Reading ancient texts is an arduous task, no doubt. But if an opinion is to be let loose in a sea of chaos, more so if the objective is to influence public debate, that reading has to be done. Unfortunately, in the quest to reform archaic laws, notably Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that makes same-sex relations illegal, facts have been set aside. In their place, a generalised sense of a liberal ancient India has been carved out on one side and a selectively picked notion of ‘Indian culture’ on the other. As in most passionate debates, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
To the extent that sexual liberality was embedded into India’s laws, morality and society, the reading that our values instead of evolving have taken a U-turn is correct. This is best illustrated by the gentle indulgence of Vatsyayana towards lesbians and gays in Kama Sutra, approximately between 400 BCE and 200 CE. Three forms of what the law today terms as ‘unnatural sexual offences’ — sex between men, sex between women and oral sex — have been explored with compassion. You can read the full text in your own time, but here are select excerpts:
— First Post
Kishtwar violence: Hindus living in shadow of fear
The frightening memories of the atrocities committed by radical Islamists on the minority Hindu community on August 9 (Eid Day) in the sensitive Muslim-majority Kishtwar district of Jammu province are too fresh too be forgotten. The indifferent attitude of the Jammu & Kashmir Government and barbarities perpetrated by the protagonists of Kashmir’s separation from India and ardent believers in two-nation concept still lingers in the mind of several unprotected Hindus. The ‘communal assault’ on the Hindu minority community had resulted in three deaths and destruction of the Hindus’ properties on an unprecedented scale, besides causing migration of a few Hindu families to safer places.
— Niti Central
Pope Francis brings religion to the newsstand
To paraphrase Shakespeare’s musing on a name, “What’s in a cover?” In the past week, we’ve seen Pope Francis on the cover of Time as the magazine’s “2013 Person of the Year,” followed by The New Yorker’s whimsical cover of the pope as a snow angel. Now, most improbably, he’s on the cover of The Advocate, the magazine for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, that put the message “NO H8&‥8243; (No hate) on his cheek. What’s next? Sports illustrated? Jack and Jill?
— The Washington Post
New bill to act against those who insult Islam, monarchy
The Home Ministry is drafting a bill to replace current laws governing defamatory content as well as speech insulting Islam and the monarchy. Deputy Home Minister Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the new laws would help curb the spread of lies, rumours, or speech that can affect public order, without restricting the freedoms afforded by the Internet.
— The New Straits Times
Buddhism and management? Gimme a break…
It had to happen and it has. After the Gita and management and lessons in leadership from Gandhi, Buddhism and management could not have been far off. Schumpeter reports that the Buddhist focus on “mindfulness” is gaining adherents in the management fraternity.
— The Big Picture
Israeli Woman Appeals Order to Circumcise Son
An Israeli woman appealed to the Supreme Court on Wednesday against a rabbinical ruling that ordered her to circumcise her one-year-old son, the Justice Ministry said, in the first case of its kind. There is no law in Israel making circumcision obligatory for Jews, but a rabbinical court that was presiding over the woman’s divorce case ruled last month that she must fulfil her husband’s wish in the matter. Circumcision is one of Judaism’s most fundamental decrees. It symbolizes the covenant between God and the Jewish people and nearly all Jews in Israel abide by it, performing the ritual when their son is eight days old.
— The Jewish Daily Forward
Christianity vs Islam: what future awaits Europe?
The standoff between Christianity and Islam in European countries is becoming more and more dangerous each year. According to some experts, today the European community is facing a harsh choice: if the islamization of Europe continues, one might soon have to say good-bye to Christianity in the countries of the Old World.
— The Voice of Russia
Science vs religion in the Princeton Guide to Evolution
The Princeton Guide to Evolution is a collection of 107 articles on various aspect of evolution. The editors felt they should address the obvious conflict between evolution/science and religion. There are at least five different approaches they could have taken.