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How fanatics distort the essence of religion

Sensible people make something good and noble out of the basic teachings of their religions, but brainwashed and indoctrinated fanatics concentrate only on the negative and destructive sides they create in disfiguring their religions.

Religion

by Dr. Nasir Khan

Religion is one thing, the followers of a religion is another thing. The difference between the two is important, and they should not be equated as one and the same in this age when much harm is still being done in the name and under the cover of religions.

What some (not all) followers of a religion do or may do in the name of their religion can be much different from the teachings of that religion. They are the people who transform their religions. Sensible people make something good and noble out of the basic teachings of their religions, but brainwashed and indoctrinated fanatics concentrate only on the negative and destructive sides they create in disfiguring their religions. For their nefarious activities, both religions and their good followers also get a bad name.

However, I am not discussing how religions arise or what roles they play in class societies. What I say has more to do with some practical aspects of religions that we face in different parts of the world. Whether religions have/had an independent base in society or not is a theoretical and academic issue, which is not the theme of this short article.

There are billions of people who believe in and practise organised religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, etc. etc. without harming each other or causing harm to others. They follow the rites and rituals of their respective religions and follow the age-old traditions attached to their religions.

In a multi-religious and multi-ethnic world we live in, we have to accept other people's right to their faith, religion and world outlook, including the views of the non-religious people. We cannot force others to believe what we believe as being the only Truth. In reality, to persist in doing so as some do is a crime against human beings, a violation of the rule of law and all norms of civilised behaviour. We have to stand against all barbarian fanatics and reject what they do or stand for.

At the same time we should bear in mind that only a small number of people from some religions, and I emphasise their small numbers, who resort to violence in the name of religions and thus misuse their religions. For instance, in a country like Pakistan that has a population of about 190 million people, of whom 97% are Muslims, how many Muslims resort to religious violence and kill people in the name of Islam? Their numbers are small but they are able to terrorise the whole country and its peaceful people.

So is the case with some militant Burmese Buddhists who have targeted Muslims, especially the Rohingya, and also in Sri Lanka where some Buddhists have used violence against Muslims. As a humanist and a student of the history of religions, I find the malpractices of religious violence also as a grave infringement of basic religious consciousness, which largely seeks the welfare and improvement of human beings, not their destruction.


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