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.