Blog: The Mauritian cannot be separated from his Religion
Religion means different things to different generations of mauritians. If a few young people have grown up in a world which is insensitive to the religious approach, it is because the other generation parenting these youth was themselves poorly immersed in religion.
There is a generation that has grown up at a distance from the sacredness of certain rituals. The lighting of a lamp for the Hindu in the morning and the evening, the keeping of fasts on certain days, the conventional practice of avoiding non–vegetarian food on certain holy festivals – do not mean much to this generation. Ceremonies like Durga pooja, Ramnavni, Krishna Janmastami have no place in their life. And yet these persons call themselves hindu because being one is a mark of a defensive-offensive identity which they zealously flaunt in a rainbow nation where every community is selfishly protective. They do not know anything about the Vedas, nor how many they are.
Religion for a category of hindus is an untold tale. It is more present by its absence. And yet the language that is spoken reflects the folklore vehiculated by Hindu speakers of Kreol because language carries cultural experiences conveyed by oral tradition. They are distantly present in ceremonies more for the form than for the substance.
A new category has grown to become hostile to religion. These are the converts whose hatred for the hindu religion is like the hatred a jilted woman has for her first jaded love I am prone to reckon them as Hindus still because too often a religion is viewed as a way of life. The external manifestations of a way of life are conspicuous in these converts. It is only the inner being, the most telling marker, that is absent in these fake Hindus.
If religion is personal experience, it is also an experience that is canalised through socio-religious organizations which are by euphemism called sociocultural organization only to mask the real intention of the organisers. Religion becomes here becomes a collective, collegial responsibility that necessitates a leader and administrative secretariat because the organization benefits millions of rupees from the state to run places of worship. Whenever the state invests, it has to extract dividends. Thus leaders of organizations are courted by politicians and they readily become slaves of political masters. The politician wishes to preserve the power which is translated in terms of votes. The socio-religious leader is a crucial link in the vote catching web. He becomes the prime agent of politicians. The religious mission of the socio-cultural leader becomes a bait to catch votes. An entire community can be held hostage by the election of a socio-cultural leader. Religion becomes a political object of propaganda. Does it guide every political action? It would be presumptuous and exaggerated to turn Mauritius into a theocratic state and nullify all the manifestations of democratic vigour. No doubt issues that have a religious base will provoke religious debates.
We cannot take the examples of issues provoking religious controversy to generalize and say that religion must be banned from public dais.
Today what goes by the name of secular democracy seems to suggest that religion has to be confined to the privacy of personal faith. We seem to forget that the word “Religion” has its origin in the Latin word ‘Religio” which means ‘to bind’. Religion binds us to others and ipso facto becomes a political force. We must beware of dogmatic beliefs that cannot admit exceptions and flexibility. The generation that wishes to banish religion to private fields of interest is one that has been Westernized by their school education and have missed a grounding in religious knowledge. They have missed the baitka, they have missed the faith of their parents of whom probably only the mother was the carrier. It is possible that both parents had a mere touch-and-go acquaintance with religious practices. They have not participated in the home’s religious rituals as doers, but have remained strangers. That is why they feel religion is irrelevant, if not an impediment.
Should the generation that is rationalistic, mechanistic and devoid of mysticism decide for the rest of us? Very often such people wish to hoodwink the public and dupe them into thinking they are not averse to religion, because they will lose votes. They will therefore quote a few lines from their sacred books and give the impression that they are adepts of their faith in their own way. Instead of banishing religion we should ask ourselves whether our democratic actions are correct. It is we who give so much importance to sociocultural leaders that they become custodians of our faith.
Banishing the religious dimension from a debate involving fundamental meaning of life is like depersonalizing a social issue. We should make the religious thinking follow the rules of scientific myth because it is only by seeking the real meaning of the sacred word that we shall find that the universal truth of religion is not exclusive and antithetical to the truth our society is seeking. Some people are apprehensive of religion as though it was a plague. Let us be more reasonable and find how we have, to defend our faith, turned mediocre people into icons who pretend to choose for us.
We are on a self destructive course by making a mockery of democracy. Tyrannical mono-dimensional thinking cannot be admitted. We have grown up in this country with the belief in the value of multiple-tiered thinking as the only way to preserve our political stability.