Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hegemony Through Religion (China Versus Guatemala)

All around the world, more powerful people have taken over the lands of the weak. One means of subjugation is through religion. By weakening or changing the cultural identity of the conquered, it becomes much easier to control them. China and Guatemala (Spain) adopted very different approaches to accomplish their goal of hegemony.

In China, the Han super-majority had to control the Uyghurs of restive Xinjiang. The Uyghurs, for the most part, are moderate Sunnis. Rather than obliterate Islam and all of its symbols, the Communist government, through a strategy of carrots and sticks, co-opted the Uyghur imams. Their sermons, movements, and contacts were strictly monitored. By controlling the mosques, their leaders, and their message, the Chinese government has used Islam (albeit a diluted, even soulless version) to control the Uyghur minority.

In Guatemala, the Spanish conquistadores forced all of the locals to convert to Catholicism. Mayan temples and other sacred sites were razed. Churches were built atop the ruins. The Church and the Crown essentially controlled the local population like slaves. However, pre-Columbian religious and cultural traditions continued to co-exist with Christianity. Sometimes, rites were performed covertly. At other times, the pagan rituals were incorporated into Christian ceremonies, holidays, and celebrations.

Despite the disparate strategies employed by China and Guatemala (Spain), these imperial powers were successful in controlling the Uyghurs and Mayans. As much as religion is linked to salvation, the opposite is true in many parts of the world.


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