Guruji: A dhrashta—XXII
Swami Vivekananda commended, and Guruji structured the norms for assimilation of minorities for religious harmony and national integration. Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru also held similar views. In the monotheistic modern US and the West also minority assimilation has been part of national discourse. But the philosophy of assimilation of the minority in India and in the West are different. As the issue of minorities is now a global concern, it needs a proper understanding of the historic, theological, sociological and political analysis of the minority issue from the Indian and Western perspectives.
Monotheistic assimilation is just annihilation
In the Abrahamic civilisation of any religious persuasion – Judaic, Christian or Islam which are caught in the Single true God, Single Prophet and Single and inerrant Text syndrome – the concept of “assimilation” of the faithful of another religion meant annihilation of either the faith of the person or the faithful himself. Their respective textual dictum, “either you accept the only true faith, text and God or die” made annihilation either way – of the opposite faith or of its pursuer – inevitable. This is what Gore Vidal, whom a Newsweek critic called “the best all-round American man of letters since Edmund Wilson, had to say in his address at The Lowell Lecture, Harvard University on the topic “(The Great Unmentionable) Monotheism and its Discontents” on April 20, 1992: “Now to the root of the matter. The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved – Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These are sky-god religions…. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not for just one tribe but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good.” Strong comment indeed. But nevertheless also true. Yet, except ‘killing’, the coercive character of monotheism continues in modern conditions too. In the Religious Leaders Conference on Monotheistic Religions convened by The Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Monotheistic Religions (CISMOR), Doshisha University, Japan on May 12, 2007 it was clearly spelt out, in the context of “Salvation and Pluralism in Monotheistic Religions”, that, “Another obstacle to co-existence in Christianity can be the notion of mission. It is generally believed that missionary work is for salvation. Yet, missionary work involves changing the “Other.” How do you change the “Other”? By making him Christian, like yourself, or in other words, by assimilation. Identical is the textual position in Islam. Despite claims based on Sura 2.256 in Quran to the contrary, “The issue of forced conversion in Islam is a phenomenon that has a long history with ample precedents. Indeed, from its inception, most of those who embraced Islam did so under duress.” The theological position of the monotheistic faiths that their God is the only true God and their Prophet is the only messenger or son of God has led to forced conversions. The history is replete with forced conversion by mainly Christianity and Islam. It is self-evident that unless assimilation means conversion and destruction of the faith of the convert, monotheism will cease to be monotheism.
Multiculturalism ‘by guilt’ – the modern alternative to annihilation
Since monotheism lacked the potential for assimilation without annihilation of other faiths, it did not have the potential for co-existence with other religions. The Western civilisation – a product of Monotheistic and Hellenistic Christianity – therefore did not have a philosophy to co-exist with non-Christian religions and peoples. Moreover the Roman Church, which pursued the Jews first, the Muslims next and the pagans always, explicitly promoted religious and ethnic cleansing as integral to christianity. Islam competed with Christianity in this venture. The history of crusades and the history of jihad show how annihilation was implied in Christian and Islamic schools of thought. It was much later, in the 20th century, that the Western world, rudely shamed by the Holocaust exposure, realised that religious violent mindset was still alive in modern world. In the Holocaust six million Jews including 1.5 million children were massacred. So till after the World War II Europe did not have or develop philosophic and socio-political matrix to handle diversities, till multiculturalism evolved as the official policy of many Western nations since the 1970s. Kevin MacDonald, a professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach, has argued in his trilogy of books on Judaism that Jews have been prominent as main ideologues and promoters of multiculturalism in an attempt to end anti-semitism. In the book Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt by Paul Edward Gottfried, a powerful critique of multiculturalism, the author says it is the political guilt over the Holocaust which made the West embrace multiculturalism. The new doctrine of guilt put the entire blame of the Holocaust at the doors of the majority Christianity. Given its rigid and monotheistic religious platform, the majoritarian culture of West, which is fundamentally Christian, always lacked the philosophy of tolerance for other faiths, peoples and cultures. So, in, and compelled by, the modern times, it had to embrace an irreligious secularism which works against the majority society by promoting and glorifying the differences.
Multiculturalism Vs “Melting Pot”; Assimilation Vs Minority Assimilation
The theories of assimilation of minorities in modern US and West have been very recent. As recently as in 1998 – more than 25 years after Guruji’s lifetime – MF Moghaddam, a well-known authority on cultural diversity issues, classified the Western method of handling cultural diversity in two broad categories. One, Assimilation and two, Multiculturalism. Assimilation, in the Western sense, means that the minorities – namely the immigrants – abandon their cultures and melt into the mainstream society. Multiculturalism meant that the heritage cultures of the immigrant minorities are retained and the nation has a cultural mosaic. Again, assimilation is broadly divided into (i) Minority Assimilation, which meant that the minorities – read immigrants – abandon their heritage culture and adopt the majority way of life; and (ii) “Melting Pot” Assimilation, which meant that majority and minorities – read Immigrants – contribute to the formation of a new common culture. The American way of assimilating the immigrants was, till about a couple of decades back, known as “Melting Pot” assimilation. “Melting Pot” is entirely an American idea.
The idiom was popularised by a book titled Melting Pot written by Israel Zengwill. How did the Melting Pot theory work in the US has been captured by David Newman, a sociologist, thus:
“One of the bedrock goals of the American value system has always been the ultimate assimilation of racial and ethnic groups into mainstream society; in the process, members of minority groups change their ways to conform to those of the dominant culture. In the 19th century, the United States was described as the great “melting pot,” a place where immigrants of varied racial and ethnic backgrounds willingly and happily blended to create a brand-new national identity.” He added: “Assimilation sounded good to many Americans well into the 20th century, particularly when spiced with stories of their own grandparents arriving in this country as penniless immigrants but working hard and eventually becoming proud Americans.”
Significantly the entire loyalty of the immigrants to the US implied in the ‘Melting Pot’ theory is founded on pure personal gratitude of the immigrants – their penniless grandparents migrating from outside and becoming prosperous thanks to America! In simple terms, the Melting Pot theory was founded on gratefulness of the immigrants to the US for material prosperity, which it had bestowed on them.
Why the Meting Pot idea? America was populated by immigration and built by immigrants. During the four decades from 1880 to 1913 alone, some 30 million immigrants entered the US. The issue of immigration is closely linked to and affects the US economic rise and sustainability. The American population today as compared to its population at the time of its Independence has multiplied by 100 times, thanks essentially to immigration. The result is that today, the American society is multi-racial [with roughly 69 per cent White, 12 per cent Hispanic, 12 per cent Black and 4 per cent Asian and Pacific Islander and 3 per cent others which includes the remnant original native “Indians” of America]; multi-ethnic [with no ethnic majority group] and multi-religious [63 per cent Protestant, 23 per cent Catholic, 8 per cent other religious, and 6 per cent no religion]. Consequently, the challenge before the multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi-religious America was how to assimilate the immigrants into the main society. The result was the ‘Melting Pot’ mechanism the effect of which is the commonalty that develops through the melting of the immigrants with the existing society. It is not that every one agrees that the Melting Pot process was to yield a common culture, distinct from the core or mainstream culture of the US. The Melting Pot concept is interpreted dually – one, that it is the melting of individuals from different nations “into a new race of men” and two, that it is absorbing the immigrants into the Anglo-Protestant culture. Samuel Huntington says that the “Anglo-conformity” describes more accurately than the other models, the cultural absorption of immigrants until the 1960s. But, the Melting Pot theory was the end of the story. It became a plate of “tossed salads”!
 http://www.gorevidalpages. com/1992/04/gore-vidal-monotheism-and-its-discontents.html
 Islam’s Uninterrupted History of Forced Conversions by Raymond Ibrahim October 5, 2011 http://www.victorhanson. com/articles/ibrahim100511. html]
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forced_conversion #cite_ref-W53_20-0
 http://www.jewishvirtual library. org/jsource/Holocaust/history.html
 Policy Paper no. 4 – Multiculturalism: New Policy Responses to Diversity. Unesco.org
 MacDonald, Kevin B. (1998, 2002). The Culture of Critique. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998. Bloomington, IN: 1stbooks Library, 2002
 Review by Martin http:/www.whatwouldthefounders think.com/multiculturalism-and-the-politics-of-guilt-by-paul-edward-gottfried
 Cultural diversity: Its social psychology, Author: Xenia Chryssochoou Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell [p119]
 Journal of Maritime Research June 1, 2001: http://www.jmr.nmm.ac.uk/server/show/conJmrArticle.28/setPaginate/No
 Samuel P. Huntington The Great American Debate: Who are We? ; Penguin Books ISBN: 0-14-3030241-0; 9780143032410 [p.11]
 Ibid p129