Saturday, 9 February 2008

Religious Politics - Seeds of Fascism?

"The more the two sides try and call attention to their religious differences by slaughtering each other, the less there is to distinguish them from one another. They worship at the same altar. They're both apostles of the same murderous god, whoever he is .........
Right now we're sipping from a poisoned chalice: a flawed democracy laced with religious fascism. Pure arsenic.
What shall we do? What can we do?
We have a ruling party that's haemorrhaging”.

- (Arundhati Roy, Democracy and Religious Fascism)

Most people go about their daily lives actually just interested in “making a living” or simply enjoying “life” in a society. They actually don't “believe” in any ideology.

In fact many of them are simply “good people” who don't care much for all the indoctrination that is provided for by religious institutions or political establishments.

For most, it is just a matter of “fitting in” with the ruling sentiments, and nothing more They just play along with the mass psychosis that grips the “silent majority” at the behest of the bold and vocal minority. They don't really care, and would just want to move on with life - make a living, make babies, provide for the family, have some fun, have grand-children, grow old and die happily .....

These groups - and this means the "virtuous, silent majority" are the ones who unwittingly partake in the success of any idea that would actually determine the fate of the nation. These "virtuous and silent majority", who are apparently innocent when the vociferous and bold minority shame their faith, are the ones who are actually to be blamed for allowing evils to be perpetrated in the name of "God", by the politicians who seek to consolidate their power.

Of late, one of the most potent tools for fomenting division, sectarianism, distrust and insecurity that has been used is religion, politicised. Words like Christo-Fascism, Islamo-Fascism, Hindutva and many more are becoming increasingly common.

This is quite obvious with the high-handedness of many a religious bodies and ridiculous court decisions (in Malaysia, and also worldwide), that have been quite controversial to say the least, sparking debate in the international media.

While the relevant Christian institutions insist on “values” and often stop short of calling for a theocracy, many Muslim groups don't mince their words in demanding for it.

Some scholars consider Christian Reconstructionism a quasi-fascist movement because it is explicitly opposed to religious liberty and human rights. Berlet and Lyons have witten that the movement is a "new form of clerical fascist politics."(Right-Wing Populism in America, p. 249) Karen Armstrong sees a potential for fascism in Christian Reconstructionism, and claims that the system of dominion envisaged by Christian Reconstructionist theologians R. J. Rushdoony and Gary North is totalitarian: "There is no room for any other view or policy, no democratic tolerance for rival parties, no individual freedom." (Armstrong, Battle for God, pp. 361-362).

The creation of a centralized authoritarian state to enforce blanket obedience to a reactionary, all-encompassing ideology — fits well the aims of contemporary Islamism that openly demands implementation of sharia law and the return to a Pan-Islamic and theocratic caliphate. In addition, Islamists, as is true of all fascists, privilege their own particular creed of true believers by harkening back to a lost, pristine past, in which the devout were once uncorrupted by modernism.

The same goes for the advocates of the Hindutva/ Sangh Parivar movements.

Marxist critics have used the political epithets of "Indian fascism" and "Hindu fascism" to describe the ideology of the Sangh Parivar. For example, Marxist social scientist Prabhat Patnaik has written that the Hindutva movement as it has emerged is "classically fascist in class support, methods and programme".

Envy and false grievances, as in the past with Italian, German, or Japanese whining, are always imprinted deeply within the fascist mind. After all, it can never quite figure out why the morally pure, the politically zealous, the ever more obedient are losing out to corrupt and decadent democracies — where “mixing,” either in the racial or religious sense, should instead have enervated the people.

In all these groups there is an element of insecurity – real or imagined - imposed upon their indoctrinated followers. Most of these groups tend to gravitate towards ideas that are repressive, ethnic and nationalistic under an authoritarian rule, oblivious to its consequences on their civil liberties. Many find it quite convenient to give up their “faculties” and rights to the wiser men of the cloth (or corporations), who would in turn tell them what God has ordained!

According to Wikipaedia,

Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers the individual subordinate to the interests of the state, party or society as a whole. Fascists seek to forge a type of national unity, usually based on (but not limited to) ethnic, cultural, racial, religious attributes. Various scholars attribute different characteristics to fascism, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: nationalism, statism, militarism, totalitarianism, anti-communism, corporatism, populism, collectivism, autocracy and opposition to political and economic liberalism .

Dr. Lawrence Britt having examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes, found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
4. Supremacy of the Military
5. Rampant Sexism
6. Controlled Mass Media
7. Obsession with National Security
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
9. Corporate Power is Protected
10. Labor Power is Suppressed
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
14. Fraudulent Elections

Fascism feeds on ignorance and fear. These are two very prominent characteristics seen in many insecure, fearful, conservative, orthodox, religious and cloistered societies that are often deprived of civil liberties.

Hitler's Reichmarshall Hermann Goering declared that "people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and attack the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."

On the religion side of things apocalyptic theology is booming, leading to the “fear factor” that draws the gullible faithful to their pastors, gurus and mullahs, giving rise to many a pseudo-religious revival that appeals to the “emotional emptiness” of the faithful sheep – many a time with devastating consequences. This theology of despair "fits" our current culture of powerlessness and fear.

In Muslim nations worldwide, there is a significant amount of unrest created by Jihadi ideologies that advocate injustice and atrocities in order to bring about “God's Will” on earth. Where they are minorities, many resort to religion inspired insurgency, in order to make their presence felt, leading to devastation. Any injustice is legitimized in the name of Islam, so as to advance the agendas of the relevant groups that seek political dominance.

In America, we see a very powerful Christian Evangelical lobby that have influences many a policy that the government makes.

A top Bush aide actually told the New York Times' Ron Suskind that administration officials disparagingly dismiss what they call "the reality-based community"---specifically, people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality" as irrelevant. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he declared. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality---judiciously, as you will---we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors. . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

In other words, truth is for wimps; forget about it. We are the champions, the powerful, we make it up as we go along and if you want a piece of it, embrace the delusion. (Gary Leupp, Everybody's Talkin' About Christian Fascism)

This article is mainly a "cut and paste" job from numerous other articles. It is regretted that references cannot be made available.