August 5, 2022
The three killings in the span of 10 days – between July 19 and July 28 shook the district of Karnataka nay Dakshina Kannada. Although the investigations are not yet conclusive, it would be collective murders. Masood B. (19) from Kalenja in Bellare (near Sullia) succumbed to his injuries on 21 July. On July 26, disbelievers on bicycles attacked BJP activist Praveen Kumar Nettare, 31, in the town of Bellare outside his shop and hacked him to death. Mohammed Fazil (23), a resident of Mangalapete in Katipalla, was killed with an ax on 28 July. Although no religion says to kill others, a good number of murders take place because of religion. This article examines the history of religious conflict and also highlights the dysfunctions of religion.
Religion is of crucial importance in any society. Basically, it is about rituals, beliefs and practices. It is not only a means of social control, but an effective guide to behavior. While acts such as kindness, sacrifice, non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, gaining knowledge, etc. are considered socially approved and religious behavior, the opposite types of behavior are considered anti-religious. The religion also declares the types of punishment imposed by the society as well as the invisible divine powers for violation of the religious code. Therefore, there are enough reasons to understand that the aspirations, motivations, efforts and behavior of people in any society are guided by their religious notions.
The dysfunctions of religion
Functional analysis is essentially concerned with the contribution of religion to meeting the basic needs of society. Before addressing the dysfunctions of religion, it is essential to understand its positive functions. Religion helps us internalize many social values through the process of socialization. Second, religious preaching consists of soothing dogmas that provide answers to the cares and miseries of life. Kingsley Davis is of the opinion that religion justifies and sustains the feelings that hold society together. Moreover, religion protects social values and leads to social control. The function of religion is the welfare of all. Religion also drives cultural development. An important function of religion is to reduce tension and maintain social harmony. While religion maintains stability in society through norms and values, it also brings about social change.
As mentioned above, religion performs many functions. But at the same time, religion has many dysfunctions or plays many negative roles that destabilize and disintegrate society. Religion hinders social and economic progress. Religion makes people dogmatic and superstitious as a result of which people oppose all kinds of scientific discoveries and technological advancements. It divides society into different sections. Religion makes people fatalistic. Instead of human effort and worship, they begin to believe in God’s desire and believe that everything is predestined. This kind of thinking makes them idle and thus the progress of society is hindered.
Religion encourages exploitation. Karl Marx is of the opinion that religion is the root cause of exploitation. In the name of religion and God, a part of society exploits others and inculcates in the exploited the idea that they are defined to suffer because of their previous karma. God created them that way and no one can change their condition. Moreover, religion creates poverty, slavery and untouchability in society. People don’t try to improve their condition because God wanted them to be in that position. Religion makes part of the population untouchable, which disintegrates society. Religion reinforces the institutions of caste and untouchability.
Religion promotes communalism by creating intolerance, distrust, hatred and jealousy among people. Because of this, different religious groups have become involved in different types of conflicts that lead to communalism and communal riots. According to Thomas F. O’Dea, religious identification can be divisive for societies. Religion builds deep into people’s personality structures a strong animosity that drives them to oppose their adversaries tooth and nail. Faith without reasoning is blind. Religion has often made people blind, dumb and deaf to reality. On the contrary, it has often made people into bigots and fanatics. Bigotry and fanaticism have led to persecution, inhuman treatment and misery in the past. Religion also creates political instability in society by becoming entangled with politics. Different political parties exploit the religious card to create vote banks.
Religious conflicts occurred not only between different religions but also between two sects of the same religion. Conflicts took place between Muslims and Christians in the form of crusades. The conflict between Israelis (Jews) and Palestinians (Muslims) continues. Similarly, conflicts between Muslims and Hindus are still prevalent in India. Differences between Shiites and Sunnis gave rise to the Iran-Iraq conflict. Tensions between Catholics and Protestants gave rise to many conflicts in Europe.
The Crusades are the eight major military expeditions launched in Western Europe between 1096 and 1270 (in the Middle Ages) with the aim of retaking Palestine from the Muslims because it was the region where Jesus had lived. In fact, Jerusalem is considered the Holy Land for Muslims, Christians and Jews. It was a time when Western Europe was developing its economy and Christianity. Kings, nobles, knights and peasants joined the crusades and fought, not only for Christianity, but also for territory and wealth. Battles were won and lost, Jerusalem changed hands several times, and there was no significant impact except for the expansion of trade. Later attempts to organize crusades failed as Europe turned its attention west across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. Meanwhile, the Holy Land was left to the Muslims.
The violence between Israelis and Palestinians today is an example of religious and political conflict. Several wars have pitted Israel against its Arab neighbors. Israeli military superiority has resulted in the seizure of land from its Arab neighbours. Because the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) saw that the Arab allies were unable to drive the Israeli armed forces out of the occupied lands, the PLO launched a campaign of terrorism, as did other groups . The goals are to destroy Israel and form an Arab state in Palestine. Today, a political solution is slowly developing as Israeli forces continue to withdraw from occupied lands, although the withdrawals are marred by violence on both sides.
India has a long history of communal conflict between various communities. The roots of violence against Muslims lie in India’s history, stemming from a lingering resentment towards the Islamic domination of India in the Middle Ages. In 1679, Mughal ruler Aurangzeb reinstated the hated jizyah (tax on non-Muslims) in his empire. It aimed to spread the law of Islam and overthrow the practice of the infidels, i.e. non-Muslims. In fact, there were anti-Muslim riots in 1707 after the death of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Later, the cause of the conflict is also attributed to the policies established by the colonial government during the period of British rule which resulted in the violent partition of India into a Muslim Pakistan and a secular Hindu-majority India with a large Muslim minority. . It is commonly believed that Britain’s “divide and rule” policy created India and Pakistan in 1947, leading to large-scale communal riots.
Collective communal violence is one of the defining characteristics of post-independence Indian politics. Although Hindu-Muslim violence predominates, violence against Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus is not unheard of. Recently, the intensity and nature of this violence has become more organized and gendered. After partition, the scale of communal violence had decreased significantly during the first decade. But during the 1960s, the politics of bank voting and appeasement swung this relative calm into a more violent phase. Although there were many riots in the 1960s, the 1969 Ahmedabad riots were major and left at least 1000 people dead. The assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984 sparked riots that lasted 15 days and left more than 2,700 dead and several thousand injured. In 1987, the Meerut riots claimed 350 lives. 1989 Bhagalpur saw massacres and arson in which over 1,000 people died, almost 50,000 were displaced and 11,500 houses were burnt down. 1992 Mumbai riots killed 1,788 people and destroyed property worth millions of rupees. In 2002, the Gujarat riots left more than 2,000 dead and 2,500 injured. The latest being the Delhi riots in 2020, where more than 50 people died and 200 were injured.
Every community riot involves irrational looting, arson, murder and injury to people resulting in loss of property and life. The main victims are women, children and the poor, ordinary people and day laborers. This leads to violation of human rights. Moreover, it creates a permanent emotional rift between the two communities and political wolves hunt to avoid disruption. The problem of majority and minority communities is everywhere. In most cases, it is the minority community that suffers. For example, when Muslims suffer in India, Hindus suffer in Kashmir because of the majority Muslim population. No society based on religious discrimination can be called tolerant. Second, riots or killings produce an ethnic polarization that benefits ethno-religious parties. Finally, community violence weakens constitutional values such as secularism and fraternity.
The police must be well equipped to deal with communal violence. The local intelligence network can be strengthened to anticipate such events. Peace committees can be set up in which individuals from different religious communities can work together to spread goodwill and solidarity and eliminate feelings of fear and hatred in areas affected by the riots. It is necessary to initiate the process of decommunalization of populations at all levels through education. Values-based education can instill compassion and empathy which can minimize the possibilities of impact that any form of communal polarization can have on people. There is a need to strengthen the cybersecurity architecture. Social media platforms should be asked to regulate hateful content and raise awareness of rumors and any type of content that may incite communal tension. In the end, the gospel saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself” can only save us from communal hatred.