Jan 5, 2011

The sociological, political and moral reality of 'Blasphemy'

Naked Face of Fundamentalist Suppression: Stoning to death for Blasphemy
That human life on earth, or at least its moral underpinnings, aren't based on any immutable, pre-existing divinely-ordained moral wisdom is an arrangement that every wise man comes to comprehend fairly early on in his inquiry into life. 

In fact, it is one of the set of 'exceedingly rare  and but unmistakably accurate' insights into human condition that isn't entombed underneath several intractable layers of deductive logic and is, as it were, accessible to anyone willing just to think free from popular prejudices and in spite of religious compunctions. Unmistakable just as much, is the need to base the human morality on a foundation more stable and less whimsical than mere 'human nature' - as it is given to all evil and vice just as much to all good and virtue. 

It is perhaps a pragmatic compromise then, between these two antagonistic realizations, that in the popular imagination even our manifestly terrestrial moral precepts tend to be fastened and legitimized by divine entrapment and providential diktats.

Make no mistake, even in a secular-rational weltanschauung the 'need for solidity' of moral structures is just as acute as in a worldview that coalesces around a central divinity; and this is served in such case by a more mature philosophical approach, that of 'attributions of universality', i.e, by consecration and elevation of certain moral maxims to the status of 'universals' that have somehow been extracted by the human mind, by contemplation and genius, out of deposits of universal truth that lay deeply buried in an imagined realm of ideas.

Salman Taseer, former governor of Punjab, Pakistan. Assassinated for opposing the Blasphemy Law. He stood up demanding justice for a Christian woman facing death penalty for Blasphemy.

Dutch Film-maker Theo Van Goghkilled by a fanatic for "insulting Islam"
It is then this (tenuous) promise of constancy and stability of moral life, that elicits unflinching and enduring commitment to attempts at conceiving and proclaiming moral principles as ever-existing plenums.  Such commitment, in its benign variants, manifests as a moral-framework founded on certainty, admitting any doubt or change with great difficulty and considerable resistance; in its pathological variants, it is exemplified better by nothing than by the inane concept of 'blasphemy' which of course is unadmitting of change or doubt, but also of 'changers' and 'doubters' themselves.

The whole abstraction of 'blasphemy' is based thus on a foundationalistic fallacy as best, on treachery and intrigue at worst and on a blend of ignorance and bigotry most ordinarily.

Entrenched firmly on the manifold criss-cross of social and moral organization of human life on earth, the as-it-is degenerate doctrine of 'blasphemy' reduces to something even worse - an instrument to subvert, repress and administer the civilizational discourse. It is employed by a depraved bunch of self-appointed moral-exemplars as the wedge, to inscribe on the imagination of the foolish millions, the limits of what one must think, must imagine, express, behave and as a consequence, what one must be.

Despite its garish stupidity, the notion that something, be it anything at all, is so hallowed, so sacred and so central to human existence that mere deviation from it in any form or representation constitutes an act befitting criminal prosecution and harsh opprobrium, has sadly a wide appeal, especially in the Islamic cultures. 

Tariq Ramadan: A "liberal" Muslim Apologist
There are frequent attempts, amongst the bum-steered proponents of post-modernism, to shield the idea of 'blasphemy' from liberal criticism by drafting it into the infinitely elastic fold of moral relativism, nay moral nihilism. To use the post-modernist argument of 'boundless tolerance' in support of the concept of blasphemy is, other than mockingly condescending, a travesty of its own premise as it effectively reduces to advocating 'tolerance for intolerance'.

There is also a general expostulation of 'offence' or of feeling 'violated' by something done that is supposed to render that thing done as blasphemous and, by the sheer number of people so violated, justify the construct of 'blasphemy'. But if this general line of reasoning based on 'percieved offense' is to be admitted into the debate, then to those of liberal persuasion there is nothing more profoundly offensive as the victimization of the conscience of people on flimsy irrational and contrived pretexts like 'blasphemy'.

Moral and ethical progress, as civilizational progress, almost always precipitates  first as a militant disruption of the status-quo, of the existing moral equilibrium; very much in the mould of what is sought to be suppressed in the ideological iron-maiden of 'blasphemy'. But the pugnacious impulsion of the truth, the existential urge for liberty and the entropic distension of human freedom have consistently overcome the moral inertia and tyranny of popular injunctions to expand the frontiers of our ethical imagination.

It is the compelling imperative of truth, for all of us to think, act and behave in a manner that contributes to the broadening and enrichment of the narrative of human life on earth and reject any terrorist attempts to circumscribe it within the depraved, depleted and dreadful confines of a-pretense-of-a-morality conceived in the savage-ages.


abhinav said...

the notion of blasphemy,central to the organised religions smacks of intolerance and vested intrests more than any religious persuasion.again i feel tht the whole issue is about the acquisition of power.the wholw human existence,civilisation language,religion etc r nothing but just the dog fights for power;that basic instinct within oneself to exploit and dominate others.the existence of imposition is something which is central to your or my civilisational being.so this blasphemy has to be understood primarily in terms of a retrogade social practice,anachronistic in soul and message.it is better not to harp on the adjuncts of religion because in that case it's nourishment and defence becomes strong.even the postmordernists get a chance to speak.so to begin with it is an outdated social phenomenon and to conclude it erupts out of human psychology in the absence of knowledge and rarional cognitive process. abhinav pandya

Siddharth Kaushal said...

yes abhinav, i agree that a sufficient explnation of the dynamics of 'blasphemy' is to firmly rooted in human psychology. In fact, if i were to begin a treatise on it afresh, it is exactly how i would begin - with an grounding in the human pysche.

however, i just wanted to let you know that here my attempt was to take 'blasphemy' on face value, tackle it 'on its own terms'. Accept its pseuodo-religious premise and gnaw at its foundations from thereon by establishing its retrogressive and insidious character.

but i fully accept your point, that a comprehensive treatment of the subject here ought to begin with a full rejection of the religio-cultural stilts that support the concept in the popular imagination.

Siddharth kaushal

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