Violent Religious Intolerance for Mundane Actions

It seems as if - once again - Muslims are wrecking shit in another country for what seems like rather stupid reasons. It’s not for printing images of Allah this time, but the use of the actual word. And it’s not even as if those using the word are trying to be insulting; they just want to use the Arabic word for god in a non-Islamic context.

I realize every religion has adherents that are intolerant, and that a few bad apples doesn’t ruin the whole batch. Also, I live in the US, and I have a feeling that stories of violent Islamic intolerance sells better than stories of other violent religious intolerance, for pretty obvious reasons. So fight my ignorance: where are they happening? Why?

To head one line of discussion off at the pass: I am aware of the bombing of abortion clinics by Christians, but see those in a different light (which in no way means I condone them). Those responsible for bombing clinics are not responding to “religious insults” and instead see abortion as murder, so I imagine they view their terrorism in a heroic light. Though I see the actions of both the Muslims in Malaysia and the Christians in America as inappropriate, I tend to view those of the Muslims rioting for showing a picture or using a word with less sympathy, though I imagine they see themselves as heroes as well. I realize this may be a double standard I am applying. Is there a significant enough difference to consider these two cases of religious terrorism differently?

And more generally, do secular people or people of different religions have a responsibility to respect the wishes of religious people on somewhat mundane requests like these (don’t make pictures showing the face of my god or use his name in a way I don’t like)? If so, where is the line drawn between mundane request and one that should be ignored? What can be or should be done to defuse the situation?

Disclosure: I identify as an atheist.

Can’t they just switch to Jehovah? :wink:

Minor correction: these were images of the prophet Muhammad.

I think that’s going to come up for debate any minute now. :wink:

I’m trying to think of examples. I believe an anti-blasphemy law is being discussed in Ireland, so there’s that. But without being anti-Islamic I think we have to agree that on a worldwide scale, most of this batshit crazy behavior is being perpetrated by Muslims. I don’t hold non-lunatic Muslims responsible for that, but it seems to me that the fanatic groups are making more and more demands about what the rest of the world needs to do to please them. It’s one thing if Muslims stick to their own commandments, which may or may not be ridiculous. Demanding that everybody else uphold the fine points of Islamic law at the threat of violence is not acceptable.

You’re acknowledging the passion that gets involved in debating abortion. And it’s fine to note that, but no, the bombers don’t deserve sympathy.

Not only no, but hell no. Respecting someone’s right to practice his religion is one thing, provided he’s not harming others. Insisting I stick to Islamic rules about depictions of Muhammad (or this ‘don’t call him Allah’ thing, which appears to be pretty much made up on the spot) is as unreasonable as it gets. This kind of thing not only shouldn’t be respected, it deserves disrespect on principle.

I would say no, we do not have a responsibility to respect their wishes. We do not have a responsibility to respect other people’s non-religious wishes if they are unreasonable. So, by the same token, I think we have no responsibility to respect religious people’s wishes if they are not reasonable. What is reasonable and not will differ from person to person. And it is hard to define what is reasonable when you are discussing things that are not facts…like religious beliefs.

Missed that mistake when I wrote it. Thanks for the correction.

I agree.

I guess I wasn’t clear. I didn’t mean to imply that I feel sympathy for the bombers and agree that they are doing the right thing - I feel as if bombing abortion clinics is a terrible thing to do. However bad it is though, on some level I can understand what they are doing; I just simply can’t understand going apeshit over cartoons or the use of a word. I understand killing or destruction if you think (however misguided the thinking is) you are saving lives, such as when people bomb abortion clinics. I just don’t get killing over a cartoon.

I agree. So how does one go about that? How does one politely say: “You’re ideas are dumb and it’s ridiculous that you would kill for this.”

I don’t think you need to polite to killers. It probably won’t help to be rude to them either, though. The main problem with trying to communicate with people like this is that their beliefs are irrational…there is no common ground.

As someone who self identifies as christian I disagree with your statement of finding more sense in what “christian” abortion clinic bombers do, as compared to people going “apeshit” over drawings. Its wrong both ways. Yes perhaps I would agree there is less debate over the morality or ethics of drawings then abortions. That doesn’t make the behavior any more acceptable.

For the record I disagree with abortions, but on the same moral ground that I would disagree with bombing of those buildings. Unfortunately if I begin to see “guilt” of an action I see as disagreeable, equating to justifiable killing, I have no ground with which to argue against killing people for cartoons.

Once again for full disclosure there are times when I see as killing as morally defensible, such as defense. Murder and killing I do see as different acts and having different definitions. When there is no potential danger to ones life or property (including ones OWN body) I don’t think we can ever see killing as morally or ethically defensible.

Long story short, I don’t think there is any real difference between acts of terrorism like these, on the fundamental level or that they are wrong, and unacceptable. To discuss what religious requests should be upheld, I would simply point to the difference between positive and negative rights. I should have the right to not have something. But there is no right TO something.

I.E. I should not be force to say draw Muhammad or in anyway support someone who does, but I don’t have the right for someone else to be forced not to draw pictures.

Edit: Or the more directly respond to the issue at hand, no one should be forced to support God or Allah or whatever you want to call it, but there is also no right to the word or name, no one owns it. You think if they were literate they would have read that part…(ok cheap shot)

You’re only making it worse for yourself!

I would say the responsibility lies within the ordinary bounds of politeness. It wouldn’t justify rioting, but I could see how the Malaysian Muslims could be peeved if someone was running a billboard campaign that says “Muhammed sucks” or “Religion of peace my ass - I’m gonna kill something” or whatever.

That having been said, these rioting Muslims are morons. Islam teaches that Christians and Jews do indeed worship the same God as Muslims - they are the “people of the book”.

It reminds me of the controversy over “niggardly” some years back. It probably isn’t practical, but that controversy and this one seem like they ought to be dealt with by a sharp blow on the head and a hearty “get a fucking grip already” to the concerned parties.


Lack of education + religious fanaticism = very dangerous.

The reason why Islamic fundamentalism is so much more dangerous than Christian fundamentalism at the moment is because the Islamic countries, on average, are much less educated.

I get what you’re saying. It seems like more of an overreaction. Abortion-doctor murderers are supposedly saving human lives, and these people are getting violent over purported insults to an all-powerful god.

I suppose other Muslim clerics can go about and politely explain this from a doctrinal position. For the rest of us, “Stop killing people over stupid shit!” is not a message that should be delivered potitely.

Good post.

I’d add a little background: While “Allah” has been coopted by Islam as the proper name for The Deity Whom Mohammed Proclaimed, the word itself means “the God” in Arabic, and in Malay tongues, which borrowed it, as well. (It’s believed to be a portmanteauing, according to proper Semitic word synthesis of Al, the definite article, with ilah, “god” in the generic sense (YHWH, Thor, Apollo, or Siva are examples of ilah in Arabic.)

I was told many years back by an American Antiochian Orthodox Christian that the proper form of address for God the Holy Trinity in Arabic (which his denominational church by and large spoke) was “Allah” – and that they had been using it in this sense since before Mohammed had his putative revelation.

So: the proper usage in Arabic and in the Malay languages for the deity worshipped by monotheists in the Abrahamic tradition is Allah. This is what the Malaysian court held to, despite the objections of radical Islamicists in that country.

I don’t see the connection at all. There weren’t any fire bombings over the great “niggardly” controversy of 2008. And I suspect if you tell those responsible to get a fucking grip it will cause much gnashing of teeth. They might even do something violent.

1999, actually. The connection is that, in both cases, there should not have been any controversy at all. Both came about due what might charitably be described as a misconception. “Niggardly” is not racially offensive, and “Allah” is the proper name for the God worshiped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.

That’s why I said it probably wasn’t practical.


None whatsoever. First, because religion is unworthy of respect of any kind. Second, because they’ll never stop making more and more intrusive demands if you give in. And third, because you are going to offend people like that whether you want to or not.

If you mean “where are examples of non-Muslim religious violence”; I’d say that the most important difference is that anything violent that Muslims do is going to be interpreted as religious violence, regardless of whether or not religion is the motive ( like the riots in France by young, poor, non-observant Muslims a while back ). Whereas if other religious people/groups engage in violence, the religious aspect of their behavior is played down or ignored; if some bigots kill some gay guy, no one talks about how they happened to belong to a church that preached that gays are evil. There was a faction of Christians that supported attacking Iraq for religious reasons, to help bring on the Apocalypse, but whose existence is handwaved away as irrelevant; if a war by Islamic people had people speaking out for it due to Islamic religious prophecy I doubt we’d see the same indifference.

Also, most other hostile religious people these days seem prone to papering over their religious motives anyway.

Well, there are many examples of extremist ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel protesting (legal) actions by other entities that are contrary to Jewish practice, and some of those can get violent:

There be crazy folks everywhere.

I think anti-blasphemy violence is ridiculous, whether it’s protesting Catholics using “Allah” as a handy translation (what, they should go back to the Latin mass, now?) or orthodox Jews spitting on or throwing rocks at women at the Wailing Wall who are not, in their opinion, sufficiently covered up (this has happened to several of my Jewish friends who visited Israel).

If someone is doing real harm to another person, I can understand the desire to take action (though, as with the abortion bombing debate upthread, the reaction can still be stupid and wrong). But if someone is insulting the omnipotent Creator of the Universe? Guess what, stupid: I think He can handle things Himself. If their worldview is right, then He will let people know that He felt insulted when He is dangling them over a lake of fire.

Excellent point. This is probably the most important piece of the equation I was missing - just hadn’t thought of it. There is plenty of religious intolerance in the US, it just seems much less likely that they will act on religious insults violently. It’s just not an expected part of the culture. So the way to inhibit this violence would be more education.

A little bit of ignorance fought. Thanks for sharing. I had no idea this happened, that ultra-orthodox Jews were protesting that kind of thing, though it certainly makes sense considering their views and fits in perfectly with the OP.

I would imagine that ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel are pretty well educated though. So might Argent Tower’s equation require that the two variables cross some threshold for religious violence to take place, with the education as a negative value? So if one variable is very high, like the very high fundamentalism of ultra-orthodox Jews, expect religious violence, even though relatively high education counteracts it somewhat. Works conceptually for me. Make sense?

Frankly, it really helps if you use politeness. I just make sure I’m honest with them too. That combination increases the chances of having an effective relationship with them.

This is for those who have a need to have an effective relationship with them, of course.

Good point. I read polite to mean not honest in this instance, but that is not correct. You should be polite, but honest…not sure that will change anything, though. the people using the word “allah” are presumably being honest with them…

Those are rather contradictory things; being polite to such fanatic, intolerant people - by their standards, which is what we are talking about - means lying to them, telling them what they want to hear, in the way they want to hear it.