06/12/2015 9:52 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

I Disagree With Aamir Khan, But Not On The Intolerance Bit

Bollywood actor Aamir Khan gestures as he speaks to the media during the teaser launch of his upcoming film "PK" in Mumbai, India, Thursday, Oct 23, 2014. The movie is scheduled for release on Dec. 19. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

So I finally watched the infamous Aamir Khan clip that has caused this nationwide neurosis over tolerance (or intolerance, depending on which side of the fence you are on). I have to admit it really got my dander up. Not the intolerance bit. His sentiment on that certainly didn't warrant a crucifixion on social media- much ado about nothing. The part I found cringe-worthy was where he tries to dissociate religious ideology from terrorism, and says "Acts of terror are not connected to any religion."

"Denying the culpability of religion in crimes against humanity may well be the greatest intellectual con job pulled off by mainstream liberals..."

In the aftermath of every terror attack, well-meaning folks are quick to point out that such diabolical hatred has nothing to do with religion. Family and friends circulate memes of cherry-picked scriptural verses to show how all-encompassing and benign the religion in question is. How a very tiny group of misguided zealots have twisted a chaste philosophy to address their grievances. Aamir Khan played the part of a disingenuous religious apologist to the 'T'.

Apologists of religion fall broadly into two categories:

1) The Barack Obamas of the world, who have to de-link terror from theology in the interest of communal harmony and to protect minorities from backlash (which is a valid concern).

2) Secular liberals, leftist media and religious moderates, who have never read scripture in its entirety, but make a passionate defence (out of ignorance) in favour of it, by propounding the cliché that "all religions preach peace and harmony". These are the folks who start trending hashtags like #TerrorismHasNoReligion on Twitter, even before the bodies have turned cold.

Denying the culpability of religion in crimes against humanity may well be the greatest intellectual con job pulled off by the mainstream liberals of our time.

Read the Manusmriti, and you will understand how religion sanctified centuries of terror unleashed on Dalits by caste Hindus, and systemic misogyny against women (especially widows). The edicts of the Old Testament sanction everything from slavery (Exodus 21:2-6; 21:7-11; 21:20-21) and genocide (Exodus 12:29) to stoning insolent children (Deuteronomy 21:18). Rapists must only pay the victim's father 50 pieces of silver and then marry her (Deuteronomy 22:29). Biblical texts inspired centuries of witch-hunts, homophobia and Papal-sanctioned murders across Europe, right up until the 1700s.

Open Muhammed Pickthall's Meaning of the Glorious Quran or Maulana Wahiduddin Khan's translations (both are endorsed by the Ulema), and read only the first nine chapters, up to Surah Al Tawbah. Count the number of times non-believers and apostates have been vilified, have their necks "smitten" and subjected to eternal torment in hell; and then ask yourself if the jihadis have really got nothing to do with religion.

If any other book in the world were to talk about believers, the way the Quran talks about non-believers, heads would roll. Literally. -- Ali Amjad Rizvi (Author & Activist)

It takes religion for a Hindu extremist to believe that the sanctity of farm animals is worth defending even at the expense of human life. Only a divinely inspired, warped sense of Biblical morality can make Christian anti-abortionists prioritise the rights of a rudimentary cell cluster over the rights of the woman who carries it in her womb. It was religion that gave Zionists a historical claim (that is supported by no self-respecting historian) on the "promised land" based on a fictitious story in the Old Testament, turning millions of Palestinians into refugees in their own homeland.

"If we are truly committed to fighting radicalism, we must first give up this hypocritical apologia towards religion..."

It takes religion for a zealot to open fire on a random group of innocent "infidels" in a Parisian Cafe or a Mumbai Hotel, as retribution for the perceived offences committed against his coreligionists, by another group of infidels on a different continent. It is easy to see how an ideology that generalises all non-believers as one big monolith of sinners can inspire such illogical correlation.

Of course, most devout Hindus are not itching to join a lynch mob. Just as most devout Muslims are not violent, and most Christians don't go about bombing abortion clinics. In fact the strong condemnation of such acts by believers only shows that most religious folks are far better human beings than the ideologies they hold to be infallible.

It goes without saying that all followers of a particular faith must not be held responsible for the egregious acts of a few. I would be livid if I were asked to make a public display of my outrage every time an atheist carried out a drive-by in defence of "deeply held scientific beliefs" (if such a thing ever came to pass).

However if you were to perform a casual search on social media, you will find that a significant number of imbeciles do believe that slaughtering a cow is strong provocation for murder; or that if you get shot for drawing cartoons of a 7th-century messiah, you may have "brought it upon yourself"(even though these people may never think of pulling the trigger themselves).

If you are feeling particularly adventurous, Google Pew research statistics. An overwhelming majority of Pakistanis and Egyptians support death for apostasy-- state sanctioned execution for not believing in the invisible man-in-the-sky!

If we are truly committed to fighting radicalism, we must first give up this hypocritical apologia towards religion and start treating it with the same scepticism and critical thought that we apply to any other ideology. So the next time someone shares a meme of the Quranic verse 5:32 on Facebook, to show how "murdering one human being is equivalent to murdering all of humanity", please look up the very next verse, number 33.

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