Thursday, 18 December 2008

Religion & Terrorism

Crimes of a more mundane nature are often inspired by desperation: The need to vent one's hatred, hence murder, or the overpowering scent of greed, hence robbery or thievery.

More often than not, humans are frail, mortal creatures; we give in to our inane desires, commit crimes against the very society that we hang on desperately to for our livelihoods, and indeed we can all explain away and condemn such crimes as weaknesses of our own mortal selves.

How then, can we explain the impulsion of deranged, angry young men hell-bent on murder in the name of God?

Murder in the Name of God

Consider the lives of these three young men in question:

1. Eric Rudolph was a professional soldier with the 101st Airborne Division in the United States Army before he was discharged in 1989.

2.Mohamed Atta was a Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg student who was destined to have a bright future as an architect; in fact, his thesis professor was quite inclined to praise him, saying that "he has a bright future".

3.Ajmar Amir: A young man who desperately wanted to earn enough money so that his family can establish a decent business.

Three different men, all united by a common goal: Terrorism.

Rudolph's Mug Shot

Eric Rudolph is a Christian terrorist who is currently serving five consecutive life sentences for a series of murders and acts of terror: The Infamous Atlanta Olympics Bombings, the bombing of and abortion clinic and a gay and lesbian bar, killing and maiming hundreds in his bombing spree.

Mohamed Atta: The Leader of the Infamous 911 Attacks

Mohamed Atta was the infamous leader of the terrorist jihad group which hijacked four aircrafts and plowed then straight into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon (the forth aircraft was successfully intercepted by passengers and took a lethal plunge to earth in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, before it could reach its designated target, the White House). He did not survive the mission (None of those who participated survived. Same goes to all the passengers on board the ill-fated flights).

Caught in the Act by Security Camera: Amir in Action in Mumbai

Ajmar Amir is the sole survival of the latest Islamic terrorist attack in Mumbai.

Which leads to the inevitable question: What motivates the average Joe on the street to possess such strong will power to overcome the fear of death and the natural revulsion towards murder, to commit such large-scale, grandiose acts of murder and self-destruction?

The 2008 Mumbai Attacks

The Siege of Mumbai: Religious Terror in Action

On Nov 26, 2008, a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai marked a siege by Islamic insurgents which lasted all of three days, before Indian commandos and security forces managed to flush them out. The result of the carnage was chilling indeed: Approximately 200 innocent civilians were cut down by AK-47 gun fire, or blown into smithereens by grenades.

As the series of events, from the training of these Pakistani terrorists in their jihad camps right up to the execution of their operations began to unravel in the press, the ultimate question that faces modern civilization or the global community in general is this: Is Islam a religion of peace? Or, to put it more succinctly: Is religion the cause of extremism and the unbridled violence that has been wrought forth by religious folks hell-bent on the extermination of infidels and heretics?

Tracing the Source: Religious Holy Books

Holy Books, or Holy Nonsense???

What is not mentioned, or not mentioned frequently in mainstream media is the extremist, dark side of Religion's holy books: All too often, moderates who thump their holy books and attempt to sell their religions as the elixir to the woes of the world are apt to trumpet the kind, virtuous teachings of their religions: Thou shalt not kill, Be kind to thy neighbours and so on. Most of us are so hardwired to this kind of lame pandering to the religious right that we don't really take notice of the dark, sinister sides of religious texts that when something heinous is being carried out in the name of religion, folks begin to question and explain away the underlying issues behind such deeds: Lack of education, wrong religious interpretations of religious texts by errant mullahs and other religious leaders, poverty, etc.... Anything and everything is blamed except God, the Prophet and yes, the religious text in question. Secular folks are reticent when it comes to criticizing Islam, which comes as no surprise, considering that the general reaction towards criticism comes in the form of violence riots and mass assassination sprees.

Consider these unsavory verses from the Koran:

1. "Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is worse than carnage. . . . [I]f they attack you put them to the sword. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded: but if they desist, God is forgiving and merciful. Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God's religion reigns supreme. But if they desist, fight none except the evil-doers"(2:190–93).

2. "Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. But you may hate a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. God knows, but you know not" (2:216).

While moderates will no doubt accuse me of cherry-picking and taking verses completely out of context, in the minds of a indoctrinated Muslim fundamentalist who believes that every word in the Koran is all but divinely inspired by God and granted to men via Muhammad, such fiery words of carnage, slaying and fighting against the bad eggs or infidels who refuse to submit to Islam, plus a couple of virgins with self-repairing hymens to maintain an eternity of virgin sex, are sufficient divine inspiration for the religious man to strap a couple of bombs and eviscerate himself (or sometimes, herself) in the name of Allah.

In the book, “The 9/11 Verses: Terrorist Teachings in the Koran”, by author Karl J. Trautwein, Islam is primarily based on the Koran (The equivalent of the Bible) and the Hadith ( A collection of stories about the life of Prophet Muhammad); both teachings are a bi-polar, often contradictory teachings of Prophet Muhammad.

According to Trautwein, these teachings can be classified under two categories: A milder, more tolerant collection of verses designed to preach tolerance and forbearance towards non-Muslims, and a more antagonistic set which calls for the fire and brimstone variety: "Passages teaching peace and tolerance are believed to come from the early days when Muhammad lived in Mecca. Verses calling for hate and violence are believed to have been revealed in Medina, which was later in his life.”

Such a dichotomy is hardly surprising: Unlike Jesus, Muhammad was a conqueror, and like Genghis Khan before him, he was the final arbitrator to many who cling upon his every word in deciding many of their actions, failing which, they were quite possibly inclined to lose their lives. And like the great Khan before him, Muhammad's behavior and demeanor would have coincided closely with the degree of hostility of his conquered tribes: If they were submissive to his rule, fair enough. Live and let live, provided, of course, you pay your taxes. Failing which, a blood path inevitably ensues. And it is due to such disparities and glaring contradictions that separates the fundamentalists and the moderates: The former wants to wield power and exercise terror in the name of Religion, while the latter preaches tolerance and moderation.

The stark reality is this: Like the Old testaments and the Torah, these holy texts were scribed in a time when tribal mentality, segregation and theocracy is the rule of the day. As such, these texts are rigidly segmented and confined within a compartmental mentality that enforces the "us-vs-them" mentality. In order to read this texts without taking them "out of context" (an accusation I am apt to suffer from the hands of the Christian brethren who couldn't even quote their beloved bibles right), one has to take them in the historical context of the era they were written (a tall order, especially for the Christians, since most scholars are still wrangling over the precise authors of these holy texts).

In short, holy texts from some forgotten era cannot be held as a standard barometer for modern, social behavior; holding a siege mentality based on nothing else but clan kinship and religious affiliation in a globalized setting is akin to a sexy model wearing a bikini and sauntering straight into a board of directors meeting: It is out of place, and is terribly embarrassing.

Religion As the Source of Violence and Discord

As pious folks of the fundamentalist kind will have you know, they yearn for a utopian society based on non-secular values, rigid religious codes and horribly eschewed priorities: A woman flashing half a tit is the criminal equivalent of a murderer: Both are criminal equivalents worthy of death (Beheading for the murderer, stoning to death for the adulterer/tit flasher).

It is time the mainstream secular media and common folks realize that if we continue to turn a blind eye to the real source of terrorism and other forms of religiously-incited violence, we are ignoring the full extent and scale of the true nature of Religion, and this, I am afraid to say, will continue to egg the egos of terrorists who conspire these acts of terror against the masses.

Joyous Murder in the Name of God

"Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions"
-- Blaise Pascal