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Religion as a Weapon

The Holy Qur'an There have been a rash of deaths recently in Pakistan due to accusations that the victims desecrated the Qur’an. You can read about some of them here and here.

The population in general, and Christians in particular, is dealing with cases of intimidation because of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. The laws, one of which carries the death penalty for "defiling the Koran and images of the Prophet Muhammad" are suspected of being used "to settle personal scores."

The second article (the BBC one) says that the blasphemy laws were introduced in the mid 1980’s and "hundreds of people have been lynched" because of them. Blasphemy laws are absurd to begin with (do you hear that, Ireland?) and in this case, seem to fuel the fire of religiously-inspired righteous indignation. They practically invite abuse.

The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says there is recurring evidence that people have sought to settle personal scores with victims by inflaming religious feelings.

From the first article:

Hundreds of armed supporters of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an outlawed Islamic militant group, set alight dozens of Christian homes in Gojra town at the weekend after allegations that a copy of the Koran had been defiled.

[…]

Tension started mounting last week after Muslims accused three Christian youths of burning a copy of the Koran. They denied the allegations, but clerics called for their death. On Saturday hundreds of supporters of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an outlawed Sunni sectarian group, poured into the town from surrounding districts.

A mere accusation of destroying a book, made without proof, was sufficient to rouse a mob of hundreds of Muslim people angry enough to burn down houses and fire their weapons indiscriminately. In another case, a woman was almost attacked because a shopkeeper accused her of throwing the Qur’an. In yet another, a factory owner and a co-worker were killed because he removed an old calendar from the wall that had verses from the Qur’an (though was accused of desecrating the Qur’an).

Whatever the motives behind these actions (in the case of the factory owner, it’s suspected it was spurred on by wage disputes), the fact remains that unsupported accusations of Qur’an desecration are all that’s needed to whip people into a blind rage of pious, violent, fury. Because someone possibly "disrespected" a book… a mere copy of a book… Muslim religious fundamentalists will kill… and feel vindicated. That’s horrific, repugnant, and morally reprehensible.

Christians vary in degree only. Witness the recent outrage over the destruction of bibles in Afghanistan by the United States military this past May. There was no rioting in the streets… no throwing of molotov cocktails… no firing of guns… no violence. But the religious indignation was there. The sense of pious outrage, the outcry of revulsion at the act, the self-righteous bible thumping, the gathering of like-minded protestors, the wailing about persecution… it was all there. It simply didn’t progress to the same level of violent action as the Muslim outrage did.

And that feature of religion, that ability to easily create a wild frenzy of devout, sanctimonious outrage, is one of its more dangerous aspects. It’s a feature that is easily abused, as shown by the recent activities in Muslim Pakistan. In the United States, it’s abused for political and monetary gain, among other things. It’s used by religious leaders all around the world… that exploitation of blind faith.

It’s the foundation of religion.

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