Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Confusing Faith and Spirituality with Religious Practices

When two locals intellectuals spar on the meaning of religion, the winner is the reader. Muzaffar Khadim takes on Ajaz-ul-Haque. Both perspectives are reproduced below

(Mr. Muzaffar Khadim, 59, was born in Srinagar. He did his early schooling in Srinagar and after completing his pre-medical college studies, decided to go into business of selling Shawls and Embroidery all over the country. Mr. Khadim's excellent writing skills, as clearly evident in the following essay, are partly and genetically attributable to his late father, Mr. G. M. Khadim, who retired as the Principal of Islamia High School, Srinagar.)

A Comfortable World: With or Without Religion?

This is a delayed response to Ajaz-ul-Haque’s column “Question Uncomfortable!” Will World be a better place without religion (Write Hand, Jan 3, 2010) “?”. Such intellectual discourse may be a feast for those who have the luxury of time and intellect but my humble opinion is that a daily news paper is not the right forum to pose such uncomfortable questions because a news paper, however esteemed it may be, reaches even the demi-intellectuals like me who may not have the capability to get involved in such discussions. Before we go into the content of the article, we better understand what RELIGION actually means. The simple definition that I could find is that Religion is: “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” Keeping this definition in mind let’s proceed.

On reading this highly engaging article so many things came to my mind. Firstly; none would disagree that no country in the world has a government that would be termed as perfect. All have their short-comings. But imagine for a minute that a country remains without a government (good or bad) for a week. Be it Swaziland or Saudi Arabia, India or Italy, Canada or Cyprus; whichever country comes to your mind! The week that will go without a government will be total chaos, unruly and unmanageable. Haiti, where the recent earthquake turned the country upside down had almost a government failure and we see the agony beyond the tremors, that may perhaps prove more fatal for the country in the near future than the real intensity of the crippling tremor. Religion is definitely a more important factor than the government; the human history has proved that for the past thousands of years.

Secondly; all the major religions of the world have their origin in the East. Islam, Christianity and Judaism originated from the Middle East while Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism are Indian products. Zoroastrianism and Bahaiism have their origin in Iran. There is not a single religion worth mentioning that cropped up from the West. But all the voices advocating No Religion originated from the West despite the fact that no matter how much superiority they claim to have over the rest of the world, they follow the religions of the East. They have none of their own.

The said article started with a reference to a British writer “Polly Toyanbee” I tried to know something about her on the net and stumbled on a site that lead me to know of an “Atheist Bus Campaign.” Those who are bent down upon making people believe that believing in God is a fear of the past; have collected huge funds to propagate their ideas by painting them on public transport busses in different countries. The busses that woo the people to come in have such slogans boldly painted on them: “There is probably no god – Now stop worrying – And enjoy your life!” Enjoy your life, wow! But in what way? That too was amazing. One video played a song in which the miseries of the sick and poor were highlighted while some were playing in millions; thus trying to show the disparity between the rich and the poor. The very poor children and elderly people were shown wearing torn out clothes eating from the garbage. But an extremely rich lady was shown eating an expensive delicious burger.

So far, so good. But the dress she was wearing was only couple of inches broad. It revealed much more than it concealed. It came to my mind that even being rich she could have been shown in proper dress. Queen Elizabeth is one of the richest woman of the world; always seen properly dressed. But no! That’s not the mission. Because life is to be enjoyed—by stripping woman even of those few inches. That’s the agenda that such people have to carry forward.

According to a report published in Wikipedia, the world population is the number of living humans on Earth at a given time. As of ending January, 2010, the Earth’s population was estimated by the United States Census Bureau to be 6,798,861,000. Among these, astonishing figure of 5,700,000,000 people belong to one or the other religion. It means that nearly 84% of the human population adhere to some religion. The fate of the remaining 16% should be judged by the fact that the inhabitants of the erstwhile USSR, Yugoslavia etc who were forced to succumb to “no religion philosophy” in early 20th century; disintegrated their mighty domains in less than a century to return to “religion.” A look at Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Sylvania, Croatia etc will be enough to tell us that the human race has not been able to live without religion. It is their imbibed necessity.

Thirdly; religions have been blamed to have divided the human community. It was long ago in 1995 that I met a lady in New York who was furiously against religion. I am mentioning her because now, by the grace of Allah, she is a Muslim. At that time, she argued that religions have caused division. Honestly, I had to think a while how to respond. Allah helped. I asked her, “Is religion the only dividing factor?” She said, “No, not the only factor; but the main factor!” I said, “But in your great country, I see the conflict of colour much more vivid than that of religion. If there were wars fought between the peoples of the world because of religion, there have been more numerous wars where religion played no role. Nagasaki and Hiroshima were not bombed because of any religious conflict. Recently, Iraq and Iran fought bloody war although the religion on both sides was the same. Punjab in pre-independent India was divided on religious basis once, but the Indian part was divided several times after 1947 without any religious intervention.” Then I asked her as to how many religions she knew about having any impressive following. She said she knew less than ten. But she had to agree that if religions divided people in ten groups, languages divided them into thousands. And linguistic prejudices, too, can never be underestimated. Finally, she had to agree that religions are more of a unifying force than dividing. She had to admit that the fundamentals lying behind any religion are almost similar. So there was lesser chance of a conflict unless aggravated by politics. The seven billion strong population of the world has a thousand dividing factors, colour, creed, country, language, domicile, culture etc. If religion is, at all, to be included in the list; it will come last of all.

Going back to the definition of Religion that I mentioned in the beginning, saying good bye to religions means there is no Creator of this vast universe. Therefore all the prophets and sacred books have to be refuted. All rules pertaining human behaviour while in this world have to be made by the humans themselves. Depending upon the law makers, the laws will vary like the constitutions of different countries. In these man-made laws, we have seen how sex between same genders has been legalised. The next to be expected in the sex-dom of “no religion gang” where relations do not matter, incest is a rule and adultery is just a fun. No strings! And may be burying or cremating the dead will be declared unlawful and to solve the problems of the hungry, it may be made mandatory to cook them and offer the “food” to the poor. I don’t actually want to speculate more.

Different words have different connotations in different parts of the world. “Tube”, “Subway”, “Metro”, “Local” are four different words. None of them means a train moving in a city; but that’s exactly what it means respectively in London, New York, Delhi and Bombay. Almost, no dictionary is going to help us in understanding the local connotation of a particular word. The same way tell a Saudi Muslim who is not exposed to the Western terminology “Would you like to have Hamburger or Hotdog?” And see how he reacts because he doesn’t know that neither of them contains ham nor dog. Thus, Religion in Kashmir means Islam, because the vast majority of its inhabitants belong to this religion. The truth is that even on a global level, when they talk of “no religion”, they actually mean “no Islam” because after all they don’t have a threat to their malicious designs from anywhere else. It is a known fact that although Islam is the second largest religion of the world, Muslims definitely out-number any other religion in practice. This universal truth plays the decisive role in “no religion” agent’s strategies. All their guns are pointing towards Islam. The Qura’an also tells us in very unequivocal terms, “The religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will) (3:19)

Religion is not a private affair, belief is. And belief is only a clause in a religion. When Jesus prayed:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Mathew 6:9-10)

What did he mean by “kingdom”? Kingdoms don’t only make rules; they also implement and execute them. When it comes to implementation and execution, religion no more remains a private or personal affair. For example, in a Muslim society, no matter how weak or strong your faith may be, you will be punished if you drink alcohol or indulge in fornication. How then, is religion a personal affair? Iqbal advocated forcefully the union of politics and religion. The following well known verse is the reflection of his ideology:

Jalal-e-padshahi ho ki jamhoori tamasha ho
Juda ho deen siyasat say to rah jatee hai chengezi !

In numerous verses of the Qura’an, Allah declares that all authority and power rests with Him alone. (e.g. 6:57, 12:40),

Thus, truly speaking, formation of any kind of rules against the ones set by Him amounts to a revolt and blasphemy. Of course, the people advocating “no religion” will have no fear of blasphemy but how can they restrict every single human being from creating his/her own way of life; that may be way too dangerous for other fellow beings? To sum it up, religion is a true necessity of human beings and a genuine need.

Will world be a better place without religion?


Polly Toyanbee, a British writer raises some questions regarding religion and the need of religion in the present day world. Suggesting the then British Premier to bid farewell to gods and godesses once for good, the author goes on arguing against making religion an institution to be allowed to rule and run a state. Relegating it to private life as an affair strictly between man and God is the only way we can assure safety to the whole humankind. Neither priests, nor politicians who borrow their power from Church in Europe, will like the argument, but how should a common follower of religion take it – and if allowed, interpret it.
Should faith be scrapped and man be left to himself. Is heaven the only place for God to be in with no role whatsoever for Him in this world. Is religion the only source of bother and once it’s seen off, we are safe. Religion or no religion. Will it make a difference?

Such questions set us thinking. In the aftermath of every big attack either in New York or in London, the debate comes alive. But those who raise it miss one part of it. Is this the only spring from which flow the rivers and oceans of hatred and animosity between civilizations. Overuse of power, control over resources, policy of suppression by stronger nations and all other factors which contribute to violence from oppressed are at once overlooked. This leaves religion as the only target to train your guns at. But the argument is not all meaningless. It attains weight when human bombs enter mosques and synagogues to blow themselves up. When tridents are brandished to show the might of gods. When religion means fury and faith frustration, communities fight, God weeps in the heavens and disowns that this is not what he had made us for.

There is something that makes them take religion the only violent exception in the world of peace and harmony. That brings us nearer the point. Then should religion really be banned if we are to shake hands with peace.

Marx put it as opium for the poor and oppressed and he too had reasons to say so. Nietzsche clinched the whole issue by proclaiming God dead and declaring man his own god in the form of a Superman. They believed in a godless civilization where man meets man with no divine intervention. Was it a revolt against religion or a revolt against the manipulation done in the name of religion. Did they fight God or God’s servants who use Him to their comfort and convenience. The answers are somewhere in the middle. Were they rabid atheists by birth who didn’t see a divine presence in the mundane affairs of life and dismissed Him as a figment of a poor mind. Or there were some compelling reasons that made them hold a banner of rebellion against `agents of God’. Well that age is past. The age of clergy and priesthood which made religion in general and Christianity in particular the fiefdom of a few. But the need is felt by some even now. The sense of revolt against religion continues even today in one form or another. And the reasons too at some places, in some particular situations are plausible.

The author points towards the intoxication that finds a vent in the form of grand violence let loose by some. In his argument against religion, he does not specify one particular faith. He means all religion. And the reason is the death cult which makes them go berserk. In a desperate search for salvation, they don’t mind killing armed and unarmed alike. This is the premise of his argument and he means to throw the baby of religion with the bathwater of spirituality and salvation. Any misuse of religion has made the religion itself suffer. When religion assumes the form of an intoxication, even Iqbal doesn’t mind calling it sorcery rather than a code of life. He can’t decide whether to call it an addiction or religion, sorcery or faith.

Hubbi Afyoon Ast Ya Deen Ast Een
Sahr-o-Afsoon Ast Ya Deen Ast Een

Yes, when religion instead of humanizing a dehumanized world comes to wipe out the living to make earth a burial ground, we doubt. It can’t be that. Though the solution does not lie in abolishing faith, but in giving it a mean it is craving for.

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