Religion can be a wonderful thing. It is a source of comfort and meaning for billions and can inspire people to the loftiest heights.
And it can be used to impose the worst human impulses.
I came across this story in Sunday’s New York Times (see full story here). The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – a Hindu Nationalist party in India – banned the slaughter of beef cattle in the state of Maharashtra. The effects on millions of non-Hindus is catastrophic.
Now I know that Hindus consider cows to be sacred. That is their belief and no one should take it away from them. But what gives them the right to impose their ways on others? And for that matter, what gives ultra-Orthodox Jews the right to impose their strict Sabbath views on everyone else in Israel?
At this point, you are probably asking: what does this have to do with a blog on terrorism?
What the BJP is doing in India and what the ultra-Orthodox are doing in Israel is akin – in spirit but not level of atrocity – to what the Islamic State is doing to individuals who happen to be non-Muslim living in territory under its control.
Note that I am NOT comparing the banning of beef or the restrictions on driving on the Sabbath to the slaughter of Yazidis in Iraq. But the mindset is the same. It all stems from an intolerant, arrogant, hateful version of faith in which the believer takes it upon him/herself to dictate to everyone else what is ok and what is not. Columbia University’s Bernard Lewis summed it up best: I’m right, you’re wrong – go to hell.
And that is exactly where the IS types are probably headed if they continue this abominable interpretation of Islam. For people who see themselves as the paragon of Islam, they do not appear to know their Quran very well. What is it about 2:256 (surat al baqarah) that they fail to see?
“There is no compulsion in religion”
Sounds pretty clear to me. And yet they don’t get it. So much for their deen.
As I have said before, Canada is more or less a post-religious society. Religion exists and believers are allowed to worship as they please. That’s the way it should be. We are very fortunate here to have that freedom. But freedom goes both ways. You are free to worship and I am free to not belong to any faith. I personally see religion as a very private matter. Others may disagree. You can certainly share your faith with me and even try to get me to go along or even convert. But you can’t force me to do so.
A few decades ago many in the West thought that religion was dead and that its hold on society had ended.
Tell that to the cattle owners in Maharashtra.