December 02, 2001
By Raffique Shah
WATCHING fellow columnist Kevin Baldeosingh having to defend his position as an atheist against "reformed" scientists and religious bigots, I'm very tempted to intervene in the debate. Unlike Kevin and the irreverent BC Pires, who regularly rattle the chaplets of religionists, I tend to keep my agnosticism to myself, leaving others to pursue their beliefs however they may choose to so do. In fact, on many occasions I have written that although I do not believe in them, religions and belief in God (by whatever name) are indispensable in modern society.
The simple reasoning is this. A society like ours that is seen as God-fearing (correct term-not God-loving), where people flock to churches, mandirs, mosques and other places of worship. Yet, in spite of having so many religions we have so much crime, so many atrocities committed, can you imagine what a hell-hole this country might have been had the masses not feared God? The young criminals who casually suffocated my colleague, Major Joseph Mader, to death two weeks ago, must be young people who attend some church or tabernacle or mosque somewhere. And those who openly steal from the public purse, who manipulate contracts and commit the vilest of white collar crimes (in other words, bandits who own Benzes), can be seen on Sundays in the front pews of some of the most upscale churches in the country.
If, however, the good doctors-meaning scientists and self-styled intelligent people who have become born-again believers-want real lessons in why God may indeed not exist, why He may be a figment of the imagination, they need to attend political meetings. At these gatherings, which almost always begin rather innocuously with prayers by priests from different religions, one sees just how God's perceived graces are showered on crooks, and how easily the faithful are transformed into monsters, into supporters of all that is evil.
Last week, I had cause to single out one such person for blows, Kamaluddin Mohammed, which was really unfair to the old "Charch". Following the elections cavalcades around the country, I see hundreds of other Muslims, many of them having just broken their Ramadan fasts, jumping, waving and wailing (Trini-style, not a la Baptists) as loud music blares from fete-size speaker-boxes and speakers on the platform spew lies-by-the-miles. Some of them are be-topied or be-hijabed, their Qurans still clutched in their hands, as they participate in the rituals of the Devil-because that is what some politicians have reduced political meetings to.
Nizam Mohammed, a senior member of ASJA who at one time vied for the leadership of that religious body, was back on the hustings last week. And the invectives he hurled from the platform, he having been resurrected but not even acknowledged by Basdeo Panday, showed that Nizam loves to roll in the gutter, better still in the month of Ramadan. So, I guess, if the one-time ASJA executive officer "could play", as calypsonian Cypher sang many years ago, then who the hell are ordinary Muslims? Even as thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of their brothers, sisters and children are being slain in Afghanistan, they are content with waving flags and "wining" to "We Ridin' Wid Bas!"
But if Muslims who behave in this manner are reason enough for sane and intelligent people to stay far from Islam, what can be said of Hindus, who are condoning, even encouraging, the worst forms of abuse of their faith? Panday has arrogated unto himself the powers of the Gods, and no one seems to care. At a meeting in Penal at which he pretended to shed tears over his "betrayal" by Trevor Sudama, he used his usual "head" on the masses to win their sympathy. Standing on the platform like Rajah Dasarath, the king who sent his son, Lord Rama (Ram), into "banwass" (exile), he called on Sudama to repent, to go into "banwaas" for 10 years-and then return on his knees seeking forgiveness from...well, I guess, God-Panday.
How could devout Hindus stand on the holy grounds of the Dow Village temple one night last week, and listen to this man carry on in a similar manner? In the middle of the holy month in which Karthik is observed, there was Panday demanding that Ramesh Maharaj come to the people, go down on his knees and beg forgiveness, then go into "banwaas" forever, never to be forgiven! Who the hell gave Panday the status of a God? And why would hundreds of people who are supposedly devout Hindus tolerate this kind of blasphemy, nay, outright sacrilege-on the grounds of a temple at that?
So I have found in these political meetings fortification of my belief that while there may be a God, religions are the undoing of mankind. The worst atrocities against humankind have historically been committed in the name of God, Allah, Ram, Buddha. And in this country, where every two-bit preacher or writer or politician sees himself as a God, the contradictions in religion manifest themselves most when it comes to power and money. Panday portrays himself as a latter-day Lord Rama, and even pundits and gurus, who should know better, bow at the man's feet.
But it's not just Panday who is abusing religion, although he's the main offender. While PNM meetings tend to be less vitriolic, Patrick Manning is wont to quote from the scriptures ever so often. In fact, the PNM has likened this particular campaign to a "crusade against corruption", which has religious connotations. If religion is what it's supposed to be, a kind of sanctum into which man retreats to enhance his spirituality, then I absolutely agree with Fr Clyde Harvey when he says prayers have no place on political platforms. Because no sooner than the "Thank, us, O Father..." is over than the wining and jamming begins. Appropriately, I suppose, the theme song on most platforms is David Rudder's "High Mas". Who knows how many of them are "high", literally, when they invoke God's name and ask His blessings?
What difference is there between local political leaders and their religious counterparts who misuse the holy texts, all in the name of God, and, say, bin Laden, who, it is said, uses Allah's name before wreaking death and destruction on "unbelievers"? Or the Jewish Rabbis who, clutching their Torahs, give praise to Yaweh even as their armed forces rain death on innocent Palestinian civilians? History is replete with hypocrites who, in the name of God or religion, commit unspeakable atrocities. I guess our political Muslims, Hindus and Christians are playing "catch up" with Hitler. Talk about an unholy mess!
Copyright © Raffique Shah