One is two centuries old, while the second came on the world stage just three decades back, but Wahabbism and Khomeinism have played havoc with traditional Sunni and Shia doctrine, altering them beyond recognition of the original. Although Wahabbis considers Shia to be the worst form of apostates, it is interesting to note the similarity that the teachings of Abdal Wahhab and those of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Both fuse to form the ?W-K?, a set of mutually-reinforcing creeds that promote Religious Supremacy i.e. the notion that the followers of a particular creed are superior to the rest and can therefore treat them and their institutions and beliefs with contempt. Such an approach, which is similar in chemistry to the Racial Supremacy practiced by apartheid South Africa, gets manifested in the persecution of other faiths, and often a total ban on them, as is the case in Saudi Arabia, where a Shiite mosque, a church, a temple or a synagogue would be immediately unthinkable. If despite the efforts of followers of ?W-K? to harm the western world, most countries are still relatively free of jihadist violence, the explanation lies not merely in the security services?as US forces are finding out in Iraq, the best of them are powerless to smother a popular reaction to occupation?but in the tolerance towards other faiths that has become a part of everyday existence within the Christian-majority countries. It is only in eastern Europe?principally Poland and Russia?that those belonging to the majority faith have succeeded in enforcing discriminatory standards on the rest. In both countries, those from local populations who switch to Hinduism are treated as lunatics or criminals, hardly an attitude that can be termed civilised.
Unfortunately, although the numerous measures taken by Zimbabwe'sRobert Mugabe against those of European extraction have created what this columnist calls ?Mugabism? (the favouring of a particular race over the rest), such a Mugabist mindset seems to be on the rise in an increasingly isolationist Europe. In the whole of the EU, preference is openly given to those of European extraction, while the rest are treated in a second-class manner. The rise of racist political formations and rhetoric in several countries of Europe is a worrisome development in a period when globalisation ought to be engendering a tolerance for other races and cultures. However, even in an increasingly self-obssesed Europe, the practice of one'sfaith encounters few barriers. The US is even more progressive, with a liberal mindset reinforced by the needs of modern commerce within a boundaryless Knowledge Economy. Throughout the US, not merely thousands of Muslim mosques but hundreds of Hindu temples are being set up by followers of these two great faiths, encountering very little resistance from the overwhelmingly Christian population. Unfortunately, within this sea of tolerance, there are now appearing, with the virulence of a rash, an increasing number of communities within the US that mimic the Wahabbists and the Khomeinists in their contempt for the followers of other faiths. Sadly, several politicians within the US, instead of discouraging such groups, have given them respectability in the name of ?faith?.
Just as the institution of slavery was incompatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ, so too is the religious supremacist approach demonstrated by the three hecklers who sought to prevent a Hindu priest from opening the July 13 session of the US Senate by a prayer that called for reflection on ?the glory of the Supreme Deity, who is inside the heart of the Earth, inside the life of the sky, and inside the soul of Heaven?. Rajan Zed of Nevada ended with the traditional Hindu invocation: ?Peace, Peace, Peace?. There is nothing in these words that can be said to challenge the Christian scriptures, but to the protestors, any ?non-Christian prayer? was sacriligeous, even one that celebrated the unity of the divine. These days, fundamentalist groups that have misappropriated the term ?Christian? fund missions into India, whose preachers use language against local beliefs and deities that are, to put it mildly, uncomplimentary. In this, they are following in the footsteps of the ?professors? at Islamabad'sRed Mosque, who told their charges that Hindus were ?pigs? and Christians ?dogs?.
Sadly, in several ?religious schools? in Pakistan and other countries with a substantial number of Wahabbis, the practices and followers of other faiths are ridiculed and demonised, thus planting hatred and intolerance in young minds. Qualities that later get used by jihadists to create the fanaticism that sees the killing of innocents in London or Glasgow as a proper response to the activities of British soldiers in Iraq. In case the apprehensions of the UK police prove well-founded, then it means that Indian citizens have joined ?Al Qaeda? in its global jihad on the Christians and the Jews. While there are certainly injustices being committed in West Asia, it would be as wrong to target innocent westerners for them as it would be for Hindus in india to target their Muslim brothers and sisters for the havoc being done to Hindu life and property in Bangladesh. It is a worrisome reality that even within the Hindu faith, some groups talk venomously about the Christian and Muslim faiths. Such an attitude makes them no better than Wahabbis.
Within the Muslim faith, large numbers of people are stepping forward to challenge the fanatics who are seeking to destroy peace and security in the world. Today, even within their bastions Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Wahabbis and the Khomeinists are being challenged within their own societies. Courageous women of both Saudi Arabia as well as Iran, including several from the highest reaches of society, such as from the families of the Al Sauds and the Rafsanjanis, have been silently battling with reactionary clerics to win back the numerous rights for women that the Prophet Mohammad ensured. It is therefore a shame that when the fanatics are being challenged from within, these purveyors of hate appear to have found new hosts to infect with their virulent concoction of hate. It is unlikely that any of the three ?Christian? Wahabbis that created a commotion from the Visitors Gallery of the US Senate that day had even the merest knowledge of Sanatan Dharma, the philosophy that underpins the Hindu faith. What this means is that while different paths may exist, all lead to the same goal, which is the realisation of the divine. Those who seek to overturn the core of human values, which is an acceptance of diversity in thinking and in people, can place their own countries in danger of a violent reaction from those traduced and sought to be marginalised. Interestingly, the same ?Christian? groups that are the loudest in defence of what they claim to be ?Christian values? are the most vociferous critics of the (overwhelmingly Christian) migration from Mexico to the US, even calling for the shooting down of illegal immigrants. Clearly, there is more than religion at issue here. What is at stake is an outdated perception of humanity that refuses to recognise the ?flattening? of our species as a consequence of the Knowledge Economy, which gives each individual the chance to excel, within the faith she or he feels comfortable in. Each faith needs to cleanse itself of exclusivism and fanaticism, and accept diversity in faith rather than persist with Religious Supremacists ways. The world has battled with Racial Supremacy for decades and finally seems to be winning. This new scourge too needs to be eliminated.