Archive for July 7th, 2007

Violence & Islam: Exploring the Roots

It is a question that has been heavily pondered in silence – by myself, and I imagine by countless others: Why have so many violent, hateful people proclaimed their murderous acts to be in the name of Islam?

Today, Newsweek‘s Michael Hirsh asks it out loud, and explores what he calls Islam’s ‘Death Cult,’ the destructive aberration of a tradition that has been used to justify the countless atrocities of recent days:

Yes, we understand that many Muslims are angry—about the Iraq War, about Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and the usual list of grievances. But there are many people, in many different societies and cultures, who are angry about many things. Would any other culture or religion produce a group of doctors and professionals who apparently deemed it morally correct to kill innocent people in large numbers? Has something gone wrong with Islam itself, or at least the culture it has produced? To merely pose that question, of course, is to play with political dynamite. But it must be asked. [...]

Hirsh addresses this question thoughtfully through careful historical analysis, and examines the political roots of Wahhabism, the ultra-conservative branch of Islam that appears to be at the core of much extremist activity. Counter to what has likely become the dominant perception held by the West, Hirsh discovers that the history of Islamic radicalism is relatively short, and that the religion’s past is not any more violent than that of Christianity.

Recent events, however, highlight the perverse direction that extremist off-shoots have taken:

In one widely cited recent case, insurgents allegedly tried to trick a 6-year-old boy into blowing himself up at an Afghan police checkpoint, fitting him with a suicide vest they told him would eject flowers at the push of a button. Police managed to free the child. [LA Times]

Indeed, something must be terrible awry when “26 percent of younger Muslims (in the U.S.) say suicide bombing can be justified under some circumstances,” a statistic cited by Hirsh from a recent Pew study. This coming from members of a supposedly peaceable religion?

Hirsh concludes that Islam is facing a dangerous reality – a cancer of violence within itself that is, however small, absolutely lethal. He adds that only those within Islam are in a place to sever the violent limbs that have sprouted from the faith – while I mostly agree, I feel that it as least partly up to those on the outside to see things for what they really are.

I don’t consider hateful Christians as true followers of Christ’s teachings, nor hateful Buddhists as true followers of the Dharma. While it is undeniable that some deviant modern aspect of Islam has bred a culture of violence, we must not make the mistake of assuming a connection between the the true heart of that faith and the destruction wrought by those blinded by hate .


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