obama-town-hall-2009
Kalavai Venkat
Will America Let Al Qaeda Preach?

This is the question Hindus should ask, next time President Obama insists that India facilitate missionary activities.

This is not merely a rhetorical question.

Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the ISIS identify themselves as Islamic religious organizations. Their worldview and goals are religious in nature. Yet, America does not allow these organizations to preach in the name of religious freedom because they preach hatred and foretell the destruction of Americans. America doesn’t allow polygamy even though Islam endorses it. Jon Krakauer (Under the Banner of Heaven—A Story of Violent Faith, pp. 7, 22-23) shows that plural marriage, a polygamous custom in which a young girl was married off to an older man and became pregnant by her early teens, was prescribed by the Christian sect of Mormons. Yet, America rather repressed this practice than tolerate it in the name of religious freedom.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (The Caged Virgin – an Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam, pp. 15-16) narrates a repressive practice observed in over thirty countries among the Muslim communities: female circumcision and infibulations. A female child’s clitoris and the outer and inner labia are cut away with a sharp object such as a fragment of glass, a razor blade, or a potato knife. The inside of the walls of the vagina of the girl child are also scraped. Then the girl’s legs are bound together so that the walls of the vagina can grow together. This is followed by infibulations (stitching up the labia majora). The aim of this terrible practice is to violently safeguard a girl’s virginity until she is married off and to extinguish her sexual pleasures forever.

The infibulated girl would bleed profusely when she has sex for the first time on her nuptial night. The bloodstained sheet is displayed to the wedding guests as proof of her virginity. Islam prescribes female circumcision. Yet, America doesn’t tolerate this practice in the name of religious freedom. The vulgar display of the bloodstained sheet would repulse Americans.

In all of these cases, America curbs religious freedom when the exercise of such freedom is harmful to society and individuals. America is not alone. The 2001 French anti-cult law represses those religious movements that manipulate and harm susceptible individuals. In other words, Western nations effectively admit that religious freedom is not absolute. Its expression is conditional upon the religion not harming society and individuals.

America sometimes suppresses harmful Christian teachings too. The Bible requires a groom to drag his bride on the nuptial night to her father’s doorstep and stone her to death on the suspicion that she may not be a virgin. It urges onlookers to participate in this violent orgy (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). Jesus sanctified and vowed to fulfill such terrible, misogynistic teachings (Matthew 5:17).

The misogyny inherent in Christianity and how it shapes one’s attitude toward women is best illustrated by the biblical episode of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11). Jesus is teaching when a mob brings a woman accused of adultery and prepares to stone her to death. Jesus is asked to weigh in but he continues doodling on the ground. Only upon repeated questioning, Jesus responds by rhetorically urging a self-styled sinless person to initiate the stoning to death of the alleged adulteress. He implicitly endorses the barbaric law which mandates stoning.

It is shocking that a woman should be considered guilty by default and the whims of mobsters should determine her survival. What if someone from the crowd had thought he was sinless and cast the stone? The hapless woman would’ve died a terrible death. Even though mobs rarely introspect, this mob seems to have been an exception. Its members disperse.

Jesus then tells the woman not to sin again. He reached the conclusion that she had sinned without basis. Any reasonable person would’ve first determined that she indeed committed adultery and then looked into the mitigating factors that shaped her behaviour before judging her. But Jesus did not do so. In this worldview, a woman could be accused of committing adultery without basis and threatened with stoning. Tragically, such misogyny not only shaped the Christian worldview but was also inherited by Islam thereby resulting in the widespread disenfranchisement of women.

Mercifully, America does not tolerate such misogynistic Christian teachings in the name of religious freedom. A Christian who attempts to stone a non-virgin bride or an adulteress would be promptly arrested. American Christians have to choose between following the cruel advocacy of their religion and freedom. They invariably choose freedom and implicitly repudiate the Bible by treating virginity as merely a big issue over a small tissue. However, America fails to apply the same reasonable yardstick uniformly. It also insists that countries like India facilitate the spread of the Christian meme.

Is the spread of the Christian meme harmful to Indian society? Should India rather curtail it by legal measures than allow Christian proselytization in the name of religious freedom? Let us look at a sample of Christian teachings to answer these questions.

Christianity originated as a racist Jewish-only sect with an antipathy toward sex. The Bible emphatically states that Jesus would only save 144,000 Jewish-born Christian men who had not defiled themselves with sex (Revelation 7:1-8). Women, non-Christians, and those Christians who are not born into the Jewish race would be condemned to hell for eternal torture. The saved believers would dash the non-believers to pieces like pottery (Revelation 2). Non-believers would be tortured for a period of five months on earth before being condemn to hell during an event called the Second Coming (Revelation 9:4-5).

In this Christian worldview, non-Jews are equated with dogs. This equation is best illustrated by an episode narrated in the Bible where Jesus is a faith-healer (Mark 7:24-30). A Gentile (non-Jew) woman begs him to cure her daughter’s illness. Jesus refuses and tells her that only the Jews are his children and that the Gentiles are dogs. He wouldn’t heal a dog. The desperate woman accepts her unexpectedly bestowed upon canine status and kneels down in front of Jesus in abject submission. She pleads that the dog be shown mercy. Only then Jesus relents. Jesus displays similarly racist attitudes elsewhere too—for example, in Matthew 15:21-28, where he calls non-Jews dogs. In Matthew 7:6, Jesus calls non-Jews swine. Jesus only intended to be the saviour of Jews and urged his followers to shun non-Jews (Matthew 10:5-6).

Having started as a Jewish-only racist sect, Christianity made a U-turn and started to convert the pagans of the Roman Empire. This only made it more racist. It began to direct racial hatred toward the Jews and sanctified it through biblical verses. The Lutheran theologian Norman Beck admirably demonstrates that the New Testament alone carries over 450 anti-Semitic verses (Removing anti-Jewish polemic from our Christian lectionaries, a proposal). It calls the Jews “Christ-killers,” “children of the Devil,” “brood of vipers,” etc. If one were to trust the Bible, Jesus himself uttered many of those racist slurs. Christians treat the Bible as a revelation from god or as the inspired word of god. Therefore, it is only inevitable that they believed the racist allegations it hurled at the Jews and viciously persecuted them. In the essay From the Holy Cross to the Holocaust in the anthology Expressions of Christianity – with a Focus on India, I document how Christianity built up unrelenting anti-Semitism that culminated in the Holocaust of six million Jews under the Christian Nazis.

Elie Wiesel, 1986 Nobel Prize winner, aptly summarized the guilt of Christianity in ushering in and nurturing anti-Semitism: “All the killers were Christians. The Nazi system was the consequence of a movement of ideas and followed a strict logic; it did not arise in a void but had its roots deep in a tradition that prophesied it, prepared for it, and brought it to maturity. That tradition was inseparable from the past of Christian, civilized Europe. (Abrahamson, Irving [ed.]: Against silence, the voice and vision of Elie Wiesel, vol. 1, p. 33)”

Christianity spread the obscene idea that “Eve lay with Adam after his death and produced the first Gypsy.” A variant Christian version prevalent in the Balkans alleged that “the first Gypsy was born as a result of an incestuous union.” The church spread the calumny that Gypsies had been cursed by god because they had refused shelter in their tents to Joseph and Mary on their alleged flight from Egypt.

In a Spanish Christmas carol, Gypsies are portrayed as stealing Jesus’ swaddling clothes:

“Into the porch at Bethlehem

Have come the evil Gypsies

From the newly born babe

They have robbed the coverings

Rascally Gypsies with faces

Like black olives

The poor child they’ve left

Of clothes bereft.”

In a Greek Easter carol, Gypsies have been portrayed as collaborating with the Jews and made culpable in the crucifixion (which is likely a cruci-fiction) of Jesus:

“And a Gypsy smith they passed

A smith who nails was making

‘Thou dog, thou Gypsy dog’ – said she

‘What is thou art making?’

They are going to crucify a man (Jesus)

And I the nails am making

They only ordered three of me

But five I mean to make them

The fifth the sharpest of the five

Within his heart shall enter.'” (See Kenrick, Donald and Puxon, Grattan: The Destiny of Europe’s Gypsies, pp. 26-31)

Such false and horrible Christian teachings created an antipathy toward Gypsies in the minds of Europe’s Christians. As a result, a majority of Gypsies were exterminated under the Christian Nazi regime. Just as the spread of the ideology of Al Qaeda results in real victims, the spread of Christianity too results in real victims. The Holocaust of six million Jews was the direct consequence of Christian teachings. The genocide of Gypsies, which is less publicized, was equally gruesome and was the consequence of Christian teachings.

Christian ideology is as racist, misogynistic, and genocidal as the ideology that Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the ISIS propagate. Christian teachings have resulted in numerous genocides such as the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsis, and the genocide of Iraqis. How would a convert to Christianity view the Hindus? He would view them as heathens earmarked for torture on earth and in hell when the Second Coming of Jesus happens because that is what the Bible teaches him. He would see them as dogs and swine because that is what Jesus taught. He would see a woman that doesn’t submit to misogyny as a whore fit to be stoned because that is what Jesus taught. Why should Hindus and women tolerate this kind of hatred directed at them?

Just as it is reasonable for America to curtail religious freedom when it threatens societal and individual well-being, it would be reasonable for India to curtail the spread of Christianity since it spreads hatred. What is sauce for the American Christian goose is sauce for the Indian Hindu gander too. Hindus should realize that religious freedom is a façade used by the West to facilitate the spread of Christianity and, conversely, Hindu-phobia. Every society has the moral obligation to defend itself against hate and calumny – in this case by curtailing the spread of Christianity through legislative measures. So, next time President Obama insists that India facilitate the spread of Christianity, Hindus should retort:

“Will America let Al Qaeda preach?”

Kalavai Venkat is a Silicon Valley-based writer, an atheist, a practicing orthodox Hindu, and author of the book What Every Hindu Should Know About Christianity.