It is outrageous that in this day and age a respected newspaper like the Statesman cannot even publish as innocuous an article as Johann Hari`s "Why should I respect these oppressive religions?" It is being reproduced below courtesy Independent of London where it originally appeared. It seems some obscurantist Muslims had objection to it and so the Stalinist police arrested Mr. Ravindra Kumar and Anand Sinha, the editor and publisher of The Statesman, and curiously without provoking any debate or as far as I know even any coverage in secular democratic India`s independent media.
As you will see in the article below Johann Hari is very balanced and maintains equidistance from all major religions that he mentions. He makes a plea for freedom of expression. His main point is stated in the very first paragraph: "The right to criticize religion is being slowly doused in acid. Across the world, the small, incremental gains made by secularism – giving us the space to doubt and question and make up our own minds – are being beaten back by belligerent demands that we "respect" religion. A historic marker has just been passed, showing how far we have been shoved. The UN rapporteur who is supposed to be the global guardian.
I am a religious person myself. But I don`t see how anyone can be religious in the true sense of the term without having ever been skeptical about religion, without having been agnostic or even atheist for a time. No truly religious person can ever question the right of others to question religion. He would have the confidence to know that this questioning person will come to realize the value of religion in general, and maybe his religion too in course of time. He or she will see that as this fellow is questioning religion, he/she has the capacity to someday become religious. But of course those who follow their inherited religion are not going to see it this way. They are the inhabitants of the land of Jahiliya.
Now tell me my Muslim brothers and sisters! Would there have been a religion called Islam in the world today if Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) had taken your view of his ancestral religion? Would we have had Islam in the world today if the Prophet had not questioned and rebelled against the religion of his family and clan and tribe? Indeed would we have had any religion, any science, any literature, any philosophy? All progress emanates from questioning established truths. However, this is no occasion for a discourse on progress. You cannot address followers of ancestral religions, followers of Abu Jahal, and discuss with them concepts of progress.
You can just beat them in a war and then they will join you, as the Meccan followers of Abu Jahal joined Islam after their defeat. I don`t know what the obscurantist Muslims of an enlightened city like Kolakata find objectionable in Johann Hari`s article. Perhaps it is the following passage that has provoked their ire. All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don`t respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don`t respect the idea that we should follow a "Prophet" who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn`t follow him. I don`t respect the idea that the West Bank was handed to Jews by God and the Palestinians should be bombed or bullied into surrendering it. I don`t respect the idea that we may have lived before as goats, and could live again as woodlice.
This is not because of "prejudice" or ignorance", but because there is no evidence for these claims. They belong to the childhood of our species, and will in time look as preposterous as believing in Zeus or Thor or Baal. When you demand "respect", you are demanding we lie to you. I have too much real respect for you as a human being to engage in that charade. Obviously Hari`s idea about the Prophet`s character is wrong, but it is based in large parts on the propaganda launched by Arab Muslims who want to justify their own pedophilic proclivities by announcing from rooftops even today that the Prophet married a girl of six and consummated his marriage when she was nine. The kind of fatwas Saudi Wahhabi Ulema (religious scholars) give on the issue even today, some of which available on NewAgeIslam.com, is enough to convince any non-Muslim and indeed any Muslim that this is what the Prophet did. Please refer to the following stories.