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Saturday, April 18, 2009

World religions and women

Horoscopes and predictions make interesting reading. When George Bush Jr took over the USA, Nostradamus was widely quoted on his predictions that a world war would happen during Bush Jr's tenure. The war would be fought on religious lines and one religion Nostradamus predicted, would be wiped out from the face of the earth.

This got everyone wondering, would it be Christianity being swallowed by Islam? Would the Christian armies rise up against Islam like the Crusaders not so long ago that contained Islam and spread Christianity all over the civilized world? Some believed the religion slated for the aforesaid wiping out, could be Hinduism that is older than both Christianity and Islam put together.

Hinduism dates back as far as 3300BC during the beginning of the Indus Valley Civilization in the Bronze Age. The Jews believe Year 1 of the world is 3760 BC the year when Adam and Eve were created. But they believe Judaism as a formal religion began in 2000 BC. Christianity began in the Year of Christ 2000 years ago, and Islam 600 years later in the 7th Century. And now most of the wars have been fought to either defend or impose one religion on others.

The way we are headed it looks like there will be no place for more than one religion in the world. Scratch under the secular veneer and a fundamentalist lurks under most skins –ordinary people who will fight to the death to preserve their religion and belief system. The few who are genuinely secular qualify because they don’t care one way or another since they don’t believe in gods or heavens or hells.

The funny thing is three of the main religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam were all born in the Middle East and bear marked similarities in their sacred books, especially regarding their attitude to women. The Jews were scattered all over the world. Christianity spread and in 700AD Islam made a serious effort to overpower the Christian world.

The Moors crossed the Strait of Gibraltar invaded Christian Spain ruled then by the Visigoths who were a barbarian race. The Moors ruled for a little more than 800 years and introduced art, architecture and mathematics to Spain, before the Christians under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella routed them out and proceeded to spread Christianity to South America.

The ebb and flow of nations and cultures is deeply bound to the religions of the conquerors. Look at Goa. India too has always grappled alternately with Islam and Hinduism. Now savants argue that evidence points to Islam looking for world domination again. Almost the entire continent of Africa follows Islam, the Middle East, Central Asia, and large swathes of the Far East.

My grouse with all these Middle East religions is that women are treated with contempt. They are “one-third the value of men”. Iron clad rules are created for them. Women in the Christian world earn less than men for the same work. As recently as the beginning of this month the Israeli newspaper Yated Neeman which caters to an ultra-Orthodox Israeli readership doctored the photographs of Israel’s new Cabinet by removing the two female ministers Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver and replacing them with male ministers. The newspaper considered it immodest to print images of women. And now the Taliban with its legendary contempt for women, is practically on India’s doorstep aided most ably by the likes of the Pink Panty man and his pals under the garb of Hinduism.

Hinduism is one of the few religions that started out worshipping the mother goddess until the Ram Sene began making and enforcing their own rules and regulations. Religion and women? Mankind depends on women to keep the human race going. Yet across the board, all religions of the world go out of their way to shun menstruating women as unclean. They are banned from offering prayers at places of worship, the Old Testament told men they would have to bathe outside the city and then enter if they so much as looked at a menstruating woman. Till today menstruating Hindu women cannot offer puja and believe that if they make pickles during this time the pickle would spoil. It’s all tied to iron clad religious diktat that does not realize menstruation is like an oil-change for your car. Any way you look at it – women are screwed.

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