Wednesday, November 11, 2009

There are some religions we should be prejudiced against

Perhaps because I believe at the core of every religion there is an incredible myth -- some sort of god(s) created human beings and that omnipotent god controls the destiny of human beings and rules over an afterlife -- I have little reason to belittle one faith more than another. That is, when they are measured by reason, science and history, I think they are all unbelievable. I don't care whether you believe in Joseph Smith's gold tablets or Mother Mary's virginity, it's all fairy tales to me. I don't have a favorite in the Sunni vs. Shiite schism, because I find Sunniism as nonsensical as Shiitism.

People who really believe in the teachings of their chosen religion, whether they want to admit it or not, are by definition biased against the beliefs of the other religions. They may believe in the rights of other religions. However, they chose one faith because they think the others got it wrong, while theirs got it right.

By contrast, I believe all of them -- at the core level -- got it wrong.

Yet I don't believe there is no good to be had in some religious beliefs or that everything they teach is wrong or without value. I have no quarrel with common sense values of being kind to your neighbors, not stealing and not bearing false witness. I am, moreover, a great admirer of groups like the Salvation Army and Alcoholics Anonymous, who take in drunks and drug addicts and other lost souls and give them a much less toxic addiction to replace drugs or alcohol. Sure, people who try to proselytize are annoying. But I'd much rather drive on a highway full of annoying Born Agains than on one with intoxicated drunks. Former drug addicts who talk up the Bible are people who, but for their "salvation," would be robbing banks and liquor stores to feed their toxic habits. There is nothing but good to be said for the religious people who feed the hungry and house the homeless.

While I believe all religions are based on mythology, I don't view every religion as being equal. That is, I do have some religious prejudice.

If a religion preaches hatred and stirs its followers to commit violence or to beat their children or instructs their men to restrict the liberty of their women, that is a worse religion than most. If a religion is set up as some kind of con game designed to get sex or money in the hands of the few who control it, that religion is worse than most. If a religion condones criminality in the name of advancing the cause of their god, that is a religion which is worse than most.

That brings me to the tragic events this week at Fort Hood in Texas, the murder of 13 people and the wounding of many more by an Army major who appears to have been motivated to commit his crime to advance his religious beliefs. Dr. Nidal Malik Hasan reportedly was "a devout Muslim" who had spoken with admiration of Islamic suicide bombers and who reportedly shouted "God is great" in Arabic before he unloaded his weapons on his fellow soldiers.

It's possible that his religious training had nothing to do with his crimes. There have literally been hundreds of other such mass murders in the United States and almost none of them were done by Muslim fanatics or by a person who was taught by his religion that this crime was justified. It is not impossible to believe that Major Hasan was simply a lunatic, a man who had lost touch with reality (much like Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer). If so, his gloss of Islamic extremism only serves to distort the picture.

I am willing to wait to pass judgment on Dr. Hasan the individual. If it turns out that -- like with Mr. Cho -- there was ample evidence that he was psychotic and had lost touch with reality, then the blame for his crime should fall on those who did not restrain him before it was too late. Psychotics don't hide their craziness. Everyone who is around them knows they are nuts. People in their circle hear the crazy things they say and think.

So far, however, I have not heard or read a single report which quotes any associates of Hasan as saying he was delusional. But it's possible he was and those reports simply have not yet come out.

Some of his family members have said he was upset with having to go to Afghanistan and perhaps his pending deployment made him "snap." To that I say: Bogus! Snapping is getting so upset you ball up your fist and punch a wall or a door or the poor chap who happens to be right next to you when you lose it. Snapping is not loading up on ammunition for weeks and carrying loaded guns into a crowded hall where you know your unarmed and intended victims cannot stop you or escape. Hasan's crime was clearly planned in advance.

If his was not the act of a deranged psychotic but was an extension of his religious beliefs and the political ideology which goes with that religion, I think it is important to distinguish between his fanaticism and mainstream American Islam. We have literally millions of mainstream Muslims in the United States and virtually none of them are behaving the way Hasan behaved. Mainstream Muslims have not condoned Hasan's mass murder. Rather, they have condemned it and said it is opposite what their faith teaches.

Yet I don't think most Muslims in America (or elsewhere) are being fully honest about "what Islam teaches." The fact of the matter is that there is more than one type of "Islam." The radical beliefs of Nidal Malik Hasan are shared by millions of Muslims all over the world. No other major religion has such a large minority of fanatics as Islam has.

The idea that you can murder innocents to advance your cause is an idea held by most adherents of Wahhabiism, the brand of Islam which came originally from Saudi Arabia and has spread to lands far distant. It is no small sect.

The response to crimes committed "in the name of Islam" must be seen not as a reflection of all of Islam or most of Islam, but a very large and growing part of Islam. That is the brand of Islam which we are at war with the world over. Ultimately, ours is not "a war on terror," it is a "war on fanatical, Wahhabiist Islam."

For that war ever to be won, the vast majority of Muslims who don't agree with Wahhabiism have to join the fight against it. Up until now, most Muslims who are not themselves haters or fanatics have been silent about the crimes committed "in the name of Islam." They have essentially lied when they say, "that is not Islam." Of course it is Islam -- it's a significant sect within Islam, one only they can stop.

This excellent article in the Voice of America News explains this well:
The picture that emerges of Hasan is that of a deeply religious man embracing the most extreme forms of his faith, according to the president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Zuhdi Jasser.

"It appears that he started to be driven towards the Wahhabi version of Islam, which is a very exclusivist, fundamentalist and militant version," said Jasser. "And their mentality is that the Islamic state takes preeminence over any other form of government - to impose the Islamic state by any means necessary."

Jasser, who says his family came to the United States from Syria in search of political and religious freedom, has a message for his fellow Muslim Americans.

"It is time for us to publicly debate imams that do believe that there should be a role for politics in the mosque because until we can separate mosque and state, the virus that infiltrates the minds of people like Hasan is going to continue," he said. "It only can be rooted out by an Islam that is at ease with liberty, freedom, and believes in American constitutional law."

I could not agree more strongly than I do with Mr. Jasser. There is no excuse left for mainstream American Muslims to not argue publicly against the extremist Muslims.

They also need to stand up and condemn groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which use Islam as an excuse to murder Jews and Israelis.
Jasser adds that the U.S. military must be more vigilant of service members who appear conflicted between their religious beliefs and their allegiance to the armed forces. He says Hasan gave clear indications of such a personal conflict and that it should not have been tolerated.

"We need to start looking at warning signs and not allowing political correctness to make us anesthetized to a radical political ideology that has within it a theological construct," said Jasser.

U.S. officials say that while Hasan's correspondence with a radical imam was tracked, the messages did not contain any statements of violent intent.

No violent intent? That is total nonsense. We are at war with radical Islam. Any U.S. soldier or civilian who is attracted by our enemy's cause needs to be considered a great danger.
Analysts note that many people come to the attention of U.S. authorities for a variety of reasons, many of which turn out to be benign. Identifying who will commit a heinous crime - and when and where it might occur - is difficult, if not impossible, according to former State Department intelligence analyst Terrell Arnold.

"You need to take from Fort Hood the basic lesson that you cannot actually predict these things," he said. "The basic problem (in predicting attacks) is life in an open society that has a high regard for individual liberties, and also life in a military community where people are very careful to avoid offending other members of the group by making charges they cannot substantiate in advance."

That is complete, politically correct nonsense. Mr. Arnold is an idiot if he believes what he is saying. You actually can predict some things. For instance, if someone is suffering from schizophrenia and believes others are out to kill him and he is collecting guns, you can predict he is a very dangerous person who should not be allowed to run his own affairs. If someone else is telling his fellow soldiers that suicide bombers are heroes and he is communicating with Wahhabi imams in Yemen, you can predict he is not fit for service in the U.S. Army.
Several Muslim religious leaders in the United States have condemned the Fort Hood attack. And much like they did after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, many Muslim Americans say they fear becoming targets of suspicion and even hate.

Civil rights advocates warn against targeting and punishing the nation's Muslim population for the actions of one man. Vanita Gupta, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, says public outrage over the Fort Hood attack is justified. But she adds there is a danger.

". . . that we create policies and practices that result in deep suspicion of entire swaths of people in a very unfair and, frankly, un-American manner," said Gupta.

I agree with Ms. Gupta that we should not distrust Muslim Americans because of what Maj. Hasan did. However, we should distrust radical Muslim fanatics; and mainstream Muslims must do whatever they can to expose the radicals and argue publicly against their interpretation of Islam.

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