9 thoughts on “Killing in God’s Name – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. I think part of the issue here is that we are all so weary of having to defend our religion when there seem to be so many haters out there who refuse to open their minds to any meaningful discussion. As you know, Richard, they have appeared on other discussion threads here. By the way, I commend and thank you for your open-mindedness, and for your excellent blog which gives some thinking people a forum to exchange their views.

    I have come to understand that the people who demonize religions such as Islam and Judaism are those who actually know very little about them. Unfortunately, they refuse to learn. The news media is very guilty of this ignorance but has made little effort to gain knowledge and thereby improve their reporting of religion-related issues.

    Teitel and Hassan are mentally ill people who used religion as a way to channel their illness into violence. This is the most egregious crime but it must be viewed within the context in which it occurred. When we do this, we can hopefully understand more fully the human mind and how it can shatter, and also find compassion and forgiveness for these terribly sick people.

    If Nidal Hassan had not been mentally ill, his religious faith would have been a comfort to him and would have given him peace. As a Muslim, I understand this, but to some non-Muslims with no understanding of Islam, they see it the other way around – that Islam made him sick in his mind and soul, and that Islam was the reason for his acts.

    There is no single, centralized Muslim orthodoxy and so there is no religious authority to speak against what Hasan did. However, many of the national Islamic organizations such as ISNA, CAIR, MPAC and others have issued strong statements and press releases on this subject, and many mosques have opened their doors to anyone who is interested in holding discussions.

  2. Hi Mary, you say that “Teitel and Hassan are mentally ill people.” I don’t know about Hassan but Richard wrote that no media-report from Israel has claimed that Teitel suffers from that condition.

    Perhaps we should accept that all religions produce, given certain circumstances, such vileness. Think of the Catholic-Protestant killings in Northern Ireland. Think of the fact that, according to Robert Fisk, the mass murderers of the Christian Falange in Lebanon had often attached images of the Virgin Mary to their gun butts.

    We are, however, more inclined to blame Islam as a whole, rather than Christianity or Judaism, for terrorist killings. Baruch Goldstein might have been, for all I know, mentally deranged. But, again according to Fisk, the tomb of “this mass-murderer is now a shrine in the nearest Jewish settlement to Hebron (and) a place of pilgrimage for thousands of right-wing Israeli Jews.”

    They can’t be all mentally deranged but, presumably, they are all orthodox Jews.

    1. the mass murderers of the Christian Falange in Lebanon had often attached images of the Virgin Mary to their gun butts.

      Conversely, my good blogging friend Leila Abu Saba’s grandmother, an 85 yr old Lebanese Christian, was murdered in her home by a Lebanese Muslim (& resident of the same village I believe) during the religious wars there.

  3. Hi

    My first visit to your website, and so far, I’m finding it interesting, but I can’t agree with you on the subject of religion here being the problem.

    The problem is simply with people. In every society and culture there is murder and violence, and we try to minimise it of course, but it always happens.

    There just are people who are more influnced to think that violence is the answer, and going out and killing will make them feel better about themselves. Religion might the trigger for some people but for others it’s hate, or their upbringing, or greed, or anger, or however many social issues there are. A small percentage of every group will have the tendency to express themselves violently.

    Of course, some cultures have different values, and so it’s possible the percentages might be different, but the fact is, 2 different people, with exactly the same culture will turn out differently.

  4. ANY intolerant ideology (be it religious or secular) can make people do incredible acts of violence. Don’t forget that the crimes of Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism (including Sendero Luminoso, its little offshoot in Peru) and Pol Pot were inspired by secular ideologies. It is true that religions can make mentally ill individuals channel their illness into violence (as Mary put it so beautifully). But let us not lose sight of the fact that the top 4 of most murderous ideologies in history were all secular. Apparently, people are just as capable of killing in the name of things like ‘the people’ as in the name of ‘God’.

    1. It makes sense to describe the murderous 20th century ideologies you mention as “secular”, yet the boundaries between “secular” and “religious” are not always as clear-cut or easily delineated as one might think.

      Take Nazism, it’s true that it was a secular ideology (to the extent one is choosing between those two opposing concepts). Nazism was sponge-like in that it drew on and perversely appropriated different facets of European tradition and culture for its own propaganda aesthetics (such as ancient German mystical paganism and ancient Roman monumentalism—we see the latter orchestrated in the Nuremberg rallies with the massive columns, 1000’s of krieg lights, etc), AND, crucially, many centuries of Christian anti-Semitism. This last bit can’t just be discarded. So religion is part of the story, even when it comes to these poisonous secular ideologies you mention. Even Stalinism and Maoism, though avowedly atheist, mimicked aspects of institutional religion (at its worst) in their cult of personality fetishism, their worship of the great leader.

      The main thing all these ideologies share is an obsession with drawing hard, fast lines in the sand between those who are OK and those who are Other. And then we know what happens to those human beings who fall on the wrong side of that line… (certainly with Nazism, the primary “content” of the ideology was radical ethnic nationalism, probably in the most radical expression that’s ever existed).

      This is a good discussion.

      P.S.—bringing religion into this mix isn’t easy for me, for I am a “religious” person, but it is part of the equation, if not the heart of the matter.

  5. True, but these murderous secular ideologies have been relatively shortlived compared to religion, perhaps because they had legitimation problems religion more easily escapes from.

    1. Secular ideologies in general haven’t been around very long, but the record so far is not particularly encouraging. Even mainstream liberalism and human rights were used as an excuse for going into Iraq–I know the prowar liberals used that argument. I’m not sure when it was picked up by Bush himself, but eventually that did become part of our supposed justification.

      My point being that Iraq was, in part, a secular liberal human rights jihad. Hypocritical to the core, but that was part of the justification. And in fact, much of Western colonialism was justified in roughly similar ways–we, the civilized folk, have to spread our enlightenment at the point of a gun.

  6. To relate my above comments more to Richard’s post, it’s notable that the primo murderous ideologies of the 20th century that Elisabeth mentions have no relation (that I can think of) to the religion of Islam. All the more ironic that Islam and Muslims have perversely become such objects of vilification for the West, particularly since the end of the Cold War (though obviously Western animus toward Islam goes back much further than that).

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