How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems


By Valerie Tarico, Alternet

Religious Trauma Syndrome:

Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth.
March 25, 2013  |

At age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia.  When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister.  “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said.  “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.  But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia.  I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help couldn’t fix the core problem: I was a failure in the eyes of God. It would be years before I understood that my inability to heal bulimia through the mechanisms offered by biblical Christianity was not a function of my own spiritual deficiency but deficiencies in Evangelical religion itself.

Dr. Marlene Winell is a human development consultant in the San Francisco Area. She is also the daughter of Pentecostal missionaries. This combination has given her work an unusual focus. For the past twenty years she has counseled men and women in recovery from various forms of fundamentalist religion including the Assemblies of God denomination in which she was raised. Winell is the author of Leaving the Fold – A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion, written during her years of private practice in psychology. Over the years, Winell has provided assistance to clients whose religious experiences were even more damaging than mine. Some of them are people whose psychological symptoms weren’t just exacerbated by their religion, but actually caused by it.

Two years ago, Winell made waves by formally labeling what she calls “Religious Trauma Syndrome” (RTS) and beginning to write and speak on the subject for professional audiences. When the British Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Psychologists published a series of articles on the topic, members of a Christian counseling association protested what they called excessive attention to a “relatively niche topic.” One commenter said, “A religion, faith or book cannot be abuse but the people interpreting can make anything abusive.”

Is toxic religion simply misinterpretation? What is religious trauma? Why does Winell believe religious trauma merits its own diagnostic label?

Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is religious trauma syndrome?

Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) is a set of symptoms and characteristics that tend to go together and which are related to harmful experiences with religion. They are the result of two things: immersion in a controlling religion and the secondary impact of leaving a religious group. The RTS label provides a name and description that affected people often recognize immediately. Many other people are surprised by the idea of RTS, because in our culture it is generally assumed that religion is benign or good for you. Just like telling kids about Santa Claus and letting them work out their beliefs later, people see no harm in teaching religion to children.

But in reality, religious teachings and practices sometimes cause serious mental health damage. The public is somewhat familiar with sexual and physical abuse in a religious context. As Journalist Janet Heimlich has documented in, Breaking Their Will, Bible-based religious groups that emphasize patriarchal authority in family structure and use harsh parenting methods can be destructive.

But the problem isn’t just physical and sexual abuse. Emotional and mental treatment in authoritarian religious groups also can be damaging because of 1) toxic teachings like eternal damnation or original sin 2) religious practices or mindset, such as punishment, black and white thinking, or sexual guilt, and 3) neglect that prevents a person from having the information or opportunities to develop normally.

Can you give me an example of RTS from your consulting practice?

I can give you many. One of the symptom clusters is around fear and anxiety. People indoctrinated into fundamentalist Christianity as small children sometimes have memories of being terrified by images of hell and apocalypse before their brains could begin to make sense of such ideas. Some survivors, who I prefer to call “reclaimers,” have flashbacks, panic attacks, or nightmares in adulthood even when they intellectually no longer believe the theology. One client of mine, who during the day functioned well as a professional, struggled with intense fear many nights. She said,

I was afraid I was going to hell. I was afraid I was doing something really wrong. I was completely out of control. I sometimes would wake up in the night and start screaming, thrashing my arms, trying to rid myself of what I was feeling. I’d walk around the house trying to think and calm myself down, in the middle of the night, trying to do some self-talk, but I felt like it was just something that – the fear and anxiety was taking over my life.

Or consider this comment, which refers to a film used by evangelicals to warn about the horrors of the “end times” for nonbelievers.

I was taken to see the film “A Thief In The Night”. WOW.  I amin shock to learn that many other people suffered the same traumas I lived with because of this film. A few days or weeks after the film viewing, I came into the house and mom wasn’t there. I stood there screaming in terror. When I stopped screaming, I began making my plan: Who my Christian neighbors were, who’s house to break into to get money and food. I was 12 yrs old and was preparing for Armageddon alone.

In addition to anxiety, RTS can include depression, cognitive difficulties, and problems with social functioning. In fundamentalist Christianity, the individual is considered depraved and in need of salvation. A core message is “You are bad and wrong and deserve to die.” (The wages of sin is death.) This gets taught to millions of children through organizations like Child Evangelism Fellowship and there is a group organized  to oppose their incursion into public schools.  I’ve had clients who remember being distraught when given a vivid bloody image of Jesus paying the ultimate price for their sins. Decades later they sit telling me that they can’t manage to find any self-worth.

After twenty-seven years of trying to live a perfect life, I failed. . . I was ashamed of myself all day long. My mind battling with itself with no relief. . . I always believed everything that I was taught but I thought that I was not approved by God. I thought that basically I, too, would die at Armageddon.

I’ve spent literally years injuring myself, cutting and burning my arms, taking overdoses and starving myself, to punish myself so that God doesn’t have to punish me. It’s taken me years to feel deserving of anything good.

Born-again Christianity and devout Catholicism tell people they are weak and dependent, calling on phrases like “lean not unto your own understanding” or “trust and obey.” People who internalize these messages can suffer from learned helplessness. I’ll give you an example from a client who had little decision-making ability after living his entire life devoted to following the “will of God.” The words here don’t convey the depth of his despair.

I have an awful time making decisions in general. Like I can’t, you know, wake up in the morning, “What am I going to do today?” Like I don’t even know where to start. You know all the things I thought I might be doing are gone and I’m not sure I should even try to have a career; essentially I babysit my four-year-old all day.

Authoritarian religious groups are subcultures where conformity is required in order to belong. Thus if you dare to leave the religion, you risk losing your entire support system as well.

I lost all my friends. I lost my close ties to family. Now I’m losing my country. I’ve lost so much because of this malignant religion and I am angry and sad to my very core. . . I have tried hard to make new friends, but I have failed miserably. . . I am very lonely.

Leaving a religion, after total immersion, can cause a complete upheaval of a person’s construction of reality, including the self, other people, life, and the future. People unfamiliar with this situation, including therapists, have trouble appreciating the sheer terror it can create.

My form of religion was very strongly entrenched and anchored deeply in my heart. It is hard to describe how fully my religion informed, infused, and influenced my entire worldview. My first steps out of fundamentalism were profoundly frightening and I had frequent thoughts of suicide. Now I’m way past that but I still haven’t quite found “my place in the universe.

Even for a person who was not so entrenched, leaving one’s religion can be a stressful and significant transition.

Many people seem to walk away from their religion easily, without really looking back. What is different about the clientele you work with?

Religious groups that are highly controlling, teach fear about the world, and keep members sheltered and ill-equipped to function in society are harder to leave easily. The difficulty seems to be greater if the person was born and raised in the religion rather than joining as an adult convert. This is because they have no frame of reference – no other “self” or way of “being in the world.” A common personality type is a person who is deeply emotional and thoughtful and who tends to throw themselves wholeheartedly into their endeavors. “True believers” who then lose their faith feel more anger and depression and grief than those who simply went to church on Sunday.

Aren’t these just people who would be depressed, anxious, or obsessive anyways?

Not at all. If my observation is correct, these are people who are intense and involved and caring. They hang on to the religion longer than those who simply “walk away” because they try to make it work even when they have doubts. Sometime this is out of fear, but often it is out of devotion. These are people for whom ethics, integrity and compassion matter a great deal. I find that when they get better and rebuild their lives, they are wonderfully creative and energetic about new things.

In your mind, how is RTS different from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

RTS is a specific set of symptoms and characteristics that are connected with harmful religious experience, not just any trauma. This is crucial to understanding the condition and any kind of self-help or treatment. (More details about this can be found on my Journey Free website and discussed in my talk at the Texas Freethought Convention.)

Another difference is the social context, which is extremely different from other traumas or forms of abuse. When someone is recovering from domestic abuse, for example, other people understand and support the need to leave and recover. They don’t question it as a matter of interpretation, and they don’t send the person back for more. But this is exactly what happens to many former believers who seek counseling. If a provider doesn’t understand the source of the symptoms, he or she may send a client for pastoral counseling, or to AA, or even to another church. One reclaimer expressed her frustration this way:

Include physically-abusive parents who quote “Spare the rod and spoil the child” as literally as you can imagine and you have one fucked-up soul: an unloved, rejected, traumatized toddlerin the body of an adult. I’m simply a broken spirit in an empty shell. But wait…That’s not enough!? There’s also the expectation by everyone in society that we victims should celebrate this with our perpetrators every Christmas and Easter!!

Just like disorders such as autism or bulimia, giving RTS a real name has important advantages. People who are suffering find that having a label for their experience helps them feel less alone and guilty. Some have written to me to express their relief:

There’s actually a name for it! I was brainwashed from birth and wasted 25 years of my life serving Him! I’ve since been out of my religion for several years now, but i cannot shake the haunting fear of hell and feel absolutely doomed. I’m now socially inept, unemployable, and the only way i can have sex is to pay for it.

Labeling RTS encourages professionals to study it more carefully, develop treatments, and offer training. Hopefully, we can even work on prevention.

What do you see as the difference between religion that causes trauma and religion that doesn’t?

Religion causes trauma when it is highly controlling and prevents people from thinking for themselves and trusting their own feelings. Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth. With constant judgment of self and others, people become alienated from themselves, each other, and the world. Religion in its worst forms causes separation.

Conversely, groups that connect people and promote self-knowledge and personal growth can be said to be healthy. The book, Healthy Religion, describes these traits. Such groups put high value on respecting differences, and members feel empowered as individuals.  They provide social support, a place for events and rites of passage, exchange of ideas, inspiration, opportunities for service, and connection to social causes. They encourage spiritual practices that promote health like meditation or principles for living like the golden rule. More and more, nontheists are asking how they can create similar spiritual communities without the supernaturalism. An atheist congregation in London launched this year and has received over 200 inquiries from people wanting to replicate their model.

Some people say that terms like “recovery from religion” and “religious trauma syndrome” are just atheist attempts to pathologize religious belief.

Mental health professionals have enough to do without going out looking for new pathology. I never set out looking for a “niche topic,” and certainly not religious trauma syndrome. I originally wrote a paper for a conference of the American Psychological Association and thought that would be the end of it. Since then, I have tried to move on to other things several times, but this work has simply grown.

In my opinion, we are simply, as a culture, becoming aware of religious trauma.  More and more people are leaving religion, as seen by polls showing that the “religiously unaffiliated” have increased in the last five years from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. It’s no wonder the internet is exploding with websites for former believers from all religions, providing forums for people to support each other. The huge population of people “leaving the fold” includes a subset at risk for RTS, and more people are talking about it and seeking help.  For example, there are thousands of former Mormons, and I was asked to speak about RTS at an Exmormon Foundation conference.  I facilitate an international support group online called Release and Reclaim  which has monthly conference calls. An organization called Recovery from Religion, helps people start self-help meet-up groups

Saying that someone is trying to pathologize authoritarian religion is like saying someone pathologized eating disorders by naming them. Before that, they were healthy? No, before that we weren’t noticing. People were suffering, thought they were alone, and blamed themselves.  Professionals had no awareness or training. This is the situation of RTS today. Authoritarian religion is already pathological, and leaving a high-control group can be traumatic. People are already suffering. They need to be recognized and helped.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder ofWisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

 

What the Bible Says About #Rape #Gender #Vaw


Christians of many stripes are scrambling to distance themselves and their religion from Republican comments about rape. But a literal interpretation of the Bible is quite disturbing.
November 1, 2012  |

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (left) and U.S. Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock greet supporters at a campaign event at Stepto’s Bar B Q Shack on August 4 in Evansville, Indiana.

Christians of many stripes are scrambling to distance themselves, their religion, or their God from Republican comments about rape. The latest furor is about Washington State congressional candidate John Koster, who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest and added for good measure that “incest is so rare, I mean it’s so rare.”  Before that, it was Indiana candidate Richard Mourdock, who said, “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen” backed up by Texas senator John Cornyn insisting that “life is a gift from God.” These men share the January sentiment of Rick Santorum:  “the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.”

Those Christians who see the Bible as a human, historical document have the right to distance themselves. Those who see the Bible as the unique and perfect revelation of the Divine, essentially dictated by God to the writers, do not. The fact is, the perspective that God intends rape babies and that such pregnancies should be allowed to run their course is perfectly biblical.

I am not going to argue here that the Bible teaches that life begins at conception. It doesn’t. The Bible writers had no concept of conception, and no Bible writer values the life of a fetus on par with the life of an infant or an older child. One does say that God knows us while we are developing in the womb, but another says he knows us even before. Levitical law prescribes a fine for a man who accidentally triggers a miscarriage. It is not the same as the penalty for manslaughter. Therapeutic abortion is never mentioned, nor is the status of the fetus that spontaneously aborts. Under Jewish law, a newborn isn’t circumcised and blessed until he is eight days old, having clearly survived the high mortality peri-natal period. For centuries the Catholic Church believed that “ensoulment” occurred and a fetus became a person at the time of quickening or first movement, sometime during the second trimester.

However, if we take the viewpoint of biblical literalists and treat the Good Book as if it were authored by a single perfect, unchanging Deity, then a man is on solid ground thinking that rape babies are part of God’s intentions. Consider the following Bible teachings:

The Bible never teaches that women should have a choice about sex. The Bible makes a clear distinction between forcible stranger rape and other forms of nonconsensual sex, condemning the former while sanctioning the latter in many, many circumstances. The fact that conservative Christians – or politicians who are pandering to a Conservative Christian base–keep fumbling with these distinctions is no accident. According to the commands of Yahweh, a man can give his daughters in marriage, keep concubines, have sex with his wife’s servants, or claim a desirable war captive as his own sexual property after a series of rituals to purify her. In no case, including in the New Testament, is the woman’s consent required for sexual contact.

Male female relationships in the Bible are determined by a property ethic. The punishments for rape have to do not with compassion or trauma to the woman herself but with honor, tribal purity, and a sense that a used woman is damaged goods. A woman herself may be killed for voluntarily giving up her purity. A rapist can be forced, essentially, to buy her. In the Ten Commandments, the prohibition against coveting a neighbor’s wife is part of a broader prohibition against coveting property that belongs to another man: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17NIV).

God’s purpose for women in the Bible is childbearing. Martin Luther, who brought us the concept of “sola scritura” meaning Christianity based solely on the authority of the Bible, had this to say: “Women should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear and bring up children. If a woman grows weary and, at last, dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing; she is there to do it.”  He drew his scripturally informed opinion from the biblical record broadly but most specifically from the words of Paul’s letter to Timothy: “Women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” (1 Tm. 2:15).

Virtually all Bible books, like almost all Hollywood movies fail to pass the Bechdel Test (Are there two named female characters who talk with each other about anything other than men?). In the Bible, as in Hollywood, women exist largely as props in plotlines about male protagonists. Biblical plotlines are even more homogenous than Hollywood, however, in that the vast preponderance of females exist simply for the purpose of producing male offspring. It all starts with Eve, who, after she defies Yahweh and eats from the Tree of Knowledge, is punished thus:“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). After Eve’s curse, we encounter Abraham’s wife Sarah and the slave girl Hagar who Sarah sends to “lie with” her husband when she herself cannot conceive. Then come the pathetic deflowered daughters of Lot who get him drunk and have sex with him so they can fulfill their purpose. Then come the archetypal bitch sisters Rachel and Leah who compete over Jacob’s bed and pump out the twelve tribes of Israel with the help of a few mandrake roots. The New Testament leads with the story of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist who is barren in her old age until an angel promises her the best thing that can happen to a woman. Her unborn son leaps in her womb when the pregnant Mary comes into her house, prompting one of the most repeated songs of joy in the whole Bible, the Magnificat (Luke 1:40-55). And then, of course, there is the Virgin Mary herself. They are made to do it. It is as God intended.

In the Bible, children are counted as assets belonging to men. Children, like women, in the Bible are treated primarily according to a property ethic. In the Old Testament stories of Jepthah’s daughter and the sacrifice of Isaac, scholars glimpse a residual of child sacrifice in the early Hebrew religion. This in turn leads to the New Testament notion of God giving his only begotten son as a sacrifice—all of which make sense only when we think of children as property which a father can dispose of as he pleases.  When Yahweh is pleased with men he multiplies their flocks and their offspring. When he is displeased, he may kill their firstborn sons, as he does to the Egyptians in the Moses story. When Yahweh and Satan agree to play out their cosmic competition in the life of Job, Satan tests Job’s loyalty to Yahweh by taking away is riches including his livestock, children and wives, and Yahweh later replaces them with new ones.

There is no sense, ever, in the Bible, that a woman might prefer a choice about having a child; that wise parents might think about when is best to bring another child into their family or how many children they can nurture; or even less that bringing a child into the world should be an matter of thoughtful and mutual decision making. The only Bible story in which someone declines to produce a child is the one about Onan refusing to father a son for his deceased brother. He spills his seed on the ground instead, and God kills him for it. Whether the widow wanted the seed inside her plays no part in the account whatsoever.

The Bible is loaded with divinely sanctioned rape babies. The Bible both depicts and scriptsa world in which women have no choice about who they are given to. Daughters can be given in marriage or sold outright, slaves can be sent by their mistresses to bear proxy babies, virgin war captives can be claimed as wives, widows can be forced to submit to humping by their brothers-in-law until they produce sons. Presumably any of these women can be laid at any time, at a man’s discretion, much as is the case in parts of Afghanistan or analogous Iron Age tribal cultures today. In such a world, a significant portion of babies conceived will be the product of non-consensual sex. In other words, rape.

Christians who like to retroactively sanitize the Biblical record because they insist that it is the literally perfect word of God often sanitize it quite literally. They want to think of these women as willing participants in sexual unions with benevolent, high status patriarchs. What slave girl wouldn’t want one? In reality we are talking about forced sex with primitive desert tribesmen whose cleansing rituals mostly focused on their hands and feet rather than their genitals, armpits or teeth. Airbrushing the Bible to the point that it doesn’t condone rape requires that we deny much of what we know about human history and biology.

If we are ever going to move on from Iron Age conflicts, it is imperative that people understand the Bible in its own context, not as a literally perfect prescription for how we should live today but as a record of our very imperfect ancestors struggling to live in community with each other, instinctively seeking patterns that worked within a given ecological and technological context to create a stable, functional society in which men, women, and children could thrive.

As we now know, many traditional gender scripts and sexual rules once served to ensure that men could invest their energy in their own genetic offspring. The saying, “mama’s baby, papa’s maybe” reflects the reality that humans are only partially monogamous, that both men and women have reason to cheat, and that at the level of evolutionary biology males gain advantage if they can control the sexual behavior of females in whose offspring they will then invest their time and energy. The Abrahamic virginity code, which evolved before the time of contraception and paternity tests, ensured a greater degree of confidence that men were in fact raising their own children. A woman who bled on her wedding night was unlikely to be carrying another man’s sperm or fetus or to have formed an emotional bond that would result in an ongoing extramarital liaison. By increasing male confidence that the offspring of their wives were their own, the virginity code may have increased the investment of men in pregnant women and dependent children, helping both to survive in a harsh desert environment where producing food was hard work.

The harshness of this environment and human frailty within it probably contributed to another aspect of the Mourdock mentality that so plagues many Abrahamic adherents. From the time we humans have first been able to understand our plight as suffering, mortal creatures we have struggled to transcend it. But much of life’s hardship cannot be transcended; it must simply be endured. In the time before modern science this was even more true than it is today. Consequently all of the world’s great religions cultivate acceptance or resignation as a virtue. Islam literally means submission. Buddhism centers itself on the absence of desire, on “living into” what is. Christianity teaches that God’s actions are not for us to question. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding.” “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Submit, accept, don’t question. In all cases, submission has a hierarchy: men are to submit themselves to the will of God or to the divine flow; women are to submit both to the will of God and to the will of men.

In a world where what’s done is done, accepting a rape pregnancy and falling in love with the resulting child is an unmitigated good. Seeing all pregnancy as God-intended and all childbirth as a blessing from a loving heavenly father helps to make this possible. But we live in a world where we have far more knowledge and choices than did our Iron Age ancestors. And with knowledge and choices comes responsibility. We now have the ability to stop a rape from developing into a pregnancy or an early pregnancy from developing into a person. Consequently, we also have a responsibility in this situation to activate such moral virtues ascompassionforethought, discernment, and, where appropriate, action—just as our ancestors had a moral responsibility to employ these same virtues in situations where they were equally empowered. As the popular Serenity Prayer reminds us, what we should do depends in part on what we can do: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.  As conditions change, our responsibilities change. The kind of resignation or submission that once enabled women and children to flourish may now be a barrier to flourishing; a virtue applied wrongly, out of time, can become a vice.

This is where John Koster, Richard Mourdock, Rick Santorum, anti-contraception Bishops, and so many other devout conservatives have gone wrong. They have elevated a virtue, devotion, in this case devotion to a sacred text and tradition, to the point that it appears a vice to everyone but those who are caught in their retrogressive thought spiral. The consequences are there for all to see:  Instead of pointing the way toward wisdom—humility, prudence, discernment, kindness, insight, knowledge, and effectiveness—their devotion to the traditional subjugation of woman under man under Church under God (as embodied in a Golden Calf known as the Bible), simply makes them cruel.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder ofWisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

 

Pakistani-American Raps For #Malala Yousafzai #spokenword #poetry #vaw #Taliban


A man holds a candle next a picture of Malala Yousufzai at a school in Lahore. (Photo: REUTERS/Mohsin Raza)

A man holds a candle next a picture of Malala Yousufzai at a school in Lahore. (Photo: REUTERS/Mohsin Raza)

By- Suka Kalantari,  at the  theworld.org

The day after 14-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out for women’s education, Zaki Syed, a 24-year-old Pakistani-American rapper from Sacramento, California, started getting a lot of phone calls asking him to write a rap about it.

“I was getting calls from people in Pakistan saying, ‘Hey, you have to do something. You have to write something.’ Even my mom was like, ‘You do a rap for everybody, you should do something for her too.’”

But Syed says he had already began writing a spoken-word poem dedicated to Malala Yousafzai, which he’s now posted on YouTube.

Syed starts the spoken-word poem saying, “All she really wants to do is read. The first verse in the Quran is to read.” He said that an important belief in Islam is to educate ones self.

“Reading and getting an education is an Islamic right,” Syed said. “This was just a way of responding to the Taliban extremists and possibly any future extremists who try to come out and justify what had been done. I wanted to make it very clear that Islam, or God, would not condone what they did. The Quran says that God is telling the prophet to read. It’s like your Muslim duty to go out and be educated and be knowledgeable.”

In both Urdu and English, Syed raps, “You sisters, you mothers, you daughters: the respect of the nation is in your hands.” He explains it’s a very old saying in Pakistan. He sang it in both languages to make sure young women in Pakistan understood the lyrics.

“It says that the nation is in women’s hands. And it’s up to them to lead the way. I was thinking of all Muslims when I wrote this. My attack was towards the Taliban, but also to tell the nation of Pakistan that literacy is something we’re suffering and she was trying to advance it. She is a representation of something that people in Pakistan desperately need, which is education.”

Syed, who is also a sociology student at Sacramento State, produced another rap video last month urging tolerance and understanding of Sikhs in the wake of the Wisconsin shootings. In an interview with The World’s Marco Werman he says he uses rap to break down stereotypes.

“I think that the media has always stereotyped – made a stereotype – that anyone who has a beard, who has a turban, must be a terrorist,” Syed said. “That’s very untrue and, in fact, most Muslims don’t even have turbans.”

Syed has also rapped about Pakistan’s earthquake, the floods in Bangladesh, and the discrimination that sometimes comes with growing up as a Muslim-American after 9-11.

Lyrics to “Malala Yousafzai”
Chorus:

All she really wants to do is Read
The first verse in the Quran is to Read
Because when you read to the people you go out and Lead
When Malala bleeds the whole country bleeds
Because she represents the seed of what we need
So many mouths and minds to feed
So when the Taliban, Yeah when the Taliban shot Malala
They shot a part of Pakistan, The Part of Pakistan
That believed in the first verse of the Quran and that is
and that is to read
All she really wants to do is Read
The first verse in the Quran is to Read
Because when you read to the people you go out and Lead
When Malala bleeds the whole country bleeds
Because she represents the seed of what we need
So many mouths and minds to feed

Lyrics:
Now Swat Valley is a beautiful place
But Swat Valley has turned into a murderous place
Swat Valley is also the same place in which Malala was born in 1998
Who would of thought a gunman would try to decide her fate
But no gunman can decide her fate, only God can
I think God had a plan for her to fight Taliban
Woman’s education was at the top of her goal
So when they banned school
They straight up crushed her soul
So she started to blog and she started to protest, and pretty soon became activists
A symbol for Pakistani people that were starting to feel repressed
Stuck in war between the east and the west
U.S. foreign policy and Taliban causing a mess
So when Malala was shot by an extremist the whole country screamed that shedidn’t deserve this
It sparked of something you wouldn’t believe
People saying the Taliban has hijacked my country
And that it is time for them to leave
Protests in Numerous Pakistani Cities
And I heard 50 Islamic clerics have issued Fatwas condemning the Talibans actions now
Wow like how could a child so young become the voice of inspiration
For everyone, like so many women who go to school and then work at night
Only to come home and prepare meals for their families at night
But one of these women told me she is no longer feeling bad about her life
No she is thinking about Malala’s sacrifice and how she herself is lucky to live in a
place where she can be independent and utilize her education right
An inspiration and Light so I use Malala’s message when I talk to Pakistani Women to Unite
Tum batia, Tum Maaou, Tum baana quam ki izzat aap ki haath main hai
You sisters, you mothers, you daughters the respect of the nation is in your hands
So don’t say we cant only say that we can, to a higher education
To a better Pakistan, my Pakistan, your Pakistan
Mera Pakistan, Tumara Pakistan, Hamara Pakistan
Yee Pyari Zameen aur yee pyara Asman
Broken into little tukra by the U.S. Drone Strikes and Taliban
And somebody better please help the Taliban understand that
The Prophet Muhammad told us that Paradise was at our Mothers feet
And to honor our daughters and to treat them with respect so tell me Tehreeki
Taliban is this how you treat your Muslim Sister with respect, by shooting her in the
head and the neck
What kind of Islam is this, what kind of Islam is this, What kind of Islam is this
Please let me know what your following cause I know its not Islam
How could you hurt a girl for trying to follow the first verse of the Quran
Because all she wanted to do was to read

Chorus:
All she really wants to do is Read
The first verse in the Quran is to Read
Because when you read to the people you go out and Lead
When Malala bleeds the whole country bleeds
Because she represents the seed of what we need
So many mouths and minds to feed
So when the Taliban, Yeah when the Taliban shot Malala
They shot a part of Pakistan, The Part of Pakistan
That believed in the first verse of the Quran and that is
and that is to read
Also if the U.S is get inspired by women rights
And wants to fight the good fight then stop the drop strikes
Because education needs to be at the core of any mission
So stop dropping bombs and start dropping knowledge
You say you are for womens rights then why don’t you build a women’s college
Because Illiteracy and Poverty is disease, and drone strikes are the propaganda
on which the Taliban feeds, people joining them because theyre angry that theyre
families have been wiped out entirely
And revenge could keep us in a mental fortitude of slavery
So I am praying really hard for Malalas recovery
Because she brought the proof to the truth, and the truth to abosolute,
And absolute to the proof, proof to the absolute, and absolute to the truth
That’s what happens when education succeeds
Iqra bismi rabbika, read, read, read

 

#Blasphemy in #Islam: The #Quran does not prescribe punishment for abusing the Prophet #mustread


 

Blasphemy in Islam: The Quran does not prescribe punishment for abusing the Prophet
In Islam, blasphemy is a subject of intellectual discussion rather than a subject of physical punishment. This concept is very clear in the Quran.

In Islam, blasphemy is a subject of intellectual discussion rather than a subject of physical punishment. This concept is very clear in the Quran.

The Quran tells us that since ancient times God has sent prophets in succession to every town and every community. It says, moreover, that the contemporaries of all of these prophets adopted a negative attitude towards them.

There are more than 200 verses in the Quran, which reveal that the contemporaries of the prophets repeatedly perpetrated the same act, which is now called ‘blasphemy or abuse of the Prophet’ or ‘using abusive language about the Prophet’. Prophets, down the ages, have been mocked and abused by their contemporaries (36:30); some of the epithets cited in the Quran include “a liar” (40:24), “possessed” (15:6), “a fabricator” (16:101), “a foolish man” (7:66). The Quran mentions these words of abuse used by prophets’ contemporaries but nowhere does the Quran prescribe the punishment of lashes, or death, or any other physical punishment.

This clearly shows that ‘abuse of the Prophet’ is not a subject of punishment, but is rather a subject of peaceful admonishment. That is, one who is guilty of abusing the Prophet should not have corporal punishment meted out to him: he should rather be given sound arguments in order to address his mind. In other words, peaceful persuasion should be used to reform the person concerned rather than trying to punish him.

Those who adopt a negative stance towards the Prophet will be judged by God, who knows the innermost recesses of their hearts. The responsibility of the believers is to observe the policy of avoidance and, wishing well, convey the message of God to them in such a manner that their minds might be properly addressed.

Another important aspect of this matter is that at no point in the Quran is it stated that anyone who uses abusive language about the Prophet should be stopped from doing so, and that in case he continues to do so he should be awarded severe punishment. On the contrary, the Quran commands the believer not to use abusive language directed against opponents: “But do not revile those [beings] whom they invoke instead of God, lest they, in their hostility, revile God and out of ignorance” (6:108).

This verse of the Quran makes it plain that it is not the task of the believers to establish “media watch” offices and hunt for anyone involved in acts of defamation of the Prophet, and then plan for their killing, whatever the cost. On the contrary, the Quran enjoins believers to sedulously refrain from indulging in such acts as may provoke people to retaliate by abusing Islam and the Prophet. This injunction of the Quran makes it clear that this responsibility devolves upon the believers, rather than holding others responsible and demanding that they be punished.

Looked at from this angle, the stance of present-day Muslims goes totally against the teachings of the Quran. Whenever anyone – in their judgment – commits an act of ‘abuse of the Prophet’, in speech or in writing, they instantly get provoked and respond by leading processions through the streets, which often turn violent. And then they demand that all those who insult the Prophet be beheaded.

Muslims generally advocate the theory that freedom of expression is good, but that no one has the right to hurt the religious sentiments of others. This theory is quite illogical. Freedom is not a self-acquired right. It is God, who, because of His scheme of putting man to the test, has given man total freedom. Then the modern secular concept of freedom is that everyone is free provided he does not inflict physical harm upon others. In such a situation, the above kind of demand is tantamount to abo-lishing two things: firstly, to abolishing the divine scheme, and secondly, to abolishing the modern secular norm. Neither goal is achievable.

So the hue and cry against the so-called abuse of the Prophet is simply untenable. By adopting this policy, Muslims can make themselves permanently negative but they cannot change the system of the world.

There is a relevant Hadith in which the Prophet of Islam has said: ”Min husn Islam al-mar tarkahu ma la yanih” (A good Muslim is one who refrains from indulging in a practice that is not going to yield any positive result). This Hadith applies very aptly to the present situation of Muslims. They have been making noise for a very long time against blasphemy, but it has been in vain. Muslims must know that they are not in a position to change the world, so they must change themselves. There will be two instant advantages of adopting this policy: they will save themselves from becoming victim of negative sentiments and will be able to devote their energies to constructive work.

The writer is an Islamic scholar and founder of the Centre for Peace and Spirituality International.

 

Freedom to criticize religion is a touchstone of free expression’ #censorship #FOE


 

by Farooq Sulehria

Anyone incensed by symbolic violence, such as the video in the US or cartoons in France, should retaliate with symbolic violence in the same way or with peaceful protest. Not through physical violence

Muslims should ‘simply ignore the crazy provocations,’ Gilbert Achcar says. He thinks that those who engaged in violent protests against the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video did exactly what the video’s production team were hoping for as a result of their provocation.

Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon and teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Among his books are The Clash of Barbarisms, which came out in a second expanded edition in 2006; a book of dialogues with Noam Chomsky on the Middle East, Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy (2nd edition in 2008); and most recently The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2010). His next book analyzing the Arab upheaval will come out in the spring of 2013.

While Achcar strongly condemns Islamophobic hate material, he rejects any curtailment of free speech in the name of preventing blasphemy. ‘Freedom to criticize religion is a major touchstone of the right to free expression,’ he says in an interview with Farooq Sulehria for Pakistan’s Viewpoint Online.

Q: A decade after your book The Clash of Barbarisms, written in the aftermath of 9/11, it seems that the situation has only worsened. A caricature in an obscure newspaper, an immature video: anything can ignite a ‘clash of barbarisms’ disguised as a ‘clash of civilisations’. How would you analyse the ongoing wave of protests against the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video in parts of the Muslim world?

Gilbert Achcar (GA): The clash of barbarisms that I analysed should not be seen through the lens of such incidents, but rather through much more serious issues such as Guantanamo, the invasion of Iraq, the torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the increasing resort of the USA to extra-judicial killings, etc. Such events do indeed represent setbacks in the civilizing process.

The reactive barbarism found in the Muslim world is mostly incarnated by al-Qaida and other ultra-fundamentalist currents such as the Taliban (whatever goes under this umbrella) and exhibited in much more serious events than the recent demonstrations, such as the dreadful and endless sectarian killings in Iraq, for instance.

These antagonistic barbarisms feed off each other. Of course, the main culprits remain the most powerful: the world powers, the Western powers as well as Russia, which have created this dynamic of adverse barbarisms in the first place.

Q: In Pakistan, at least, the mainstream discourse is to point out Western, especially US, hypocrisy when it comes to freedom of expression. ‘Holocaust denial is a crime,’ is a common refrain. Your comment?

GA: First of all, let us set the record straight. Denying Holocaust is a punishable offence only in some Western countries, not in all of them. It is not liable for punishment in the USA itself. Holocaust deniers freely publish their insanities in the US. This fact is disregarded by all those who use the ban on Holocaust denial as an argument against the USA.

As a matter of fact, there are laws against hate speech in all Western countries, except the US where the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits any restriction to free speech. In upholding this principle, the US Supreme Court went so far, in 1977, as defending the right of the American Nazi Party to march through the village of Skokie a substantial proportion ofwhose inhabitants were Jewish concentration camp survivors. True, there have been violations of this right, particularly for Muslims in the US in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent surge of Islamophobia. But it remains always possible to fight back legally, and civil rights movements are active on such issues.

In Europe, when you feel you have been a victim of hate speech, you can resort to legal action. The question of Western double standard is usually raised with regard to Jews there, as it is much more difficult in Europe to articulate an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic speech than an Islamophobic one. But this state of affairs owes to two factors.

The first is Europe’s sense of guilt with regard to the Jewish genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany during the Second World War with much European complicity.

The second is that there are powerful Jewish institutions that react vigilantly against any gesture they deem anti-Semitic, often abusively by equating the critique of Israel with anti-Semitism. They are powerful, but note how they react. Not by holding violent demonstrations that would actually increase anti-Semitism, but by engaging in legal proceedings, publishing articles, and so on. Sometimes they even resort to what may be called intellectual terrorism in trying to intimidate critics of the Israeli state or Zionism with accusations of anti-Semitism.

This said, those who say that freedom of expression in the West is biased against Islam because it is less tolerant of anti-Jewish expression forget that the religion of the overwhelming majority in the West is not Judaism, but Christianity. When it comes to Christianity, Westerners are free to mock the Pope, Jesus Christ, or even God without fear of reprisals. Some of the major artistic and literary works in the West are satirical of Christianity or religion in general in ways that you can’t imagine nowadays when it comes to Islam in the Muslim world.

True, there are some Christian fundamentalist groups that can resort to violence every now and then against anti-religious works. But they are completely marginal. Their violence is punished by law and it never reaches the level of what has been done these last days in the name of religion, which is matched only by the violence of Jewish fundamentalist colonial settlers in Palestine. Moreover, one should not forget that freedom of expression in Europe – in the UK in particular – has been of much greater benefit to Islamic fundamentalists of all brands who sought a refuge there fleeing oppression in Muslim countries than it has to people committing provocations such as those we are discussing.

Anyone incensed by symbolic violence, such as the video in the US or cartoons in France, should retaliate with symbolic violence in the same way or with peaceful protest. Not through physical violence. Resorting to physical violence against a symbolic act is a sign of intellectual weakness. You remember how the Taliban destroyed the gigantic Buddhas in Bamyan. These Buddhas were a World Heritage Site. Did Buddhists react violently? In Egypt and Nigeria, Christians and churches have been repeatedly and bloodily attacked in recent months. Did you see violent demonstrations of Christians worldwide retaliating against Muslim countries? People appreciate the difference between the lunatic fringe that carries out attacks on Christians and the general Muslim population. Muslims should also realise that the violent Islamophobic lunatic fringe in Western countries is marginal, actually much more marginal than the violent Islamic fundamentalist lunatic fringe in Muslim countries.

Crazy provocations like the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ film or the burning of Korans by the crackpot Terry Jones are best ignored. They are so stupid that they don’t deserve any reaction at all. The greatest service one can render to these provocateurs is to respond wildly to their provocations. Agitators are successful when they are able to arouse the feelings of the targeted group. This is why some people rightly argue that the ban on Holocaust denial in France, for instance, is counter-productive. Due to that ban, French Holocaust deniers have become very famous in France, whereas hardly anybody knows the name of US Holocaust deniers in the USA. Had nobody reacted to Terry Jones’s damn-fool provocations, they would have remained unknown, as have thousands of such anti-Islamic utterances. Had nobody paid attention to him, he would not have carried on his dreadful farce. These lunatics have an Islamophobic agenda. Muslim political forces that react in the violent way that we have seen actually reinforce the very Islamophobia against which they protest.

Salman Rushdie’s kind of work falls into a different category, of course. It cannot be dismissed as rubbish. He is a major contemporary writer. However, his Satanic Verses are very innocuous indeed compared to satires of Christianity, or even Judaism for that matter, which are freely available in the West.

Q: Since the Salman Rushdie affair there have been the Danish cartoons, Geert Wilders’ film, and now the film produced in the US. Every time we see wild massive reactions. How do you explain that?

GA: The fact is, very obviously, that certain political forces exploit such events to agitate for their cause, as Khomeini did in the case of the Rushdie affair. He never read Salman Rushdie’s book, in the same way as most demonstrators against the anti-Islam film have not seen it. It is always the same story: some political forces exploit such occasions by stirring up the raw feelings of politically illiterate people in order to push their own political agenda. Fundamentalist forces have always seized upon such provocations. This is how they build their influence.

Q: In Pakistan, a common idea peddled by the government, Islamists and mainstream media is to demand worldwide UN legislation banning blasphemy? What do you think of this demand?

GA: I am hundred percent against it. The notion of blasphemy is a medieval notion. Those who make such a demand want to bring us back to the Middle Ages. If you want to prohibit criticism of religion, you will have to prohibit it for all religions. To implement a ban on blasphemy one will have to proscribe a huge number of works of literature, art and philosophy accumulated over many centuries in all languages, including Arabic of course. Such works are presently banned in the Arab world, but this is a testimony to the lack of freedom of expression.

The freedom to criticize religion is a major touchstone of the right to free expression. As long as a society does not tolerate this freedom, it has not achieved freedom of expression. It is a duty of all people committed to democratic freedoms to raise their voices against barbaric reactions to lunatic provocations. Capitulation to religious demagogy will entail a huge cost at all levels. Once set in motion this process of curtailment of free speech will have no limit. Who will decide what is blasphemous and what is not?

Q: The demonstrators in Pakistan targeted symbols of wealth (banks, cars, ATM machines) or Western culture (cinemas, theatres). Some people view these violent actions in the Muslim world as part of a wider political conflict between the West and the Muslim world. What is your opinion?

GA: I disagree. Violence can be understandable under certain circumstances when people are demonstrating against social and economic assaults on their livelihood or in protest against actual slaughter, massacres, invasions, or occupations perpetrated by Western powers, or the Zionist occupation in Palestine. And yet, the fact is that many real massacres committed by Western powers or Zionists did not lead to any comparable reactions. The truth is that the violence on display is above all a political exploitation by fundamentalists of a provocation for utterly reactionary purposes.

Q: The left in most of the Muslim countries is a small force and is often caught in a strange situation during such crises. While the left, in Pakistan for instance, condemns racist provocations, it advocates curtailment of free speech with regard to religion. What do you think of this attitude?

GA: We are reaping today the result of the left’s failure over many decades to raise the basic secular demand of separation of religion from state. Secularism – including freedom of belief, religion, and irreligion – is an elementary condition of democracy. It should be, therefore, an elementary part of any democratic project, let alone a left project. But most of the left in my part of the world, the Arab region, has capitulated on this issue.

For instance, in Egypt, large sections of the left, including the radical left, have all but dropped the term secularism from their vocabulary. Ironically, when the ‘Islamist’ Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan visited Egypt, he stated publicly that he stood for secularism, to the chagrin of the Muslim Brotherhood.

If the left wants to challenge the hegemony of Islamic forces and develop a counter-hegemonic movement in the political, social and cultural spheres, it must fight resolutely for secularism as well as against gender oppression – another fight from which many on the left also shy away in fear of ‘hurting the feelings’ of the believers. This is a self-defeating strategy.

Farooq Sulehria is currently pursuing his media studies. Previously, he has worked with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen. In Pakistan, he has worked with The Nation, The Frontier Post, The News, and the Pakistan. He has MA in Mass Communication from the University of Punjab, Lahore. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications internationally.

 

Resist Silent Emergency!-‘People’s Hearing on FABRICATED CASES’-Sept28-29


Dear Friends,

Sub: Invitation to a ‘PEOPLE’S HEARING ON FABRICATED CASES’

Venue: Constitution Club, New Delhi

Dates: September 28 – 29, 2012, Friday, Saturday.

The nightmare of the infamous Emergency of Mrs. Indira Gandhi was supposed to be over in 1977 when it was lifted after two years due to large scale public protest. Political parties, institutions and individuals who defended Emergency were discredited. The sigh of relief evoked a hope for a functioning democracy in India.

But today, we are entering into a similar phase of authoritarian governance without any formal declaration of Emergency. This Silent Emergency has regulated, controlled and restricted all space for democratic public protests against ruling governments. Custodial deaths and encounter killings have become a routine phenomenon. Rape, murder, loot, torture and arrests in Manipur, Nagaland and other north eastern states as well as Kashmir have even crossed the excesses of the Emergency period. Many discriminatory laws have been enacted to silence the Media without a censorship. Several discriminatory laws were enacted to enhance and strengthen the power of the State over civil society and crush dissent.

Laws to facilitate the corporate control and loot over the resources of people are being enacted. This has also become a major reason for the human rights violations against adivasis, dalits, minorities, farmers, fisher people, workers, activists and human rights movements. The human rights defenders who take up burning issues of the people are being targeted. False cases are being fabricated against activists, people’s movements, media, theatre activists, minorities, self-determination movements, dalits and adivasis in a major way. Thus thousands of innocent people are languishing in Indian jails without any trial.

In this context of the Silent Emergency in our country we would like to invite you to attend the ‘PEOPLE’S HEARING ON FABRICATED CASES’ which has the following objectives:

1. To defend fundamental rights, human rights and the Indian Constitution to preserve our democracy

2. To popularize some of the most brazen cases of fabrication of false charges against political dissidents and members of the Muslim, dalit and adivasi communities

3. To facilitate further legal action for freedom of these innocent people

4. To generate pressure on the mainstream media to play a more socially responsible role

5. To generate pressure on the institutions of Indian State for the release of undertrials.

The Programme:

The organizers expect the participation of around 50 victims, their family members or friends whose testimonies will be heard by a jury comprising of judges, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and artists. After listening to all the presentations the Jury will report their observations and conclusions with clear recommendations for various institutions of the Indian State.

Organisers: Solidarity Youth MovementKerala, Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF, PUCL, AISA, SIO, Right to Food Campaign, KSMTF (Kerala Swathantra Matsya Tizhilali Federation), PPSS (Anti Posco Movement), ICR, Focus on the Global South, Justice for Maudany Forum, Visual Search, Moving Republic, SAHELI, Pedestrian Pictures, National Campaign Against Fabrication of False Cases, http://www.fabricated.in, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Assiciation, Jamia Student Solidarity Forum, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, National Adivasi Alliance, Kabani – The Other Direction, Human Rights Alert, Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM) – Kerala, Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity, Action for Social Equality, INSOCO – Indian Solidarity Committee for freedom democracy & human rights, Center for Harmony and Peace – Varanasi, PUDR, Socialist Front, Student of Resistance.
People’s Hearing on Fabricated Cases

Sept 28-29 Constitution Club, New Delhi

Programme Schedule

28-09-2012, Friday

Inaugural Session: 10am – 11.30am

11.30am – 1.30pm
Issue
Speaker

1
Koodankulam Anti Nuclear
P K Sundaram

2
Anti POSCO Struggle
Abhay Sahoo

3
Jaitapur Anti Nuclear
Vaishali Patil

4
Farmers Group, Madhya Pradesh
Dr. Sunilam

LUNCH BREAK

2.30pm – 6pm
Issue/Case
Speaker

5
Journalist Mhd Ahmed Kazmi
Shauzab Kazmi

6
Soni Sori
Himanshu Kumar

7
Gujarat Fabricated Cases
Zakiya Soman

8
Faseeh Mahmood
Sabih Mahmood, Manisha Sethi

9
Journalist Shahina KK
Shahina KK

10
Seema Azad, UP
Seema Azad

11
Jharkhand
Dayamani Barla

12
Odisha
Prafulla Samantara

13
Chattisgharh
Ajay T.G

14
DHRM, Kerala
Suresh

15
Email Surveillance Victims, Kerala
T. Mohammed Vellom
29-09-2012, Saturday

10am – 1.00pm
Issues
Speaker

16
Kashmir & North East
Anjum Zamrud Habib, Babloo Loitongbam, Kaka D Iralu, Neena Ningombam

17
Abdul Nasar Maudany
Dr. Sebastin Pol, Omar Mukhtar
LUNCH BREAK

2.00pm – 3.30pm
Issues
Speaker

1
Prisoners Issue
SAR Geelani

2
Repressive Laws
Preeti Chauhan, PUDR

3
Increasing repressive state under neoliberalism
Colin Gonsalves
3.30pm – 6.00pm

Concluding Session: Comments from the Jury

Jury:
Justice Rajindar Sachar
Dr. Binayak Sen
Saba Naqvi
Ajit Shahi
Dr. Ram Puniyani
K Satchidanandan

Murder joins the long list of cases against Jagannath temple of Puri priests


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRATIHARI (LEFT), MOHAPATRA (RIGHT)

Debabrata Mohanty : Bhubaneswar, Tue Sep 04 2012,IE

It is one of the most renowned and biggest temples of Orissa. Since last week, however, the Jagannath Temple of Puri has acquired another distinction. On August 29, one of its sevaks and a member of the temple managing committee was held for planning and carrying out the murder of a fellow panel member over property.

If Krushna Pratihari now finds himself bars, the murdered priest, Taluccha Bhagaban Mohapatra, was as well known for activities outside the holy sphere. Police records show around a dozen cases against him as well as conviction on a murder charge. Mohapatra was also the local municipality councillor of the ruling Biju Janata Dal.

However, Mohapatra was not the only Jagannath Temple “sevak (servitor)” to figure in police records, accessed by The Indian Express. At least 60-odd sevaks are named in the records for 2011 and 2012, charge-sheeted in criminal cases ranging from theft, extortion, murder, criminal intimidation and molestation to wrongful restraint.

“We have just checked cases of Singhadwar and Puri town police stations. If we take into account the cases of the last five years of all the police stations in and around Puri, the numbers will run into several hundreds. Most of them are essentially goons who terrorise people,” said a home department official. Currently, the temple has over 5,500 sevaks.

Pratihari allegedly planned Mohapatra’s murder from the precincts of the Jagannath temple itself. Men allegedly hired by him accosted Mohapatra in a community hall and pumped bullets into his head. While Mohapatra looked after decoration of the deities at the temple, Pratihari’s divine duties included looking after preparation of abhada, the meal served to the Lord.

After his arrest from Koraput, Pratihari told the police that his rivalry with Mohapatra stemmed from a piece of prime land in Puri which both of them wanted. Mohapatra had allegedly used his political links to scare away Pratihari.

While Mohapatra’s murder conviction was stayed by the high court, a temple sevak said: “He was essentially a landgrabber who must have amassed properties worth Rs 200 crore. Recently he had set his eyes on Emar mutt, a 300-year-old mutt in front of the Puri temple… Using his proximity with high court judges, he could browbeat officials and locals into submission. That he could get into the temple managing committee despite being convicted in a murder case shows his influence.”

Police officials said they were getting an increasing number of cases involving temple officials. “During the rath yatra, it depresses us to see women devotees being manhandled or at times molested by these people. When someone goes to the temple, some of these priests accost them and demand to be paid at least Rs 500. If they are paid less, they start abusing the devotee and often manhandle them,” said an official.

“This January, a temple priest threw a bottle at a middle-aged woman when she protested against his fleecing tourists. The bottle hit her head, causing deep injuries. Though a case was lodged, the assailant is yet to be identified,” said a police officer.

Chief administrator of Jagannath temple Arvind Padhee admitted that people with criminal cases should not be a part of the temple. “It’s true that people with impeccable backgrounds should be there. But it is difficult to change things in an orthodox temple. Still, in the last two months, we have managed to bring some discipline by getting the servitors to behave well with the tourists and to get the rituals done on time. We would call an emergency meeting of the temple managing committee in a fortnight to discuss these issues,” he said.

Senior sevak Rabindra Pratihari added that not all servitors were bad. “There may be some bad apples, but servitors are part of our society. When the society is facing moral degradation, why blame servitors alone?”

Down the memory Lane- #Gujarat #Kashmir


NARODA PATIA, AHMEDABAD, BY Ajay Raina

May 23, 2002. I entered the narrow lane that led me to a cluster of houses where nobody lived now.

I had often heard about this place. Constantly. Since that day on the morning of February 28, 2002 when an entire family had been roasted alive in their vehicle as they were fleeing the mobs from their home. I think there was a picture in the newspapers too. It was in Naroda, on the Ahmedabad – Mumbai Highway, that Mr. Modi’s recall of Newton’s third Law saw its macabre mechanism unfold. The news, that about 90 more Muslims had been killed in a locality adjoining this highway took a while longer to reach me, or perhaps a while longer to sink in. It took me further three months and about a couple of thousand more lost lives to decide to come here and see for myself.

And here I was now, with a video camera and a local friend in tow trying to figure what was the best way to get in past a few Gujarat police personnel who wouldn’t let us. There were not many of them, but what were they doing here? The remaining people of Naroda Patiya were now in a refugee camp at Shah Alam Dargah, unwilling to accompany me to their homes here. Some locals, who may have formed the mobs that day, were still out here watching us. Who were the police protecting here?

We hung around a bit thinking of options; burnt a few cigarettes, gulped down a few cups of tea at the roadside ‘chai tipri’ facing the burnt out, vandalized shell of the Naroda Patiya mosque and ended up being surrounded by a small mob of locals. The police gang immediately came over to free us and took us to their post. I do not remember how exactly our informal interrogation went; how it changed its course into an exchange of views about the events of that day, but it did not take us long to fathom that now we were face to face with the people who may have witnessed, have stood by or even participated in the carnage that day. I particularly remember, that when the policeman in charge described to us how a Bajrang Dal leader ‘speared a pregnant lady and drew out her foetus’; his blue eyes actually seemed to shimmer with pride he was unable to hide from us fellow Hindus.

So, finally realizing that we were just harmless ‘carnage tourists’ with a camera to convince him with, the police in charge accompanied us down the narrow entry lane of Naroda Patiya to a cluster of houses where nobody lived now. What I remember ten years later about that day is a difficult endeavor for me to put down in words; much like taking a printout of a hazy and grainy video recorded by the eye.

We walked down many narrow lanes, from the highway entry point to its dead-end common boundary wall with the family quarters of Gujarat police personnel. Here it was confirmed to us what we had been told or had read earlier. The besieged residents, especially the women and children, had pleaded with the families of police personnel across this boundary wall to let them through, but only at the end of the day when the carnage was over were the hungry, thirsty, tired and fearful survivors of Naroda Patiya let in and put in vans to be transported to Shah Alam Dargah relief camp.

We crisscrossed the lanes of Naroda Patiya many times while all the time accompanied by a running commentary from the Police men who ‘guided’ us. But the details, which they did not hesitate to divulge, were off course common knowledge to most of us already. I guess, we were mostly trying to corroborate what we had heard from the residents in the refugee camps earlier, or had read about in the newspapers or various human rights reports. When we asked to be taken to the infamous well at the other end of the locality, we were advised not to go there, the place had been sealed up. I do not remember clearly, if we were told that the well had been cemented up. It was at this well most of the bodies were speared, cut up, dumped and burnt.

But except for the constant, excited, remorseless, running commentary provided by our accompanists and for our probing questions, our walk down the empty lanes of Naroda Patiya that day was like walking the eerily silent streets of the other world, something one can only experience in dreams or in the broad day light of a living nightmare. Living nightmare it was, to see homes waiting for its people, rotting cooked food in utensils, half eaten rice and vegetables served in a plate …chapattis turned hard like a cardboard piece cut in round shape and clothes put to dry still hanging on clotheslines. While there was neat order in one lane, in the adjacent one, there were cloths, utensils and household items of every kind strewn about all across. It stood out perhaps as the only evidence that a catastrophic violence had taken place here. No, the houses had not been destroyed, or burnt or pillaged or looted; only people had been vanished here. Maybe I don’t clearly remember now if there were a few looted houses and a few burnt structures here as well. I do not remember this too well perhaps because the memory of burnt out shells of apartments (the image of melted down ceiling fans with twisted blades still vivid in my mind) in the richer parts of Ahmedabad across the river Sabarmati; a river that divides Ahmedabad neatly into haves’ and have not’s, Hindu/Muslim areas, where we stayed in a partially burnt, empty Muslim apartment block, is too powerful a memory to override all other memories of vandalism done elsewhere. The evidence of violence of that day was stark and visible however in the Muslim localities across the highway from Naroda Patiya. Here we were accompanied not by police but by a few young boys from the mob that had surrounded us earlier. Most of the houses here were totally or partially gutted, almost all were looted and vandalized and worst of all, the walls had been smeared with soot and saffron coloured slogans that betrayed my religion.

At Naroda Patiya however, in contrast to what we had seen all over Ahmedabad and in the surrounding villages, after so many months, the only other stark evidence of violence visible here was in the absence of people, absence of children playing in the streets, absence of women at a dripping tap in the corner street. An aching absence; almost too painful to bear or comprehend, of any sound of a human voice, children’s laughter or a bird’s chirp. It was as if people had just vanished into the thin air in mid-activity at the start of a just another normal day.

There was no blood anywhere, but a strange stench; not of rotten or burnt flesh but of putrefied cooked food and uncollected garbage. In some homes, it was like the smell one senses when entering a dark space infested with bats, but this place seemed unusually bright here; almost as if washed by light all over, like a film set just lit up and ready for the shooting to begin. Yes, that was how it looked, like a film set which only needed some people to come in and play their assigned roles of normal looking inhabitants performing their routine chores. It almost appeared as if things had been deliberately left untouched here from the day the carnage took place, like a scene of crime that was still in need of investigators to gather their forensic evidences.

It felt difficult to connect the empty locality with the carnage that had happened here only a few months earlier. For my sense of disbelief to break I must have strongly yearned for this brightly lit, almost undisturbed small and neat looking locality to be connected with all its dead at the moment of their pain to form a complete picture of a gross and criminal violation. When I returned to the Shah Alam Dargah relief camp that evening and told the survivors of Naroda Patiya about my visit to their empty homes, my expectation that they would besiege me with questions about the state of their empty homes was only answered with silence, the same kind of silence that Naroda Patiya had greeted me with. At that moment, I sounded to myself as if I had disbelieved their stories, as if I had accused them of exaggerating their losses to me, as if I had felt deceived or cheated by the apparent serenity of their empty homes.

It was only a year later, on March 23, 2003 when I found myself at Nadimarg in Kashmir, at the site of another massacre that I could connect the blood soaked bodies of the dead on cremation pier with the bright light of their empty homes to form a complete picture of a gross and criminal violation, a carnage. I understood then, the silence of the survivors of Naroda Patiya.

Pussy Riot trial: Defendants claim ‘torture,’ accuse judge of bias #FOE


Pussy Riot’s lawyers accuse the trial‘s judge of “torturing” the three defendants, who they say have barely had any sleep or food since Monday. As the trial resumes, prosecution witnesses claim severe moral wounds and reluctance to forgive the girls.

The hot July day in a Moscow court started with a short but desperate fight among journalists as the proceedings over the three members of punk band Pussy Riot were relocated to a much smaller room than the one used Monday. Only ten places in the room were left for reporters; the most persistent ones continued their reports via Twitter, since pictures and videography were banned.

The session kicked off with the defense almost immediately attempting to file a motion to change the judge. The court shrugged the request off, as it had “ruled on a similar motion on Monday evening.” Still, three hours later, the defense succeeded.

The core reason behind the motion, Pussy Riot’s lawyers said, was that their clients were being subjected to “torture” because of the way the court proceedings were organized.

The lawyers maintained that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich went to bed late after the previous day’s trial ended at ten in the evening, and were woken up early and hadn’t been fed since. Correspondents tweeting from the courtroom said that by the end of the day, the girls were literally falling asleep in their tiny bullet proof booth.

In response, the defendants were accused of purposely drawing out the trial.

The defendants only prolonged the investigation, claiming that they were held in custody for too long and contesting the terms of their arrest,” said prosecutor Larisa Pavlova, adding that the defense’s appeal was nothing but “playing to the gallery.

The motion failed with the judge, who added that there would be breaks for lunch and the opportunity to have a nap during the trial.

Apologies not accepted

Many in the courtroom rustled through their Bibles, and Tuesday generally went under the refrain “Do you accept our apology?

Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich are accused of “hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred and hostility” for performing a mock prayer “Virgin Mary, banish Putin” in Moscow’s main cathedral in February.

On Monday, the three girls said in a statement that they did not mean to insult any religious feelings and that their motives were purely political. They expressed regret for their “ethical mistake” and said they were sorry for taking their action to the cathedral.

But as the court listened to the nine “victims” – people aggrieved by Pussy Riot’s performance – it appeared none of them really believed the apology was sincere.

Thus, Tatyana Anosova, who collects donations and gives out candles in the cathedral, said: “They did not merely insult me, they spat into my face, spat into the face of my God.

One of them was bowing with her back turned onto the altar – she was showing her bottom to the altar, and it is God who’s there! My soul was torn to pieces.”

The defense posed provocative questions, pressing onto witnesses that forgiveness is a Christian value, and trying to figure out what exactly would constitute a sincere apology. This was transformed into a fierce battle, with the judge occasionally banning questions before they were even fully uttered.

To make a credible apology, the witnesses nevertheless said, “you should not smile,” “you should not deliver it through a statement,” “you should get baptized.” One of them even advised the girls to go to the convent, take vows and beat themselves with shatters.

Many of the witnesses told the court that Pussy Riot’s “diabolic dances in a sacred place” had affected them so much they had to skip work. Still, none of them wanted financial compensation, leaving the punishment “to the court and God.

If the court supports the prosecutors’ charges, Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich will face up to seven years in prison, according to Russia’s Criminal Code.

Claims of forged evidence

The session wrapped up with an unexpected dispute over whether prosecutors had made mistakes with the evidence. One of the books used in the case proved to be 100 pages longer than it was expected to be.

Moreover, the prosecution witnesses’ evidence was suspected of being copy-and-pasted from one and the same document. The defense pointed to paragraphs copied word for word – with the same spelling mistakes.

But the judge said the books often get recompiled and, as for the evidence, if the witnesses do not mind this, then this is not a case for an appeal. Witnesses did not mind.

Still the defense is going to lodge a complaint.

The trial will resume on Wednesday, with interviews of the witnesses for the defense, who include the father of Ekaterina Samutsevich.

Stephen Fry joins Pussy Riot’s supporters

Meanwhile, outside the courtroom Pussy Riot’s supporters brandished balloons with “Free Pussy Riot” emblazoned on them. However, during the course of the day their protests lost momentum and they resorted to lying on the grass waiting for the session to finish.

From the international perspective, British actor and comedian Stephen Fry has appealed to his Twitter followers, calling them to “do everything they could to help Pussy Riot.”

Fry’s message comes on top of similar calls from musicians like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sting urging for the release of the punk rockers.

Crime goes hand in hand with lack of education: TISS Study


Nitin Yeshwantrao, TNN Jun 3, 2012, 01.22AM IST

THANE: The tilt towards crime and delinquency is strongly linked to the high percentage of illiteracy among Muslims, states a research study on Muslim prisoners conducted by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in 2009.

The report based on interviews with 3,086 Muslim inmates across 15 jails in Maharashtra, reveals that 31% of the undertrials and convicts could not read or write, while another 61% could barely understand the written word having studied only up to Class IV.

Only a small number of inmates from the minority community had completed their higher secondary education, while few had gone to college or completed their postgraduate degree, states the report by Dr Vijay Raghavan and Roshni Nair from the Centre for Criminology and Justice of TISS.

“If we add the percentage of illiterates to those educated up to the primary level. Only 0.6% had completed their graduation while the number of postgraduates was a marginal four,” the 117-page survey report states.

The study was complied after sessions with offenders, prison authorities, kin of the prisoner and representatives of voluntary groups working with inmates.

Poverty and lack of education among Muslims have surfaced as the key reasons for them taking to crime, the report suggested. The highest number of illiterate inmates was found in Mumbai and Thane.

Of the total 614 undertrials and convicts in Thane jail, 176 were had never been to school while 378 had barely attended primary school. Of the 709 inmates in Mumbai jails, 225 were uneducated and another 475 had studied only up to Class IV.

A majority of the inmates interviewed by the team admitted that lack of education was the main reason for their deprivation.

The report suggests that close to 48% of the Muslim prisoners had no vocational training which in turn resulted in unemployment. “Barely 38% of the inmates from 15 jails in Maharashtra have acquired technical skills. However, they built proficiency through on-job training,” the report states qualifying the Sachar Committee report findings, which said that only two among every 1,000 Muslims is a technical graduate. The lack of education has manifested in crime for most youngsters, the plight of Moiz, interviewed by the research panel, is a case in point.

“Moiz wanted to study Hindi, however, his family wanted him to master Urdu and become a maulvi. He ran away from home and lived on pavements in New Delhi and used to beg for a living,” a state official said.

“Soon, Moiz became embroiled in illegal activities and after his arrest he was sent to an observation home. He came in contact with a group of chain-snatchers and gradually took to crime,” he added.