Murti-mutilators and religion

By Raffique Shah
August 12, 2007

HinduSo much has been said and written about the vandalism that took place at the Sewdass Sadhu temple last weekend, I wondered whether the incident warranted further comment. Really, it was bedlam as just about every organisation and individual jostled to condemn the “heinous” act of whoever entered the heritage site, destroyed the murtis and generally desecrated the building.

On the one hand, those who daily fulminate from their pulpits against “idol worship” were falling over themselves to sympathise with their new-found Hindu brethren. On the other, Sat Maharaj, sensing a centre-stage moment, called on his Rama-army to restrain itself, to not retaliate against whoever were perceived to be the enemy.

I can just visualise “thousands and thousands” of Hindus putting aside their “laarthis”, wiping off their war-paint, grumbling, but containing themselves, thanks to Sat. I can see, too, many bearded and topied Muslims, easily the primary suspects in anything that has a whiff of violence, thanking Allah that they were spared a pogrom-a-la-Bosnia. And I definitely see Pastor Cuffie now knowing what a murti is, and more than that, caring about Hanuman and Lakshmi. Lord, praise this day! And just maybe we should also praise the damn fools who committed the senseless, stupid act, for bringing these disparate, always-at-war religious types together.

People can be so hypocritical, it’s nauseating. Let’s face it: if we need policemen or armed soldiers to guard places of worship, we reach-as Trinis would say. I should think God provides more than enough cover for His temples or mosques or churches. When man needs to do that, it seems to me we have not arrived at a sorry pass, we have passed that stage. Barbarism has been battering this land for some time now, but never more so than within recent years. Religion has always been with us. And the main purpose of religion, as I understand it, is to guide the faithful along the path of righteousness. So why, at a time when we have more places of worship than ever, do we have more evil stalking the land?

When I was a boy, too many moons ago, the RC church at St Mary’s junction remained open 24/7 -as 9/11 has taught us to write dates and time. Ditto for the few “kuttiyas” in the surrounding districts, and the fewer mosques and other churches. Hell, even when I grew to that age of mischief, while we bad boys would irritate half the village (making sure you had the other half with you, or “yuh dogs dead”), we would not dare enter so-called holy buildings. The district’s Anglican church sat (as it still does) in the middle of a cemetery, and that by itself was a deterrent to us. We did not mess with ghosts, nor were we ghouls.

Nowadays, places of worship are like fortresses, their doors are locked except when prayers are conducted. No more can the weary pilgrim find sanctuary in his Father’s house. They are like police stations, locked up tighter than prisoners, from as early as eight at nights. Schools that should be buzzing with activities well into nights are sometimes locked during daytime, presumably to keep unsavoury characters out, and more than a handful of criminals in. We live in an age in which nothing is sacrosanct. Hell (sorry, father), little boys are not safe serving in choirs, just as little girls are unsafe in the presence of men who could be, and in instances are, their grandfathers.

So when those with more than mischief on their minds commit acts like what took place at Sadhu’s temple, why are we so shocked? Priests have been robbed at the altars of their churches. Rev Cyril Paul, poor fellow, has been beaten and robbed twice. We live in an age of evil, and that when all religions boast of increasing membership, of larger flocks, of blue notes in the collection bins (boxes are too small to hold the loot…er, collections). We have so many churches even I sometimes get the urge to enter their portals, to view the stained-glass windows and ceilings, or the elaborate murtis and decorations….except that their doors are locked.

Could it be that religion has failed us? Oxford professor Richard Dawkins worked up quite a storm recently when he was the focus in a documentary titled The Root of all Evil? Dawkins, an outspoken atheist, has written some clinical analyses to support his theory that religion does spawn evil, even if it does so unwittingly. The religious fraternity here can use some introspection.

I am not suggesting that religion is to blame for all the evils we are experiencing. But given its widespread influence among the masses-put together, religions boast of more adherents than political parties, carnival bands, steelbands (these three go together)-it must share blame for the degeneration in society.

Since this country is not known for having devil-worshippers, the murti-mutilators must come from one religion or other. Amen.