Wednesday, January 14, 2015
PREJUDICE AND RELIGION #1
I noted that there were three ‘events” in the past week which will impact on this blog. We should first deal with the two of the three that are universal, whereas the third is local.
The first one was Sunday Jan. 11 when the Courier’s main headline read “Growing Faiths, Growing Legal Problems”. It dealt with the opposition that various religious congregations; Hindu and Muslim are having in building new homes.
That issue of the paper was motivated by Sayerville’s 21 years of conflict with the Hindu Temple and its attempts to make them move to a site in an industrial area away from the residential area where it wishes to enlarge. We should all be acquainted with Bridgewater’s action in altering zoning when the local Muslims purchased a closed banquet hall and wished to convert it into a Mosque. In Bernardsville there is an ongoing objection to the building of a Mosque. Several years ago in Plainfield there was active citizen objection to the Jehovah Witness move to its present location.
In all cases the objections are claimed not to be religious bigotry but concerns about traffic or noise. In other words you too can have your place of worship but NIMBY.
The second one was the result of the terrorist killings in France and world reaction. On Monday I posted a copy of an article “About Islam and Terror” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar which had appeared in Time Magazine.
The gist was that because of the actions of a small segment of that religion we are painting the entire faith as dedicated to the murder of all who are non-believers.
Americans have a history of racial or religious bigotry resulting in actions against an entire body of people. Jim Crowism was a prime example. The forcing of the entire Japanese American population into internment camps during WWII despite the fact that 99% were committed American citizens was another example.
We are too quick to condemn an entire ethnic or religious population for the nefarious actions of a small number.
But unfortunately Western Civilization tends to ignore terrorist acts that take place in “Black” Africa. The Boko Haram recently massacred some 2000 native Christians in Nigeria and some 5000 more innocents in the past 5 years. It has kidnapped school children especially girls yet our expression of outrage has been only token. Genocide based on religion in other parts of Africa such as Darfur has only received incidental condemnation and no major relief for the suffering.
As background we should reflect on some facts.
Of the world’s religions there are over 2200 million Christians or about 33%, 1800 million Muslims or about 20% and 1100 million Hindus or about 14%. That adds up to about 2/3rds of the population belong in some form to one of the big three.
Each of these “religious denominations” is split into various groups which are in dogma conflict with other Muslims and have resulted in genocidal warfare. However, it may be justified to say that religion has just been the excuse but not the prime motivation for those conflicts. In every case religion has been an excuse for grabbing political or material power.
Among Christians examples are the First Crusade that diverted its efforts from recovering Jerusalem to slaughtering the “heretic” Cathcarts of Southern France. More recently the 16th and 17th Century wars in Europe between Catholic and Protestant domains. Which ended the “Holy Roman Empire” of Central Europe. Or the attacks on the Huguenots by France’s Catholic Majority.
Islam has two major divisions, Shia and Sunni, which even today are antagonistic. As noted in an Op-ed column by Mustafa Akyol the Quran does not preach violence against Jews and Christians; indeed it recognizes Abraham, Moses and Jesus as prophets along with Muhammad. Indeed during the golden period of Islam’s expansion non-believers lived peacefully among the Muslims. In fact Jews like Maimonides contributed greatly to the society in the early days of the Moors rule in Spain. Before the Crusades there was a large Christian population living in Jerusalem.
Most likely the violence in punishments such as stoning, or terrorism against Christians and Jews comes from men interpreting the Shariah or religious law which has developed over the years as “leaders have molded to reflect the times and needs in which they lived. This is the source of the death charge for blasphemy. It also has been used to justify Islamic nationalism.
Hinduism is difficult for Westerners to define. Its roots go back as far as the pre Indus civilization of at least 1000 BC. At present there are at least 4 major subdivisions each of which have many variations.
To be continued.