What if Tebow were Muslim: Indian Edition

[quote style=”1″] what if Tim Tebow were Muslim? He’s not. So maybe it doesn’t matter. There is no way to separate the man and the religion. Some people praise him for it, others recoil. When this happens, avid defenders of Tebow invoke freedom of religion. But as Tebowmania makes its way into politics, sports, religion and the everyday life of the mainstream United States, it is important to think about how we approach religion in this country. How we approach religious freedom in this country. Do we accept freedom of religion, any religion? Or do we accept freedom of Christianity? Salon [/quote]

Tim Tebow is an American football player who made news because he knelt and prayed before a game. He was made fun of by night show hosts and other liberal media outlets tried to point out the Christianizing of sports. Christian preachers across the US spoke in glowing terms about Tebow’s faith, and fundamentalists like Pat Robertson used the incident to blast the anti-christian bias in the liberal media.

Everyone agrees, though, that if it were a muslim player who knelt to pray in the US, it would be the conservatives who would speak derisively and liberals would just wait for a conservative to say something racist and then harp on about the anti-minority Bias.

The most important take away for me, however, was that for Americans, the right to make fun of people’s convictions was as important as having those convictions. And that the media believed that derisive/satirical humor was a great way to deal with public displays of religion..

Free speech, religion and secularism have been in the public debate in India of late. What began as a reaction to the stringent and draconian IT Bill later spilled into the realm of politics and religion with Kapil Sibal’s recent posturing over content that “hurts sentiments”.

We have a very different set of values than the US. We believe in live and let live. If an Indian player makes a public display of his faith, very likely it would be talked about in a respectful way. The commentators would say something like “and here is Tim praying before he begins, and lets hope his prayers are heard because his team needs all the help it can”.  Sure,there would be religious extremists of every kind to condemn it, but for the common Indian, used to seeing religious icons in government offices, public transport and even schools, it would just be something to respect about the person.

But the audibility of extremists is increasing.

One measure by which I make this assertion is observing the successful vilification of the word “secularism”.  This, was achieved/is being achieved by a propaganda techniques called  Name Calling. Repeatedly using a word in a negative context or with a negative connotation leads to devaluation of the word or the idea, makes people wary of it, and can lead to complete destruction of its meaning. Since no propaganda technique is used in isolation, combined with cherry picking data (related to card stacking) about how the congress has mis-used secularism in India ( it has) to garner muslim votes, the very desire for secularism is being challenged and subverted. Which (coincidence? ) is what the Hindu supremacists desire, a return to the “Indian” way of dealing with minorities (of which Subramanian Swamy gave a great explanation of).

If an Indian muslim player were to kneel in prayer, to most of this country it would mean nothing special, it definitely wont get him called names by mainstream media, nor would there be any one of significance speaking of it. There would, however, be muslim preachers who will use this as a message of  fervor,  and many more who would make comments about ” that secular player” doing “secular things”.

Here is the interesting thing,  Not everyone understands or even sees the damage that is intended or the religious prejudice behind the usage. What is most saddening is that many of them have deeply secular values and latch on to this bandwagon because :

  • The power of Assertion (another propaganda technique) keep saying something over and over, it will seem like the truth.
  • They know nothing about Muslims, other than the cherry picked data about violence, oppression etc. Most Indians grow up in areas where people of other faiths are not common. In spite of my having grown up and lived in 4 states in India, i have all of One Muslim friend. the rest are Christians and Hindus. My knowledge of the Muslim world comes from stories handed down in the family (mostly how we are better than “them”), the news papers and now, the internet. A casual glimpse through various sites that talk about Indian muslims will tell you that the majority of information out there is written either by conservative/fundamentalist muslims, or Hindus. The voice of the progressive, secularism loving Muslim is buried under a lot of noise.
  • Desire to be part of the “cool kids” ie. the  bandwagon effect . I‘ve been hearing about a Hindu resurgence for the last 10 years. I have no facts to show if it really is happening, or what it means, but in spite of that, i believe it. In fact, most people do, and once a critical mass of people believe in something, it becomes easier to accept more without evidence and easier to recruit minds.
  • Disgust for Congress’ behavior.  This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It does not take too much digging to realize that right from the beginning, secularism was used first as a protectionist strategy and later as a vote banking technique by the Congress at the center (individual states show a different picture). With the exposing of how deep and wide corruption runs in India, and with the growing discontent with it, everyone who hates the “rule” of Congress is left with little choice.
  • The linking of nationalism with anti-secularism. Religion touting political parties have always also linked nationalism with Hinduism, and so with the expected rise in patriotism (money coming in, lack of progress, increasing corruption etc.), there is an inadvertant clubbing of the secularism-bashing with nationalism.

One thing that contributes to the bowdlerization of Secularism is the way the liberal voices in India handle the conservative ones- with a patronizing, disdainful tone. We think that these “fringe” elements will never have any effect on “intelligent” Indians and that “most Indians” would not believe such crap. perhaps its time we wake up and smell the rotting roses.

The end effect is that instead of developing a moral sense to look for real secularism and promoting it, we are moving into times when a religious alternative to secularism (which, clearly is an evil thing, right?) is being introduced.

So today, if Tim Tebow were a Muslim in India, the majority would cheer him, a small group would beatify him, but here would be more people and louder voices that call him a  sikular Indian   than ever before. These voices continue to rise aided by the concurrent  increase in volume of the muslim fundamentalist, and hastened by government policies that care only about gaming the system for maximum profit.

Is that in itself a bad thing? How did we become a secular nation? Do we have alternatives to western ideas of secularism? What is this secularism anyway and is it any good?

These questions will be part 2. thank you for reading.

9 replies on “What if Tebow were Muslim: Indian Edition”

  1. @Dark Humorist

    I dont know about the Vedas, but the bible in more than one location talks about thinking, wisdom and searching for knowledge. However, one needs to keep in mind that expecting religious texts to talk about the need for science is just like expecting our science texts to talk about the need for God.

    As for wether communism made claims that were irrational, i think history gives us enough evidence.

    All human knowledge is irrational, in that it requires axioms and is limited by information. The core difference in scientific thinking and religious being that science is willing to change its beleifs, become more reasonable, as opposed to religion, which just sticks to what is “known”.

    Science and scientists have been shown time and again to have their own biases, and core beliefs that might not be right. take Newton for example, brilliant physycist and a devout christian who probably belived in a 7 day creation story.

    religion and science play different and important roles, i dont think either can be done away with.

    you are free to disagree, of course 🙂

    1. I am really interested to know where do you draw the line between science and religion? 🙂 because there isn’t any.

      Scientific texts have been talking about “need of god” in detail fir many centuries. I myself have read works starting from charles darwin to stephen hawkings precisely on this very topic.

      As regards with communism, I guess I was not clear enuff. I didn’t comment on rationality of such beleifs. I only said that atleast they were open to reasoning and thats precisely why they struggled to find much ground later.Imagine if Karl Marx would have proclaimed to have got a divine intervention that god has sermoned him that marxism is the way he intended the humans to be and called upon his men to spread the message by whatever force. That’s exactly the point where religions become creepy and that’s the only way religions have preserved their validity.

      Religion and science do not play any different roles especially when they claim to be the knowledge of everything.They mostly stand in the way of each other and most often it is religion in the way of scientific thinking. Religion might have been necessary in the past with loose societies but it has overplayed its part and has become a nuisance now.

      “I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” – Dawkins.

  2. I agree with most of the first half of this post. I’m only going to mention parts that I disagree with as it an echo chamber would be a waste of time and space ;).

    Regarding public display of faith – as you guessed rightly, it will be respected by all. You don’t need to go to the extent of finding an Indianized Muslim Tebow, We already had Azhar, Irfan Pathan neither of whom had to hide their religious sentiments in multiple interviews – post match/press conferences.

    Regarding the assertions made about the nature of this extremely vocal, sometimes proud, sometimes downright bigoted bloc which has only now found a voice, I agree with 1,3,4. I disagree with 2 and 5 for following reasons:

    It is seen (empirical observation- can’t vouch, don’t have data) that most polarized parts are those with significant population from multiple faiths e.g Old city- Hyderabad, parts of Gujarat etc . Part of the reason I reckon, is that, when faced with people from other faiths, each one clings more strongly to his own and then it becomes an “us vs them” situation.
    The only way to break this shackle would be to educate- not on faith, but on philosophy of each religion. Unfortunately, all of our schools stay away from such contentious issues. So, there is only imitation and social learning of attitudes- which let’s face it, have been highly bigoted (around the world) in the past.

    E.g. When I was ~7 years old, there was only one other family with a kid my age. I got along fairly well with that kid and attended his birthday sermon (they called a pastor/preacher to their house for that). But, the day after that – his mother turned me away from their gate saying “you are hindus, we are christians, don’t try to be friends with my son, we don’t fit.” I was naturally disappointed, but most kids would imitate such behaviour thinking that is the right way.

    Linking nationalism to anti-secularism and Hinduism is a much more recent phenomenon caused in part due to the association of those claiming to be secular with demonstrably anti-national voices such as Syed Geelani and in part because anything the conservatives say – irrespective of the merit of the idea by itself, is denounced.

    That brings us nicely to the final point I’d like to make- I don’t know whether you would endorse adopting the patronizing tone with conservatives if it was effective (and if the ‘problem’ really did go away). But, condescension is an almost certain way to evoke resentment and anger. If you really believe in liberal values and in their superiority over the points conservatives try to make – treat them with respect (the people, not necessarily the ideas). Civility is sometimes overrated, but is necessary most other times. Instead of addressing valid concerns, the reaction to most conservatives has been to reach out for crutches like “bigot, troll, Indian Taliban,” and treating them with general apathy (hoping the problem goes away) etc.
    Missing is a sense of perspective and proportion and such crutches point to an intellectual drought. And just because someone otherwise bad supports a morally right act doesn’t make it morally wrong. It still becomes our moral duty to act irrespective of who else supports such an issue.

    A counterpoint- is in order perhaps – The Uniform civil code, which implies equal treatment of all people irrespective of faith has been made into a conservative issue whereas it really is a liberal/secular one.

    Also: Do read my short post here : centreright.in/2012/01/ideological-labels/

    1. Though I agree in all the points made here by shrek but i am rather surprised to note that both you and the author are more than ready to keep on allowing the society on carrying the burden of religion in the name of secularism and liberalism when the only thing religion has given this world is violence , suppression of women and homosexuals, ethnic cleansing ,arrange marriages to minors, suicide bombing etc. There cannot be any place in an ideally sane society for religion because for the most parts it sucks!
      This idea of religion would have outdated itself long while back but for the strong political lobbying behind it for completely political ends. When Darwin coined the idea of non-theism he added that right now this should be restricted to the “intellectuals” and not to the masses because they wouldn’t understand it. Are we saying that after hundreds of years the society hasn’t matured enough to perceive the political designs of religion.
      Its a little important to see how religion sustains itself like a virus contagiously.By brainwashing children about unquestionable “holiness” of their ideas and force them to promulgate this generation after generation. even if you don’t force your neighbor to follow your ideas you force your children to follow them.Religion propagate through force not choice.This is in principle and in practice corrosive to a rational society.This can only be fought in the same way religion propagates itself.
      Secularism does not mean providing level playing field to religious extremism.It , at least for me means slowly and steadily reducing the reach of religion to such an extent that even the idea of religion becomes irrelevant for the society.
      But in the current form Secularism is not the answer to religious bigotry, non-theism is.
      For me the basic premise of secularism that we should respect religion is insulting to human intelligence. We need to stop being polite and say the truth. Religions sustain themselves by irrational brainwashing, they have to fight back time and again otherwise they would die a peaceful death.Lets all stop being so damned respectful !

      1. Secularism has been defined based on the context in most places it is a “thing”. In india, best case senario, it could have meant “equal respect” but right now, it is just a catchphrase for votes and making people angry. So, yes, secularism in India needs a major change.

        But, your contention that all religion has given us is pain is wroing, factually. Religion also has given us much of the scientific method, some of the best literature there is, mathematics, astronomy and much muhc more.

        I agree that the role of religion in the public sphere needs to be limited, but that is not because religion is evil, but because religion, like any fundamental belief, be it in communism, the free market or Cthulhu will eventually blind people and lead to power struggle and violence.

        1. “Religion also has given us much of the scientific method, some of the best literature there is, mathematics, astronomy and much much more”. I disagree. Humanity was able to achieve all this not because of religions but despite religions. What religion did was to package the best available human knowledge at that time with its dogmatic supernatural theories to prove its validity.

          So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels or in Vedas in praise of intelligence, and rational questioning. Human decency and reasoning does not come from religions it precedes it.

          Equating religion with “beliefs” like communism and marxism is flawed in many sense. communism and marxism never make claims which are beyond reasoning. When religion asks men to give up their lives t protect religion so that they will be awarded heaven after they die, it crosses by a mile the definition of beliefs that can be argued upon.

  3. In a country as diverse in religion and culture as India, it is not surprising to have ‘Die-hard’ and ‘Liberal’ followers of a religion. And most places where people of two different religions coexist, there is just curiosity and tolerance for each other. The problem comes when religion and politics come together. I think I have said this earlier somewhere – ‘Politics in Religion and Religion in Politics are both bad’.

    1. trouble is, audrin, how do we keep religion and politics separate? no one seems to know. so we can safely assume that what need to learn is how to make things better, assuming religion and politics will be bedfellow.s

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