Saturday, November 28, 2015

a few thoughts on religiously-motivated violence

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of religiously motivated violence is that it's an excuse to advance a group's political agenda. It has always been my interpretation of the actions of groups in the southern part of the Philippines who scream "return Mindanao to the Muslims!" when they kill people, even their fellow Muslims who don't accept their principles and support their cause. This example happening very close to me has been scrutinised time and time again by political analysts and sociological researchers and they almost always come up with the same answers. However, coming from another research perspective, I believe this repetitive finding is a little biased and it is driven by a pursuit for political correctness

Someone I know once said that sometimes we have to accept that some perpetrators of religiously motivated violence are actually driven by religion. And this is quite possibly true. We might say that theirs is an extremist, fanatic, fundamentalist and depraved interpretation of religious scrupture, but it is of religious nature nonetheless. This is perhaps something that we have to accept. Of course, the extremist wing is not monolithic and we cannot make one analysis that will define all groups but we cannot discount the idea that some of these people are actually sincere and deeply misguided and that they actually believe their acts are sanctioned by God. Of course, we cannot blame other people who practice their faiths in peace when they disown these perpetrators. For example, I, as a Quaker, as a Christian would denounce as heavily un-Christian the Anti-Balaka movement (a Christian militia formed in the Central African Republic who forcibly convert Muslims to Christianity or kill them), the Ku Klux Klan and the Westboro Baptist Church. These groups have perpetrated violence against people in the name of Christ just as ISIS and al-Qaeda commit violence in the name of God. Another example is the 969 Movement of Burma (an extremist Buddhist group composed of lay men and monks dedicated to preserving Buddhist ethnic and religious purity by committing murder in the guise of spreading Buddhist principles, they are one of the groups committing violence against the Rohingya people). And then there's the Kahane Chai (a Jewish purist group that murders non-Jews in Israel and Palestine to advance Zionist principles).

I must say that even if extremism in the name of Islam is to be condemned, I believe it is unfair that it is the only kind that receives world-wide attention. There are also groups claiming to be Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus and other faiths who are worthy of our condemnation. The attention solely and almost exclusively on ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and such groups who scream "Allahu Akbar" for the wrong reasons has caused the misinformed chunk of the human population to develop an aversion to those who practice real, peaceful Islam that is truly devoted to God.

Religiously motivated violence is a thorn in our feet and to say that it is causing us inconvenience is a major understatement. It not only creates widows and orphans and broken spirits, it also causes those who live by true and peaceful faith to be mistaken for the perpetrators and to be treated with disdain on the basis of the way they communicate with the Divine, and at times by extension, their ethnicity. However, hope is not lost. As I said in my most recent essay expressing my pain about the shootings in France, the bombings in Lebanon and Iraq, and the ongoing violence in Syria, as long as groups that believe in peace exist, or as long as there is a single person in this world who truly believes in peace and walks the path of genuine love and kindness and compassion, there is hope that all this violence will end.