Maybe because of the conflict in Gaza there seem to be a lot of programmes on religious extremism on the news channels. Many of them focus on Islamic fundamentalism but they address militant expressions in other religions as well.
I have tended to maintain that it is poverty, discrimination, deprivation that fuels fanaticism. That if people weren’t unhappy for some other reason they would not clutch onto the extremes of religion to give their life meaning. Especially those that chose certain death in the pursuit of religious ideals.
However, one of the documentaries suggested something that got me thinking. That every religion contains the seeds of going to extreme lengths, if not violence, for a cause. That the glorification of self-sacrifice can take on the ugly shades we see today in suicide bombers.
There was footage of Palestinian parents laughing at the funeral of their matyr sons because in dying for their religion they were clearing a path for the whole family into religion. There were Indonesian men signing up to fight in Gaza. There was a Palestinian mum brandishing a gun while bidding her son, off on a suicide mission, a smiling goodbye.
But worse, there was a cleric on a radio programme in Australia telling a moderate member of his community that he didn’t share any values with the country he was living in and that his sacred mission was for everyone to convert to his religion. This made me so mad.
Earlier my reaction was to nod sympathetically. But now I’m just pissed off. If you have nothing in common with a country, why stay there. Go to the thousands of other places on earth which share your view. But no, I suppose in the grand tradition of people who are sure their way is the only way, he wants to stay on and brow beat everyone into his point of view.
There was a programme on Indonesia which showed how liberal politicians were scared to oppose the small number of hardline religious groups and so draconian laws were passed, which curtailed the freedom of women. One thing people kept repeating is that these are a small number of fanatics and the vast population is still liberal. But as one guy pointed out, it only takes five fanatics to blow up a hotel.
The fanatics get their way because they are rowdy and violent. I began to wonder – as the fanatics take up arms is it time for the liberals to arm themselves too? But then would that make us Bush clones? And would humanity be plunged into an endless cycle of violence?
The liberal view is that we must one at the level of discourse and ideas. I dunno. We can keep talking but is anybody listening? Or are we just talking to people just like us