Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Violence in/and Religion (4)

Post 7

In 2009, before the long interruption in this blog, I wrote a few posts about violence and rejected the notion that religion, any religion, is violent by nature, even though religions do from time to time act violently and feed into it. Instead, I argued, violence is ingrained in human nature. In this post, I simply want to draw attention to various ideas and facts about violence, mainly to Western and Muslim violence, including war and other military exploits.

Today religion is still associated with violence, on a massive scale even. Though the governments involved in the Western efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan do not argue their case on basis of Christian tenets, many citizens, especially in the USA, support it for religious reasons. At the same time, many Christians are either doubtful about the legitimacy of these exploits or strongly oppose them, for religious as well as political reasons. Muslims the world over tend to interpret these exploits as expressions of Christianity, which many of them regard as inherently violent.

Westerners, both Christian and secularists, currently talk, write and publish furiously about Muslim violence. As Muslims see the entire colonial enterprise, including the Crusades, as a Christian violent onslaught on them, so do Westerners, especially Western Christians, remember how Islam has overrun the early Christian civilizations, mostly by violence. They point to the current prevalence of violent Muslim attacks on Western establishments both at home and abroad. They are aware of the violence evoked by Salmon Rushdie’s book, Satanic Verses, some decades ago. Then there was the violence in response to the Danish cartoons. They are fearful of Muslim terrorism that attacks both Western and Muslim targets. In fact, most Westerners, including Christians, regard Islam as a violent religion. And not only Westerners. 60 million plus Nigerian Christians have years of negative experiences with their 60 million plus Muslim compatriots and are convinced that Islam is violent in its very core. They are supported in that by former Muslim terrorists converted to Christ and who have told their stories of terrorism against Christians.

Even fear of potential violence against the West is common. At the time of writing, Muslims in various countries have already reacted violently to the announced but unrealized plan to burn the Qur’an and threaten more of it in various places if the planners proceed with it. Western governments at their highest levels are condemning the threat to burn the Qur’an because it has elicited threats of violence on the part of Muslims. Most Christian leaders have strongly condemned the plan, not only because of threats of violence, but also because it would seriously set back the gains achieved in Christian-Muslim dialogue and relations and because it would obscure the peace with which Christianity aims to and is designed to bless the world.

There is a feeling in the air that Muslims resort to violence or threats to violence all too often and all too easily. A Spanish discotheque recently adopted the name “Mecca” and decorated the place with Muslim features like “a minaret-like tower, a blue dome with a half-moon on top, which made the building look like a mosque, and verses of the Qur’an inside,” according to Sinikka Tarvainen of Deutsche Presse-Agentur. The name and style of the placed sparked an international “wave of protests on the Internet,” including a threat of “war between Spain and the people of Islam.” Even diplomats got involved in the issue. It does seem that violence or threats of violence that could be defused by negotiation come too easily

There is a difference between Western responses to perceived Muslim provocations and Muslim responses to perceived Western or Christian provocations. Western governments may react with military violence or war, but Western citizens seldom incite violence against Muslims. To the contrary, Muslim governments seldom react militarily against perceived Western violence—or perceived insults to Islam. They leave it to their citizens to organize seemingly spontaneous outbursts of emotional violence that the media delight in broadcasting. (If other writers have noticed this difference, I am not aware of it. It is, to the best of my knowledge, original with me. Readers, if you have reasons to disagree with me here, please leave your comments and correct/challenge me.)

Muslim governments do militarily and politically respond to Muslim terrorists like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban within their own borders, especially when these forces threaten those governments. Various North African governments have done so at different times as has Saudi Arabia. At this very time Mauritania and Mali are fighting terrorists within their borders. But they have seldom, if ever, actively helped defuse Muslim terrorist attacks on Western targets outside of their own countries, though they may have condemned them in stirring statements and impressive declarations. The Organization of Islamic Conferences is a good example of the latter practice.

All of this brings up the question of apologies. Should anyone apologize to anyone? Well, that’s for our next post to consider. In the meantime, chew on this one. Good night.

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