Maria Wirth is a German and came to India for a holiday after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University. She visited the Ardha Kumbha Mela in Haridwar in April 1980 where she met Sri Anandamayi Ma and Devaraha Baba, two renowned saints. With their blessing shecontinued to live in India and dived into India’s spiritual tradition, sharing her insights with German readers through articles and books. For long, she was convinced that every Indian knows and treasures his great heritage. However, when in recent years, she noticed that there seemed to be a concerted effort to prevent Indians (and the world) from knowing how valuable this ancient Indian heritage is, she started to point out the unique value of Indian tradition.
There is no doubt that we have a problem in today’s world. It’s a big problem. The strange thing is that apparently we don’t want to solve it, because we close our eyes to the problem and to its root cause. This closing of our eyes is officially endorsed by almost all governments in the world and is seen as politically correct. Naturally, there is no chance to improve things but it’s likely to get much worse.
The problem is a faulty, black and white mind-set of a huge chunk of the world population and the root cause is what these people were taught to believe as the truth. The founders and subsequent authorities of those belief systems claimed that the Highest himself has revealed it. This was an ingenious way to prevent any criticism of the whole belief system, including those aspects of it which were against common sense.
I have earlier written on how Christianity was the first to cleverly claim that God himself has given the full truth only to the Church and everyone must believe it at the cost of their lives. And Islam followed with a similar claim. Terrorism in the name of God started right then, by forcing “those who are wrong” into the “right” faith or killing them. Millions of people were killed – from America to India and beyond. In history lessons, Christianity and Islam were mentioned together with communism, fascism and Nazism in having caused the maximum number of human beings murdered.
In primary school I learnt that Islam expanded through “fire and sword”. I remember this because ‘Feuer und Schwert’ was a meaningless phrase for me as a child. Only later, it dawned that it involved tremendous cruelty. This cruelty was not restricted to Islam. The Christian ‘expansion’ and the Inquisition were equally brutal.
In the 1970s when I was in University, we debated why religion has caused so much bloodshed. The debate was only on ‘why’ not on ‘whether’.
In 2000, a change in this approach became apparent. When the Pope John Paul II finally acknowledged the cruelty of the Inquisition, and publicly asked forgiveness from God, he did not blame the Church but ‘sons and daughters of the Church’ who committed ‘mistakes’. He tried to absolve the religion and laid the blame on ‘misguided’ followers.
This same pattern is followed today regarding Islam. When Jihadis attack innocent citizens shouting ‘Allah ho Akbar’, politicians and media are quick to declare that those terror acts have nothing to do with Islam but are the handiwork of misguided or deranged individuals.
The reaction is meanwhile so predictable. The standard version is:
The attack is shocking, revulsive, a cowardly act, but we stand united, won’t allow another attack, won’t be intimidated but continue with our lives, we won’t let them win, etc…
Then Muslim representatives come on air stressing that they also condemn the attack. It is the act of a disturbed person, has nothing to do with Islam, there are 1,5 billion peaceful Muslims, which is proof of the peaceful nature of their religions, etc…
Then in major cities (provided the attack happened in the west) a landmark building is lit up in the colours of the country where the attack happened, candles are lit…
We have gone through these motions far too often and there is something fake about it. The pain of those affected is real. Others may be grateful that it had not hit them – at least not this time. Yet those, who are supposed to protect us, are not honest.
True, the attacks are shocking and revulsive, but they are not cowardly acts. The Jihadi kills because he is convinced that it is his duty to kill kafirs – and he is even ready to die in doing what he feels is right. This shows courage. All those terrorists are young. It is not normal, nor easy to risk one’s life by killing others, unless he is absolutely convinced that the benefit is greater than the cost.
And what does he expect as benefit?
Probably he was taught already as a kid or has read it later on the internet that killing Kafirs pleases Allah. By doing so, he can make his life truly worthwhile, and he will be richly rewarded: he will have a better status in paradise than those who did not kill Kafirs.
Now here is where we Kafirs are cowards. We don’t dare to point to passages in the Quran, which support his expectation, for example Q 4.95 and ask what it means if not what is written there.
*Those believers who stay at home – having no physical disability – are not equal to those who make Jihad in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their persons. Allah has granted a higher rank to those who make Jihad with their wealth and their persons than to those who stay at home. Though Allah has promised a good reward for all, Allah has prepared a much richer reward for those who make Jihad for Him than for those who stay at home. They have special higher ranks, forgiveness and mercy. Allah is forgiving, merciful” (Q4. 95-96).
Imagine a pious, young, hot-headed Muslim reads this – would he not be inspired to make his life worthwhile? Even more so, if he has phantasies of becoming a hero with a gun? He probably considers dying as a small price for a greater glory. As Sultan Shahin pointed out, children in madrasas sing songs with the refrain “zindagi shuru hoti hai qubr mein” (life starts in the grave). See link at the end.
Curiously, old, sick Muslims don’t seem to be interested in the “higher status in paradise” when it would make much more sense for them. Does it mean, they are more mature and know that the Quran must not be taken literally?
Is it not their and our duty, to save not only the potential victims of future terror attacks but also the young Muslims who are ready to throw away their lives for a promise which may not be kept? After all, Christianity also claims that only those who are baptized can enter heaven.
We need to ask probing questions.
Yes, it is difficult to believe that terror attacks have anything to do with religion. Religion is understood to be something good. It connects us with the Highest and is meant to make us better human beings. We want to believe that the cause for terror attacks is something else. ‘All religions worship the same one God. No religion can possibly condone killing others’, those of us who have not been brainwashed into a dogmatic religions, will naturally maintain. But is it true?
We need to find out. If we don’t dare to do this, we are cowards.
Let’s imagine we come to the conclusion that indeed there are passages in the Islamic texts that condone terror against infidels, what will be the next step?
Then we need to bring in common sense and reason and debate on the meaning of life and enquire into the absolute truth. India has the knowledge and must take the lead in this, because the Christian west is handicapped. Both, Islam and Christianity, divide humanity into ‘us versus the rest’, which results in a divisive mindset. Instead, another dividing line must be drawn which Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned it in one of his speeches: It is the line between humanity and inhumanity.
Terror and hatred for other human beings is inhumanity. How do we know? Because we have a conscience which tells us what is right and what is wrong. This conscience must be the holy book for us. It is the voice of the Divine which guides us through life. If we listen to it, we realize that the whole of humanity is one family. The life in all of us comes from the same, most powerful yet invisible, source.
Anyone, who demands that we ignore our conscience and instead believe blindly what he tells us, has an agenda. He wants sheep who don’t think for themselves and who he can use for his own purpose.
Suicide bombers are not cowards, but they are not smart. They got the purpose of life wrong.
By Maria Wirth