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Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

It has EVERYTHING to do with religion

15/07/2016

Brussels, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Orlando, Syria, Libya, Nice… and these are just a handful of the places to have suffered grave and unimaginable losses due to terrorism so far in 2016.

And we can shout “Terrorism has no religion!” until our throats are dry, but it is a lie.

Because all those lives have been lost not just to terrorism, but to ISLAMIC terrorism. I reiterate again, that although most Muslims are not extremist terrorists, most extremist terrorists are Muslim. And they ARE Muslim. It is dangerously naive to declare otherwise. Islam, like all Abrahamic religions, can be interpreted pretty much any way suits an adherent’s lifestyle. An extremist Muslim is just as much a Muslim as a moderate Muslim, they just take different messages from their holy book. And as long as Allah continues to resist making a personal appearance in order to mediate and clarify, that will remain the case.

It is not ‘racist’, it is not ‘discriminatory’, it is not ‘Islamophobia’. It is simply fact.

Most of those Muslims carrying out attacks in the West were born and brought up in the countries they appear to hate so very much, by parents who (I imagine) moved here for a better life. In order to try and stem the advance of this carnage, and the divisive social and political disintegration it causes, we need to stop coming out with both excuses and blanket condemnations, and start concentrating our efforts on finding out why these people hate with such vehemence.

We need to find out how they could become so radicalised against the relatively mild background of democratic Western Europe.

Is it disaffected youth, whose apparent inability to find a sense of purpose in their everyday lives made them the ideal target for some particularly amoral puppet masters?

Is it the ease with which religion can be interpreted to justify even the most heinous actions?

Is it the ease with which religion feeds into the innate and divisive human trait of seeking a righteous “us” versus an immoral “them”?

We need to find out whether their families, friends and communities simply fail to notice this radicalisation process taking place, whether their sense of kinship is stronger than their compassion for the innocent men women and children of their host countries, or whether the numbers of the complicit are higher than we dare imagine.

Most importantly , we must ensure that within our message of democratic freedom, a very clear emphasis is put on a secular Freedom of Religion. Not the freedom to do whatever you please in the name of religion, but the freedom for everyone to believe whatever they please and to live as they please, providing it is not detrimental to others and whilst understanding that religion is a personal choice, not a political or a moral framework.

And for all those who feel that the only trigger for these attacks is clumsy Western intervention in the Middle East, what about those Muslims who kill other Muslims for being the wrong sort of Muslim? What about those Muslims who kill ex-Muslims simply because they no longer believe in Allah? What about those Muslims who kill other Muslims simply because they have dared questioned some of the tenets of Islam?

I have no solutions to the sickness currently affecting Islam, but pretending it is not there is the height of stupidity.

Nice wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last – that much is certain. And whilst we should not play into the Jihadists’ hands with unjustifiable hatred towards all Muslims (another ‘Holy War’ – Islam against the world, is exactly what they are hoping for), we owe it to ourselves and to the innocent lives lost to be brutally honest about the causes, because only then have we any hope at all of tackling them.

So think about Brussels, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Orlando, Syria, Libya and Nice, cry for them and mourn with them, just don’t pray for them, for more religion is the last thing they need.

Status Viatoris

Je suis Charlie 

Twelve people dead, just to assuage the hurt feelings of some truly pathetic human beings. It is heartbreaking, terrifying and infinitely absurd.

And predictably, the apologist protestations have already begun: the terrorists are not “true” Muslims. These acts of terrorism are not religiously motivated. None of this has anything to do with Islam. None of this has anything to do with religion.

Poor, poor, poor misunderstood religion; the hardships it has to endure.

But unfortunately for religion, the deities who, several thousand years ago, so kindly dictated their respective rules, threats and petulant demands for blind obedience to willing scribes, neglected one rather important detail: clarity.

Hence why there are 300-odd Christian denominations, for example, and why some Muslims think Islam is the religion of peace whilst other Muslims think murdering their detractors in cold blood is a perfectly acceptable way to behave. Some religiously-motivated behaviour happens to comply with the laws of whichever land the adherent lives…

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Just Don’t Pray

14/11/2015

Charlie Hebdo, the apparently unstoppable rise of ISIS, refugees dying in European waters and now Paris.

Trying to make some sense of it all and attempt an opinion based on head and not heart is the hardest thing. The current trend of relying on the rhetoric of those who (albeit with the best of intentions) insist on turning the grey tones of reality into a feel-good monochrome of good vs evil and right vs wrong, is as harmful to the freedom of thought and expression as everything they believe they are taking a stand against.

Maybe some people sleep more easily at night if they have spent their day championing their chosen unfortunates through social media memes and surprisingly vitriolic attacks on those whose opinions they consider less altruistic – I am sure the certainty of their place on the moral high ground is some comfort to them in an increasingly chaotic world. But I am not convinced that their positions, as loudly as they proclaim them, are thought through with any real honesty.

I previously addressed the apologist “It’s not Islam” argument here, and although I am not going to bore you all with it again, I have to reiterate that although most Muslims are not extremist terrorists, most extremist terrorists are Muslim. And they ARE Muslim. It is dangerously naive to declare otherwise. Islam, like all Abrahamic religions, can be interpreted pretty much any way suits an adherent’s lifestyle. An extremist Muslim is just as much a Muslim as a moderate Muslim, they just take different messages from their holy book. And as long as Allah continues to resist making a personal appearance in order to mediate and clarify, that will remain the case.

It is not ‘racist’, it is not ‘discriminatory’, it is not ‘Islamophobia’. It is simply fact.

A few months after Charlie Hebdo the mass arrival by sea began and after that the heartbreaking images of Aylan Kurdi, sparking a massive response from an aghast European audience who were quick to assure the struggling refugees that they would be welcomed in Europe: an understandable reaction to the sight of a tiny body – victim of his family’s attempts to give him a more stable future, but was it really the solution?

Surely the prospect of a relatively indiscriminate welcome in Europe would (and indeed has) only serve to propel yet more people into the arms of utterly inhumane people smugglers and their unseaworthy vessels?

Surely the prospect of a relatively indiscriminate welcome in Europe would (and indeed has) encourage economic migrants to try to pass as legitimate refugees in order to take advantage of the situation?

Where is this huge influx of migrants going to live?

What are they going to survive on?

Where are they going to work?

How is Europe going to ensure that such large numbers of people are able to fully integrate into European life, and assimilate the European values that have made this the relatively successful group of countries people wish to flee to?

What explanation is there for the fact that there are children of previous Muslim immigrants – young adults born in Europe and brought up surrounded by European life and values – now taking part in murderous attacks on their countries of birth?

Who is going to rebuild countries like Syria if the brightest and best (or at least those with the funds to pay the immoral people smugglers) have been encouraged to attempt new lives for themselves in Europe?

The West has demonstrated time and again its total incomprehension of the cultural and historical mindset of Islamic countries – intervention by Western leaders is partly to blame for the spreading Jihadist mess the world finds itself in today – but is there another way in which the general populations of these countries can be given support other than the minefield (excuse the pun) of military intervention, or mass emigration?

Sadly I don’t have the answers I am only consumed by the questions, and perturbed by the attempts of some to simplify a highly complex situation by whitewashing many of the most pertinent issues, whilst allowing knee-jerk sentiment to drive their social judgements and political demands.

While the voices that appear to be shouting the loudest on the UK platform are those mentioned in the first two paragraphs of this post, the story in Italy is a very different one, partly (amongst a host of other reasons) due to the fact that Italy has long been obeying Europe’s orders to rescue and offer safe haven to boatloads of illegal immigrants, with very little back-up. Most of the memes I have seen circling here depict variations on a theme of happy immigrants living off obscenely generous government hand-outs, whilst Italian grannies hunt through the bins for scraps. No more factual than the mock-up of David Cameron, surfboard under his arm, stepping over Aylan’s corpse, but just as inflammatory – the savaging I got for taking one Italian social media commentator to task still boils my blood whenever I pass the man on the street.

So I was curious to see what would happen when a group of illegal immigrants arrived to be housed in the village. Dad, mum and small son from Ghana, two women in their early twenties from Nigeria, and two sisters of a similar age from Senegal.

The muttering from some quarters can probably be heard in Brussels (the village further up the hill got a large consignment of young African men, and the weight of the villagers’ displeasure led to the Mayor submitting his resignation) but a surprising number have been supportive of this development. And whilst the Ghanaian parents are so reserved I cannot quite see how they are going to begin making their way here, their six-year old son is already the life and soul of the party and as for the two Senegalese sisters, well they have brought with them an almost tangible sense of joie de vivre.

This, I think, has the potential to be a successful immigration story: a drip drip drip of people making it through the net in small enough numbers that the local community, rather than feeling overwhelmed, instead is able to welcome the newcomers; help them to find their feet and to integrate, whilst at the same time being able to enjoy the richness that the introduction of other cultures brings to all our lives.

And now Paris.

Disaffected young men whose apparent inability to find a sense of purpose in their everyday lives made them the ideal target for some particularly amoral puppet masters whose task is made even simpler by the ease with which religion can be interpreted to justify even the most heinous actions. It defies the imagination of normal people, as well it should.

But Paris wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last – that much is certain. And whilst we should not play into the Jihadists’ hands with unjustifiable hatred towards all Muslims (another ‘Holy War’ – Islam against the world, is exactly what they are hoping for), we owe it to ourselves and to the innocent lives lost to be brutally honest about the causes, because only then have we any hope at all of tackling them.

So think about Paris, cry for Paris and mourn with Paris, just don’t pray for Paris – more religion is the last thing they need.

(DISCLAIMER: This jumble of thoughts and ideas masquerading as a blog post is the result of my own difficulty in trying to understand what is currently occurring in the world. I am still very far from understanding much at all, but in a way I’m rather glad to be aware of that…)

*Edited with this message to the posters of this morning’s overly dramatic meme: While it would, have course, have been unforgivable on the part of the world’s press to have neglected to report on the terrorist attack in Beirut (they didn’t), claims that the world ‘only cares about white lives’ is another patently over-simplistic response. The Middle East has been in chaos for a long long time – the loss of life there as tragic as it is pointless – and many Westerners struggle even to begin to comprehend how people’s everyday lives play out against such a backdrop. But France was a country at peace, and we know France. We know Paris. Many of us have walked its streets, spoken to its people. They may speak a different language, dress slightly better, eat slightly differently; but their everyday lives are almost as familiar to us as our own, and if it happened to them, it could happen to us. Just as we are all horrified by cancer, by stillbirths, by death in general – the emotional impact is always greater when these things strike the people we know.

That does not in any way mean that we do not care about the Middle East, or about its long-suffering inhabitants, but their struggle is so complicated so apparently lacking in solutions, and so far removed from our own experiences that we no longer know how to react to it.

Childishly dramatic denunciations of a cruel and heartless ‘world’ (I presume the meme posters do not include themselves in this) are not only divisive, they serve no purpose whatsoever.

It has EVERYTHING to do with religion

09/01/2015

Je suis Charlie 

Twelve people dead, just to assuage the hurt feelings of some truly pathetic human beings. It is heartbreaking, terrifying and infinitely absurd.

And predictably, the apologist protestations have already begun: the terrorists are not “true” Muslims. These acts of terrorism are not religiously motivated. None of this has anything to do with Islam. None of this has anything to do with religion.

Poor, poor, poor misunderstood religion; the hardships it has to endure.

But unfortunately for religion, the deities who, several thousand years ago, so kindly dictated their respective rules, threats and petulant demands for blind obedience to willing scribes, neglected one rather important detail: clarity.

Hence why there are 300-odd Christian denominations, for example, and why some Muslims think Islam is the religion of peace whilst other Muslims think murdering their detractors in cold blood is a perfectly acceptable way to behave. Some religiously-motivated behaviour happens to comply with the laws of whichever land the adherent lives in, others don’t. But as religious extremists believe they are answerable only to their chosen higher power, to them it matters not a jot either way: they believe themselves to be morally superior to everyone who does not share their beliefs.

They and only they are the “true” Muslims, or Christians, or fill-in-the-blank, and their god – the one true god, in case you thought yours was – has got their backs.

And who are we to tell them differently, when every single one of the myriad of belief denominations is based on nothing more solid than an interpretation of texts written an enormously long time ago?

Sadly for us all, not one of the deities who were apparently so keen to communicate a couple of millennia ago has been back to clear up the many misconceptions, contradictions and inconsistencies left by their previous attempts at telling humans what’s what. So that leaves it up to personal interpretation, and as we know, personal interpretation relies heavily on personal experience, personal ideals and personal goals.

The interpretation is shaped not only by the character of the interpreter, but also by the life he is living, and the society and times in which he is living it. It isn’t objective. It isn’t reliable. But it can’t be disproved.

For example, if the New Testament really was a moral guide then there would have been no slavery, no Crusades, no Spanish Inquisition; in fact none of the cruelty, oppression, persecution and bloodshed committed in the name of Christianity during the period within the last two thousand years that such things were considered acceptable.

But it is not a moral guide. No holy book is a moral guide. Morals do not come from religion, they never have. Morals come from the human experience. Morals are the result of human beings discovering what aids cohesion, strength and the success of their community. And it would have been quickly clear that murder, rape, theft, adultery and dishonesty (amongst much other anti-social behaviour) within a society does not make it stronger.

Of course nowadays humans have progressed to the extent where most of us realise that murder, rape, theft et al committed against anyone at all, regardless of their “tribal” affiliations is also morally reprehensible, and so religion has been bent, watered-down and reinterpreted to suit new sensitivities. The parts of the holy books that are unpalatable to anyone with a conscience, and thus incompatible with progressive modern society, are resold as “analogies” or “not to be taken literally” regardless of the absurdity of such a statement.

For how can anyone possibly know how these books were meant to be interpreted? They stand alone.

However there are still people who remain true to the more unpalatable parts of their holy books: the Christian far right who think homosexuals should be put to death, who think women should bend to the will of their husbands, who think evolution is a lie and who would gladly drag the USA back to the dark ages of fear, superstition, bigotry and ignorance from which the Founding Fathers fled. And the Muslim extremists, who for those same reasons and more, would gladly drag the entire world into a monotheistic and theocratic hell where the word of paranoid misogynists with an intense hatred of freedom and democracy, would be law.

It has EVERYTHING to do with religion, because these people act in the name of their religion, and religion can be whatever its believer wants it to be.

It can be a reassuring sop to those scared of the permanence of death, a promise of better things for those living a life of hardship and an ego trip to those incapable of believing that we are no more important than any other species on our planet. It can offer a public veneer of “goodness” to those for whom simply being good is somehow not enough, and offer a sense of community to some who, for whatever reason, would otherwise feel alone. It can be warm and kind and touchy-feely for those who are happy to ignore the parts that are quite the opposite, and who are (happily for them) free to mould it to suit a personal ideal.

But religion can also be fire and brimstone. It can be about beliefs, not behaviour. You can be as “good” as you want, but if you don’t conform to a particular belief system, an eternity of hell fire awaits. Religion can be divisive; your tribe is the chosen tribe and everyone else is varying degrees of utterly wrong. Religion can be judgemental; it shames your sexuality, and demands dominion over your reproductive organs, your heart and your mind. And religion can also offer easy answers for the terminally disaffected – how wonderful for the previously purposeless to suddenly feel so vastly superior; able to sweep aside the boundaries within which lesser mortals are constrained to live in order to decide their fate. Commit the most heinous of acts, and be eternally rewarded by the highest power they believe there is.

These people might not represent the majority of Muslims, but they are still Muslims acting in the name of Islam, and to attempt to claim otherwise merely adds to the problem by continuing to shield religion from the scrutiny any idea wielding such power should rightly be subjected to.

And that is why the pencils of Charlie Hebdo and colleagues the world over must never ever stop chipping away at respect that is demanded, but not earned.

Why they must force people to accept that being offended is just one of the hazards of living in this fabulously free society – where everything must be questioned, nothing glorified, and where nothing or nobody is above criticism.

Why they must continue to be free to kill that sacred cow, again, and again, and again.

“I would rather die standing, than live on my knees.”

On est tous Charlie.


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