05 July 2005

Reaping the whirlwind


The dispute over the site at Ayodhya, India, has just led to several deaths.

Until 1992, the site was the location of a 16th-century mosque. But the Hindu Nationalist BJP party used a disputed legend that the site was the birthplace of Ram, and that the mosque had been built on the former site of a Hindu temple, to whip up a religious frenzy, leading to the razing of the mosque.

Naturally, this has led to increased communal tensions, and thus to today's attack on the site by Muslims.

I think the larger lesson is that conflating religion and politics is never a good idea. It might help you win an election, but you'll find governing much harder, and the inevitable problems will lead to defeat at the ballot box. In fact, the 2004 elections left the BJP without enough seats to form a government. But the problems they created still linger.

Much the same is likely to happen in the US should our home-grown religious fundamentalists seize more power. Their inflexibility will lead to problems big enough that they'll no longer be in power, but the whole process will leave wreckage in its wake.