Should religion be seen as a personal matter?

Mixed with politics, religion stops being about god or personal beliefs, and starts being about taking control over lives and choices of those who follow or don’t follow it.

Religion empowered can redefine rape in the US. “Rape is only really rape if it involves force.” So an  incest victim, or an unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to resist person, should not be seen as a rape victims? [Link, ‘Yes Means Yes!‘]

All the hard work to create awareness about sexual crimes, to be undone to prevent women from having a choice in a decision that can’t be easy anyway. If it isn’t rape, then there is no justification for an abortion.


Religion allowed a 14 year old child in Bangladesh to be killed for ‘adultery’, when at 14, she could only have  been a victim of child abuse or rape by her 40 year old, married cousin. The rapist ran away. The 14 year old ‘endured about 80 lashes before collapsing‘.


Religion allowed a seventeen year old boy in Pakistan to be ‘arrested under Blasphemy ordinance for writing unpleasant remarks about the prophet’.

…Chairman Intermediate Board of Karachi… admitted that he was aware of the severe repercussions.

“It was the boy’s neck or mine. I was aware of the harsh consequences which the boy and his family would have to go through, but we could not do anything… or else we would be in hot water. The professor who checked the papers had sent reports … to other places. My hands were tied.”


Religion could be behind Ugandan gay rights activists, David Kato, being beaten to death.

“David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals in 2009,” At his funeral the presiding pastor called on homosexuals to repent or “be punished by God” and when they protested, the pastor refused to conduct the burial. [Click to watch the video]


Presence of religion in politics allowed some to find justifications for Graham Staines and his two minor sons to be burnt to death while sleeping inside a station wagon at Manoharpur,” the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities”

[The Bench later deleted this passage, click to read details.]


Without religion being in power, this graphic video of flogging of a Sudanese woman by policemen who are laughing at her pain, would not have been possible. It seems she was to be given 53 lashings for indecent dressing.


Not very different from,

Two years ago, hooligans in Mangalore used religion to object to what they claimed was indecent dressing and behavior, by beating and molesting innocent citizens. Their sentiments were hurt when they were compared to the  likes of the policemen in the video above.

Of course there is a basic difference. The victim in Sudan was legally an offender.  Indian law and society saw the violent, attacking mob as the criminal.

Not sure if they have been subjected to any kind of, what is described above as ‘teaching a lesson’.


Wordless Wednesday? Casteless India.


We can change our religion, why can’t we change our caste?

Don’t let caste-divides break India.

Would love to know what the first few lines in the video below made you think. He says he is quoting from the veda.

Video from here, on Yayaver’s blog.

Related posts:

Modern Agraharam near Hyderabad – Keep out if you are not a Brahmin.

Draw Mohammad Day:Two responses.

In response to Draw Muhammad Day, May 20th –


Sami Zaatari has created a counter group on Facebook for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It’s called ‘Honour the Prophet Muhammad’

He says,  “The way we shall respond is not by violence, or threats, or insults. No, we shall respond back with wisdom, and with the most important tool we have – the truth.

The prophet Muhammad himself stated that the strong Muslim was the one who could control his anger, and control his emotions…

Responding with threats … simply feeds the propaganda, and makes them say ‘look! You see, we are right, the Muslims are violent!’ Therefore as Muslims we should be better.

On May 20th we shall release our own video …which shall compile some of the greatest examples of the prophet Muhammad. You too can take part, by posting several Islamic narrations that showed the kindness, mercy, humbleness, generosity, and sincerity of the prophet Muhammad…

[Click on the video to hear more.]

About Freedom of Speech he says,

“At the end of the day, everybody is talking about freedom, freedom of speech etc etc. Use your freedom just as I am using my freedom, use your freedom to speak up in a civilised dignified manner, show how great the Prophet Mohammad was. So go on use your freedom to show them the truth of the Prophet Mohammad.”


Another voice. [Thanks for this Link Charakan.]

“We have been acting exactly as the creators of that page intended us to. Acting as the promoters and publicists of that page
But we have done more than that. With the Lahore High Court decision we have allowed the PTA and authorities another precedent and excuse to aggressively “manage” the internet; something that can and will be misused in the future.”

I agree with both.

Whenever we think we are stopping someone from hurting our sentiments by curtailing their freedom of expression (right or wrong), we also empower someone (e.g. the government, extremists, or even  religious leaders)  to shut our own mouths.  😦

Related posts:

Have you seen ‘Khuda ke liye’?

Who defines the limits of your freedom?

NOTE: Comment moderation is enabled.

Have you seen ‘Khuda Ke Liye’?

I thought this  gripping, brave Pakistani movie was only about terrorism and hence didn’t watch it until yesterday.

Turns out ‘Khuda ke liye‘ speaks for women, youth, music, art, tolerance and lots more. It also questions dress codes. And all this without alienating the religious minded.

The radical Maulana Tahiri preaches that the ‘gone-western Pakistani youth‘ can be saved with forced marriages and jihad.  He believes manliness (mardangi) is acquired by killing and violence, or by forcibly marrying and raping a woman.

He says that western influence and NGOs would encourage Pakistani girls to come home and say, “Mom I got married.” 🙄

We know he has company here in India.

Naseeruddin Shah who plays a progressive Mullah ‘engages Maulana Taheri and his coterie in an argument on Islamic law and Islamic dress code.

“There is beard in religion, but no religion in beard,”

“Two men who did the greatest service to Islam in Pakistan, Mahomed Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal, did so without a beard and out of the so called Islamic dresscode, in western dress.”

It was on this line that the entire hall filled with applause.

There’s more.

The lawyer: Does Islam permits a girl to marry someone she chooses? (Islam ek ladki ko apni marzi se shaadi karne ki izazat deta hai?)

Maulana: Permits!? It’s her right! It’s her birthright!

(“Ijazat? Haque hai uskaa! Paidaishee haque! Hadees ki kitaab kholke dekhiye….”)

Watch the rest here…

There’s women bonding. They talk and they play and they wish to learn… so I say the movie passes Bechdel’s Test too 🙂 (not a high scorer but not bad either).

“Have you ever seen a city?”

“City! We have not even seen another village!”


“How far is the nearest city from here….?”

“Why do you ask? Do you plan to run away?”

“What would you have done in my place?” (grins)

“I would have run away.”

“If I run away who will teach you English?”

“You run away. We will learn to survive without English.”

(Not exact dialogues.)

What is most amazing is that the movie was a huge hit in Pakistan, and an all time favorite of many. 😆 Doesn’t that remind you of India’s reaction to ‘My Name is Khan’?

It’s like the aam aadmi is dying for a chance to convey that they hate fundamentalism.

Related post:

Prenuptial contracts in India

Because I say so?

Surbhi shared this link in a comment on ‘I don’t understand unquestioning faith‘.

I have no idea how many parents take this sort of advice seriously.

Why child marriage?

… before her mind is distributed by thoughts of love and desire …. The innocent child that she is now,  …(her husband) alone is her guru (teacher) and that he alone is her Isvara.(god)

In childhood a girl does not ask questions... out of her simple faith.. This faith, formed in her innocence, will take firm root in her mind when she becomes older and begins to understand things… and she will always look upon him as Paramesvara. (god)

Maybe  we should change the title to ‘Why not child marriage’ and gift the link to all parents.

These two news articles in the TOI this morning made me wonder why all religions seem to favour those who have written/interpreted the rules. For example, Hinduism favours the upper caste male, most other religions seem to favour men who interpret the rules.

Saudi court lets bride, 12 divorce-80-yr old Hubby

According to local reports, the girl was married to her father’s cousin last year against her wishes and those of her mother. The marriage was sealed with a dowry of 85,000 riyals and consummated.

The case had sparked debate in Saudi Arabia, with some judges and clerics using Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to a nine-year-old girl as justification of child marriage. [Link]

Those who can’t marry little children, find other ways to abuse them.

US sex abuse victim to sue Pope

They were deaf, but they were not silent. For decades, a group of men who were sexually abused as children by the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy at a school for the deaf in Wisconsin reported to every type of official they could think of that he was a danger, according to the victims and church documents.

I don’t understand unquestioning faith.

How do we get so awed with religion/faith/belief/spiritualism/custom/tradition/culture/god-men/etc that we stop using our own minds?

I was curious about Art of Living. I had liked most of the things Shri Shri Ravi Shankar recommended – kindness, global brotherhood, respect for all religions, a good deed every day. But  I remember feeling disappointed when I heard – “Leave your doubts outside that door. Come with total faith. Do not question. Just believe.” Isn’t that blind faith or ‘andha-vishvaas‘?

Was it faith that made someone agree to sign a non-disclosure agreement like this?

Volunteer understands that these activities (tantra sex) could be physically and mentally challenging, and may involve nudity, access to visual images, graphic visual depictions, and descriptions of nudity and sexual activity, close physical proximity and intimacy, verbal and written descriptions and audio sounds of a sexually oriented, and erotic nature, etc.

God-men helping women conceive is nothing new. ‘Bhaskar Bharti‘ on Sony TV touched upon this. ‘Sister of my heart’ by Chitra D Banerjee shows it works. In ‘I take this woman‘ by Rajinder Singh Bedi, Sarupo who was a god-men’s disciple, says she had no choice but to conceive or her husband would have brought another wife. (‘Ek Chadar Maili see‘ is based on this book).

Did the male and female disciples of celibate Nityananda never consider the possibility of his being err… of his not being celibate?

Nithyananda Swami was reportedly running a sex racket from his ashrams… “He lured these women, most of who were divorcees, under the guise of tantra and promised that they would inherit his divine powers if they had a physical relationship with him,”

“…he so impressed his devotees with his ‘powers’ that many of them even donated their property and wealth to him.”

Such gurus and swamis are many. I would suspect foul play if someone accepts money, or lives in luxury without working to pay for it.

My mom’s driver says large portions of land were seized by his disciples, for a guruji, who started a kitchen where the ghee for pooris never finished. I asked him why doesn’t he make sure nobody in those villages ever goes hungry. He thought I was being a non-believer. (And that’s blasphemy.)

An educated,  wealthy family I know also lives their life according to their special guruji. They spend many hours every morning in a puja room, and were delighted to find their neighbors believed in the same guru.

Another spiritual organization fed poor children, I had volunteered with a believing friend. Their focus was a video film that was being made, the children were treated with an almost disdain.

Why do some of us need gurus?

I can understand respect for someone whose ideals one respects. I can’t understand why we feel the need to worship, belief, obey, never hear a word against…

Nityanand says, “In a way this defamation has taught me lessons about society… It has made me more responsible. Now, I have decided not to experiment with anything that is not accepted by society widely…”

He compares himself with other ‘masters’.

“This has happened to all masters, even to Adi Shankaracharya, Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna. When the masters are in the body, they have to go through this. It is inevitable.”

I am sure there are those who believe when he says, “When that video was taken, I was in a state of trance. My personal life has been misrepresented and my privacy has been invaded.” [Videos available on You Tube]

Modi said  Nityananda ‘was committed to the traditions of Adi Shankaracharya and the principles of advaita’. He ‘also accepted a donation from Nithyananda’s organisation for the state’s Kanya Kelavani programme.

Either Modi couldn’t see through this guy, or he saw through him.

Now this god-man has a case against him ‘for hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus.’

Related Posts:

How do women benefit from religion?

Should religion be seen as a personal matter?

Religion Makes Us Kind and Good!?

Narayana! Narayana!

Some doors are different… they are closed for fifty percent of the population.

Who gave you your thoughts?

Uma’s post on her early influences, Solilo’s post on religious tolerance and some discussion on this blog made me wonder what makes us think the way we do…

A friend in class IV told me she always murmured the words of the aarti during the assembly, instead of ‘Our father who art in heaven’ in our Christian school. I had gone home and told my mother proudly, that I was going to do the same. She told me it did not matter what words or language we used, so long as we prayed from our heart.

Our Moral Science teacher talked to us about praying before we went to bed. Every night, we had to tell God what we did all day, if we did something we shouldn’t have, it was time to promise to ourselves, we won’t repeat it. This prayer time was a time to make promises to God.

She talked to us about ‘conscience’ or a little voice inside us which always tells us if we are wrong. And those who listen to that voice, she said, will never do any wrong.

She talked about compassion. She talked about how, like a loving parent, God was always there for us, his children. (She called God ‘Him’ always ;))

Were these Christians beliefs? She did not say which God. And under the Amar Chitra Katha influence I used to pray to every God I could remember, for several years, and any new name learnt was promptly added to the list.

We also had a Sanskrit teacher who didn’t approve of us giggling, and said those who laugh too much today were going to cry later. But we loved his stories.  We argued when he said every family must have a son to carry forward the family name.

One of his biggest influences was the story of Dhruva – he said the North Star was named after him. I wanted to know how standing on one leg for months could get someone to meet God. He explained that basically ‘tapasya’ meant Will Power and Discipline, that both could get us anything we wanted. I still believe that. As a kid I followed his advice and practiced building a strong Will Power very seriously by giving up Orange Bar ice cream. 😉

Once a friend told me there was a ghost on a tree near our place. I was terrified until my mother said the way Bhootkaal meant, ‘past tense’, bhoot meant past. She must have sounded like she meant it, till today ghosts don’t scare me.

My mom says her dad taught her to be careful of humans instead of fearing ghosts. When she said she was going to tie a rakhi and make a class mate her brother, he told her class mates could only be friends, only her brother could be her brother.

But all early influences are not permanent. Some make us rebel. My mother strongly believed in marrying within the community. She thought we sisters should dote upon our only brother. Our Sanskrit teacher’s talk about religion often veered towards gender bias. My grandfather thought girls should not care for their looks.

So perhaps we just pick some and leave some? I wonder how much can we be influenced. Are these early influences permanent? I guess some people change more easily than others do…

Slavery by any other name

Roots’ by Alex Haley is about black slavery in America.  The author traces his roots right back to a village on The Coast of the Gambia, West Africa.  The book “… details slave family life—birth, courtship, marriage, death and the ever-present fear of being sold off and having to leave your kin…” Time

The white Masters and Slave Dealers had learnt very fast that once a slave woman had a child (who they owned), she was easy to control. The children were sold for profit*, but the women had more children, so the easy control continued.

Recently, President Hamid Karzai has made an unthinkable deal…  in return for the support of fundamentalists in the August 20 election. (Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch).

Afghanistan has enacted a new legislation empowering men (even further).

It grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers.

So the mothers give birth but have no rights on their children**. Do the children have any say in this?

Who does such a law empower?

* * *

The slaves needed their ‘owners’ permission to go anywhere. Travel documents and Passes were required to step out of their homes so they could not ‘escape’ (they always dreamt of escape).

The initial version of the law included articles that imposed drastic restrictions on Shia women, including a requirement to ask permission to leave the house except on urgent business,

(In Saudi Arabia officials continue to require women to obtain permission from male guardians to conduct their most basic affairs, like traveling or receiving medical care)

* * *

Slaves who failed to comply were sent for flogging (for disobedience, insolence, answering back or bigger crimes). In ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ a young slave girl pleads that even more than the physical pain she hated the looks on the faces of the men who flogged the slave girls.

This is something women in Afghanistan do not have to worry about anymore (though they still have to in some other places), but it seems the rest of the conditions are not much different. Such barbaric laws were supposed to have been relegated to the past with the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, yet Karzai has revived them and given them his official stamp of approval.

“The law gives a husband the right to withdraw basic maintenance from his wife, including food, if she refuses to obey his sexual demands.”

I am very curious to know how any society benefits from a law like this. What kind of men would want these laws?

The subtle users of such laws are a larger number; they just become surer about their ‘rights’. Nimmy’s blogged about the claim that… “because women will be ‘out of service’ during 7-10 or even 15 days during a month and that is a very good reason for men to get another wife so that he needn’t go to a prostitute”

What else do they marry for?

But why do women marry? Women are supposed to need companionship, respect, children, emotional and financial support, romance, sex, protection and a lot more time from their spouses, so I would have thought its women, not men who need multiple spouses.

But knowing these laws I wonder if women are better off unmarried. Two things that seldom make news are any talk of a well drafted nikahnama, and a girl’s right to say no to a marriage.

Like did 12 year old Ameena say yes to marry this man?

A few years ago, an airhostess rescued a 12 year old little girl Ameena, who was crying whilst boarding the plane in Hyderabad in India, accompanied by an elderly Arab sheikh husband. The news was all over the papers, and I remember, when he was asked how he could even dream of marrying a girl young enough to be his granddaughter, he had arrogantly responded with a claim that he could marry her because he could still get her pregnant.

That was all that marriage meant to him. And should mean to her… ? But who cares what marriage means to her.

It seems his idea of marriage was not much different from the hardline Shia cleric Ayatollah Mohseni, who designed this law ‘in secret’ and is ‘supported by conservative Shia leaders in parliament’, the ‘law directly contravenes rights provided under the Afghan constitution, which bans any kind of discrimination and distinction between citizens of Afghanistan’.

The law “also effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying “blood money” to a girl who was injured when he raped her.”

How do we define prostitution? Forced prostitution.

**…. for she knows that tomorrow any man, however vile and brutal, however godless and merciless, if he only has money to pay for her, may become owner of her daughter, body and soul;

*”And, Emmeline, if we shouldn’t ever see each other again, after tomorrow, – if I’m sold way up on a plantation somewhere, and you somewhere else, – always remember…”

(From Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe)

Note: I had missed this news until I read Sraboney’s post here, and then received this link by email.  Thanks to both : )

Have some fun today :)

Happy Janamashthami!  🙂  One of the things I love about our culture is how we just need an excuse to have some fun 🙂 Singing and dancing simply runs in our system!

Fun and even more, pleasure is often looked down upon, but I feel, this was one thing Lord Krishna (my favorite God) taught us by his own example -to live our lives to the fullest.

Fun and festivals are even more important to the poor who have so much more to take a break from… but this is not a serious post, so here’s a fun filled, energetic song I can never listen to without atleast tapping my feet 🙂

…for the welfare of women certain customs were formulated

Part I of a long comment I received, and some doubts I have.

“By the law of nature, the characteristics of male gender is different from female gender. Women give birth to children whereas men cannot. Hence, for the welfare of women certain customs were formulated. It is infact from the mother that any child inherits its good habits or bad manners. Even though Father influences, the mother is the first teacher and the mother’s milk is directly fed to the child. Also, these days so many diseases are considered to be genetic. Diabetes, eye problems, blood related problems, skin pigmentation. So, dont you think the great rishis in those days who formulated certain codes, were right in giving lot of importance to the way in which marriages should be performed or the way in which women should conduct themselves. It is a well known fact that, when one gets angry, there are several hormones are released in the body which are not good. Hence, women are generally advised to remain calm, because you can not just cultivate certain qualities when you need it, like during the time of pregnancy. If the children do not inherit good values, or good culture then they are of no use to the society.”

I have some queries.

1.  Should the children not inherit qualities of courage, confidence, intelligence and the capacity to think for themselves?

2. Are no harmful ‘hormones released’ when a woman is feeling helpless, frightened or resentful or frustrated or outraged at the ridiculous expectation from her in the name of tradtions etc?

Please note: Any anger or violence in a child’s environment is bad, even that which is directed at the mother.

3. What if such customs teach her to timidly adjust to injustice? Timidity is bad. How will she provide a hundred brave, bold and daring sons if she is  timid? (I hope we aren’t already facing the results of this lack of foresight …)

4. In case of the spouse’s death they are made to stop living a normal life- is that also for the welfare of the childen? Shouldn’t women be able to raise them on their own if required?

5. If a woman’s biggest job is to give birth and to raise good children sons, and if they are the teachers of their children,  should they not be empowered, educated, and have a say in how their children are raised?

6. Finally what if she is not able to have children?

I hope our ancestors did not advise us to abandon them, or to bring home another baby-making-machine?

And I hope it was kept in mind that it takes two to make a baby, and  these women (who you say were worshipped like goddesses) were in a position to point this out.