Part 1: Examples of religiously-motivated hatred,
conflict & violence by followers of Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions include those faiths that revere the patriarch Abraham:
Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam. Sometimes, the Bahá’í faith is also included.
Together, they include slightly more than half of the world's population. This
essay will focus on Christianity and Islam; these religions are global in scope, and are
linked closely with some of the world’s governments.
We do not wish to imply that religiously inspired conflict and violence are limited solely to the Abrahamic religions. It is widespread among other monotheistic religions as well. Violence is relatively rare among polytheistic and non-theistic religions. However, even in Buddhism -- which is generally free of such inter-religious hatreds -- there have been instances of violence. For example:
- By Buddhists, currently directed at Muslims in Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma)
- The Buddhist government in Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon) conducted a "bloody military campaign against the [Tamil] Tigers..." in their country. The Tamils are a Hindu group with few human rights in the country. 1
The role of scapegoating or collective responsibility:
One of the major contributors to the world's religiously motivated hate,
conflict and violence is the concept of collective responsibility. A comment in Answers.com states:
"Humans seem to have a natural tendency to attribute collective guilt,
usually with tragic results. History is filled with examples of a wronged
man who tried to avenge himself, not on the person who has wronged him, but
on other members of the wrong-doer's family, or ethnic group, or religion,
or nation, or tribe, or army [or gender, or sexual orientation, or age
group, etc]. ... Terrorism is commonly rationalized by its practitioners on
ideas of collective guilt and responsibility."
Thus, a perceived injustice by one person is too often seen as justification
for retaliation against an entire group of uninvolved and innocent individuals who are
connected to the injustice only by their religion, skin color, hair covering,
language, ethnicity, or some other factor. Sometimes, centuries can pass between
the injustice and the terrorist act.
Two examples of collective responsibility, -- some 3 generations apart, one massive, one much involving a single person -- are:
- The German Nazis set up an industrial killing system -- the Holocaust -- a.k.a. the Shoah. It was mainly aimed at making Europe "Judenfrei" -- free of Jews. A secondary goal was to exterminate all Roma in what the latter called the Porrajmos (devouring.) About six million people were murdered, all justified in the minds of the Nazis by an imaginary betrayal of the German people decades earlier.
- Erika Menendez, 31, was charged with 2nd degree murder as a hate crime in New York during 2012-DEC. She allegedly pushed Sunando Sen off a subway platform into the path of a train. Her lawyer paraphrased her as saying that she pushed a Muslim off [sic] the train tracks because she hates Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers. Her victim was raise a Hindu. In reality, no Hindu was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack. In fact, far fewer than 0.001% of all Muslims were in any way involved.
The concept of scapegoating -- of punishing the innocent for the transgressions of the guilty -- is a theme that runs through the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and Christian Scriptures (New Testament). If the authors of these passages had stressed instead how important it is to take action only against those directly involved in the crime or sin, and to make a major effort to protect the innocent, we might be experiencing a different world today.
The most distressing feature of Islamic extremist terrorism is that that the
perpetrators believe that they have the right to murder people in order to
achieve religious and political goals. It is especially the theological
framework developed by the Egyptian writer Sayyid Qutb in the 1950s and 1960s
that made the killings committed by terrorist groups seem reasonable and
necessary. Sayyid Qutb himself was hanged in 1966. The assumed right to kill is
an extension of traditional Islamic rules concerning
apostasy, which historically called for the death penalty against ex-Muslims who abandoned the faith.
It is of vital importance that the perpetrators are precisely identified. To
judge by the E-mails that this web site receives, a significant percentage of
North Americans blame all Muslims and/or all Arabs for high profile terrorist acts. Others
blame all Fundamentalists within Islam. But in fact, the responsibility lies
with extreme, radical, violent, Fundamentalist Muslims, a numerically small
group among the world's approximately 1.6 billion Muslims.
One such group claiming the right to kill is Hamas (Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya),
which is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist militant organization. They are listed as
terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the European
Union, Israel, and the United States. Past Hamas attacks against Israel have included
large-scale suicide bombings, such as that of the Netanya hotel in 2002, in
which 29 people were killed and 133 were wounded. Hamas has used female suicide
bombers, including a mother of six. In recruiting the bombers, Hamas leaders
taught that the perpetrators of suicide missions would receive in heaven
seventy virgins and seventy wives (some put the numbers at seventy-two; others
suggest that promised virgins are a mistranslation of the Qur'an; the actual
reward is seventy dates or an other fruit). Their
families received a cash payment that used to be worth 12 to 15 thousand US
dollars. In 2002, funds from Iraq and Saudi Arabia doubled this amount.
The Shi’a Iranian leader and holy man Ayatollah Khomeini is quoted by Amir
Taheri to have said:
"Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not
disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of
countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country of the world.
But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to
conquer the whole world. Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam
counsels against war. Those (who say this) are witless. Islam says: Kill the
unbelievers just as they would kill you! Does this mean that Muslims should
sit back until they are devoured? Islam says: Kill them, put them to the
sword and scatter. … Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may
want to kill you! … Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the
sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except
with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only
for Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other psalms and Hadiths urging
Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a
religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls
who made such a claim." 3
Other Muslim leaders frequently refer to other passages in the Qur'an
which considers the unjustified murder of one person as being as serious as if the entire
human race was destroyed.
Iran (together with Syria) control the Shi’a terrorist group Hezbollah (also
called Hezb Allah and many other transliterations).
The religiously motivated
bombings and attacks by terrorist Muslim groups are too numerous to be listed.
Among the attacks with major loss of life are:
||Continuing intermittently to the present time: Rockets indiscriminately launched against civilian targets in Israel.
||2008: Mumbai (Bombay) terrorist attack (Three days; over 172 killed, over 307 injured).
|2005: Delhi bombing (over 60 killed, over 180 injured).
|2005: Sharm el-Sheikh
bombing (64 killed).
|2005: London Underground bombing (53 killed, nearly 700
|2004: Beslan school occupation by Chechens (344 civilians killed, incl.
|2004: Madrid train bombing (191 killed, 1,460 injured).|
|2002: Bali nightclub bombing (202 killed, 300 injured).|
||2001: World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks (nearly 3,000 dead).|
|1998: U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania bombings (225 dead, over 400
|1988: Lockerbie crash (killed 259 aboard the plane, 11 on the ground).|
|1983: U.S. Embassy in Beirut bombing (63 killed).
|1983: Beirut U.S. military
barracks suicide bombing (241 killed).
|1983: Beirut French military barrack
suicide bombing (58 killed).|
Terrorist attacks also occur within predominately Islamic countries --
generally between the Sunni and the Shia traditions of Islam, most often in Iraq and Pakistan.
Jewish terrorist actions are performed on a much smaller scale, and are
limited to the Near East. (The Jews comprise only 0.2% of the world population.)
However, the sentiment behind those actions appears to be similar to the
sentiment governing the Islamist attacks:
Karen Armstrong notes
that in 1980 Rabbi Israel Hess published an article entitled "Genocide: A
Commandment of the Torah" in the official magazine of the Bar-Ilan
University. In it he argued that:
"the Palestinians were to the Jews what darkness was to light, and that
they deserved the same fate as the Amalekites". 4
And just what fate is that? According to 1 Samuel 15:3 the
Hebrews were told:
"Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and
spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and
sheep, camel and ass."
Among the best known cases of Jewish terrorism is the 1994 machine-gunning of
Moslem worshippers at a mosque in the town of Hebron. A single terrorist killed
29 people and wounded about 150 before being killed himself. The killer, Baruch
Goldstein, was an American medical doctor and a devoted follower of Rabbi Meier
Kahane. He became a hero to the extremists, and the marble plaque on his grave
reads: "To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish
people, the Torah, and the Nation of Israel".
Among the cases involving less loss of life are:
|Unsuccessful attempts to destroy the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aksqa
Mosque in Jerusalem, combined with the killing of Muslim worshipers at the site,|
|The killing of three and wounding of 33 students during a noon-time
assault of Israeli terrorists on an Islamic college in Hebron in 1985. In
the latter case, the terrorists had rabbinic dispensation. |
|The killing of the Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin by a Jewish
religious fanatic Yigal Amir was motivated by the Israeli-Palestinian
accords. Extremist rabbis had reportedly ruled that the Prime Minister
deserved to die because of his role in these accords. |
- "Sri Lanka's Buddhist monks are intent on war," The Telegraph, 2007-JUN-17, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
- "Guilt," Answers.com, at: http://www.answers.com/
- Amir Taheri. "Holy Terror. Inside the World of Islamic Terrorism," Adler & Adler, (1987).
- Karen Armstrong, "The Battle for God," HarperCollins, (2001).
Copyright © 2006
by Vladimir Tomek
Original publishing date: 2006-SEP-21
Latest update on: 2012-JAN-27
Author. Vladimir Tomek & B.A. Robinson