Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Salaam JANUARY 2009


Salaam alei Kum!

26/11 is still fresh in our minds. The terrorists stormed into Chatrapati Shivaji Train Station and other famous land marks of Mumbai: The Taj, The Oberoi and the Nariman House and started shooting indiscriminately killing a number of people. We watched the entire episode spellbound over television for more than two days, which shook the whole world. As the result of the attack, a number of innocent people lost their lives and we lost a number of police and security personnel. The unanswered question that daunts us is, 'Why do such terrorist attacks take place in our country?'

India is a land with an ancient civilization. The most striking feature of our country is the variety of its people who are heirs to ancient cultures, religions and traditions. The world is amazed at the intricate mosaic of its many cultures, languages, beliefs and traditions. India is the melting pot of the world's major religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam and is the birthplace of many other spiritual traditions such as – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. We too have a number of traditional or tribal religions with varying degrees of structured ritual and formal religious teachings.

Indians take pride in their religious and cultural values, such as love for silence and contemplation, simplicity, harmony, detachment, non-violence, the spirit of hard work, discipline, frugal living, and the thirst for learning and philosophical enquiry. We hold dear the values of respect for life, compassion for all beings, closeness to nature, filial piety towards parents, elders and ancestors and highly developed sense of community. Our family ties are quite strong and we hold the family to be a vital source of strength, a closely knit community with a powerful sense of solidarity. Indians are known for their spirit of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

In spite of tensions and violent conflicts due to various religions and cultures our people have demonstrated a remarkable capacity for accommodation and openness to our mutual enrichment. These spiritual insights and moral wisdom is the core of 'being Indian'. In spite of the rich religious and cultural heritage, we are confronted with the onslaught of religious fundamentalism and terrorism. The time has come for introspection into our democracy, polity, religiosity and the mindset. We are pained and certainly ashamed to note the emergence of religious "Terrorism", in spite of belonging to an ancient culture of spiritual tolerance and mutual existence.

I read the statement of the accused Mohd Ajmal Amir Qasab aged 21 years, of the terrorist attack in Mumbai 26/11. It is sad to note the way he was led into the terrorist training camps in various places in Pakistan. An illiterate boy who had his education in a government school up to standard IV, and his search for an employment got him into such heinous criminal activity. He quarrelled with his father due to lack of experience of love in the family which piloted him into such a destructive way of life. He had rigorous training for almost five months in three different camps in different places before he was given the task of the terrorist attack in Mumbai. He was trained to handle all kinds of weapons, hand grenades, rocket launchers and mortars: AK–47, Green-O, SKS, Uzi gun, pistol and revolver. During these laborious and severe training he was also shown the clippings highlighting the atrocities on Muslims in India. It is an unfortunate story of an innocent boy, who was initiated into the LeT training camps due to various factors.

We have our affiliations to our religious beliefs and traditions, but should not despise, hate or deride the religious traditions of the other. We should live and let others live in harmony and peace. The venom of religious intolerance would only beget hatred and violence. We need to be careful about those initial perpetrators of religious violence, intolerance, hate-campaign and fanaticism in our country. The law of the land should tackle those individuals. Finally the government has come out with a new legislature to combat terrorist activities by introducing National Investigation Agency Bill.

More of inter-religious activities are to be encouraged to bring about awareness of pluri-religious presence in our country. Such initiatives are to be highly recommended and initiated. On October 13, 2007, an open letter by 138 Muslim representatives was sent to the Pope and other heads of Christian Churches and ecclesial communities. The Pope noted that the open letter "has received numerous responses, and has given rise to dialogue, specific initiatives and meetings, aimed at helping us to know one another more deeply and to grow in esteem for our shared values. The great interest which the present seminar has awakened is an incentive for us to ensure that the reflections and the positive developments which emerge from Muslim-Christian dialogue are not limited to a small group of experts and scholars, but are passed on as a precious legacy to be placed at the service of all, to bear fruit in the way we live each day".

The Pope reiterated the fact that only by starting with the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and defending life which is the gift of God, and is thus sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike - only on the basis of this recognition, can we find a common ground for building a more fraternal world, a world in which confrontations and differences are peacefully settled, and the devastating power of ideologies is neutralised.

Therefore fundamental human rights will have to be protected for all people everywhere. Political and religious leaders should ensure the free exercise of these rights in full respect for each individual's freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. God's name can only be a name of peace and fraternity, justice and love. Let the people of good will come together and shoulder the responsibility of establishing peace and harmony in the society, in India and in the world at large.

Khuda Hafiz!

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