The title of this article was taken from a book written by the revolutionary socialist "Bhagat Singh" of India. However, this article will differ from his in terms of content, justifications, and specifics. Yet, the author is hightly influenced by Indian revolutionaries such as Bhagat Singh, Dr.Ambedkar, and Periyar Ramasamy.
I come from a family that is multi-religious and multi-ethnic. Along with another foreign ethnic identification of Indian ancestry, I have three state-recognised ethnic affiliations. My mother's side of the family practises Buddhism, which is the dominant religion in Burma, and my father's side practises Islam, which is one of the dominant religions worldwide. As a result, I was raised studying the fundamental concepts and rituals of both religions without being connected to any of them. The majority of people in Burma are Buddhist, and minority religious groups and the international community frequently view them as oppressors. Despite the fact that Muslims make up the second largest population worldwide, the Muslim population in Burma is a minority and frequently engages in conflict with Buddhists for a variety of reasons, including the racial animosity fostered by British colonialism and their divide-and-conquer strategy. However, my interactions with people are distinct from the identity politics of the mainstream. She was marginalised by her entire family and community because she got married to a Muslim. My mother was pressured to abandon her religious beliefs and was forcefully converted to Islam by my father's family, despite the fact that she is a majority-population Buddhist.
Throughout my childhood, I had neither a religious nor an anti-religious stance. Because my father rules the household and is the most powerful figure there, I practise Islam there. However, because my mother still harbours her Buddhist beliefs in her heart, she surreptitiously imparted to me some basic Buddhist principles. Education is not secular in Burma. Buddhism's moral principles and rituals are strongly ingrained in the school system itself. As a result, I disclosed my conformity to the Buddhist community at school. However, because of my somewhat distinctive appearance and the fact that some of my acquaintances have witnessed me visiting mosques, I have encountered some discrimination ever since I was a child. I started dating my childhood best friend when I was 16 years old. At the time, a Buddhist Arakan girl was reportedly murdered and forcibly raped by some Muslim Rohingya men from the state of Arakan. The rest of the country's Muslim population had to contend with the effects of the unification of the whole Buddhist community. Violence and racial animosity were on the rise. A random adolescent who was eager to start a life with his partner is affected by this entire situation. The whole affair, however, didn't work out and came to a terrible conclusion, in part because of my multi-religious background.
Since that moment, I have begun to devote more time to my religious studies. I was reared and born into mainstream Hanafi Sunni (deobandi) Islam that is accepting of Tariqa Sufi Islam. I consequently started to learn more about it. I was able to comprehend the essential distinctions between the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islam. The Buddhism I received from my mother, on the other hand, was Theravada Buddhism, which is the recognised state religion of Burma. I researched religions because I wanted to pick one that seemed authentic to me and was objectively true. But the more I learn about them, the more I understand about religious sectarianism.
Buddhism in Burma
Theravada Buddhism leans more towards the interpretations of Sri Lankan and Burmese monks. Theravada Buddhism adheres to the traditional teachings of Gautama Buddha as found in their Pali Canon, in contrast to Mahayana Buddhism, which is more common in nations like China, Korea, and Japan. The fundamental teachings of Gautama Buddha are still recognised in Mahayana Buddhism, but the interpretation of the scholars is also added to its Sanskrit Canon. As a result, Mahayana Buddhism has more personality cults with paranormal tales. That does not, however, imply that the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism is incapable of being modified or altered. The majority of Theravada Buddhist monks and academics were unable to distinguish between the core teachings of the Buddha and the interpretation of the Pali Canon by early scholars like Buddhaghosa. Instead of exploring and interpreting the Pali Canon on their own, the majority of Theravada monks and meditation centres in Myanmar still practise Buddhism on the basis of Buddhaghosa's interpretation of scripture.
This means that, in my opinion, Theravada Buddhism as practised in Burma is not the original Buddhism of Gautama Buddha but rather the early Buddhism as perceived by Buddhaghosa. Given that the Buddhaghosa's interpretation is debatable, I went farther and researched a few of the Burmese revolutionary monks who dared to oppose this Theravada Buddhist establishment. Buddhism is something I practise mentally, not as a belief system, to keep my mind calm and clear.
I discovered a naturally occurring, secular kind of Buddhism in Burma that was presented by the revolutionary monk "Shin Ukkaha" and was comparable to the Navayana school of Buddhism developed by Dr. Ambedkar. Shin Ukkaha has left a legacy for a number of reformist Buddhist sects in Burma that have persevered despite Theravada Buddhism's numerous oppressions.
Something of which I'm proud is that I'm partly responsible for their persistence. Even though the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture has seized all of the books and recordings of these reformist secular Buddhist sects, which are against Thereavada-state Buddhism, it took me a few years to get in touch with those who managed to keep the original records.
"Shin Ukkaha" was boycotted by almost the whole Burmese Theravada monk population and was marginalised. However, "Shin Ukkaha," the monk who brought communism (Marxism-Leninism) and Browderism from India to Burma and is still influential amongst the Burmese left-wing circle, only censored a few books that were too critical of their dogmas. I managed to dig up all of his writings and even some audio recordings. I collect all of them and develop them into an application for the progressives in our age to rebel against the Thereavada state of Buddhism.
The app can be accessed via here - Shin Okkahta
However, on the other hand, Ashin Nyar Na, a monk in a blue robe who has quit being a Thereavada monk and started his own secular/anarchistic Buddhism, which focuses more on mutual aid and cooperative values, was sent to jail for at least 3-5 decades of his time. All of his books, his monastry, and his audio and video recordings were instructed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture to be seized and destroyed. Moreover, the publication of his books is considered illegal in Burma. However, I managed to collect all of his books and recordings and maintain a relationship with him. I also developed an application that shows all of his books, audio recordings, and video recordings to challenge the Thereavada state of Buddhism.
The app can be accessed via here - Shin Nyar Na
In my opinion, though, their points may be summed up in just two sentences.
- Liberating your mind is the central theme of Buddhism.
- Buddhism offers nothing tangible in terms of material liberation. (To achieve material liberation, you are on your own).
However, these two are not too unique. Sometimes, these two can be interconnected.
Forest tradition Buddhist monasticism is sometimes perceived as an anti-capitalist movement due to its anti-work rhetoric. However, this tradition is not genuinely anti-capitalist because it has existed from the pre-Buddhist era of Hinduism and Vedic culture in India, long before capitalism was formed. Buddha himself was not a lowly labour or peasant; rather, he belonged to the feudal class.
Islam in Burma
As in other nations, Sunni and Shia Muslims make up the majority of the population in Burma. Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali are the four schools of thought found within the Sunni community. The largest group of Muslims practise Hanafi Islam, the most prevalent of these four schools of Sunni Islam. All mullahs and sheikhs are affiliated with multiple schools, even within the Hanafi school of Islam. However, within the Hanafi establishment, the deobandi movement from India has the most influence. Hanafi Islam, however, is not generally credited with the introduction of Islam to Burma. Islam Sufi, in particular Tariqa, is one of the primary reasons Islam has taken root in Burma.
When it comes to interfaith marriage, the deobandi movement is a symbol of Islamic extremism in Myanmar, which occasionally results in the forced conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. Simultaneously, the majority of imams and sheikhs who studied in the Deobandi movement have occasionally called for the forced conversion of Shia people into Sunni Islam during interdenominational marriage. Despite being Hanafi Muslims, some Muslims engage in Sufism, a kind of Islamic mysticism, despite some sheikhs and imams criticising it for its polytheistic views and mystical personality cult. There are Ahmadiyya Muslims in Burma as well, a minority Muslim group that is subject to genocidal discrimination in Pakistan. Yet when it comes to interfaith relations, they are the most active Islamic organisations in Burma, even though the whole Muslim community doesn't accept them as Muslims.
The Salafi movement, Shia movement, and Quranist movement all debunked some of the conservative Islamic law. One of the cases could be a woman who violated her religious beliefs, for example, by proclaiming three Talaq. Despite the fact that there were significant disparities among them, that case divided the whole Muslim community into two groups. Along with the deobandi movement, political Islam has been born in Myanmar. In terms of religion, the Salafi movement, also known as Wahabism, is regarded as the antithesis of the Deobandi movement. Since the deobandi movement and Sufism condemned Salafism, Muslims in Burma have long opposed it. But in Burma, the Salafi movement has expanded, which I saw as a development of political Islam.
The fundamentalist sects of the deobandi Hanafi and Salafi movements, which I believe are most authentic to the original teachings of Islam, may be thought of as being the closest to it, even though I personally appreciate modernist movements like Ahmadiyya and Quranism, which are fundamentally tolerant of multi-culturalism.
Personally, I believe the Salafi movement is the closest to authentic Islamic doctrine. In its broadest definition, salafism is an understanding of Islam based only on the Qur'an and hadiths. When deobandi movements strive to explain how the present components cannot be understood just by the Quran and the Hadiths, their arguments can be persuasive. For instance, neither the Quran nor the hadiths mention whether or not some animals are fit for consumption by Muslims. Deobandi Hanafis in such situations cited their fiqh and attempted to defend their own views, or at the very least the interpretation of their leader, Imam Abu Hanifa.
Let's say the Quran and Hadith do not mention anything about consuming this specific living thing. If Imam Abu Hanifa made a decision on his own that was contrary to the Quran and Sunnah, Islam would be violated. As a result, even if a Hanafi Deobandi consumes it, they will perceive it as the weakness of the Salafi movement. However, in my opinion, if I were a Salafi, I wouldn't consume it because I am not allowed to judge it and I am unable to locate a suitable source to support it in the Quran and hadiths.
I view Quranists as religious hypocrites when it comes to their faith. Without using hadiths, they cannot worship or perform certain actions. They tend to be liberals who are reluctant to abandon their faith. When it comes to Ahmadiyya, their understanding of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's prophecy is flimsy. Therefore, they wouldn't be my choice for someone who takes religion literally. But in my perspective, the majority of the progressive groups, including Quranists, Ahamdiyaa, and others, are idolaters of themselves rather than Allah. They are using Allah to fit their own vision of the material world instead of being His servants any longer. In Islam, something in and of itself is an unpardonable offence. However, the most fundamentalist elements—such as the Salafi and Deobandi movements—sound the most like ancient Islamic doctrines.
Since Deobandi and other Sunni sects frequently criticise and vilify Shia, I'm also speaking with a Shia imam who is currently in charge of the "Shia Library" to create an application for their right to practise their religion freely.
Religion versus Truth
Religion is not a matter of lifestyle. As they continually assert, it is about the real truth and how to get there. Therefore, I would pick a religion based not on my identity but rather on its promise of either eternal life in heaven or eternal peace. To define objective truth and subjective truth, one would need to possess substantial philosophical knowledge, which is required to provide an answer. These religions are not genuine just because they assert themselves to be the only legitimate sources of knowledge. They have been proven false numerous times throughout history in the light of science and social justice; therefore, they are far from being true.
Social Justice versus Islam
The authentic religious teachings of Islam are firmly rooted in patriarchy, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, discrimination, tribalism (between Muslims and non-Muslims), antisemitism, theocracy, and obedience, as per a significant number of verses in both the Quran and hadiths. Even in the fiqh of some religious organisations, such as deobandi and so on, these values can be seen. The majority of progressive groups, including Quranists, Ahmadiyya, and modernists, despite claiming to be politically correct, never engage in reformist activities within their Islamic circles in the name of avoiding religious sectarianism. That itself shows their lack of interest in liberating oppressed minorities such as women, lesbians, gays, and dissidents and their self-organising activities.
Additionally, since its beginning, Islam has grown via warfare. Power struggles between Abu Bakr and Imam Ali started as soon as the prophet passed away. Fatima, the Prophet's adored daughter, was one of the significant women who opposed the patriarchal Islamic caliphate authority. Therefore, it can be interpreted that since the early generations of Islam, coups, tyrannical governments, and Islamic supremacy against other cultures have all had a stronghold.
So, I think of Islam as a totalitarian right-wing religion that's based on moral objectivism, which thinks of all individuals as slaves to their God which necessary erase the ability to dissent of the individuals and thus is necessarily fascist in nature.
Social Justice versus Buddhism
Buddhism was indeed founded by Buddha to liberate the minds of individuals. Since Buddhism was present long before capitalism was invented, the way it works is totally unique compared to other late religious movements that were socio-economically tied to the development of capitalism. So, Buddhism can be appropriated by both left-wing and right-wing populism for their own causes. The ugly history of oppression against non-Buddhists by the Buddhist states of South-east Asia is the best example of right-wing appropriation when it comes to nationalist Buddhism. Such a kind of political Buddhism is apparent in Burma too.
On the other hand, Buddhism was also appropriated by left-wing social justice activists. For example, Dr. Ambedkar invented Navayana Buddhism to free the Dalits from Hinduism's repressive caste system. Some sects of Buddhism are politically correct when it comes to LGBTQ+ liberation and women’s liberation. However, in Theravada Buddhism, no matter how the western monks and communities appropriated Buddhism to their political correctness, the Pali Canon scriptures don’t allow a woman to attain Buddhahood. That itself is a product of patriarchy, and sexism. However, it’s important to acknowledge that multiculturalism has been one of the elements of Buddhism since it was founded (at least according to its pseudo history).
Because of this, I consider Buddhism to be somewhat similar to bourgeois idealism, which is more or less individualistic and politically netural. For individuals who want to pursue the philosophical explanation of their existence, it is merely a philosophical reaction.
God/Allah: a dictator to be overthrown
In light of science, the concept of God as an all-powerful omniscient being in charge of the entire limitless universe, whether it be monotheistic or polytheistic, is excessively simplistic and unsophisticated. Furthermore, this idea resembles the authoritarian notions of North Korea's supreme leader. In addition, this story of sending messiahs and prophets to the human race to spread his messages is somewhat bureaucratic and reminiscent of the Stalinist new class and military junta regimes. Why does God require messengers to communicate his truth if he is capable of creating the entire cosmos from nothing? God could simply give us the ability to obey him from the moment we are born, wouldn't that be simple? God is not all powerful if he cannot accomplish the task.
If God is able to do anything but chooses not to, then God does not want us to be as obedient as all religions claim. Furthermore, tossing someone to hell for refusing to do what you're told is comparable to the objective morality of tyranny, where doing anything the ruling class dislikes might land you in jail or a labour camp.
All of the oppressions, miseries, and injustices we experience today are only possible because of God, if God indeed the person that religions attribute this role to. According to this assertion made by Islam and other monotheistic religions, God thereby acknowledges and accepts the concepts of capitalism, the state, and nationalism. Consciously, God has changed into someone who wants us to endure the injustices and oppressions we experience.
Social Justice and Liberty
Liberty and social equality are interrelated and are essentially opposing to the authority of the state, of capitalism, and of oppressive measures. Objective truth is something that can be seen in subjects such as Physics and Chemistry where the facts will be the actual reflective of the reality. Religions have always failed to prove themselves to be objectively correct in the light of science especially the incidents of splitting the moon, stopping the sun to be rise up, and flat earth narrative especially in Islam. For me, religions are the products of primitive society looking for the answers with their myths and fairy tales. However, when it comes to human interactions which falls under the umbrella terms of sociology or socio-economic, there is no objective reality anymore. The modernism was challenged by the post-modern and post-colonial movements. The gender norms stated and reinforced by the religions, and the modernist movements are being challenged by the post-modern and post-colonial critical theories. All of these postmodernism and postcolonial movements have come into existence by looking for an alternative that can overthrow the state, capitalism and their oppressions.
The essence of religion
Christopher Hitchens begins his book God is Not Great with an approving quotation from Marx, claiming (right) that the phrase "opium of the masses" has been wrongly misapplied by many. Nevertheless, he says very little more about this paragraph after that, while also treating it similarly to the vast majority of authors who are unable to grasp all of its ramifications. One passage in particular is extremely rarely addressed in an acceptable way: "Criticism (of religion) has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chain, not so that man will wear the chain without any fantasy or consolation but so that he will shake off the chain and cull the living flower." According to Karl Marx, who Christopher Hitchens referenced, these chains stand symbolically for all the forces that have oppressed and constrained humanity throughout history. This captivity manifests both objectively in the "spirit" as well as materially in social relations and class distinctions.
In a sentence for those who don't have the privilege to spend their time on large philosophical textbooks and so on, let me paraphrase it simply: Religion was invented by the people to make them feel better about being oppressed when they couldn't afford real solution.
Numerous socialist publications and websites, including Marxists.com and others, present the Marxist interpretation of religion. This circle jerk is something I don't want to do anymore.
What's wrong with leftists?
I wanted to call attention to a few more obvious facts that most dogmatic leftists—who are just as blind as religious believers—aren't noticing. The majority of these self-described Marxist groups, such as Solidarity (Australia), the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and others, frequently struggle to see things realistically and act in a variety of reactionary ways at the expense of progressive populations being persecuted or killed in the global south. Due to their ignorance and self-righteous Dunning Kruger effect, these reactionary dogmatic self-declared Marxists are rejecting these clear facts about religious sectarianism and religious teachings.
The western civilisation may be in the fortunate position of not studying the literal religious texts since their secularism has protected them from being slaughtered for using the wrong phrase or worshipping to the wrong celestial deity. However, in the developing world, there is still no such thing as the freedom to blaspheme. Therefore, even while the majority of lefties in the west attack the new atheist movements as idealistic and rationalism as utopian, the majority of progressives in Burma and its neighbouring countries, such as Pakistan, India, and so on, still lack the freedom to be idealistic.
Ironically, though, those who have never read any religious literature mistake rationalists for utopians by applying Karl Marx's quote dogmatically, similar to what religious preachers do when referencing the Bible or the Quran. The socioeconomic context is one of the main factors contributing to religious extremism. That is merely a component of the underlying issue. The role of religious fundamentalism is also present. As the self-described Marxists ignorantly misjudged their enemies, this apologist posture of backing religious fundamentalist organisations in the name of anti-imperialism has gained popularity. Consider the SWP as an illustration for several instances of trying to recruit Islamist to obtain some votes from the Muslim population. Their politics have become regressive due to this type of tokenism.
Former Muslim activist Maryam Namazie was asked to speak at Goldsmiths College in London about "Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Freedom of Expression in the Age of ISIS" about ten years ago. Muslim students stopped her address, which focused on the treatment of women in Islam, frequently and abruptly. Did Namazie find supporters in the feminist campus organisation? No. The Goldsmiths Islamic Society was supported by the feminists.
Maryam Namazie was labelled as an islamophobe by members of the regressive left from reactionary organisations like the Socialist Workers Party. It is understandable why these regressive left-wing reactionaries detested this Iranian female who has been a lifelong organic communist and is less dogmatic and more pragmatic than they are.
In the end, this unexpected solidarity can be explained by the intimate ties between the islamists and the regressive left. We will see a relatively privileged minority of a minority who are wealthy enough to attend a renowned university for the subjects ordinary people cannot afford will exploit white guilt when intersectionality as a concept is not completely or critically explored.
Intersectionality since 1920s
Karl Marx primarily focused his criticism of religion on the widely practised religions in Europe, including Christianity and others. He had very little knowledge of religions including Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. For instance, the Stalin-sponsored Communist International and its Indian communist counterpart have never been successful in defending the rights of Dalits against the prejudice of Hinduism. The self-respect movement, which was started by S. Ramanathan and Periyar Ramasamy, did, however, struggled against the system of caste oppression.
Periyar Ramasamy took a rather straightforward intersectional approach. I'd want to directly cite him here.
"If a larger country oppresses a smaller country, I’ll stand with the smaller country. If the smaller country has majoritarian religion that oppresses minority religions, I’ll stand with minority religions. If the minority religion has caste and one caste oppresses another caste, I’ll stand with the caste being oppressed. In the oppressed caste, if an employer oppresses his employee, I’ll stand with the employee If the employee goes home and oppresses his wife , I’ll stand with that woman. Overall, Oppression is my enemy”
According to my knowledge, the term "class reductionism" was recently created to describe those who are unaware of other forms of oppression except class conflict. Marxism-Leninism was regarded as a progressive philosophy in the 1920s and spread throughout the world as a result of their ability to exploit on the success of the October Revolution. When it comes to their viewpoints on the national question, Stalin and Rosa Luxemburg will serve as the best examples of class reductionism. The majority of the prevailing Marxists at the time always viewed the national question as regressive nationalism. This provided justification for the Soviet invasion of the social democratic sovereign states of Georgia, Makhnovshchina, and others.
Periyar Ramasamy described communism as a class-reductivist ideology during the time, which was between the 1920s and the 1940s. He wrote.
"Talking Communism, without eradicating caste, is like discussing higher education without the rudiments of learning".
The book "Sex, Race, and Class" by Selma James was published at that time. Religion is no longer the opium of the masses for their sufferings under capitalism when intersectionality is taken seriously. Religion has already evolved into a populist movement. This religious populism will undoubtedly challenge secularism, one of the left's most important tenets.
All religions must be critically analysed from the perspectives of intersectionality and social justice, as Dr. Ambedkar once stated correctly: "A people and their religion must be judged by social standards based on social ethics."
When it comes to the subject of organising for the goal of working class solidarity, taking an ultra-atheist stance is perhaps foolish. I maintain to believe that it is necessary to overturn the system (religion), not the victims (religious people). Due to my close familiarity with both of these religions and their separate religious communities, I am aware of information that the western left prefers to keep quiet regarding some religious communities, particularly the Muslim community. If I'm not mistaken, I anticipate witnessing a bizarre partnership of Christian right-wing organisations and Islamist organisations against progressive ideals like feminism and LGBTQ+ liberation in the near future.
Racism, sexism, patriarchy, and other forms of discrimination and oppression are firmly ingrained in religions as well as the state, capitalism, and nationalism. Additionally, religion annihilates an individual's subjective truths and human rights by advocating self-declared objective facts that are in opposition to science and the historical development of the human race. Therefore, for me, being an atheist who happens to be anti-religion sometimes is more of a by-product of the fight for a society with social justice and liberty where local communities and voluntary organisations may organise themselves into a federal society based on a network of mutual aid. The answer to the question "Am I atheist or anti-religion?" is that religions are opposed to everything I believe in.