Say No to Intolerance


Regular readers will know that apart from my Chicken Little – the sky is falling approach to the topic of climate change and the very rare, occasional rant,   I try to keep this blog a bright and happy place.  But there has been too much happening in the news to keep the dark clouds away.

The situation in Egypt and Tunisia is one of great tragedy.  It starting in Tunisia when a poor street vendor,  Mohamed Bouazizi, was prevented from trading and earning an income in a place with 30% unemployment as a result of petty corruption and bureaucratic indifference.  The young man, left with no options or hope, set himself alight in front of the governor’s office and died of his wounds.  His cry for a chance to live with dignity and freedom resonated with the Tunisian people and was the spark that led to the protests that brought down the government of President Ben Ali.  And the vision of a chance for a better life spread to Egypt where the protests have claimed more than 300 lives already.  However, there have been uplifting moments too.   I cannot feel but inspired when I heard about how Christians and Muslims in Egypt are uniting for the common good.  Specifically, it has been encouraging to hear of both Christian and Muslim services conducted to pay respect for the dead or when the Christian protesters stood on guard by providing a cordon of protection for their Muslim brothers while the latter performed their Friday prayers in Tahrir Square – the epicenter of the protests in Cairo.  While we hope for a good outcome to all this for the people of Egypt in the future, it is already a blessing to see this kind of mutual inter-faith cooperation and respect.

Unfortunately, religious intolerance is still all to real and prevalent in the world.  Now atrocities committed in the name of religion has occurred throughout history.  So much so that atheists like Richard Dawkins point to such atrocities as proof that religion is a subversive delusion and he claims that atheists would never commit the same atrocities.  I don’t happen to agree with Richard Dawkins on a lot of things (after all did not atheist Stalin create the Gulags?  or atheist Chairman Mao oversee the Cultural Revolution in China that killed millions?  or how about the Khmer Rogue?) but religious intolerance really reflects badly on religions and give atheists a lot of ammunition.

I am sure most of us are glad that things like the Spanish Inquisition or the Holocaust has been relegated to history and hopefully with vigilance, never to return.  However, I have been disturbed by recent news from Indonesia and Afghanistan which are the anti-thesis to the religious cooperation shown by the Christian and Muslim protesters in Egypt.

First, I refer to the attacks on religious minorities in Indonesia.  In the video below, an inflamed mob attacks a small community of a minority Islamic sect, the Ahmadiyya.  Buildings and property was destroyed but worse of all, three men were stripped naked and beaten and stoned to death.  Several others are hospitalised in serious condition and two are missing.  The police are seen in the video doing little to stop the violence and to protect the victims.  The government reiteration that they will protect the minority groups ring hollow when the President seems to imply that the sect brought the violence on themselves by not agreeing to stop their activities as per their “agreement”.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Christians are another religious minority  in Indonesia that have suffered from some form of religious discrimination for many years.  There have been civil unrest that have resulted in loss of life.  Last year, there were 45 officially recognised cases of attacks on Christians or their churches in Indonesia; ranging from vandalism and desecration to church closures to stabbings and bombs.  Like in the case of the Ahmadiyya attack, many civil society and human rights group wish that the authorities take more concrete and practical steps to protect minorities.

From Afghanistan, a video has emerged which graphically shows the stoning to death of a young couple sometime in August last year.  According to one report, the young couple eloped and fled to Pakistan.  However, they were enticed to return to their village by promises that the families were willing to reconcile and to give them a proper wedding.  Instead, on their return, they were sentenced by the Taliban to death by stoning for having a love affair.  The video of the merciless and brutal stoning of first the woman and then the man is so horrific that I do not want to have it on this blog.  Yet more people should see it and speak out against it.  If you want to see it, follow this link

Meanwhile, an estimated 5,000 “honour killings” are carried out every year where girls (and sometimes guys) are killed by family members for shaming the family.  In a recently highlighted case in Italy, a young woman, Hina Saleem, had shamed her family by refusing to an arranged marriage, smoking and living with her Italian boyfriend.  In an interview, the father claimed to be a good father and that he loved his daughter.  He slit her throat 27 times and then with the help of others buried the body.

If these things upset you or if you agree they must be stopped than please take action.  I appeal to people and religious leaders everywhere and of all creeds and religion to speak out against religious intolerance and the lack of respect for human life and dignity.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

P.S. Please do not think I am singling out Islam (although I do wish the Ulamas and Islamic intellectuals take a much stronger stand against these acts) but these have been the recent examples of intolerance in the news.  The truth is no religion has been free of intolerance which I hold as a problem of  human beings rather than  the tenets of any religion.

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18 thoughts on “Say No to Intolerance”

  1. Ban all forms of religion and creed dictated by men to subvert other men into a way that is agreeable to a majority then you will have peace for there will be no religion. Let each man follow the path God has set before him witn no Pastor, preacher, teacher, Imam or monk to lead him but let as Buddha said”each find their own path”. I despise all religions.

  2. such senseless tragedy
    such overwhelming sadness

    I agree with you LGS
    If only the brightest aspects of our species and our credos could be ascendent

  3. The head of the military just said “Tonight this is over. Your demands will be met” Now we will wait to see what happens next. Can they keep the peace and stop the killing? Egypt is going to change but how.

  4. When a man’s belly is empty, when his limbs are freezing, or he loses all he owns to a devastating flood, teaching him about God at that time is useless. Better that we teach him how to grow his own crops so he learns not to steal or murder his fellow man, or give him an education so he can build his own house etc etc – slowly he will learn respect for others and in that he will find the Higher Power and be an example of love and compassion to even the rich as well as the poor.

    In other cases religious intolerance is brought about by the double standards of another religion – a case in point: Osama bin Laden’s twisting of his religion. What happened on 9/11 is despicable and evil : WHAT CAUSED IT WAS EQUALLY SO. The American government gives everyone including the youth in Saudia Arabia huge amounts of money in exchange for their oil. The youth as well as the older generations have become lazy, uncaring and very very bored – a perfect breeding ground for intolerance of any kind. So much attention has centered around bin Laden yet rarely does one hear any complaint about American foreign policies – or their religious ones for that matter…now I ask you what is wrong with that picture?

  5. Ach, GOtt … IMHO what we face are all the same mechanisms. Being different and self, taking the freedom to deceide as oneself about what to believe, what to do with the body, how to live life – it’s all deeply anti-individual and anti-humanist. Of course religion always has in a society the tendency to function in the sense of retention of power – all too often the religious system is part of the ruling forces. So appaling and brute these deeds are: Can values as individuality, individual freedom (all that is summarized in the rights of man / Menschenrechte) claimed or requisitioned from outside? Of course they must, I can not stand aside and give a stone to the talib, because next stone may be thrown at me. I only would like to emphazize that it is a cultural problem of a society too – why are these fools killing teachers, bombing schools especially for girls in Afghanistan? The basis is fear. Fear of free thinking and independent individuals.

    I did not realize that the attacked the Ahmadyya. They have a mosque here. Does general Bambang need some help with elections? It’s so disgusting. Sorry, a bit incoherent, but this video was a bit much.

  6. It saddens and enrages me to read stories such as these of people killing and torturing others. There is so much ignorance and power greed in the world. Anyone who is a little different or makes their own decisions is a threat to be eliminated. Anyone-religious or atheist-can fall trap to this mentality, as you rightly pointed out.

  7. I think most of us non-theists don’t see religious intolerance and the cruelty that accompanies it as a wholesale indictment of religions. It’s the extremists of any religion who cause those problems. Love and tolerance is the domain of anyone who wishes to have it – those of faith an non-faith alike.

    BTW, there’s a squirrel in my post today 🙂

  8. Thank you for the insightful post. I knew about the rioting in Tunisa, but I didn’t know how and why it began. We recently canceled our cable to save money, mostly, but I also felt myself getting overwhelmed by so many sad and horrific stories. The news corps in the U.S. seem to be sacrificing journalistic integerity more then ever these days in hopes that the shock value of graphic images will add to their stock portfolios as :the most watched news source”.

    It troubles me that since the Afgan war started, they don’t have a problem showing dead dead Arabs or “darker-skinned” foreigners. However, if the person were to look remotely like a White American, there would be outrage to such disrespect even if the person was actually German, British or French. Why not respect for all life? I don’t want to see an image of ANYTHING shot/blown up and bleeding all over the place!

    Melanie

  9. Mark,
    I believe the root of the problem is man’s inherent predisposition to selfishness and self interest at the expense of others. As I have pointed out, such atrocities occur even when there is no religion involved. However, it is true that religion is often used as a tool by selfish man to enslave others. Today, media is similarly controlled to the same effect.

    Kat,
    I identify with people like Chief Seattle who knew the importance of harmony between tribes, races and with nature. Beware those that sow the seeds of disharmony and self service.

  10. Joyce,
    Well, this morning finds the Egyptian people celebrating the resignation of President Mubarak. The journey to democracy has begun but the journey is still one fraught with difficulties and challenges. But for now, we celebrate with the Egyptians.

    Janice,
    You are right on both points. Firstly, there can be no peace while their is injustice and oppression. Secondly, many western powers should examine themselves for sacrificing their principles of freedom and equality for the sake of economic gain or other self interests.

  11. Mago,
    Good point. This comes back to the argument of separation of church and state. I believe the two should be separate. Religion should be the conscience of the state to keep it moral and good. Unfortunately, the state as you say has often used religion to consolidate their position through coercion and fear. Religion must not be allowed to be hijacked in this way. How to change it when in so many parts of the world, they give their religious leaders so much influence and power. I also agree that the video is disturbing. The other video I mentioned was so disturbing that I was not prepared to have it on my blog – even to make a point.

    Pauline,
    Exactly. Humans have a history of conflict and atheism or religion, they are just tools exploited to consolidate power or encourage self elevation.

  12. secret agent,
    We must forever remain vigilant against hatred and injustice. Both are still alive and well. However, I am easily distracted by squirrel photos. Thanks. Humans and squirrels may yet conquer interspecies bigotry.

    Melanie,
    I agree. There is often a very obvious different value placed on a life depending on the skin colour. I remember some years ago when there was a bombing of the American Embassy in Kenya. CNN quite rightly got a lot of flak for only reporting the American casualties when the majority of the dead and wounded were Kenyans.

  13. I am still so appalled at the immense pain I feel as an Ahmadi Muslim to see my brothers die at the hands of insane/inhumane animals like these. And what more, they do this in the name of Islam, which teaches that to kill one human is akin to killing the whole humanity. Ahmadi Muslims are continously persecuted for their rejection of violent jihad and adoption of peace. I am sure things will reverse as Ahmadiyya Islam continues to gain more members and inculcate peace around it. muslimsforpeace.org

    I also covered this story here – http://kashifmd.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/the-pancasila-is-drowning/

    Nice blog lgs.

  14. Kashif,
    Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment especially on this topic. I am so sorry for the death of your fellow believers. What terrible deeds are done in the name of God. I don’t really know much about the beliefs of Ahmadi Muslims so thank you for explaining a bit about it. I hope that this message of peace does indeed continue to grow and spread and counter the violence, hatred, bigotry and ignorance. Right now I pray that the Indonesian government lives up to the national constitution and protects citizens of all beliefs.

  15. Hello, so glad I stumbled on your blog! [Loved all the humour in posts more recent than this by the way]. Reading this and as a practicing Muslim I wanted to say how difficult it is to know these things are taking place. What goes on in many Muslim countries in the name of the religion is bad enough, but Indonesia was always a ray of hope. The rise of extremism there is very worrying. I wanted you to know and everyone to know, that ‘we’, Muslims with conscience (for lack of a better handle) are trying to fight this extreme and religiously baseless views that are spreading. As many of your readers have alluded to, the problems/causes/root issues are complex and deep. It’s surprising how little it really has to do with religion.
    What’s happened in Egypt has been such a ray of hope. It’s education and a chance at equal opportunity the Muslim world needs. Then perhaps Muslims will learn Islam and stop being brain washed and used as they are by the likes of Bin Laden and many others.
    Also in case it helps, I read of many Indonesians who voluntarily stood outside churches in Indonesia on Christmas eve to protect them from any extreme so called ‘Muslim’ hooligans. (http://www.onislam.net/english/news/asia-pacific/450272-indonesian-muslims-protect-churches-on-xmas.html)
    Peace to you and all your readers. Thanks so much for your blog!

  16. Joymanifest,
    Thanks for visiting my humble blog and leaving a comment. I agree with you. We as citizens of the world must speak out against any form of injustice and subjugation. There can be no peace without justice. Injustice, oppression and poverty are the conditions that spawn extremism. But we also need more positive examples like the Indonesian Muslims protecting churches on Christmas Eve as you mentioned or the Coptic Christian Egyptians protecting their fellow Muslim demonstrators during their Friday prayers. The violence must decrease and the cooperation must increase. Also thanks for your kind words about my blog. I hope we all have more reasons to laugh and less to cry this year.

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