Comments: Islam and violence

Where does politics begin and religion end? Ideology is often used to subvert the principles of religion that are often complex and doctrinaire. For example, the war on terror and the use of the term "evil." This is much the same as politics perverting pure science for its own often military means. Governments appropriate the use of technology to manipulate the scientific understanding of the world for violent means. Is religion usurped by political ideologies and is the religion of suicide bombers a front for political extremism? Does the psychology of an individual suicide bomber not mix political and religious ideas and make a resulting soup of determinist thinking that produces a definite result in this life and the next? Why is religion manipulated by the political intentions of small extremist cells? The nature of fundamentalism is indeed terrifying.

Posted by Robin at Thursday, 28 July 2005 at 4:17pm BST

The nature of fundamentalism is terrifying?

Whose fundamentalism are you talking about, Christian conservative fundamentalism, Christian liberal fundamentalism, Hindu fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism, . . . ?

Different "fundamentalisms" lead to different results. All may be terrifying to the opposition, as the term implies a somewhat singleminded and uncompromising devotion to a particular ideological and/or religious position. But, not all lead to suicide bombers.

As far as I know, only Muslims are suicide bombers. Something about the Quran's injunctions to jihad and the promise of 70 virgins for martyrs I suppose. Anyhow, please be more specific. As it is, you are painting all fundamentalist ideologues of all stripes--liberal, conservative, Christian, agnostic, etc.--with the same brush.

Posted by steven at Friday, 29 July 2005 at 3:43pm BST

"As far as I know, only Muslims are suicide bombers"

Umm. Kamikaze in WW2? Tamil Tigers?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 29 July 2005 at 4:26pm BST

Dear Simon:

Good point. Now, we need to figure out what all 3 have in common.


Posted by steven at Saturday, 30 July 2005 at 2:00am BST

And are we to a distinguish greater morality, merely by the willingness to leave the bomb behind and flee?

Persons of virtually EVERY religious affiliation, including Christians, have knowingly (and intentionally) bombed civilians (Note: I'm not even counting those representing their nation's military, while dropping/shooting bombs).

. . . and in virtually every case, it is the reaction of their co-religionists, to say "they (the terrorists) do not represent true ______."

Human sin: it's universal. :-(

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Saturday, 30 July 2005 at 6:38am BST

Dear J.C.-

You raise an interesting point, but go beyond the particular bounds of the question (I, at least) had in mind. That is--the relationship between particular types of fundamentalism and suicide bombers.

As the term fundamentalism indicates a relatively rigid adherence to certain "fundamental" tenets, the question is--what tenets would make one more likely to commit suicide in the act of killing "innocent" civilians. Many ideologies may lead to acts of war. Civilians inevitably get killed in a war. However, few ideologies are used to openly justify the slaughter of civilian as opposed to military targets. Likewise, few encourage a suicidal attitude on the part of the perpetrator.

Given the first criteria, I think we can dispense with the Kamikaze--they struck military targets. However, what tenets are shared by Tamil Tigers and Muslim suicide bombers? It makes an interesting question.


Posted by steven at Saturday, 30 July 2005 at 5:40pm BST

Isn't the whole point here that to call the suicide bombers "Muslim" is questioned by the vast majority of Muslims. Just as nobody called the IRA bombers "Christians"?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 30 July 2005 at 6:39pm BST

Yes, Simon, that is the point: who gets to define the religiousity of terrorists? The terrorists? Those who claim the same (general) affiliation as the terrorists, but who reject terrorism? Or those outside the affiliation?

A North American example: the terrorist organization known as the "Ku Klux Klan" *emphatically considers itself Christian* (It's in their press statements. What non-Klan call "cross-burning", the Klan calls "Lighting the Cross"). But because the KKK is set within an over-all culture of Christianity, virtually *no one* outside the Klan thinks of them as a Christian terrorist group.

Al Qaida is, at most, a couple of decades old---the KKK is more than a century old. I wonder what it would feel like, to Christians, to *constantly be asked* "What about the Klan? Aren't you all like the Klan? The Klan draws justification for its acts of terror from Christianity, and Christian Scriptures---how do I know you won't do the same? Why should I trust you Christians, when you Christians can't even put an end to *your* Klan?"

It would get old, fast (especially if there was other discrimination involved).

And, I think that our disaffected and "at risk" youth (esp. males) . . . would be more inclined to join the Klan. :-/

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Saturday, 30 July 2005 at 8:30pm BST

Ooops. Don't say I can't take a hint. It's pretty obvious that I have trespassed some of liberalism's fundamental tenets. Say no more, I withdraw the question. As my dear old Dad used to say, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."


Posted by steven at Saturday, 30 July 2005 at 11:59pm BST

I note the problem with the term fundamentalism. It has a number of interpretations. There is an interesting article in the Spectator this week on the aggressive nature of Islam titled " The myth of moderate Islam" written by the Director for the Study of Islam and Christianity. He advocates that Muslims and Christians have to accept a dark past that has a tradition linking religion and war. Do the suicide bombers see themselves as unknown soldiers or heros?

Posted by robin at Monday, 1 August 2005 at 1:43pm BST

That article is already under discussion here, see

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 1 August 2005 at 4:14pm BST
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