I readily admit to not understanding religious fanaticism of any stripe. How can anyone profess absolute belief not only in a supernatural power that deserves worship and adoration, but to a set of dictates presumably handed down by that power that are then taken so literally as to lead to acts of cruelty and even criminality?
Yes, it’s a theme I’ve explored and pondered all-too-many times over the years, and more than a few regular readers of my thoughts may already be thinking this might be one Telfeyan column to skip.
But bear with me, because I’m going to try to plow new ground this time, or at least I’m going to explore a belief system I haven’t specifically questioned very much until now.
But at some point the question just demands to be asked: Who are these people?
Yes, I’m talking about the Taliban, that sect (if that’s the right word) that professes complete fealty to the God of Islam and to the Sharia law they claim that God requires that all humanity abide by. What is it in their interpretation of their holy book and in the teachings of their religion that makes of them such evil deviants from the society of civilized humans?
And let me say at the outset that I really am looking for answers, for some way to comprehend how devout believers in God (Allah being the Islamic word for that entity) can see in their beliefs a rationale for the kind of evil that this particular brand of Islam espouses.
My concern has reached the tipping point. It was brought on last week by the blatant attempted murder of a 14-year old schoolgirl in southern Pakistan whose “sin,” apparently, was to wish for the opportunity to become fully educated on a level equal with young men of her faith. For speaking this perceived blasphemy she was deemed unfit to live. More to the point, it was determined that she had to die. And even more specifically, it was ordained that she had to be killed.
The full story, inasmuch as it has been revealed through reporting in the New York Times and other sources, is that Malala Yousafzai was targeted, according to a Taliban spokesman, because she had been “brainwashed” into making anti-Taliban statements by her father, who has also been targeted, but not, as yet, attacked.
The spokesman, someone named Sirajuddin Ahmad (yes, these people are so brazen that they issue press statements through a known individual), went on to say, “We warned him several times to stop his daughter from using dirty language against us, but he didn’t listen and forced us to take this extreme step.”
Mr. Ahmad then went on to say that both father and daughter remain on the Taliban’s list of intended victims.
Mr. Ahmad’s statement is amazing on several counts. First of all, note the supposed excuse offered for the attempted assassination: the father didn’t listen to them and curb his daughter’s outspokenness. As if most civilized fathers would have much ability to so much as sway the attitudes of a bright, liberated, precocious teenager.
But of course, these people don’t believe that teenagers, especially of the female variety, are supposed to be bright and certainly aren’t supposed to be liberated and they may not even understand how they might be precocious. So the Taliban condemns the daughter for the father’s inability or unwillingness to control her.
The second amazing thing about the statement is the inference that the father’s refusal to curb his daughter “forced” them to seek to kill her. Really? “Forced” as in denied the ability to do anything other than kill her?
So from that “admission,” I infer that these people do not believe in any kind of free will, or at least not in the kind most civilized humans accept, even if they hold to a Hobbesian, deterministic view of reality. Or maybe the “force” he speaks of has to do with the dictates of Allah’s law.
It’s that same law that has led to brutal executions by stoning, as when a man and woman, recently were stoned to death for having allegedly engaged in adultery in another blatant display of lawlessness in that part of the world, and to amputations, as when a young boy had his hand cut off for allegedly stealing.
To call these people uncivilized is too kind. The mafia is uncivilized. The Taliban is barbaric, or at least that is the view I have come to have of them based on what they have revealed of themselves through their actions.
But I’m still terribly confused, because they are extremists of the Islam faith, and I don’t understand what part of that faith takes them in this evil direction.
By comparison, I can understand, if completely reject, the murderous fanaticism of Christians who kill those engaged in abortion. They believe, in their misguided understanding of their faith, that they are saving lives (those of the unborn) by killing someone who would abort those unborn. This kind of depravity, while reprehensible and most definitely criminal, at least has an understandable motivation.
But maybe I understand its motivation and not the motivation of the Taliban because I was raised a Christian and not a Muslim. Being raised a Christian, albeit never taught to believe that fetuses were living human beings (or even that they had souls), I at least can understand that extreme tenet of Christian faith.
But the Muslim creed is foreign to me. I’m not schooled in it and have never been exposed to it through interpersonal relationships.
So I’m asking, and hoping someone out there will answer me and the millions of others who long to at least understand, if not accept, what motivates these people: What is it in the Koran, or in the Muslim view of God and human existence, that this brand of Islam draws its evil from? What makes them tick? What makes them evil?
What, in the end, convinces them, even though they believe in a higher power, to act as if they are children of the devil?