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Holy war in the nuclear age: A recipe for extinction

December 07, 2015 13:03 IST

The ahl-al-kitab, or 'People of the Book' as they are know westward, have been locked in a conflict primed for a terrible end for over a thousand years.

With nukes in the mix, these centuries old conflicts may be nearing an inevitable end, says T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan.

Anti-war protestors block the road during a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/ Reuters

Last week, the British parliament permitted Prime Minister David Cameron to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. He won the vote by a huge majority.

In consequence, almost all white Christians are now united in their determination to wipe out the Muslim ISIS. It is a Crusade now.

This reminded me of the monsoon of 1967. I had just joined college. A large group of British students, called the ComEx Expedition, were visiting India. There were nearly 300 of them.

Some were billeted with those of us who had volunteered space in our rooms to give them a corner in which to keep their things.

During the day they were out. At night they slept in the open in their sleeping bags.

Naturally, there was a lot of talking. The conversations, which went long into the night, almost always centred round the Middle East war which had just been fought that June.

We asked the older Brits why the Christians were screwing the Muslims in order to defend the Jews who they had screwed for 2,000 years till Hitler made them all feel very ashamed.

The Brits were third-year students mostly. So they lectured us, in the patronising way that only the British can when speaking to non-Brits. They said it had nothing to do with religion but with modern statehood, and so on.

We were straight out of school. We had never heard of these sophisticated notions behind which countries have been hiding ever since the European Reformation that eventually separated church and state. The separation took place for a variety of reasons, mostly personal, like the inability to get a divorce (Henry VIII) or the unwillingness to share taxes (all the western European kings). But that is another story.

That old three-legged stool

At 16, just out of school, we were innocent of sophisticated knowledge. We therefore tended to see the world much more honestly then than we ever would afterwards. The cloaking of religious prejudice with modern political theory would come a few months later. A few months of college life would lead us into Marxism, Golwalkarism and other West-inspired "isms".

After that we would never again refer to those basic categories into which religions divide us all.

We too would start lying in order to sound knowledgeable and modern. But, at the time we remained unconvinced. For us it was simply three religions at war -- Christians, Muslims and Jews. In our ignorance, I think, we spoke a truth that we, along with everyone else, have tried to hide ever since.

This truth, whichever way you spin it, is stark. For the last 1,000 years the book wallahs to the west of Afghanistan, the ahl-al-kitab, have been engaged in a fight to the finish.

For a long time, nearly 500 years, there was a stalemate which engendered an uneasy truce between the Christians and Muslims. East of Turkey you had the Ottoman Empire till the borders of modern Iran; to its west, you had the white Christians -- all having a go at the Jews.

The Christians persecuted the Jews at the behest of their sovereigns, who were unable to pay their debts to the Jews. So they simply organised hate campaigns and occasional pogroms.

The rich Jews slowly fled to Switzerland, which was more tolerant. It went on to become the banking centre of the world.

Secrecy, nevertheless, was essential lest some crazy Christian king lunged at the banks and their gold.

The end is nigh

This went on for over 400 years, during which the white Christians never stopped fighting each other. Between the 16th and 20th centuries they also conquered most of the world.

Most of this conquest was by the Britain, the only country which still commemorates war in its churches. No other country does that.

Hypocrisy, militancy and spin have always been the three leading British traits.

In the 20th century, the Europeans fought two long wars which devastated them. They also murdered six million Jews during 1942-45. Ashamed at last, they gave the Jews a country -- in lands that were peopled by Muslims. The Muslims protested and were repeatedly thrashed by the Jews and Christians.

In the meantime, came the oil bonanza. The Muslims of the region became as rich as the Jews.

Now, they want nuclear weapons. This threatens the Jews' existence. This has led to Christians attacking Iraq and Libya in the name of democracy and to sanction Iran. (But, if someone knows why Syria is under attack, please tell me.)

They have left Saudi Arabia alone so far, but that could change. The media has been put on the job.

Now, all three religionists have nuclear weapons -- remember our own darling Pakistan? So the end of this long struggle is only a matter of time. The latest Christian decision to declare war on the Muslims -- for the nth time since the Crusades began in 1098 -- will ensure that.

Such deep and doctrinaire animosity can end only if there is a denouement like the two World Wars, which ended European belligerence towards each other. The rest of the world can only watch helplessly as these three ancient adversaries destroy themselves and the world.

T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan in New Delhi
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