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Human Rights

The meaning of a republic

India and the United States have one thing in common. Not only are they democracies, but they are republics. In their true ideal, a republic is a state of its citizens, not of any religion or ethnicity. The nation and its people are the state religion and ideology — the bond that glues society together. We are all equal citizens.

This can be argued to mean many things. The first Republic was Rome — it was in contrast to an empire, where the sovereign is supreme and all rights flow through him. Caesar was killed for threatening to turn the Republic into an Empire. (Ironically, his death brought upon exactly that.) — But Roman society was still very stratified. The Roman Senate, the chief lawmaking body, was backed by patricians. There was a massive slave population, as well as constant harassment of Germanic tribes at the fringes of the empire. Not everyone was equal in the Roman Empire, but citizens were. Civis romanus was a legal status that ensured protections against arrest without evidence, and trial without due process.

These days, even the worst human rights abusers call themselves Republics, or People’s Republics. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the heinous North Korea, the official name for Libya is the Libyan Arab Gamhariyya (Republic), and Syria is the Syrian Arab Republic. These countries are not what we think of republics.

But India and the United States come to mind when we think of republics. I was thinking about a man who killed an Indian Hindu and injured a Bangladeshi Muslim in response to the 9/11 attacks — and I thought, Muslims serve in this country’s military. Candidates for President have said that Muslims do not have a right to build mosques in the United States. — The promise of a republic is equal service and equal opportunity for all its citizens. Our national bond is the religion.

This is replete in Indian and American history. In this early 60s Indian film, the uniform of the Indian republic is neither religion nor caste, but the simple tunic of humility and patriotism.

This is the Pakistani version – note the importance of “re-taking Kashmir”.

This 1899 photo of pledging loyalty to the United States also illustrates the concept. No doubt, the photo of the President of the United States was framed in the classroom.

By AFarooqui

I write about the dichotomies present in religion, gathered mostly from discussions with average Jews, Christians, Muslims and atheists.

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