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30 June 2000

10th Heidelberg South Asia Symposium: "Fundamentalism in South Asia"

Friday, 7 July 2000—South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University hopes to contribute to stepping up cooperation between Germany and South Asia—Is the relationship between politics and religion in South Asia really so different?

On Friday, 7 July 2000, the South Asia Institute (SAI) of the University of Heidelberg will be organising the 10th "Heidelberg South Asia Symposium", this time on the subject of fundamentalism in South Asia. This ongoing series of symposia is planned by the SAI as a contribution to the discussion and the design of cooperation between the Federal Republic and the countries of South Asia. Alongside the analysis of acute problems, the exchanges are largely devoted to identifying longer-term perspectives. Of central concern are the development of Germany's relations with the countries of the region, the internal political evolution of those countries and their place in the international context.

"Truly," said philosopher Artur Schopenhauer, "the worst side of religions is that the adherents of each and every one of them feel that they can allow themselves any kind of behaviour towards the others and hence proceed against them with the utmost rigour and barbarity. But perhaps I go too far when I say all religions. In the interests of veracity I must add that the fanatical atrocities springing from this principle are only familiar to us from the adherents of the monotheistic religions, in other words Judaism and its two offshoots Christianity and Islam. We have no indication of such things being perpetrated by Hindus and Buddhists." (On Religion)

Schopenhauer is anticipating here on a view that is widely held today: monotheism is to blame for fundamentalism. Belief in one god is monologic, incapable of dialogue, hierarchic, male and theocratic. Non-monotheistic religions, by contrast, show no proclivity towards fundamentalism. They are more integrative because they do not ostracise evil. They need no excommunication, no enemies or crusades. The truth they espouse can express itself in many forms and may even be covertly contained in other religions. They are less one-sided, they do not segregate the Feminine from the Divine and they are hence less fixated on the mind (books, scriptures) and on rationalism.

Is fundamentalism really the preserve of monotheism?

Is this in fact the case? Is fundamentalism really the preserve of monotheism? A highly suitable region for testing these hypotheses is South Asia, where Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity have existed side by side for centuries. Is the relationship between politics and religion in South Asia really so different? The 10th Heidelberg Symposium addresses these questions.

The meeting at the International Science Forum of the University of Heidelberg begins with a lecture by Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels on "Fundamentalism and the Foundations of Hinduism". He is followed by Prof. Dr. Monika Boehm-Tettelbach talking on "Controversial Proximity: Hindu Nationalism and Hindu Religion" and Privatdozentin Dr. Gita Dharampai-Frick on "The Tensions between Hindus and Christians in a Historical, Cultural and Political Perspective". Next in line are Dr. Dietrich Reetz on the topic "Radical Islam in South Asia: Concepts and Action in a Mass Phenomenon" and Professor Dr. Richard Gombrich on "Buddhist Fundamentalism? Buddhist Violence? The War in Sri Lanka". Subsequently Dr. Dieter Conrad sheds light on the subject of "Religious Conflicts in Legal Practice" and Professor Dr. Subrata K. Mitra closes with "The Challenge to the Secular State: Religion and Governability in India".

    Keynote themes of the former symposia were:
  • India (1990)
  • Pakistan (1991)
  • Bangladesh (1992)
  • Nepal and the Himalayas (1993)
  • Sri Lanka (1994)
  • German Cooperation with South Asia (1995)
  • Ensuring Food Supplies in South Asia (1996)
  • 50 Years of Independence in South Asia: Renewal, Change, Future Perspectives (1997)
  • The South East Asian Economic Crisis: Diagnoses, Therapies and Implications for South Asia (1998)

Please address any inquiries to:
Please address any inquiries to:
South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 320
D-69120 Heidelberg

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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Updated: 01.07.2000





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