumbold, thanks, I’ll try that. Your all right for a Tory, you know.

  26. Rumbold — on 28th December, 2007 at 11:27 am  

    Saqib:

    “I wish my return could be more ‘permanent’, but really time is against. Actually before i try to address some of you points, i was wondering if you and Douglas, amongst others could help me with my dissertation. The title is “How far can it be argued that John Locke is the founder of ‘Liberal Democracy’?”

    What i would like is names of leading liberal thinkers today (excluding Sunny!!!), any works which purport that Locke’s role was crucial, or against, plus anything else you may think relevant. It is a tricky subject, for it presumes liberalism and democracy is one and the same thing, however it is very interesting…I am finally going to get to read Locke’s treatise on tolerance!!!”

    I am not so good with leading liberal thinkers today. Are there any? I did think about your question from a historical angle though. One of the cornerstones of a liberal democracy seems to me to be pluralism of religion. If you accept this premise, then events, rather than Locke, can be seen to be the ‘founder’ of liberal democracy. The first emergance of pluralism takes place during the Civil War (1642-1649) and the Interregnumm (1649-1660), as Church of England Parliamentarians are forced to turn to Calvinists and Religious Independants for help. This lead to a greater acceptance of Protestant sects like Baptists, a process accelerated by Oliver Cromwell when he becomes Lord Protector. Charles II tries to crush the sects when he returns (most notoriously with the Clarendon codes), but by this point they are too well established to die. James II, his successor, tries to introduce greater religious toleration, solely because he was a out-and-out papist. This fails, leading to the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689, and pluralism enshrined in the political system.

    Thus, I would argue that while Locke is perhaps the most important philosopher of liberal democracy, it was a military dictator, Cromwell, who laid the cornerstone of that philosophy, with his religious pluraism, epitomised by the term “liberty of conscience.”

    (You have probably come across him already, but if you have not, I would recommend anything by Mark Goldie)

    http://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/academic_staff/further_details/goldie.html

    “The belief in the awaited Imam is part of the belief of orthodox Islam, the difference with the shia is that they believe he is already here…that is a different issue.

    There are some problems with other facets of shi’a belief with orthodox Islam, however this is a differnt theological debate, which i know is not what is intended here.”

    The theological nicities are a different debate, but the point is the same; when do you stop excluding people from a religion because of relatively minor differences in core beliefs? Certainly some Sunnis consider Shias to be heretics, so why are they allowed to call themselves Muslims, but not Ahmadis?

    “Ultimately Rumbold, the Ahmadiyah have the right to say they are Muslims, no one can deny that right, however by the same token the mainstream Muslim community has also the right to define its faith, provided theological sanction exists, and i believe it does in Islam.”

    Sunnis and Shias have the right to try and define Islam, but they should not condemn Ahmadis as non-Muslims, since they cannot know this for sure; it is only their inperfect human understanding of God’s will.

    “Is it shirk? To be honest Rumbold, i have never thought of the issue in this light before, and am struggling to find an appropriate reply. What i can say at this stage is that the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did declare some types of belief outside the fold of Islam. I use the word belief and not people here – that is the key. If the belief is defined as such, then the inference is that people who subscribe to that belief, knowingly of its errors are blameworthy.”

    But are even the companions of Muhammad qualified to pronounce on these issues of what and what is not acceptable? After all, they were only human, and received no divine guidance as such. If the Ahmadis are really following a deviant religion, then is not that an issue to be decided on the Day of Judgement? Or do some Muslims feel obligated to stamp out ‘heresy’ wherever they find it.

    There is a lot of talk of difference of opinion in Islam, however in reality there is much agreement of substantive issues of belief, and this has a tradition going back to the Prophet (pbuh) himself.

    “However just because others will turn to extremism and persecution does not mean that we should shy away from confronting difficlut issues, and i genuinely mean that.

    This is why you won’t find me always complaining about the Islamophobic media, because ultimately people do have genuine issues with Islam, and if this is to be debated, freely, then some people, on the fringes of society will take some of the more harsh opinons as grounds for prejudicial acts. Unfortunately this goes with the territory, i accept this when it goes for me or against me.

    However what i do believe is that people should be genuinely committed to talking about the issues and not to try and incite hatred towards other people through ridicule, lies and fabrications. Sometimes we may get it wrong, however it is about being genuine, and continually steering the debate along.”

    Excellent points. If only everybody thought as you did (well, not everybody, as that would be a bit boring then).

  27. Rumbold — on 28th December, 2007 at 11:29 am  

    Douglas:

    “Err, Rumbold, thanks, I’ll try that. Your all right for a Tory, you know.”

    And you make me look more favourably on left-wing Scots.

  28. douglas clark — on 28th December, 2007 at 12:12 pm  

    Rumbold,

    What is quite weird about this site is that I find myself agreeing with you, almost all the time. The issues you raise are issues for me too. I find it quite odd. Whilst we should, traditionally, be at each others throats, we are not. We seem to speak a similar language that is not political, at least with a capital P. I’ve had the same epiphany with Sonia, who comes from a completely different background and culture from me, and yet, I’ve still to find a difference of opinion worthy of the name.

    I do know that, whilst we all have our points of view, I find the most unlikely bedfellows these days.

    Strange weather, lately.

  29. Deep Singh — on 28th December, 2007 at 12:51 pm  

    Sid @ 17 wrote:

    “The reason for which is that Islam and Christianity, and Buddhism, is open to all punters. Whereas with the other ones, it’s a birthright or a caste obligation.”

    Sid, with all due respect, please quit with what is clearly becoming visible as some sort of personal agenda!

    Islam, Christiantity and Buddhism are not the only religions out there “open to all punters” and nor are the other religious communities (rather than the Religions themselves) the only ones to be affected by “birthright or a caste obligation” issues.

    Please stop spreading your personal twisted and clearly ignorant agenda.

    Don’s point @ 16 may seem to be valid in light of “modern” history, however it ignores the imperical history of Buddhism BCE and other traditions.

    What would probably be more to the point is the tendency to convert en masse usually arises with the rise to political power and/or conversion of a political authority to the particular faith in question, thereafter the religion, or rather its exoteric manisfestions (rather than anything dwelling into philisophy or metaphysics etc) becomes little more than a tool in the hands of the political powers to satisfy their own ends.

    p.s. Sid, contrary to what you are suggesting it is perfectly acceptable for someone to ‘convert’ or ‘adopt’ Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism (in whatever form, Shavism, Vaishnavs, etc), the Bahai Faith, etc.

    The only point of note here would be that Bahais and Sikhs, unlike the other predominately “Abrahamic” religions do not actively promote proselytism and/or pursue “missionary” work.

  30. douglas clark — on 28th December, 2007 at 1:01 pm  

    Deep Singh,

    OK. I’m asking a question though. Do Sikhs, for instance, proselytise or not? I’d have thought not, but correct me if I am wrong. Y’know, in the modern era.

  31. Sid — on 28th December, 2007 at 1:01 pm  

    Deep Singh, I think you need to drop your acute hypersensitivity whenever I raise a point about Sikhism and then accuse me of having an agenda.

    The issue is nothing to do with prosletism (sp?). Although most religions allow converts these days, most of them are aligned to birth into a caste (Hinduism) or a tribe (Judaism, American Indians).

    Breaking away from these strictures was the main appeal of reformist religions like Christianity (from Judaism) and Sikhism (from Hinduism).

    If you’re saying Hinduism does allow conversion, what caste would someone convert to?

  32. douglas clark — on 28th December, 2007 at 1:16 pm  

    Sid,

    The only available words, according to the OED, are:

    proselyte, proselytize (US – verb), proselytism or proselytizer. I particularily like the last one, as it makes me think of converts to a soft drink.

    Whatever happened to the preview facility on this site?

  33. Sid — on 28th December, 2007 at 1:25 pm  

    I’m the proselytizer
    And my prose is seldom tized

  34. douglas clark — on 28th December, 2007 at 2:06 pm  

    Sid,

    Your prose is never tized, whatever that means. In a good way, obviously.

  35. Jai — on 28th December, 2007 at 4:04 pm  

    Do Sikhs, for instance, proselytise or not? I’d have thought not, but correct me if I am wrong. Y’know, in the modern era.

    Sikhs are supposed to proselytise the humanitarian values and ideals integral to the religion. They are not supposed to actively seek or encourage formal conversions to the faith.

    If individuals from other faiths (or none) adopt some or all of the humanitarian ideals Sikhism teaches, then that is regarded as being a good thing and a positive development for the people concerned and for human society as a whole. However, if individuals from other faiths (or none) decide to go the whole hog and formally adopt Sikhism as their core religious identity and affiliation (along with all the other tenets and teachings of the faith, eg. the more metaphysical aspects beyond ideals concerning ethics, human rights etc) then that is also fine, as long as the individuals concerned do it of their own free will and for the right reasons.

  36. Jai — on 28th December, 2007 at 4:16 pm  

    Sid,

    If you’re saying Hinduism does allow conversion, what caste would someone convert to?

    Go to the Bhaktivedanta Manor in north London, especially during major Hindu festivals like Diwali, Janmashtami etc. I’m sure the numerous white converts to Hinduism present there would give you a satisfactory answer (they tend to be a friendly and helpful bunch).

    The same applies to several of the major Hindu religious centres in northern India, eg. Vrindavan, Mathura, Rishikesh, Haridwar. No shortage of non-Asian converts to Hinduism at any of those places, especially the first two.

  37. Sid — on 28th December, 2007 at 4:25 pm  

    I know they are Jai, I know many of the Bhaktis there. But what caste are Bhaktis born to convert to Bhaktivedanta? If at all? The coolest thing about BhaktiVedanta faith is that there is no religion. It is esoteric in the strictest sense and not the rigid exoceteric formal religion that you’re referring to.

    “It is not conversion from Christian to Hindu. We convert the atheist class of men to take God consciousness.” (Srila Prabhupada letter, June 26, 1976)

  38. Sid — on 28th December, 2007 at 4:29 pm  

    The same applies to several of the major Hindu religious centres in northern India, eg. Vrindavan, Mathura, Rishikesh, Haridwar. No shortage of non-Asian converts to Hinduism at any of those places, especially the first two.

    Not doubting you. But they are not orthodox Hindus. They are regarded as Bhaktik followers. They have to be born into a caste to escape their karma, as per orthodox Hindu docrtine. And these people are not in a caste so they aren’t really Hindus in the orthodox sense. That’s the way the karmic cookie crumbles.

  39. drkoya — on 29th December, 2007 at 4:22 am  

    In posting 12 Od Dec 27, Saqib alleges that Ahmadis do not subcribe to the fundamentslf of Islam has concerns about revelations.

    I was boen in the Fiji Islands and I took studying Ahmadiyya Islamic literature as a teenager. I was thrilled to find that Ahmadi Muslims conform to the same basic beliefs as the mainstream Muslims do( my family beinf staunch Sunnis).
    I faced strong oppostion in my family and I wondered why. One day my mom found me calling the Adhaan (the Muslim prayer call). She was stunned and said, ” You Ahmadis say th same Azaan as we do ?”

    I explained her that we adhere to everything from Wuzu (abolutionm) to Azaan from Kalima to Hajj everyhting is same. That Ahmadiyya is not a new religions but a new sect in Islam different from others with pure and original Islam.

    The continuity of revelation from God is His speciall blseeings to the righteous guranteed in Islam and is a resolute evidence of the exisitance of Allah. There are scores of people in Islam after the Holy Prophet Muhammad (swas) who received and there are many who continue to receive revelation from Allah. God presented by Islam is a Living God with the signs of and qualities of a living God ( seeing, heraing, speaking, loving etc) continue to be the same as in the past.

    Hazrat Mirza sahib demostrated this evidence in his lifetike and invited people to experience this spiritual relationship with Allah ( the God Almight).

  40. Dave S — on 29th December, 2007 at 10:29 am  

    As the early anarchist Mikhail Bakunin said: “If god existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.”

    I’m amazed that in 2007 (nearly 2008) there are still people who seriously believe that some invisible being (or beings) created everything, rules over us all, and variations upon that same rather predictable theme.

    To be honest, I don’t know if “god” exists or not, and I don’t much care either. I describe myself as an atheist, because personally I think it is highly unlikely. Though in many ways, I’d quite like to be wrong – for example, an unexpected afterlife and the opportunity to spend eternity with the people I love (often so much it hurts) would come as a very welcome surprise.

    If there is any kind of “god” or “final judgement” then if it is just and fair, it will look at what I have done with my life, and hopefully approve of the vast majority of my actions. The rest – where I have made mistakes, sometimes big ones – I hope would be seen as part of the learning curve (as long as I did actually learn from them). But I don’t need some distant “reward” as an incentive, because a (quite frankly enormous) bonus reward is right here, right now! I am alive!

    I’d do what I do anyway, because I trust myself as a thinking, feeling human being, surrounded by other thinking, feeling human beings. I trust in things based on reality that I can know, experience, learn from and change, all by myself, or by consulting freely with my peers to find out what they think.

    So, if some alleged “god” requires me to adhere to some obscure set of things, merely to appease it’s personal vanity requirements, then it is not a just god, and is not worthy of any respect. Moreover, my participation in the equation is likely to be not just futile, but is outright subservience to corruption.

    This is why I believe that the vast majority of religion is a bad thing. That’s not to say that personal spiritual beliefs are inherently damaging – hey, whatever floats your boat – but organised religion of just about any sort usually is, in my opinion. You don’t need anybody to tell you what to do, or how to think and feel – just trust yourself, and trust others to do the same.

    While there are undoubtedly thousands of belief systems I am not acquainted with, for those organised religions that I know of, it’s mostly to do with control, hierarchy, patriarchy, and a whole host of other disturbing hangovers from the human psyche that we would do well to hurry up and get over, and just get on with getting along.

    All I do know is that there is one life that I definitely do get to live – this one – and that I’m not happy to waste my time here asking someone (or something) else to do what I can do myself: make peace with myself, my neighbour, and my home.

    I have no major problem with religious believers as long as they are not fundamentalist about it, and apply a live-and-let-live approach to non-believers. However, we often see that this is clearly not the case, which is why I maintain my strong opposition to organised religion in all it’s forms. Not opposition to the people who believe it (hey, they’re only people!), but opposition to the damaging ideas behind it.

    There are so many reasons to abolish religion that I don’t really feel the need to say much more. It’s such an obvious choice that it does most of the legwork already, and doesn’t particularly need anyone to argue for it.

    All that’s left is for humanity to cheer up, embrace the obvious, and make the most of this one very real life that we have in the palm of our hands right here and right now. Whatever we do with that incredible fortune is up to us – and us alone.

    I think really the only “rule” (again, I think it’s obvious, and should go without saying) is that we should treat each other and our home with the utmost respect and love, so that those around us and future generations may also go on to experience the joy of simply being able to be here.

    If simply being born doesn’t make us each realise that we are by far among the luckiest collections of atoms in the universe, then I don’t know what ever could. Anything else is an unexpected bonus.

  41. Rumbold — on 29th December, 2007 at 2:23 pm  

    Douglas:

    “What is quite weird about this site is that I find myself agreeing with you, almost all the time. The issues you raise are issues for me too. I find it quite odd. Whilst we should, traditionally, be at each others throats, we are not. We seem to speak a similar language that is not political, at least with a capital P. I’ve had the same epiphany with Sonia, who comes from a completely different background and culture from me, and yet, I’ve still to find a difference of opinion worthy of the name.”

    We will have to remedy that. I think that Mrs. Thatcher was by far the greatest post-war prime minister. Agree?

    I do agree though that we seem to agree on a lot more issues than we disagree. I don’t find it odd, as many of the issues are cultural, whereas left and right in this country used to be divided over mainly economic issues.

    Dave S:

    “I’m amazed that in 2007 (nearly 2008) there are still people who seriously believe that some invisible being (or beings) created everything, rules over us all, and variations upon that same rather predictable theme.”

    Why?

    “If there is any kind of “god” or “final judgement” then if it is just and fair, it will look at what I have done with my life, and hopefully approve of the vast majority of my actions. The rest – where I have made mistakes, sometimes big ones – I hope would be seen as part of the learning curve (as long as I did actually learn from them). But I don’t need some distant “reward” as an incentive, because a (quite frankly enormous) bonus reward is right here, right now! I am alive!”

    I agree with you in that respect. But some people find comfort in religion, so I do not see religion as a problem either.

  42. Dave S — on 29th December, 2007 at 6:34 pm  

    Rumbold:

    Why?

    Because there is zero evidence that this is the case. Sure, there’s a lot of strange stuff that happens in the universe, and I would never dream of claiming that science has all the answers or anything like that. But it seems completely ludicrous to fill in the unknowns with completely speculative fiction. I mean, it’s not even particularly good or inspiring speculative fiction – if anything, it’s often utterly oppressive and demeaning to humanity.

    “Man has fashioned god in his own image” and we’ve done a rubbish job of it. We can do so much better without creating malicious undesirable fictional despots to rule over us! I mean, we have a hard enough time getting rid of the real ones, but it’s so easy to get rid of the imaginary ones. I simply can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t do that, given half the chance.

    We can realise paradise right here on Earth if we want it badly enough, and it can take any shape or form we see fit – there is absolutely no need to wait to make it happen. I guess most of us have simply been trained from birth to be too scared of each other, too scared of the unknown and ultimately too scared of freedom to embrace it when the potential to actually have it NOW is right under our noses.

    That makes me sad, because to be free and to live in freedom are as basic requirements for (certainly my own) human happiness as air, food, water and sleep.

    I agree with you in that respect. But some people find comfort in religion, so I do not see religion as a problem either.

    I have no problem with people finding comfort in religion, as long as they leave the rest of us to find comfort in reality, unhindered by their moralistic posturing and attempts to assert authority over the rest of us.

    I would also have less of a problem with religion if it was something people were free to informedly decide upon when they have reached adulthood. To be honest, indoctrination of children – especially using fear of eternal punishment – is nothing short of child abuse.

    The reason it is this way though, is because people who are absolutely not afraid in any way to think for themselves, to question anything and everything without external constraints… that idea scares the living shit out of the people who have made it their purpose to rule over us.

    No gods, no masters, no problem.

  43. Saqib — on 29th December, 2007 at 10:03 pm  

    Rumbold:

    Thanks for the information, and link. I think the discussion we have opened up is quite a lengthy one, though one which is very important. I’m not really in a position to take it much more forward at the moment with my limited knowledge, however i hope to revisit it in the summer, once i have finally graduated at the grand old age of 29!!!

    ‘I think that Mrs. Thatcher was by far the greatest post-war prime minister.’

    rejoice, rejoice!!!

  44. Sajn — on 30th December, 2007 at 12:34 am  

    “The theological nicities are a different debate, but the point is the same; when do you stop excluding people from a religion because of relatively minor differences in core beliefs? Certainly some Sunnis consider Shias to be heretics, so why are they allowed to call themselves Muslims, but not Ahmadis?”

    In simplistic terms, there are three core things that define a Muslim: Allah is the one true God; Muhammed (PBUH) was the last and final Messenger of Allah and the Quran as the Divine Revelation.

    Because all the main branches of both Orthodox (Sunni) , Shia and Salafi/Wahabbi Islam agree upon these three cores, they will call themselves as Muslim without argument from (most) of the others. (Note I said most because there is one branch of Shia Islam that is regarded as non-Muslims because of their belief regarding the Holy Quran)

    Ahmadis/Qadianis fall outside this because they subscribe to the theory that Mirza Qadiani was a prophet and hence are not Muslims. (Also I think you are overstating the influence of JI/Maududi on this issue. The debate about and against Ahmadis started during the lifetime of Mirza Qadiani.

  45. douglas clark — on 30th December, 2007 at 10:12 am  

    Rumbold,

    Some naughty little boy has stolen your identity and posted something really horrible at post 41.

    We will have to remedy that. I think that Mrs. Thatcher was by far the greatest post-war prime minister. Agree?

    Obviously he should be rigourously chastised, oh sorry, hugged for saying such a thing. Though the new, tougher brand of Tory might consider washing his mouth out with carbolic soap.

    Yes, I’m glad I’ve resolved that for you. It was a tricky one.

  46. douglas clark — on 30th December, 2007 at 10:37 am  

    Here’s a reasonable assessment of the woman from the Guardian in 1999.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Thatcher/Story/0,,206013,00.html

    I agree with most of it. She wasn’t much different from the rest, long on rhetoric and bad for your average Joe, or Josephine. A curates egg of a Premiership, much like most of the others.

  47. Rumbold — on 30th December, 2007 at 5:35 pm  

    Dave S:

    “The reason it is this way though, is because people who are absolutely not afraid in any way to think for themselves, to question anything and everything without external constraints… that idea scares the living shit out of the people who have made it their purpose to rule over us.

    No gods, no masters, no problem.”

    I am not sure where you think people get their ideas from. Of course people should think for themselves, otherwise they would just be mindless sheep, but your views are shaped by what you read and hear around you. Some of my views have been altered as a result of my time on Pickled Politics. This is not because I am weak-minded, or because I have to look to others for my worldview, but simply because I am human and that is how my thought process works. You yourself have made me re-examine my views on the environment, even if I have not necessarily come to the same conclusions as you. To pretend that every man is an island in this regard is just wrong.

    Saqib:

    “Thanks for the information, and link. I think the discussion we have opened up is quite a lengthy one, though one which is very important. I’m not really in a position to take it much more forward at the moment with my limited knowledge, however i hope to revisit it in the summer, once i have finally graduated at the grand old age of 29!!!”

    Always happy to help, but am a bit confused. If you are graduating in the summer, why are you writing the piece on Locke afterwards? Are you doing a masters’ as well, or are you just a glutton for punishment?

    Sajn:

    “In simplistic terms, there are three core things that define a Muslim: Allah is the one true God; Muhammed (PBUH) was the last and final Messenger of Allah and the Quran as the Divine Revelation.

    Because all the main branches of both Orthodox (Sunni) , Shia and Salafi/Wahabbi Islam agree upon these three cores, they will call themselves as Muslim without argument from (most) of the others. (Note I said most because there is one branch of Shia Islam that is regarded as non-Muslims because of their belief regarding the Holy Quran).”

    But some Sunnis will turn around and say that anyone who does not accept the first four Caliphs is not a Muslim, and some Shias will say that anyone who accepts the first three is not a Muslim. This leads to fighting and hatred. Religions should be broad enough to accomodate groups with theological differences.

    Douglas:

    “Some naughty little boy has stolen your identity and posted something really horrible at post 41 … Obviously he should be rigourously chastised, oh sorry, hugged for saying such a thing. Though the new, tougher brand of Tory might consider washing his mouth out with carbolic soap.”

    Heh. Mrs. Thatcher was brilliant on economic issues, and not so good on social issues (especially section 28 and not re-founding grammar schools). There are still plenty of Tories who are pro-Thatcher, but that view does not have to conflict with other issues like being pro-immigration.

  48. sonia — on 30th December, 2007 at 6:33 pm  

    I would also have less of a problem with religion if it was something people were free to informedly decide upon when they have reached adulthood. To be honest, indoctrination of children – especially using fear of eternal punishment – is nothing short of child abuse.

    yep! too bloody right. its easy for those people who grew up without such indoctrination to not get this/realise the far-reaching implications it has on a child. Parents teaching their kids moral values/a belief system/ethics is one thing, the whole hell and damnation thing is something completely different. Instilling fear in a child as the means to a moral compass is so the wrong way to inculcate any kind of ethical thinking.

  49. sonia — on 30th December, 2007 at 6:49 pm  

    “Religions should be open to anybody, not an exclusive club: that just breeds war and hatred.”

    Rumbold, you are really a sweet lovely person – it’s nice that you think that – but reality check – religions are and have been precisely about exclusivity. ( and war and hatred too) ( just go read the 3 texts of the monotheistic religions and you dont have to go far to find that, and hatred/lack of interest at best of the non-members of the club) the ‘chosen’ people, those who will find reward, its all about human club-like behaviour, a precursor to earthly nationalism, a ruler in the sky. its not really about the deity in the end, (especially since that’s the bit everyone’s vague about- its about the belonging, and as you point to – the comfort of that belonging. I feel the whole business of focusing on ‘deity’ or ‘no deity’ /do you believe in god or not – detracts from actually understanding the social organisational ends of religion. Regulation of the masses – that’s what, divinely ordained hierarchies and favouritism.

    yes of course one can believe in a deity /whatever without being part of an organised religion – but that’s the whole bloody point isn’t it. why does anyone need to go to church or go to a mosque to pray because you have some belief in something you call god? you don’t – but you do because someone told you to, because if you didn’t – you wouldn’t be christian or muslim or whatever. and why would everyone interact with a deity in the same way? its funny that people don’t see the mass worship thing for what it is – the complete opposite of individual thought. The imposition of strictly regulated, thought that conforms to standards x y z. (whatever they may be, it doesn’t really matter)

  50. sonia — on 30th December, 2007 at 7:25 pm  

    good points from Kima in no. 11

    shia sunni enmity is such that you might think they had nothing in common the way so many people go on about it. from a sunni perspective, shias dont even factor into the question really – they are effectively viewed as heretics. and not really as co-religionists, if i had brought a Shia fellow home to Momma, she would not have considered him to be of the same ‘dharma’ and certainly not a suitable boy.

  51. saqib — on 30th December, 2007 at 8:16 pm  

    Rumbold:

    I meant i would come back to the issue about religion on this thread in a more meaningful way, for as you can see it is very lengthy, and i am nor quite at liberty to progress for various reasons. Thankfully i am working on Locke now for my undergraduate.

    ‘But some Sunnis will turn around and say that anyone who does not accept the first four Caliphs is not a Muslim…’

    No, actually this is not the case. The Zaydees, who are predominant in the Yemen are shia and hold this opinion, and are not considered outside the fold of Islam. The issue of the Caliphs is a political one, and not religious. There are other nuances in this divide however.

  52. Rumbold — on 30th December, 2007 at 8:25 pm  

    Saqib:

    “I meant i would come back to the issue about religion on this thread in a more meaningful way, for as you can see it is very lengthy, and i am nor quite at liberty to progress for various reasons.”

    I understand, just comment whenever you feel you can.

    “Thankfully i am working on Locke now for my undergraduate.”

    Sounds pretty ambitous for an undergraduate dissertation, but good luck.

    “No, actually this is not the case. The Zaydees, who are predominant in the Yemen are shia and hold this opinion, and are not considered outside the fold of Islam. The issue of the Caliphs is a political one, and not religious. There are other nuances in this divide however.”

    Al-Qaeda consider the Shias to be heretics who should be wiped out. I know that they are an extreme example, but my point is that however tightly you define your religion there will always be someone else who will be ‘stricter’ than you in this area.

  53. saqib — on 30th December, 2007 at 8:25 pm  

    Sonia, we meet again, interesting posts.

    ‘its funny that people don’t see the mass worship thing for what it is – the complete opposite of individual thought.’

    It is funny…because i don’t see the link! Perhaps you would like to substantiate upon this claim and enlighten us with the fruits of your ‘individual thoughts’.

  54. saqib — on 30th December, 2007 at 8:31 pm  

    Rumbold:

    ‘Al-Qaeda consider the Shias to be heretics who should be wiped out. I know that they are an extreme example, but my point is that however tightly you define your religion there will always be someone else who will be ’stricter’ than you in this area.’

    I agree with the last point about being stricter. However the issue is actually wider than just ‘who’s in, and who’s not’, for it also goes down the path of what constitutes orthodox or mainstream scholarship/theology, particularly in relation to Islam. This is an interesting point, and this is what i meant about returning ion the summer. In fact i want to write an article on this whole subject upon more research, as i don’t want to speak ignorantly.

  55. Rumbold — on 30th December, 2007 at 8:39 pm  

    Saqib:

    Okay we will return to the debate at another point (I cannot say that I am an expert either). My position is essentialy that even if 99% of Sunni and Shia scholars believed that the Ahmadis were not Muslims, they would still be Muslims in my eyes. I am skeptical of the right of humans to challenge who can be part of their religion, however learned they are.

  56. DavidMWW — on 30th December, 2007 at 9:17 pm  

    Sadly, they assume an insight which is not there.

    In this single sentence you have correctly diagnosed the malaise of the religiously convicted.

    And as I said, once this assumption is made, it becomes the premise from which everything else follows with clear, flawless logic – including both the ability and the right to judge whether or not other humans are part of their religion.

  57. Thunker — on 1st January, 2008 at 3:42 pm  

    Sid, you left out the latest proselytizing religion – atheism, Dawkins style.

  58. Don — on 1st January, 2008 at 4:05 pm  

    Thunker,

    Proselytizing, yeah. Religion, no.

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