My usual reaction to stories about religious intolerance and violence is one of predominate sadness. I am profoundly sad to see people fight with, harm, and kill others in the name of religion when their religion and understanding of God should be leading them to reach out to others with love, respect, and cooperation. But sometimes I encounter stories to which I react with far more anger than sadness. I have just read one such story about Taliban militants beheading a schoolteacher in Central Afghanistan while forcing his wife and eight children to watch. The teacher’s “crime” was that he taught at a high school that allowed girls as students. This was alleged to be against God’s law.
I feel extremely angry over this. Even more than anger, I feel disgust. I feel strong anger and disgust toward the particular individuals who carried out this reprehensible atrocity in the name of Allah. And I feel a more generalized anger and disgust toward a religion that does not unequivocally and strenuously condemn such barbarity. To his credit, one prominent Afghan cleric did say that there was no scriptural justification for the murder. But even he appeared to stop short of condemning the act or urging that its perpetrators be brought to justice. And I strongly suspect that we won’t be hearing other prominent or ordinary Muslims do these things either. Consequently, I become increasingly convinced that this is because Islam is essentially a religion rooted in hopelessly primitive thinking and violence and that it might be better if Islam were to disappear from the face of the Earth.
Maybe I shouldn’t be saying such harsh things about any religion, especially in the grip of anger. But when I read that a prominent Saudi Muslim cleric issued a fatwa not long ago authorizing the use of nuclear weapons against American cities, when I see Muslims throughout the world dancing joyously in the streets in celebration of 9/11, and when I see and read about countless other violent and murderous acts and celebrations of such acts committed in the name of Allah and Islam, and not only is there not widespread condemnation of these events from Muslim clerics and common people all around the world, but there is often even religious rationalization of them, how can a reasonable person not come to think that Islam, as a whole, is a terribly, perhaps hopelessly flawed religion that is close to being a disgrace to the word “religion”?
It seems to me that Muslims everywhere must either speak out loudly and clearly in unison against the wholesale violence and slaughter we’ve been seeing committed in its name, or they can reasonably expect more and more people such as myself to take an increasingly dim view of their religion and to oppose the spreading of its influence.