take it or leave it

I believe in population control. I think that by having more than one child we are killing this planet as more people means more usage of this planet’s natural resources hence we are doing a grave injustice. So I’m going to talk family planning with you. I will show up with a mobile sterilization van outside your house and if upon seeing it you run away, I will label you an enemy of mankind. That’s how we roll!

Back in 1976, a demolition drive of illegal residential structures in central Delhi was carried out. The cherry on top was the forced sterilization of all the males they could get hold of. This traumatized those people forever and when Sheikh Abdullah visited Delhi, he felt it was his moral duty to go and visit those people and listen to their ordeal. O, how they wept upon seeing him! This was the ultimate injustice carried out to a people who have the divine decree to multiply in order to fulfil their religious duty, while you simultaneously rendered them homeless. The sterilization drive was then applied to rest of the country and I shit you not, when those Doctors got to the villages, men were nowhere to be seen. They had lookouts and as soon as vehicles were seen approaching, men along with young boys would run into the fields.

How do you ensure or garner participation for any activity or exercise, when the first thing that you do is to go for the throat? You want discourse, but the first sentence you say, abuses everyone who does not prescribe to your views. You want an addict to give up the drugs, handcuffing him will not work. You want a religious man to give up religion and go atheist, abusing his Gods, will get you nowhere.

The difference between religious crusaders and our crusaders of atheism is not that much. Just as it used to happen back in the day and still happens today, most of the religious crusade follows the knockout model. You get to a place, you pull your weapon out, then you ask everyone to accept your faith. If they don’t comply, you give them a demo of how their faith is false by striking down their symbol of worship and you let them know that your faith is the one true faith, it wields the power and hence they should comply or, you will either kill them or reduce them to such a level that in some time their existence will become irrelevant. The ones who resist, are then subjected to constant ridicule and shaming, in the hope that they will yield out of shame.

The recent uproar on social media is another one of those incidents in an already very long list of Hinduphobia. I know this term burns people like crazy, “but it is what it is, and what it is, is shit!” – Martin Freeman in Sherlock.

As most of you are aware, Armin Navabi, an ex muslim atheist, who also runs a podcast and an atheist collective, out of the blue shared what he called “art work” of the Hindu Goddess Kali on his twitter handle and took a dig at Hindus by saying that had he known Kali was so “sexy” he’d be a Hindu as well. As we all know one of the biggest tragedies for Hinduphobes is the overwhelming presence of extremely sensitive and unaccommodating, frustrated with years of abuse and guilt tripping, proudly Hindu accounts on social media known for their legendary ability to troll (refute virtue signalling, calling a spade a spade, be unapologetic, assert their own freedom of expression and not let historically entitled people get away with it at the cost of their own views). So as one can expect, which includes Armin himself, he was subjected to brutal “trolling” by several hundred, possibly a few thousand of such Hindu handles and pretty soon, it also got the attention of Hindu social media influencers, public figures and finally someone approached the authorities. Interestingly as this unfolded, Armin remained as his supporters would claim, brave and unfazed but a more observant mind would say systemic and meticulous with his reaction to the “trolling”.

Rather than engaging with all those handles to clear his stance or get whatever his message was across, he instantly started retweeting the abuse and pulled out a shining, black and gold, at least that’s how I imagine it to be, brand new Victim Card. He dealt with those reacting to his tweet in the same supremacist manner in which Islamists and Communists do while thinking they are above and beyond any explanation of their acts to the lesser mortals.

One of the things that atheists must do, is denounce all religions. All forms of godly worship. There was a time when most of this was happening in the west with Christians going on a journey. They would start from choir boys, progress to Protestants, then lapse and finally go, “fuck all this!” As Christianity is the largest religion, you expect this to happen and since it is wide spread, there is really no way to keep a tab on it and assess exactly what impact was this apostasy having on the faith itself. Most of Europe, N.America, S.America have predominantly individualistic social systems. A father really can’t force his children to attend the Church on Sundays after a while. Nor can a mother make her daughter stick to her purity or abstinence vows and so, when one day the kid goes atheist there isn’t much you can do. With time it lost the shock value as well. Nobody really cares if you go to the church or not. The only societies where going atheist still has some shock value to it are societies which have emerged from the east. If you look at the east, other than China which being a land of commies, there is worship abound. So this makes the east, a natural hunting ground for atheists when they lay out the map and look for new territories to conquer. If only that were true, as ex muslim atheists like Armin are far from even scratching the surface, let alone conquering or as they think liberating, any population with atheism.

Now most of the atheists themselves are just too tired of religion, so much that they don’t want anything to do with it. They are happy living their lives the way they wanted it to be, free from any dogma and barriers. Had it not been for social networking platforms, there would be no atheist collectives as these are individuals who have to live among theists and have a job to keep and want to avoid discussions on religion. They understand it is an individual process that one must go through to arrive at that juncture where you denounce faith. It’s not an easy thing. If you thought education was the way to go, then most of the Physicists and Doctors and other scientists would have formed atheist republics by now.

Then of course there are those who are non-practitioners. It’s a comfort zone, where you are not pissing people off nor are you a party to sharing the load. It allows you to celebrate festivals with people and allows you to disassociate yourself when things turn ugly. Basically, you’re there for the fun. Obviously for atheists, this is nothing short of hypocrisy. As far as they are concerned, if this were a poker game, you can’t check, you can’t call, you can’t raise, you either go all in or you fold.

Certain conditions have to prevail for an informed discussion on religion and the case for atheism to take place. These conditions do prevail in the developed nations. Majority of the people in those countries are financially secure and have enough time left over after work, to wrestle with such issues. For Armin to expect my poor, uneducated, yet to reconcile with a millennium of religious oppression, for him to expect such a population to start a discourse on atheism is the same as expecting China to reveal the real number of deaths from covid-19. It’s simply impossible. Armin’s goal was to trigger excitable Hindu twitter handles and then declare all Hindus equally intolerant as Muslims the world over. Why and why now?

why now?

Some years ago when Black Mirror premiered on Netflix, a lot of people were shook. The idea of a world where your approval rating on social media would become the basis of job appraisal and your eligibility to rent an apartment was scary as fuck. But today if you look at it, we are not quite there but some of it is already happening. The thing to be these days is a social media influencer. You gain enough followers, views, soon you can monetize your account. You gain a nuisance value because we are living in the glorious cancel culture era where an influencer’s opinion can be bought and worked to your advantage. Whether it is to promote or the more common, to cancel something. The process of becoming an influencer entails a significant amount of time being dedicated to your social media account and of course you have to be highly opinionated. There was a time when being opinionated was seen in a negative light, but social media has changed that forever. If anything you are now hounded for your lack of opinion.

Influencers cannot be neutral. They have to pick a side or a cause. Many people employ a two pronged strategy. They come across as fighting for a cause, that cause could be a popular one which would guarantee rapid growth and they know that if tomorrow they hit a wall, they can always fall back on the status of an influencer which they are likely to achieve thanks to those who followed them for their cause but ended up becoming a power source, a battery. In the case of Armin and some of the other ex muslim atheists, the cause is exposing Islam. This gets them a lot of coverage as it is something people don’t usually do given what happens when you do that. It’s open season on whoever commits blasphemy against Islam, which can be as trivial as a Muslim saying he doesn’t believe that Muhammad took a ride on Burraq to something as substantial as saying that the Quran hasn’t been preserved accurately as it is claimed to be and has gone several changes as recently revealed by these very ex muslim atheists for which I’m eternally grateful. While Islam remains the priority target, they also stick to the larger atheist cause. This offers them a larger audience and in turn a larger area of influence. In this game of gaining popularity which can very well mean notoriety given where you are standing, timing is essential.

Facebook and twitter are buzzing with the Charlie Hebdo news. The fact that they are republishing the cartoons on Muhammad which got their employees killed in 2015, is an act of defiance worthy of every bit of praise and applause. It is an act which has support of everyone in the world except 1.8 billion Muslims. As expected, this triggered the Muslims across the world and these days, it is very easy to gauge public sentiment by logging on to Facebook or twitter. The only glitch is the sample size. Just how many impressions, likes, retweets, comments certify that a sentiment is worthy of being taken as popular sentiment? Once you deal with that you can come to a conclusion. That number varies a great deal, this one also like the popularity and notoriety dichotomy, depends on where you are standing. Within minutes of “trolling”, Armin declared 1 billion Hindus as proponents and practitioners of blasphemy, like the Muslims who wish death upon Charlie Hebdo (most of them think there is a guy by that name).

This was done brilliantly. The timing was ripe. Those who knew about the history of the incident were talking about it, those who didn’t know were finding it out. So being the entrepreneur that he is, Armin assessed the market conditions were suitable for him to introduce his brand of “take it or leave it” religious tolerance. By the time this is over, his follower count will increase manifold. Under the garb of normalizing blasphemy, he chose this particular moment to portray 1 billion Hindus who have faced 750 years of Islamic slavery and another 200 of British colonialism as intolerant and equally guilty of regressive, murderous, Abrahamic concepts like blasphemy.

Blasphemy, Loch Ness monster of hinduism

You’d think just why anyone would want to try and create a false equivalence between Jihadists and ordinary Hindus when there is no religious crusade which has been launched by Hindus. When there is no concept of blasphemy in Hinduism, what have Hindus done to deserve this rebranding? Concepts such as apostasy and abandonment of faith, the very idea of faith, are alien to Hinduism. When I said that there is faith abound in the east, I was mainly talking about the subcontinent. This part of the world, not to claim supremacy of any sort, other than being one of the oldest civilizations, is also the home of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. If there were provisions for blasphemy and apostasy in the Hindu thought, then there’d be no Dalai Llama today and Kurt Cobain would’ve addressed his suicide note to someone else. What a tragedy that would’ve been!

Far from making inroads into Christianity or Islam, the two largest and global religions, periodic insults are hurled at Hindus who remain confined to India by all ex muslim atheist social media accounts, but not at Jews and Christians or Sikhs and Buddhists. Somehow the atheist agenda can be put on hold when it comes to other faiths. We exist in great numbers in America, Canada, UK, Australia but you will see none of us validate Armin’s claims and the claims of all his supporters, a large number of Hindus who live in Canada will not be taking to the streets and burning public property in the name of protest against Armin’s self-proclaimed act of blasphemy, unlike the Muslims in Sweden. But for Armin, Hindus are the same even if they don’t.

But undeterred despite their obvious bias, after going apostate and not converting to any religion on the basis of the argument that all religions are fake and supposedly reaching this conclusion after researching all religions, ex muslim atheists regularly take shots at Hinduism. The goal is in accordance with their atheist cause and hence valid. At that time, one has to think for oneself as to what they are trying to achieve because if they truly had researched Hinduism they’d know that their argument of blasphemy does not hold water. What they do know is the level of hostility between Hindus and Muslims in India. They know that the primary reason for that hostility is multiple centuries of Hindu persecution at the hands of Muslims in the name of Islam, they know that the present Muslim population of India takes pride in rubbing salt on the wounds of Hindus by citing that history and glorifying it. They know that Muslims regularly stoke low to medium intensity religious violence in various parts of India. They know Hindus are scared to openly speak out against Islam as there have been killings in the name of blasphemy, of the few Hindus who did. They know that in every Indian city, there is an area where Hindus cannot venture freely for fear of being subjected to religious violence. They know that one of the most tangible cause of Hindu grief is the every day reminder of how Hindu temples and symbols of worship were destroyed, defiled to inflict psychological trauma on our ancestors, when we visit our monuments and read history that has not been contaminated by marxism. The constant reminder of our history of enslavement and its defense by our oppressors has rendered the idea of reconciliation as redundant as Armin’s opinion of Hindus based on his twitter experience. This knowledge of Hindus and their history can easily be gleaned and is more than enough to know that Hindus can be triggered easily on social media and that’s what happened.

If they had researched “blasphemy” in India, they would’ve learnt that the Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code was enacted for the very reason that Muslims were “outraged” over a book titled Rangila Rasul and wanted the writer to be hanged. When the publisher refused to make the identity of the writer public, the Muslims of India in 1929, while very much under the rule of the British, thought nothing of killing the publisher. The killer was represented by M.Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, the funeral procession of the murderer saw 600,000 attendees and famous poet Alamma Iqbal, who is revered by many secular atheists in India, cried. On the other hand, Muslims demanded from Hindus the birth certificate of Hindu deity Ram, but nothing happened. A large population in southern parts of India, worship Ravan, the main antagonist of Ramayana, but nothing happens. Every day, Christian missionaries in specific parts of India, convert rural and impoverished Hindus to Christianity, nobody kills those Hindus for apostasy. Every day, five times a day, I am forced to listen to a declaration that there is no god but allah, but I don’t yell back “fuck you” from my balcony.

Atheist crusade

Obviously people are going to ask if Hindus are against atheism. In my view, there is nothing wrong with being an agnostic or an atheist. What is wrong is, for someone to initiate a discourse on such a note. This only leads me to believe that a healthy and informed discourse was never the agenda. This gimmick was either carried out to progress his status as an influencer or maybe there is still a bit of Hinduphobia left over from his days as a believer and self flagellating member of the cult.

There are videos of Armin and others on YouTube where they debate Islamic scholars and Christian apologists, the debate happens because at the start of the debate, Armin does not equate Muhammad and Ayesha’s life to a porn flick or question the character of Mary Magdalene. When Swami Vivekananda went to Chicago, he did not open his address by calling Jesus a fraud. This brand of atheism, where you want to shame your opponents into submission is no different from what Jihadists used to do and still do. Difference is that now things have gone digital, so graphical imagery targeted at an already wounded population is your weapon. If imposing religion is wrong, then imposing atheism is also wrong. If you have the right to believe there is no god, then others have a right to believe there is one. This notion of atheists like Armin where they want to save mankind from religion is hilariously similar to the Abrahamic notions of redeeming lost souls by guiding them towards the one true faith. His attempt to bring out intolerance of Hindus by attacking their religious symbol without any context or calling and then equating them with those who were behind the attack on Charlie Hebdo, those behind the attacks in Bengaluru, Sweden, those who want Salman Rushdie to die, those who have exiled Golshifteh Farahani, seems more like a late night drunken escapade than anything to do with promoting atheism or normalizing blasphemy, especially where there is none.

Among Hindus, forms and symbols of worship vary a great deal. There is a personal relationship with the deity. The deity is seen as a father, a mother, a guide, a friend. We write letters to them. We create them from clay and then immerse them in water. We clothe them in different outfits, we prepare special meals for them. The first invitation to a wedding always goes to a deity. It’s a deeply personal relationship and if you want Hindus to entertain your views on religion and your case for atheism, abusing our mother upfront is not the way to go about it.

I have used words such as Hinduphobia, gimmick, entrepreneur, short of calling him a fake atheist, which I don’t believe he is, I have tried to put this very juvenile attack on Hindus in perspective by analysing all possible reasons for it. It could well be all those in limited amounts. My request to all Hindus is to not make ex muslim atheists feel like you take advantage of their efforts in confronting Islam. Their most common argument is that we love them while they deride Islam but as soon as they criticize Hinduism we pounce on them. Take this argument away from them and no one can hold you in contempt of free speech.

Finally Armin, If Zidane can head butt Materazzi for abusing his mother in the final and for all purposes make France lose the world cup by doing so, a little bit of bad rep isn’t something we Hindus are really bothered about. Be a sport, don’t expect that you can walk in and have your way with Hindus and for the sake of solidarity with your apostasy, we will let you. Move on and put that shiny victim card back in the wallet before you get scratches on it.

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.