Religion, Religiosity and World Order

Mr. Hamid Ansari
Former Vice President of India

I deem it a great privilege to be invited to deliver the Prem Bhatia Memorial Lecture and I thank the Trustees for it. Today’s is the 23rd Lecture and this testifies to the esteem and respect accorded to this eminent editor and public personality of an earlier generation that has all but gone in the pages of history.

I met the late Mr. Prem Bhatia once only. He was invited by President Sanjiva Reddy to accompany him on his official visit to Kenya in 1983 where Mr. Bhatia had been our high commissioner in late sixtees. It was a late morning flight; in the aircraft I was seated next to him and both were imbibing something appropriate for that time of the day. In the course of the conversation that veered to the communal situation, he asked me what it was to be a Muslim in India. When I got over the surprise of the question and told him something about my own views, I posed a counter question to him. I said that every incident of serious communal trouble in post-1947 years was followed by a formal enquiry but, to the best of my knowledge, the full reports of these commissions of enquiry were rarely if ever published. He felt it was a valid observation, said he not thought about it, and that he would take it up when he next met the Home Minister.

I am recalling this chance encounter and the conversation to highlight the continuing, albeit heightened, relevance of faith-related disruptions in domestic and international discourses. Much of it, I submit, is a function of politics and geo-politics and is not, on empirical evidence, suggestive of heightened piety.

Some conceptual clarity by way of definitions would enable us to proceed in this quest. I understand by ‘religion’ any system of faith subscribed to by human beings involving reverence for a superior being, usually but not necessarily transcendental, and a set of ethical norms of behaviour emanating from it. Karen Armstrong has written that ‘human beings are spiritual animals.’ In a lecture in Ramakrishna Mission in 1952 Dr. Radhakrishnan said the object of religion ‘should be to bring people together, make them love each other and raise standards of living.’ Much earlier Swami Vivekananda had at the 1893 World Congress of Religions proclaimed the Hindu belief in universal tolerance and truth of all religions; the central point of all religions, he said, is ‘to evolve a God out of man.’ This takes us to the role of religion in society as a social phenomenon and leads to questions about the nature of society, its components, and its professed norms of social conduct. Historical record of human societies also shows that religion has been used to motivate, denigrate or divert attention from real issues. A distinction therefore is to be made on the one hand between religious sentiments and practices in terms of individuals and on the other in behaviour patterns as collectives and members of societal groups. The first is sui generis, reflective of normal human nature, while the second takes shape in terms of the perceived socio-political or ideological objectives and undeniably carries in some measure the civilizational imprint of that society. In the case of India, for instance, both are expressed in the principle and characteristic of ‘secular’ in the Preamble and in Articles 15, 16, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30 of the Constitution. By the same logic it would be different in what the sociologist Sammy Smooha has called ‘an ethnic democracy.’

Religiosity’ on the other hand, is defined in the Thesaurus as a state of extreme religious ardour. It denotes exaggerated embodiment, involvement or zeal for certain aspects of religious activity and enforcing it through social or governmental pressure. The term ‘zeal’ itself has its origin in ‘zealot’ defined as a person uncompromising in pursuit of religious or political ideals and in the first century AD signified a group who regarded themselves as soldiers of God and sought to establish a world Jewish theocracy. Thus while peaceful propagation of religion and voluntary conversion would be within the pale of law, resort to force, threat, fraud or illicit inducement would be beyond it. Instances of each of these can be located in recent and not so recent history and seem to abound in our own times. It is therefore important to ensure that the impulse and methodology in each case is carefully identified.

Writing in 2011 a scholar observed that ‘the past two decades appear to have been marked by a return or revival of religion on the international scene’ and drew attention to ‘the growing activism and visibility of private religious or ecclesiastical organizations with the rise of religious fundamentalism and the related attempt to impose a chosen reading of basic scriptures on the conduct of public affairs.’ He cited one instance of this in ‘the American way of proselytism’ (mega-church model) and wrote that it has ‘spread worldwide promising God’s help for earthly wealth and health and making ample use 0f the media, commercial slogans and private funds.’

In another study, a set of scholars have observed that while ‘before the nineteenth century, religion motivated virtually all terrorist activity; in 1968, it motivated none of the world’s existing eleven terrorist groups. The difference was secularization, which gave rise to terrorist groups motivated not only by nationalist and political ideologies but also by a host of unpredictable and unknown factors,’ Since 1968, they added, ‘religious terrorism has risen and become more global (and) is responsible for the largest proportion of terrorist attacks with known perpetrators from 1998 to 2004.’

This has been true, based on time and location, of persons and organizations propagating with explicit or tacit societal or governmental support and using overt force or covert pressure of faith. The common element is each case, their lowest common multiple, is zeal for the cause and resort to available means to further it including what has been called ‘the politics of the death wish.’ The most lethal example of it, in the use of cyber technology, is what came to be known successively as ISI, ISIS, and the Islamic Caliphate.

‘World Order’ is suggestive of a quest by political entities in the world in different places and ages for molding divergent historical experience and values into a commonly accepted behaviour pattern. To scholars like Headley Bull world order means ‘those patterns of disposition of human activity that sustain the elementary or primary goals of social life among mankind as a whole’ and ‘does not exist except as an aspiration;’ to others, it has varied with time and distribution of political power and is reflective of what Henry Kissinger has called ‘practical accommodation to reality, not a unique moral insight.’ Such accommodation is impacted on by perceptions and realities of great power ambitions as also of strident nationalisms. Modern history has witnessed manifestations of each of these.

An early and eminently practical instance of the approach of statecraft to faith is to be found in Edward Gibbons’ observation that ‘the various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true, by the philosopher as equally false and by the magistrate as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence but even religious concord.’

In succeeding centuries, many rulers in many places displayed lesser wisdom and history records innumerable instances of use of religion by the state to reinforce and extend its authority as also of the use of state power by religious establishments to impose their doctrines and rules on others. In turn, as Ibn Khaldun observed, ‘the vanquished can always be observed to assimilate themselves to the victor.’ A later variant of this surfaced in Rousseau’s idea of ‘civic religion’; it was described in The Social Contract as ‘a kind of theocracy in which there ought to be no pontiff but the Prince, no other priests than the magistrates. Then to die for one’s country is to suffer martyrdom, to violate the laws is to be impious, and to subject a guilty man to public execration is to devote him to the wrath of the gods.’ This was translated into practice by Robespierre during the French Revolution and has been refined in our own times by authoritarian regimes of the Right and the Left, some with their own visions of militant cultural nationalism.

A term in contemporary discourse is ‘Fundamentalism’. It surfaced in the early decades of the twentieth century in debates in American protestant circles. In 1990 the American Academy of Arts and Sciences initiated a project to examine its dimensions and defined the concept as ‘a tendency or habit of mind in religious communities as a strategy or sets of strategies by which beleaguered believers attempt to preserve their distinctive identity as a people or group’ felt to be at risk and attempting to fortify it by resorting to ‘selective retrieval of doctrines, beliefs and practices from a sacred past.’ In this sense, contemporary fundamentalism is at once both derivative and vitally original since the political and social order thus sought to be
re-created ‘is oriented to the future rather than the past’. And while ‘fundamentalist are not entirely unlike other religious or ideologist activists, (but) they also face an additional challenge of having to justify ideological shifts, and programmatic changes accompanying them, to members who base their loyalty in part upon the assumption of both consistency and immutability in the fundamental doctrines and goals of the movement.’

On the other hand, it has been argued that ‘the prevailing association between fundamentalism and violence, particularly terrorism, should not be regarded as self-evidently true. It is, instead, often an act of labeling for the purpose of condemnation with little regard for the beliefs to which the label is attached.’

Terrorism itself is a complex phenomenon and is yet to be defined despite years of tussle in the UN. A study published last year by the Center for Strategic Studies & Analysis, Washington, highlighted some of the difficulties in existing analyses: (a) there is no agreed definition of terrorism (b) no reporting on state terrorism (c) failure to distinguish between insurgency and terrorism (d) frequent depiction of enemies as terrorists for political purposes and (e) focus on ideology and religion rather than on the full range of causes of terrorism.

This note of caution is also necessary to ensure that expressions of grievance premised on valid socio-political or economic reasons are not necessarily type-caste as ‘religion-inspired’ with a view to denigrate them more so because some acts of violence, irrespective of their lethality, are depicted ‘terrorist’ selectively.Before delving into specifics, some questions about perceptions and practices of fundamentalists or zealots come to mind:

Is religiosity or religious zeal integral to faith per se? Is it desirable and conducive to it?
What impulses in a society propel individuals to resort to selective retrieval of principles and practices: religious, socio-political or politico-religious?
What have been its results and implications?
How did it impact on the world order of the day?

A look at the global religious scene is relevant. The PEW Research Center data indicates the following of the major religions of the world today. According to it, Christianity accounts for 31.2 percent of the world’s population, followed by Islam at 24.1 percent, Hinduism at 15.1 percent and Buddhism at 6.9 percent, Jews at 0.2 and other religions (including Sikhism at 0.8 percent). In numbers, Christians are 2.3 billion, Muslims 1.8 billion, Hindus 1.1 billion; Buddhists are 500 million, Sikhs 25 million and Jews 14 million. Atheists or agnostics are said to number 1.1 billion and adherents of traditional Chinese religion 394 million.

So it is in relation to the followers of these faiths that contemporary trends of religiosity or religious zeal have to be traced.

II Since both religion and politics relate to societies, ‘the relationship between the two becomes highly complex given the coexistence of religious and secular normative orders, the differentiation of the religious and political spheres and the international interpenetration of diverse traditions.’ Sociologists also draw a distinction between ‘absolute’ politics and routine politics and define the former as ‘the state of affairs where no boundaries are set to political will and everything social is seen as transformable by politics.’ In routine politics, however, it is possible to distinguish between (a) politically relevant religious action (b) religiously conditioned political action (c) religiously relevant political action and (d) politically conditioned religious action. Thus in terms of motivation of action, religion can providea source of normative guide for political action: ‘Millennialism is perhaps the most dramatic instance of the religious motivation of revolutionary action, and one of the oldest forms of absolute politics. Millennial beliefs motivate political action by upholding utopia, ideal order to be realized by revolutionary action.’

A cursory look at human history does suggest the validity of this fourfold categorization and the felt need to cloak human motives in supra-human considerations. Evidence of this is to be found in stated objectives of political leaders, battlefield commanders and the motivating slogans for soldiers in the field. Good instances are the remarks of Generals Allenby and Henri Gourand in 1918 about the end of the Crusades, the ‘crusade against terrorism’ expression used by President Bush in 2003, and in the frequent use of the expression Jihad for motivational purposes by Muslim extremist groups in different places. The same holds for motivating cries for mob action. Religion or religious symbolism have also been used deliberately to mislead, denigrate or divert attention and even to pre-judge or prejudice the assessment of an event.

Terminology matters. Some in this audience may be familiar with the debate in early decades of the twentieth century about the impact of Christian fundamentalism in American society. A survey conducted in 1992 showed that nine percent of adults Americans identified themselves as ‘fundamentalist,’ and a report in the New York Times on May 28, 2018 indicates that in California, one in five adults are evangelists. Other scholars have argued that fundamentalism is part of the rear guard action with which small town America and commercial capitalism fight their losing battle against nationalized culture and industrial economy of mass organizations. It is distinguished in recent times by political militancy focused in an earlier period on the Roman Catholics and the Jews and more recently on Muslims, environmentalists, homosexuals and political groups like the communists. In its external manifestation, different societies in the developing world have had difficulties with evangelical activities of US-based church groups.

Some scholars have opined that President Truman’s decision on May 14, 1948 to extend a de facto recognition to the newly formed State of Israel did have an element of ‘religiously relevant political action’ premised on evangelical Christianity; others have attributed it to American voter supportive of Zionism. Some light on this was shed by a report by Davis Kirkpatrick and Elisabeth Dias in the New York Times of May 19, 2018 quoting US Ambassador to Israel’s remark that ‘evangelical Christians support Israel with much more fervor and devotion than many in the Jewish community.’

Islamic fundamentalism, perceived today as a generic term, in fact covers three separate movements namely revivalism, reformism and radicalism. The first was induced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by the European commercial and political expansion; these were accompanied by missionary activities that had limited success in the face of what Curzon called ‘the impregnable rock wall of Islam.’ Movements of Islamic revival in different Muslim societies in Asia and Africa were also a reaction against contraction of internal and external trade brought about by the mercantile activities of European nations. It induced an internal dialogue without reference to other systems of thought. Islamic reformism, on the other hand, was a modern movement in the wake of European supremacy, expansion and consolidation. It focused on political and social reforms induced by European ideas but riveted on revivalist and Salafi principles.

Islamic radicalism or Islamism however is a twentieth century phenomenon principally in the Arab societies of West Asia and North Africa in which the Islamic theory of state, on consent being the basis of political legitimacy, was invoked in the context of the autocratic nation-state and of the failure of nationalism. An impetus was provided by the cataclysmic political happenings like Palestine in 1948, the war of 1967, the Intifada of 1987, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, the Algerian army’s reversal of election results in December 1991, and US-led allied invasion of Iraq in 1991 and 2003. These propelled resort in each case to armed resistance as a religious duty and brought forth a British ambassador’s remark in 2004 that President George W. Bush was ‘Al Qaida’s best recruiting sergeant.’ They did not result in a unified movement; instead, diverse and polymorphous movements developed in individual societies to respond to the perceived local challenges broadly contextualized with a reference to the Muslim condition globally. In each case, it drew selectively upon the foundational texts and their contemporary interpretations. Its early manifestation in Nasser’s Egypt in the period of the Cold War was not viewed as a threat by the United States since the Islamists were ‘opposed to left-wing nationalist regimes that the Americans themselves despised and wanted to see removed.’

Separately, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 generated its own impulses. ‘For its leaders’, an eminent Israeli scholar has observed, ‘the “Islamic Revolution” was a vision of an ideal Islamic order, not only in Iran itself but as a model for other Islamic communities to imitate’ and to ‘provide a fundamental cure, based on Islamic doctrine and revolutionary politics, for the ideological, social and economic malaise that has plagued Iranian society in modern times.’ The Islamic imperative was thus ‘both individual and collective.’ Given the nature of the convulsion and the geopolitical centrality of Iran, developments there had regional and global implications and were viewed as such. One result of it was the eight year long Iraq-Iran war in which many powers, regional and extra-regional, were complicit on the side of Iraq.

Perceptions underwent change with time and political priorities. After the experience of post-Soviet Afghanistan and by mid-nineties, the critical questions were posed differently in a conference in Tel Aviv University in March 1996:‘Is Islamism driven by religious fervor, social protest, or nationalist xenophobia? Is the rise of Islamism a threat to stability, tolerance and order? Or is it the first step towards reform, participation and democratization? Does repression of Islamists radicalize them or tame them? Are Islamists in power guided by their ideals or their interests? Should the governments of the West base their policy on human rights or realpolitik?’

After the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its aftermath in the West Asian region, Islamism took the shape of militant activity against its domestic opponents (autocratic regimes) and its external support system (Western powers led by the United States). The Arab Spring of 2011 did no emanate from Islamist movements but did result in success for the Islamists in some lands; the Arab counter-revolution was the response in others. As a result, ‘Islamism has returned to the debate and the definition of Islam is fiercely contested between religious/state establishment, middle class commercial Islam and militant insurrectionary Islam.’ The latter manifested itself in Al Qaeda Central, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and finally in the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). They all ‘offered a route to a past that never existed’, and resorted to the use of indiscriminate violence to achieve it. The ISIS also developed a social base in poorer segments of society and sustained it by promoting anti-Shia and anti-Iranian passions based on real or perceived victimization.

Elsewhere in the world, developments in West Asia and the emergence of Muslim individuals and organizations using religious motivation for violence to attain political goals and having trans-national dimensions has been witnessed in some countries of Southeast Asia, South Asia, and in some central and west African countries. A similar impulse surfaced in the case of Chechnya and Dagestan in the Russian Federation and among Uyghurs in China. The presence of volunteer fighters from some of these countries, as also from the European Union, in Iraq and Syria suggest newer dimensions to the motivational factor. Jason Burke has called them ‘inspired warriors’ who with or without assistance from organized groups and acting alone or in small networks commit violent acts in the name of God in their home countries.

A good example of excessive religious zeal to promote an engineered narrative of history and aspiration is Pakistan where the promotion of violent extremism has made Jihad ‘a pliable instrument in the hands of a few who are more politically motivated than ethically grounded.’ It has resulted in making the state and society dis-functional in good measure.

After decades of support and funding for versions of religious conservatism and activism the world over, some Arab governments registered alarm at its impact on their own populations and have sought to undo Salafi and ‘Jihadist’ thinking by promotion selectively of versions of ‘Moderate Islam.’ A somewhat similar effort is underway in Indonesia through the 2017 Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam.

In the case of India, a different set of impulses induced revivalist thinking. Many followers of the Hindu faith were influenced by strains of thought of the sages of the nineteenth century renaissance movements leading to an attempt to conflate ideas of Hindu cultural nationalism with mainstream nationalism. This was succinctly expressed by Sri Aurobindo in his famous Uttarpara speech of May 30, 1909: ‘I say no longer that nationalism is a creed, a religion, a faith; I say that it is the Sanatan Dharma which for us is nationalism. The Hindu nation was born with Sanatan Dharma, with it moves and with it grows.’

Rabindranath Tagore on the other hand called Nationalism ‘a great menace’ and ‘one of the most powerful anesthetics that man has invented’; he expressed himself emphatically against ‘the idolatry of nation.’

An eminent commentator has recently observed that ‘politics is religion in India, and religion is politics.’ There is some truth in this dictum. Socio-religious rituals do tend to overflow into everyday politics. The focus of the recent efforts here has not been about preaching of faith per se but in its conflation with a religio-politcal ideology. It emerged in the shape of Hindutva as a concept of cultural revitalization and political mobilization. Hindutva, wrote Savarkar, ‘is not a word but a history. Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, of Hindutva. Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity, of the whole being of our Hindu race.’ Savarkar’s effort was to define the two main coordinates of the Indian nation, its territoriality and its culture, and to demonstrate their congruence.

The ingredients of the concept, spelt out with greater specificity by Golwalkar, depicted India as matrbhumi (motherland), dharmabhumi (land of dharma), karmabhumi (land of duty), punyabhumi (land of virtuous deeds), devabhumi (a land of gods), and moksabhumi (land of liberation). Iran, interestingly, is depicted as ‘nothing but the base of Aryabhumi.’ Golwalkar also expressed himself candidly on authoritarian centralism:

‘The most important and effective step will be to bury for good all talk of a federal structure, to sweep away the existence of all autonomous and semi-autonomous states within Bharat [India] and proclaim: ‘One Country, One State, One Legislature, One Executive’ with no trace of fragmentational(sic), regional, sectarian, linguistic, or other type of pride being given scope for playing havoc with our integrated harmony! Let the Constitution be redrafted, so as to establish this Unitary form of Government.’

This ideological formulation, however, does not seem to gel with the more recent political pronouncements on cooperative federalism; does this signal a change of objective, or a deferred agenda?

The approach of ethnic specificity, in the words of sociologists D. L. Sheth and Ashis Nandy, ‘seeks to subjugate and homogenize the ethnic pluralities by establishing the hegemony of an imagined cultural mainstream.’ These principles, depicting Indian nationalism in terms of the faith of the religious majority, have serious negative political implications for sections of the citizen-body and are in violation of the principles of the Constitution. The distinction, an observer has noted, ‘was meant to exclude all except Hindus, though Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists would also qualify. It was Muslims, Christians, Jews and Parsis who were excluded’. It has led to the generation of politically relevant social violence in different guises by some adherents of this approach, has been reported in sections of the media and studied by many observers including the journalist Dhirendra Jha. A recent publication, Dismantling India: A 4 Year Report presents this in graphic details.

These manifestations of Hindutva combined with not infrequent ineptitude in governance and departures from the Rule of Law norms have led to expressions of unease among minorities. Observers have noted ‘chain reactions of fear (that) have largely accounted for counter-fundamentalism (and) have spurred reactions by Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists.’ Some of them have resorted to sporadic, and others to organized, violence bringing in its wake harsh responses from the state machinery.

In a different but related context and based on analysis of basic doctrinal texts, it has been argued that ‘an exclusionary nationalism actually hinders rather than enhances, national power’ and ‘hampers economic development.’

Beyond the shores of India, Buddhist fundamentalism in the shape of ethno-religious nationalism has assumed violent dimensions in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In each case, it is directed against religious minorities – Hindu, Muslim or Christian. Available literature suggests some form of state or quasi-state encouragement or complicity in most case. Earlier examples of religion-supported terrorism are the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland and the Jewish-/Zionist group Irgun opposing the British rule in Palestine before 1948.

It is thus evident that zeal or extreme ardour invoked by religious motivations, or attributed to them, has today come to occupy an unprecedented centrality in human affairs in a global community of sovereign states at different levels of development and having divergent interests and varying capacities to pursue them. This at times has resulted in xenophobia and fear of the ‘other’, leading to demonization or the deliberate use of fear for political purposes ignoring in the process the real sources of alienation in individual societies. The phobia or irrational fear thus generated has been disruptive of social harmony in individual societies.

III – Do we then confront a contradiction between the propensity to be religious as a human trait and the requirement of a global order as an unavoidable necessity for the world we live in? To resolve it, we need to probe deeper into the imperatives of both.

Apart from philosophical discussions on belief, disbelief or lack of belief, Karen Armstrong’s observation that ‘human beings cannot endure emptiness and desolation (and that) they will fill the vacuum by creating new focus of meaning’ in future millennia do seem to hold true. The challenge then is to restrain expressions of religiosity or zeal within the framework of Sarvapelli Radhakrishnan’s remark cited at the beginning of this talk, that is, ‘to bring people together, make them love each other and raise standards of living.’ This requires a level of understanding, tolerance, acceptance and accommodation that does not seem to prevail in our present-day experience. If forthcoming, would it have space for religious zeal in the accepted sense? Would not persuasion based on accommodation be the preferred approach?

The world order today is premised on the Charter of the United Nations and the compendium of Covenants, Conventions, Declarations and Resolutions proclaimed or adopted by different bodies of the UN system since their inception; these include inter alia peaceful settlement of disputes, non interference in domestic affairs and commitment to the totality of human rights. The emerging challenges emanating from pandemics and climate change add to these. Together, they constitute what could be called a broad consensus on normative standards for the Member States. This framework remains fragile since the sovereignty impulse in Member-States propels them to violate or sidestep their commitments to it with impunity and comply only when they must. These commitments are within the ambit of the state system and leave little or no space for non-state actors and for addressing of their grievances.

A few questions arise here. Why does an individual or a group think beyond the framework of law and of the available mechanism for correctives? Why and how is the individual radicalized? Is religious zeal an inevitable consequence of it? Can an easier approach of acceptance and empowerment bring forth better results? Do all radicals end up as terrorists? Is all violence terroristic? Can the social dimensions of radicalism be addressed meaningfully to identify underlying and indirect sources of conflict and correctives explored and undertaken? Can Member States be persuaded to adhere meaningfully to their commitments under the UN Charter? This would perhaps be more effective and productive than generalized condemnatory pronouncements.

The phenomenon of global terrorism needs to be viewed in this context. By its trans-national nature in organization and impact, it is threat to global order. Its articulation and expression in the language of religiosity empowers it. This has propelled the world community to address the menace, resulting in as many as 34 UN Security Council Resolutions in the 1999 to 2017 period. These are unambiguously condemnatory of terrorism, consider it a threat to international peace and security, and emphasize that ‘terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilization.’ The SCO meeting in June added to terrorism extremism and separatism as the ‘three evils’ bedeviling the world view of the participants. And yet, neither national nor global efforts aimed at preventing, containing and reversing these acts (emanating proximately or remotely from violent expressions of religious zeal) are altogether successful because they do not seem to address its primary impulses or ‘root causes’ and instead depict such suggestions as diversionary or evasive.

A corrective in thinking is thus imperative since we seem to be on the horns of a dilemma. Can two desirables – ‘religion’ and ‘global order’ negate or contain an undesirable, namely, ‘religiosity’? If not, an epoch of chaos can be predicted at the expense of human wellbeing in the world we live in. And yet, it is not beyond our capacity to think through this self-inflicted misery and anticipate outcomes in terms of the future that, as Philip Bobbitt had observed, ‘is unlikely to be very much like the past’ and in which ‘three earlier certainties about national security – that it is national (not international), that it is public (not private) and that it seeks victory (not stalemate) are about to be turned upside down by the new age of indeterminacy into which we are plunging.’

Would this induce us to proclaim a new triad that religion is not politics, that religiosity is not religion, and that global order is to be premised on global interests and not on exclusively national ones? Are we prepared, conceptually and organizationally, to undertake it even if it involves as it must going beyond the traditional paradigm of faith and of national interest? Or, could the alternative be a modern day version of Milton’s Pandemonium, the High Capital of Satan and his Peers, built by little demons?

I suspect Prem Bhatia saheb may not disagree and might even devote an editorial to it.


  1. Cited in Christophe Jaffrelot. ‘Indian Democracy At 70: Towards A Hindu State?’ in Journal of Democracy, Volume 28, Number 3, July 2017, pp 59-60. The author apprehends that ‘India is on the path of becoming an ethnic democracy’ for which the ‘bulk of conditions’ mentioned by Smooha exist.
  2. Merlini, Cesare. ‘A Post-Secular World?’- Survival, 53:2 pp117-130..
  3. Toft, Philpott & Shah. God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics (New York 2011) p 127.
  4. Atwan, Abdel Bari. Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate (London 2015) pp 15-31 and 218.
  5. Bull, Headley. The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (London 1977) pp 19 and 22.
  6. Kissinger, Henry. World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History (London 2014) p 3.
  7. Gibbon, Edward. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (New York 1952) Volume 1, p 12. It was somewhat similar in early Hindu polity – cf. Narayan Chandra Bandyopadhyaya: Development of Hindu Polity and Political Theories (New Delhi 1980) pp 420-421. The same approach was advocated by the Moghul Emperor Akbar in his homely to Shah Abbas of Persia.
  8. Marty, Martin E. & Appleby, R. Scott. The Fundamentalism Project, Volume 4: Accounting for Fundamentalisms (Chicago 1994, p 1. This study covers Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist fundamentalist movements in different countries and regions.
  9. Ibid p 7.
  10. Barkun, Michael. ‘Religious Violence and the Myth of Fundamentalism’ in Politics, Religion and Ideology, Volume 4, Number 3, Winter 2003 – Special Issue: Religious Fundamentalism and Political Extremism.
  11. Cordesman, Anthony H. Global Trends in Terrorism 1970-2016 (Center for Strategic & International Studies, Washington 2016) – Executive Summary, p 3. In this sense, a sharper focus is developed in our own categorization of internal security threat into (i) Terrorism in the hinterland of the country. (ii) Left Wing Extremism in certain areas. (iii) Cross-Border terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and (iv) Insurgency in the North Eastern States. (Annual Report of the Ministry of Home Affairs 2017-18 paragraph 2.2)
  12. New York Times, May 31, 2018 – Rick Gladstone: ’What is Terrorism? Attacks in Canada and Belgium Reflect Uncertain Definition.’
  13. Arjumand, Said Amir (ed). The Political Dimensions of Religion (New York 1993) pp 1-2.
  14. Ibid, p 5. Some specific instances of this are cited by the author.
  15. Marty & Appleby, op cit, p 20: ‘Sources of Christian Fundamentalism in the United States’ by Robert Wuthnow & Mattew P. Lawson..
  16. Choueiri, Youssef M. Islamic Fundamentalism (Boston 1990), passim.
  17. Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. Islam in Modern History (Princeton 1957). ‘The fundamental malaise of modern Islam is a sense that something had gone wrong with Islamic history. The fundamental problem of modern Muslims is how to rehabilitate that history: to set it going again in full virour so that Islamic society can once again flourish as a divinely guided society should and must. The fundamental spiritual crisis of Islam in the twentieth century stems from an awareness that something is awry between the religion that God has appointed and the historical development of the world which He controls.’ (pp 47- 48).
  18. Westad, Odd Arne. The Cold War: A World History (New York 2017) p 472.
  19. Menashri, David. Post-Revolution Politics in Iran: Religion, Society, and Power (London 2001) pp 1-3.
  20. Kramer, Martin (ed). The Islamism Debate (Dayan Center Papers 129, Tel Aviv 1997) p7.
  21. Ramadan, Tariq. Islam and the Arab Awakening (New York 2012). He focuses on the need in Arab societies of ‘a thoroughgoing intellectual revolution that will open the door to economic change, and o spiritual, cultural, and artistic liberation – and to the empowerment of women.’ (p 14)
  22. Sadik Al-Azm. ‘Arab Nationalism, Islamism and the Arab Uprising’ in The New Middle East: Protest and Revolution in the Arab World – ed. Fawaz A. Gerges (Cambridge 2014) p 273.
  23. Gerges, Fawaz A. ISIS: A History (Princeton 2016) pp 199, 219
  24. Burke, Jason. The New Threat From Islamic Militancy (London 2015) p.20.
  25. Jalal, Ayesha. Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia (New Delhi 2008) p 19
  26. Tagore, Rabindranath. Nationalism in S. Irfan Habib (ed) Indian Nationalism: The Essential Writngs (New Delhi, 2017) pp 119-133.
  27. Sunanda Datta-Ray – Business Standard, May 26, 2018, p 8.
  28. Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar. Hindutva (Hindi Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi) p 19.
  29. Golwalkar, M.S. M.S. Golwalkar: His Vision and Mission (Kochi 2008) p.42.
  30. Golwalkar, M.S. Bunch of Thoughts (Bangalore 1968) pp437- 438.
  31. Sheth, D.L. & Nandy, Ashis (ed) The Multiverse of Democracy: Essays in Honour of Rajni Kothari (New Delhi 1996) p 23.
  32. Desai, Meghnad. The Raisina Model (New Delhi 2017) p 53-54
  33. Jha, Dhirendra K. Shadow Armies: Fringe Organizations and Foot Soldiers of Hindutva (New Delhi 2017). Eight organizations, depicted as ‘communal eddies generated by the powerful currents of Hindutva politics’ have been studied in the book. The 2018 Annual Report of US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has observed that ‘in 2017, religious freedom conditions continued a downward trend in India. India’s history as a multicultural and multireligious society remained threatened by an increasingly exclusionary conception of national identity based on religion.’
  34. Dismantling India: A 4 Year Report – Ed: John Dayal, Leena Dabiru, Shabnam Hashmi (New Delhi 2018)
  35. Marty & Appleby, op cit p 603.
  36. Sagar, Rahul. ‘Jiski Lathi, Uski Bhains:The Hindu Nationalist View of International Politics’ in India’s Grand Strategy ed. Kanti Bajpai, Saira Basit, V. Krishnappa (New Delhi 2014) pp 253-254.
  37. Toft, Philpott & Shah, op cit p129.
  38. Armstrong, Karen. A History of God (New York 1993) p 399.