Enough is Enough

When is Humanity Going to Get That We’re All in This Together?

What Religion Can Do For You

Posted by honestpoet on April 29, 2008

Here’s a sad article from the BBC about a 19-year-old boy who was apparently planning a suicide bombing. Thankfully he was found out before he could go through with it; now he’s facing charges of terrorism.

You know, it’s hard to be a teenager. He was new to Bristol. He’d recently converted to Islam.

When I was a teenager, when you wanted to piss off Mom and Dad, you just read the Tao Te Ching or something. Now kids are strapping on vests full of explosives and sharp objects. I think I prefer Taoism as a form of teenage rebellion; at least there’s nothing in the text that can be construed as encouraging violence.

Some Muslims will insist that the Koran doesn’t, either. But if that’s so, then how come so many have killed in the name of Allah? (And lest anyone think I’m claiming Christianity doesn’t, trust me…I know plenty of violence has been done by both Christians and Jews, too…I think they’re all nuts.)

And I’ll also give credit where it’s due: the article states that the kid was picked up after an investigation following a tip-off from within the local Muslim community.


8 Responses to “What Religion Can Do For You”

  1. Monte said

    Hi HP: Only 7% of Muslims worldwide believe violence against civilians is ever justified, I read today. And of those, almost none cite religious reasons for doing so – they more likely refer to American imperialism. So I wonder if the issue could be not so much that Islam breeds violence, as that American anti-Islam does. Or at least the American penchant for subjugating non-white countries (many of which are mostly Islamic). It would be ironic, wouldn’t it, if the right were all exercised about “militant Islam” when really what they saw was simply nationalistic reaction to militant Americanism!

  2. honestpoet said

    Indeed it would! However, I think the truth is more mixed than that (as usual).

    While it’s true that most Muslims don’t condone violence (and true that the British/American military-industrial complex has done terrible things in Islamic nations — as well as other 3rd-world countries, like Catholic Central & South America and many nations in Africa and Asia), it’s undeniable that there are passages in the Koran that can be interpreted to encourage it (and also undeniable that SOME — hardly most — Muslim clerics continue to interpret them in such a way that their madrassas amount to terrorist cells). It’s my concern that young converts, with their Western notions that Islam IS all about suicide bombings, etc., are going to take their teenage angst and express it thus. I just hope that the Muslim communities in the West remain vigilant against this possibility. Having children blow themselves and their neighbors up isn’t going to do anything to ameliorate Western anti-Islamic sentiment.

    Of course the fact is that Christianity, when it was about as old as Islam is now, was just as horrible (and there are still plenty of ugly examples I could dig up). But it was a lot harder to do great harm with the sword and the rack. We’ve got nuclear weapons, submachine guns, and explosives in shopping malls to contend with at this point. We need to explore reality-based morality and quit seeking truth and guidance in these moldy old books.

  3. honestpoet said

    Here are just a couple of unequivocal quotes from the Koran Maj. bought (seized by a bout of open-mindedness) just yesterday:

    From Chapter 9:

    “Kill those who join other gods where ye shall find them; seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush.”

    From Chapter 46:

    “When ye encounter infidels, strike off their heads til ye have made a great slaughter among them.”

    Those are just some he flipped to…there’s one in at least every other chapter.

    Of course nice Muslims can choose to ignore this, just like nice Christians don’t stone disobedient sons as they’re directed to in Deuteronomy. But the fact remains that these “holy” books carry these injunctions to violence. I don’t see why people are so intent on retaining these old books; the rotten bits throw the rest into suspicion, in my view. It’s all the ramblings of madmen, not the words of any divine being.

    Reality-based morality is the only way humanity is going to make it to a peaceful future. To see the oneness of our species shows the violence for what it is: brother killing brother, an abomination.

  4. Monte said

    No doubt. But a couple of thoughts.
    1st, that a statement exists in a religious book doesn’t necessarily mean the religion “believes” in the behavior the statement. Religious books are often long, and while I’m no scholar about Islam, it is certainly true in the book of my faith that it is a progressive revelation. It rises in a crescendo, I think, to Jesus himself, then, diminuendo, into the hazes again. So while one could find statements like the one you mention in the Bible, I would see them as over-ruled by the example of Jesus. Not knowing a lot about Islam, I’m reluctant to see a statement from some point in it and say, “There. That is what Islam is like.” For a better questions is, on balance, what does the Koran recommend? (And, as far as Christians stoning their sons – though I’ve been tempted – it’s not that I overlook that part of the Bible; it’s that I see it as over-ruled, transcended, by the example of Jesus.)

    2nd, I think your description of reality-based morality – brother killing brother, an abomination – is close to the essence of what I believe, and close to the essence of Jesus. Though I come at it from a different direction – that all people are inestimably precious because they are created in the image of God (and therefore brothers) – I am convinced that “seeing the oneness of our species” well describes the ache in my heart for those who suffer. They are me. Sometimes I wish, for brief moments, that I didn’t feel that. But I wouldn’t want to live without it.

    In fact, now that I think about it, I was just speaking on this last Sunday, and included comments from a genocide expert named Amartya Sen. I almost called the sermon Everyone has a name. And I think it expresses some of what is in my heart that is also in yours.


  5. Monte said

    One more thought – at the very core of Christianity is a “one-ness” so profound that God sets aside all the privileges of “God-ness” to experience this oneness with humans. He leaves his “culture” of privilege and enters theirs as a low-status human, for the purpose of understanding their world and their pain, and spends most of thirty years in anonymity, mostly waiting, listening, and learning from them. What an example it is for cross-cultural understanding – I go, I wait, I listen and learn, I will not force. His passion is their well-being. And in the end, he calls them “no longer friends, but brothers,” and pleads with them to go and do the same. I’m still amazed by it.
    Thanks for enduring my verbosity!

  6. […] A friend blogged about a Muslim boy who was going to be a suicide bomber, got caught, probably went to prison. My much-valued friend is an agnostic, and she saw the fault of religion in it—especially given the fact the the books of our faiths seem to advocate violence sometimes. She ends: […]

  7. honestpoet said

    Lovely sermon, Monte. I especially like what I’m hearing there about women working together for peace. It’s what the world needs. I don’t see why more men don’t get in on it!

  8. Monte said

    Thanks, friend! I don’t know that, either – but I sense the expectations are changing.

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