9 Jun 2002
FIGHTING THE REAL WAR
The threat posed to secular society by religious extremists is common knowledge to world leaders but, it seems, these leaders tend to accommodate them for political convenience. The ongoing war against terrorism is by all accounts a justifiable war. It is a war against the mentors and accomplices of September 11th suicidal terrorists. Those mentors are themselves the products of this identifiable social problem called religious fundamentalism.
Politicians have largely funded and encouraged The Osamas and the Talibans of the Muslim faith. The religious schools that churned out most of their fighting force were funded mostly by wealthy politicians from the Gulf States notably Saudi Arabia. The mayhem and anarchy that is reigning in parts of Nigeria today is a direct product of religious bigotry fanned by politicians. Even in America, the temptation to play religious politics seems irresistible. The governing Republican Party openly allied itself with the Christian Right during the last presidential elections. Fringe elements of this pressure group occasionally mount terrorist attacks on abortion clinics and even challenge the secular nature of the American state. It is my opinion that states should employ more energy in fighting the rising tide of religious fundamentalism within their borders. Fighting the end products, as is the case with Bin Laden is an expensive and probably diversionary sideshow.
In 1988’s Molko & Leal V Holy Spirit Association, the California Supreme court upheld the theory of ‘mind control’, ‘brainwash’ or ‘coercive persuasion’ in the deceptive recruiting practices of the Unification Church.* It is clear that the followers or ‘foot soldiers’ of all fundamentalist sects are themselves victims of sophisticated mind control manipulations. Some of these people are subjected to brainwash tactics that are morally indefensible and at times illegal. Many go through hypnotic trance and emerge from the experience more of robots than humans. Thus, they become malleable tools in the hands of their mentors as they can barely think for themselves in matters of religion. This explains why young men will commit suicide on the orders of the likes of Bin Laden. It also accounts for the reason why Mr. Do (leader of Heaven’s gate sect) led educated middle class Americans to commit mass suicide in 1996.
I am of the opinion that it should be the duty of the modern state to monitor religious activities in such a way as to protect citizens from religious bigots. Laws that provide blanket religious freedoms are becoming ‘practically irrelevant’ in today’s volatile world. Currently, western leaders are quietly cheering the Pakistani leader for cracking down on religious extremists in his country. The man is pragmatic and certainly doing the right thing. His counterparts in the West know it, but lack the courage to initiate similar reforms in their countries for fear of a backlash from an array of powerful lobby groups. They will keep on playing the Ostrich until another tragedy occurs. Only then will they employ fire fighting tactics and enormous resources to hit back at the effect.
A religious fanatic could be as good or as bad as his manipulator wants him to be. The violence perpetrated by Muslim extremists is widespread and frequent because those in charge explicitly encourage their followers to commit those atrocities. If religious extremists of other faiths embrace violence in like proportion, the world will become ungovernable. I am not however implying that only Muslim extremists are violent We know that pockets of Sikh extremists assassinated Indira Gandhi (former Indian P.M) and a Jewish extremist murdered Rabin (former Israeli P.M). Christian fanatics have led their followers to violent deaths in Wacko, Texas and Uganda.
The past two decades have witnessed unprecedented rise in religious fundamentalism and corresponding intolerance. Political awareness with a religious bias has blossomed on all the continents. In Africa, for example, the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria was poised to taking power through elections organized in the early 90s. The thwarting of that attempt led to a bloody showdown that has claimed more than eighty thousand victims so far. On the other side of the continent, a renegade Christian group called The Lord’s Resistance Army fought its own kind of ‘religious war’ for more than a decade in Uganda. Both groups have demonstrated in no small way how chilling their bloodletting can be.
I believe the way to go forward in this our global village is to first acknowledge that religious fundamentalism is a threat to peace. This cannot be otherwise as we belong to different faiths in a fast shrinking world. We normally forgo some of our liberty for the sake of security when the going gets tough. I think it is time to organize a global forum and initiate moves to regulate religious practice. Many people may disagree but when the time comes to choose between security and limited liberty the government determines the choice.
Copyright ã 2002 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah [e-mail]