Monday, January 12, 2015

Of Religion and Tolerance

Every religion claims to help us seek salvation. The ways may be different, the means different too; but the destination remains the same – a safe and peaceful afterlife. But at what price? Sydney and Peshawar attacks are still fresh in our memory and now Paris joins them. Is religion really that weak to accept satire / critic? And if yes, is death the only solution?

All religions teach patience, love for one another and tolerance in the face of adversity. Aren’t these the traits that we desperately seek in today’s world? What happened in Paris is deplorable. Every rational thinking person will heavily condemn it. But this isn’t an isolated incident. We, in India, have been facing the same issue, but not at a “terrorism” level, so to speak. Books have been burnt, authors forced to leave, their private properties destroyed – all this simply because we are not tolerant towards what these authors have written against our religion. Same is the case with movies and cartoons. 

It’s wrong to judge a religion based on certain religious fundamentalists. First things first, not everyone in a particular religion gets offended by satire / book / movie / other published work. Only a handful of them gets “hurt”, others simply chose to ignore it and move on. Which, in my opinion, is completely understandable as people react to similar circumstances in different ways. People who are hurt, will respond differently to this situation – some will chose to provide feedback, some will stop reading the newspaper or stop watching movies made by a certain hero / director. Which is also fine as people are entitled to decide what they would like to read as there are a plethora of options available. What is not fine is when some people take it upon themselves to uphold the sanctity of their religion and cause physical harm (like destroying homes or even killing) others. 

People’s interpretation of religious scriptures play a part too. Interpretation of a book / movie / cartoon lies with the audience. These products have a shelf life and will soon die and be forgotten. But the same cannot be said of religious books. The scriptures transcend generations along with its interpretations. Why do we have caste, sub-caste, sects within a religion? And why are the traditions different within a religion? It’s primarily because certain people chose to read the holy book differently and were eventually separated as a different sect altogether. Interpretations change even when a holy book is transliterated from one language to the other. 

From the media perspective, it’s difficult to comprehend what can be safely published and won’t harm any religious sentiments. In a football stadium, if a section of the crowd starts shouting at a player referring him to an animal or even gesticulating, it is considered a racial abuse. But a renowned comedian visits the same place and cracks racial jokes, people who belong to the same race enjoys it. A city, subject to a terror attack, is condemned by one and all but the same city restricts one religion to follow their tradition is brushed under the carpet.

India is a country where its too complex to adopt “free speech” or freedom of expression. I don’t think we will ever have free speech in its entirety. We currently have free speech within the confines of religious walls. As long as you don’t encroach upon the zone where it hurts a particular religion, you are free to say what you like. The moment you cross the line and its noticed by the fundamentalists, then you are at their mercy.

Religion came to this world to show us a way of life and how to live within the predefined boundaries of patience and tolerance. Ironically, their followers have chosen to be impatient and intolerant to protect their own identity that was once defined by their religion. 


  1. It's a real shame that we do all these things in the name of religion. World is becoming a difficult and dangerous place to live.

    1. Honestly, only a handful of them are doing all this in the name of religion.. World is becoming more difficult to live due to these people..

  2. Also religion killed more people than wars or natural calamities ever did. The whole point of being religious itself is lost.

    1. Anita, I think incorrect interpretation of religion killed more people than war itself.. Very sad indeed..


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