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Thou Shalt Die Because I Believe.....

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Savita Halappanavar died after she was allegedly denied an abortion in a pro-life Catholic country. Malala Yousafzai survived a near fatal encounter with the Taliban bullet. Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya was killed by terrorists who attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Dissimilar that these deaths may be and dissimilar may be the circumstances that have brought them about, yet a common thread links them together: death in the name of religion. While all instances of death that occurred or could have occurred took place in different situations, it was religious fundamentalism that sowed the seeds.
Malala lived in the Swat province, a region that militant groups controlled, and in her campaign for the rights of girls to be educated, had written a diary on Taliban atrocities for the BBC Urdu service. The Pakistan Taliban said it carried out the attack because Malala was 'promoting secularism'. Savita, who was in immense pain and agony as a result of miscarrying the foetus, repeatedly asked for her pregnancy to be terminated. Doctors, who could have saved her, turned down her pleas because the fetal heart beat was still present, and abortion could not be performed because Ireland is a Catholic country. Chris Stevens, a career diplomat whose humility, warmth and integrity won him friends across the Middle East, friends who came to trust him even as they doubted his government. Stevens’ tragic death came as a 'spontaneous response' and a 'senseless outrage' to an online preview of a film considered offensive to Islam. Extremist forces decried Malala's attempts to secure education for girls and women, for they believed that "whom so ever leads a campaign against Islam and Sharia is ordered to be killed by Sharia.”. So much said for the causes that have led to the deaths and the attempted annihilation of lives that ought to be lived.
If one can make sense out of the analogies, one will agree that Chris Stevens and Hallapanavar passed away because religion was placed above their lives. Malala's survival, on the other hand, is hailed as God's will. The question that arises is, whose will determines our lives: is it our own, or is it the will of the fundamental forces around us that determines our right to live; or further still, is it the will of the invisible force that is believed to be the ‘sole custodian’ of life and death? While the latter seems a matter of faith and thus abstract, the former are more concrete and thus become the real factors that govern our lives in a world ridden with prejudices and dogmas. While 'religious' doctors refused to stop a tiny, failing heart beat that they knew was dying and thereby posing an enormous risk to a healthy heart, they did not care to save the woman who had a right to live and to be protected.
These examples may hardly be enough when one goes back to a host of killings that have taken place the world over in the name of religion. Graham Staines’ burning to death in Keonjhar district of Orissa, India, way back in 1999 still gives goosebumps as one thinks of it. Public protests condemn Savita’s abortion death. A nation has mourned the death of its diplomat, and the world prays for Malala's speedy recovery. What remain unchanged in the face of these reactions are the dogmas that support these deaths. When Hitler defended his rights to exterminate the Jews, he said, "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." The world stood shocked as the ‘great emissary of evil’ leashed genocide against those held together primarily by their religious beliefs.
It is paradoxical that religion, a set of beliefs that unites people even as it polarises them into secular forces, becomes the underlying factor of one's right to live. The irony of religion lies in the fact, that even as it is created to uphold life and provide a sense of direction to righteous living, it increasingly becomes a weapon to exterminate life. How right is the self-righteousness that we practice in the name of religion? How does a false sense of guardianship and the consequent security that religion extends to its believers, stand vindicated? Furthermore, how just is the fanaticism that comes with a blind adherence to religion? Why doesn’t intellectual responsibility triumph over religious faith? Is human life so fragile that it should crumble under the force of someone else’s belief? If this is what religions stands for, why does the religion of 'Humanity' not raise its head?

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AB's picture

Very well written. It's such a coincidence really - While seeing the coverage of non stop violence in the middle east in the past one week, I have been penning a lot on religion as well - especially my thoughts on the origin of and the utility of religion. As the old saying goes - "Where science ends, philosophy begins and where philosophy ends, religion begins". So in other words, religion should be the last destination of human progress and not that of human prowess. If indeed religion connects us to our deepest values, it's primary purpose should be to teach us to love, and not to hate.

Thank you, Ayon! I'm glad you

Ruby Sahay's picture

Thank you, Ayon! I'm glad you liked it. It's sad that religion has created bias and bigotry, faction and frenzy and a sea of incorrigibility that devours those who live by it.

I really look forward to reading your take on the same.

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