Thursday, March 6, 2014

Muslims, Mata Amrithanandamayi & Gail Tredwell's Holy Hell


             Those acquainted with the small piece of land called Kerala in South India are witnessing an uproar regarding a “character” popularly known as Mata Amrithanandamayi aka “The Hugging Saint” aka Amma (meaning: Mom); an individual considered to be a God incarnate. She has followers numbering in the millions across the world from various ethnicities, cultures, financial and educational backgrounds.

"Amma" courtesy of Futurama

            As of recently, the devotees of the “hugging saint” are enraged over a recently published book called Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness by Gail “Gayathri” Tredwell; she is an Australian white woman who converted and became a a very close devotee of Amma for 20 years before abandoning her in 1999. Gail’s book has accused Mata Amrithanandamayi of fraud, sexual exploitation and corruption. Gail has also reported that she had been raped by male priests very prominent in Amma’s ashramam (meaning: monastery).

The real face of Amma?

            For western readers, it is not much of a surprise that those in the divinity-business have two-faces. However, such skepticism has still not taken root in the public conscience of Indian believers and as expected the faithful devotees of Amma have denounced Gail Tredwell and have suggested various conspiracies from Hinduphobia to Hidden Christian agenda to Unrequited Love to Insanity.

            Now, where do Muslims come into this picture? Muslims are a minority population in Kerala and since their religion demands it, they are opposed to these cults developed around “holy-men”; the reason being of course, that for Muslims, Prophet Muhammad has eternally copyrighted God’s access to mankind. So for orthodox Muslims, all present personality-cults across the world are to be dismissed because only Muhammad’s personality-cult from 1400 years ago is valid. Therefore, Muslims are quite overjoyed over Gail Tredwell’s revelations with most of them going “I told you so!!!”.

            I come from Kerala’s minority Muslim population and this affair has been a topic of conversation among many of my family members and their friends. The purpose of this post is to highlight my thoughts on how the very people who remain skeptical and rational about other religious cults are unable to reflect the same questions onto their own beliefs. Here are some of the most ironic points (rephrased) made by Muslims regarding this matter;

1) “Amma’s followers are brainless-brainwashed sheep. If they could think rationally for a moment they would abandon her cult”. – The person who said this is the kind of guy who says “Qur'an is from God because it says so in the Qur’an”

2) “These followers will rationalize anything away in order to protect their belief in Amma” – Yet this person rationalizes away many of Muhammad’s actions (marriage to Aisha, Zaynab, warfare etc) in order to protect his belief in Islam.

3) “Amma and her cult are very influential, both politically and financially, and thus will try to silence those who try to tell the truth and only popularize whatever they want others to hear.” – The same person thinks early Islamic history is credible and that it wasn't a case of the winners writing their own history the way they wanted it to be heard.

4) “Gail Tredwell must have been a very na├»ve white woman to have fallen for such a cult. There are many such whites who are clueless and turn to India desperate for a religion.” – The same person does not think this is the case with the many clueless western converts to Islam.

5) “More people would leave Amma if they didn’t have to fear persecution” – The same person thinks killing apostates from Islam is justified (but only under nations implementing Sharia – what a relief!)

6) “Why don’t these people at least use their brain and question their beliefs about Amma’s divinity” – The same person has not questioned why he believes the words coming out of Muhammad’s mouth are the words of God. 

7) “Amma’s followers believe she has never had a period because she is a God incarnate in a state of perpetual purity. How stupid are they?” – The same person does not question the miracle stories around Muhammad and Qur’an and also does not reflect on the fact that Muslim women are prohibited from praying, reciting the Qur’an loudly,  fasting, circling Kaaba, staying in the mosque etc, during her menses because Islam considers it an unclean state.

8) "The Amma cult is prosecuting the journalists reporting on the controversy. Shouldn't there be freedom of press and expression" - The most speechless I have felt. The same person wouldn't think twice about putting anyone who criticizes or satirizes Muhammad behind bars.

9) "The Amma followers believe that Amma became a God-incarnate in her teenage. How could anyone believe such absurdities " - The same person believes Jesus talked as an infant and other such miraculous stories

10) "The followers of Amma are trying to silence/murder those who leave their faith. They must be very insecure." - The same person believes apostates from Islam should be killed because they are committing treason. 

            These Muslims, are astonished by those sincere individuals who are part of personality-cults. Muslims wonder why these individuals don’t see they are in a cult and why they don’t question what they are told in the cult.

            Dear Muslims, they do not see they are in a cult for the same reason you do not see you are in a cult. They do not question what they are told in the cult for the same reason you do not question what you are told in your cult. Therefore, as a remedy to this quandary, Start Questioning...