Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In The Name Of Religion

It was a fairly chilly Wednesday on that fateful day in April back in 1995. The date was the 19th. I remember this because it was the same year I began keeping a diary. Many interesting things take place when you're 21 years of age, and some require their own space in history.

Between random entries titled "She'll call, I know she will" and ""Hot Dang It's On Like Donkey Kong" was one which stood out in bold capital letters:

"Fuck Me! What Have They Done Now?!"

A bomb had gone off in America, and since this was pre-24hour CNN in South Africa, it was pretty much on all the radio stations and on the breaking news on crappy government TV. All the fingers were being pointed in the direction of Muslim terrorists, and this annoyed me for no reason other than the fact that I had just started dating a Christian girl. Neither my hormones nor my testosterone would condone this bombing, and the first telephone call I had with Amy was rather terse. I found myself suddenly anti-muslim in the hope that this would win favor with her.
It didn't.
She agreed with her dad that my religion was one of violence and intolerance.
In light of what had just transpired in America, how could I argue with either of them?

While the dust was settling and the investigations were beginning, I found an interesting awakening taking place within myself and those of the Muslim faith around me. There was a level of introspection taking place which I had never witnessed before. Questions were being asked amongst us all. A microscope had just been focused on every single one of us, and what we were seeing left much to be desired.
There was almost this sense of blindness to what was happening in the rest of the world.
A sense that we were living in a cocoon, totally unaware to how the religion we loved was being tarnished by extremists, and the media was only too happy to oblige and play conductor to the orchestra of terror being played out in the name of Islam.

Timothy McVeigh was finally convicted and given the death sentence for the Oklahoma Bombing which killed 168 men, women and children. Then and now, very little mention was ever made of his faith. His biography on Wikipedia makes no mention of his Christian beliefs. Ironically it does mention the initial suspects being Islamic Terrorists.

So you can imagine my surprise when I called upon Amy at her home a few weeks later, feeling absolved of any sense of responsibility for the atrocious bombing that had gripped the world.... absolved because it was clear that this madman was not a member of my clan, but rather hers... a skip in my step because I would now be able to tell her dad "Ha! He's one of yours!" ... as I said, imagine my surprise when she responded with "No but he's not a Christian, we don't do stuff like that!"

So it was OK to assume that this was done by an Islamic Terrorist...
and then assume that all muslims are terrorists, hence I too must be one...
But when it transpires that he is in fact not a Muslim but rather a Christian, we shall declare him persona non grata and wash our hands of laying blame on religion?

It was this single response that made me become so much more aware of social and religious injustices which I was completely naive and blind to previously.This was my true awakening.

Fast-forward 16 years and we find ourselves in a similar position.
Norway, Oslo. 94 Men, women and children killed.

Fox News and other media outlets had us believe this was an act of terror carried out by an Islamic organization. They had a vile bucketful of 'experts' spewing their opinion, and one group kept coming up as the most likely suspects : Islamic Terrorists.
When a blue-eyed blonde Christian was eventually arrested, suddenly his religious beliefs were no longer worth a mention.
For more on how the media contorted the facts, read this.

Now I had this discussion with a friend of mine, and him and I regularly debate matters of race, religion and politics. He happened to mention an oft-repeated lie which the western media first propagated. This being that Islam is the most violent religion in the world, and has killed more people than any other religion or country.
Hhmm... really?
Let's have a look at the breakdown of wars in the last 150 years, shall we.

First, the worlds religions as per 2005.

Wars in last 150 years

1860-65: American civil war (360,000)
1886-1908: Belgium-Congo Free State (3 million)
1899-02: British-Boer war (100,000)
1904: Germany Vs Namibia (65,000)
1904-05: Japan Vs Russia (150,000)
1910-20: Mexican revolution (250,000)
1911: Chinese Revolution (2.4 million)
1911-12: Italian-Ottoman war (20,000)
1912-13: Balkan wars (150,000)
1915: the Ottoman empire slaughters Armenians (1.2 million)
1914-18: World War I (8 million)
1917-21: Soviet revolution (5 million)
1928-37: Chinese civil war (2 million)
1931: Japanese Manchurian War (1.1 million)
1934: Mao's Long March (170,000)
1936: Italy's invasion of Ethiopia (200,000)
1936-37: Stalin's purges (13 million)
1936-39: Spanish civil war (600,000)
1939-45: World War II (55 million) including holocaust and Chinese revolution
1946-49: Chinese civil war (1.2 million)
1946-49: Greek civil war (50,000)

1947: Partition of India and Pakistan (1 million)
1948-1973: Arab-Israeli wars (70,000)
1948-: Kashmir's civil war (40,000)
1949-: Indian Muslims Vs Hindus (20,000)
1950-53: Korean war (4 million)
1954-62: French-Algerian war (1 million)
1958-61: Mao's "Great Leap Forward" (30 million)
1960-90: South Africa Vs Africa National Congress (?)
1961-2003: Kurds Vs Iraq (180,000)
1962-75: Mozambique Frelimo Vs Portugal (?)
1964-73: USA-Vietnam war (3 million)
1965: second India-Pakistan war over Kashmir
1965-66: Indonesian civil war (200,000)
1966-69: Mao's "Cultural Revolution" (11 million)
1966-: Colombia's civil war (31,000)
1967-70: Nigeria-Biafra civil war (800,000)
1968-80: Rhodesia's civil war (?)
1969-79: Idi Amin, Uganda (300,000)
1969-02: IRA - Northern Ireland's civil war (2,000)
1969-79: Francisco Macias Nguema, Equatorial Guinea (50,000)
1971: Pakistan-Bangladesh civil war (500,000)
1972-: Philippines Vs Muslim separatists (120,000)
1972: Burundi's civil war (300,000)
1972-79: Rhodesia/Zimbabwe's civil war (30,000)
1974-91: Ethiopian civil war (1,000,000)
1975-78: Menghitsu, Ethiopia (1.5 million)
1975-79: Khmer Rouge, Cambodia (1.7 million)
1975-89: Boat people, Vietnam (250,000)
1975-90: civil war in Lebanon (40,000)
1975-87: Laos' civil war (184,000)
1975-2002: Angolan civil war (500,000)
1976-83: Argentina's military regime (20,000
1976-93: Mozambique's civil war (900,000)
1976-98: Indonesia-East Timor civil war (600,000)
1976-: Indonesia-Aceh (GAM) civil war (12,000)
1979: Vietnam-China war (30,000)
1979-88: the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan (1.3 million)
1980-88: Iraq-Iran war (1 million)
1980-92: Sendero Luminoso - Peru's civil war (69,000)
1980-92: El Salvador's civil war (100,000)
1980-99: Kurds Vs Turkey (35,000)
1982-90: Hussein Habre, Chad (40,000)
1983-2002: Sri Lanka's civil war (64,000)
1983-2002: Sudanese civil war (2 million)
1987-: Palestinian Intifada (4,500)
1988-2001: Afghanistan civil war (400,000)
1988-2004: Somalia's civil war (550,000)
1989-: Liberian civil war (220,000)
1989-: Uganda Vs Lord's Resistance Army (30,000)
1991: Gulf War - large coalition against Iraq to liberate Kuwait (85,000)
1991-97: Congo's civil war (800,000)
1991-2000: Sierra Leone's civil war (200,000)
1991-: Russia-Chechnya civil war (200,000)
1991-94: Armenia-Azerbaijan war (35,000)
1992-96: Tajikstan's civil war war (50,000)
1992-96: Yugoslavia's civil war (200,000)
1992-99: Algerian civil war (150,000)
1993-97: Congo Brazzaville's civil war (100,000)
1993-: Burundi's civil war (200,000)
1994: Rwanda's civil war (900,000)
1995-: Pakistani Sunnis Vs Shiites (1,300)
1995-: Maoist rebellion in Nepal (10,000)
1998-: Congo/Zaire's war - Rwanda and Uganda Vs Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia (3.8 million)
1998-2000: Ethiopia-Eritrea war (75,000)
1999: Kosovo's liberation war - NATO Vs Serbia (2,000)
2001: Afghanistan's liberation war - USA & UK Vs Taliban (25,000)
2002-: Cote d'Ivoire's civil war (1,000)
2003: Iraq's liberation war - USA, UK and Australia Vs Saddam Hussein (14,000)
2003-: Sudan Vs Darfur (70,000)
2003-: Iraq's civil war (100,000)

Notice anything interesting?

Out of the total number of around 160 million dead, more than 135 million have been killed in or by countries that are now the five big powers of the world, namely China, the US, the UK, France and Russia. The killings by or in Muslim countries form a very small percentage of the total killings, despite the fact that Muslims form about one fifth of the world population.

For more on the stats listed above, read this interesting blog.

If these facts and figures prove anything, it proves that religion can be used as a vehicle to carry out evil just as easily as it can be used to carry out good.
If we removed religion from our interaction with each other, I'm of the belief that this world would be a better and safer place. I'm not saying religion has no place in our daily lives. What I am saying is that it need not be an aspect of our lives which we need to force-feed on those who believe differently.

Every religion has it's fair share of extremists. Every religion.
What we need to do is accept that those extremists are not spokespeople for nor an indication of the rest of those who believe in peace, love and tolerance for all.

That's why I like what this guy says in his letter to the editor of an online newspaper. It's plain, it's simple, and it's honest.