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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Nigeria, as I read the news, is about half Christian and half Muslim (discounting any local religions, of course, which the news usually does). It presents an interesting case when thinking about religion, tolerance, terrorism, and the notions of nationhood in general. Three bombings over the holiday, two of them at churches as I decipher the news, killed a bunch of people, and doubtless wounded or maimed many more. Apparently some Muslims in Nigeria want Sharia law to be imposed throughout the nation, and an outfit called “Boko Haram” might have been the specific group doing the dirty deeds. So, the idle news reader in far-off USA wonders, how the hell does a nation deal with this? Like India? Partition with much slaughter and permanent enmity? Civil war where one side just wipes the other out? Do outside nations “help” by supporting one side or the other with arms and other war-making goodies? Do the militant Muslims have some theological basis to insist that non-Muslims who are their fellow citizens adhere to Sharia law? (Yes, I know Christianity has a not-very-attractive history of killing and torturing “unbelievers,” and engaging in “forced conversions.”)

I’ll be the first to admit I know little about Islam. I grew up being pushed off to Baptist churches of various stripes by my mother, and learned a bit about Christianity. I learned enough not to like it and, not to put to fine a point on it, detest it (yes, the religious would call me an “atheist”). Accordingly, I didn’t make the other religions of the world areas of study either in my formal education or my personal reading. I didn’t, and don’t, have a notion that such stuff is worth my while. I could just quit thinking about it but for the stuff going on in the world which people involved put a religious spin on (and maybe they, including the guys who hijacked the planes on 9/11 and murdered a bunch of people, were sincerely religious and believed they were making their deity happy). I suppose I don’t really care to know the specific ins and outs of Islam (you know, the dress codes, and prayer schedules, and dietary rules, etc., etc.). What I would like to know is what is it within the actual teachings of Islam, if anything, induces certain Muslims to kill other people over religion.

It may be a side trip at this point, but I can’t go on without acknowledging the stuff I hear about Muslim-on-Muslim religious violence. I know they don’t represent 100% of Muslims, but the Sunni And Shi’ite branches get mentioned a lot. A lot of that mention involving them being real wound up about which of those outfits gets to be in charge of certain nations, and, if they are in charge, how they treat their fellow citizens who aren’t of their particular persuasion. Before the US stuck its nose into the matter of Iraq vs. Kuwait (a bit of nosiness I heartily disapproved of then and disapprove of now), I don’t think I’d ever heard of the branches of Islam, or if I had it went in one ear and out the other. Even now, when I read the sentence or so any news article devotes to the doctrinal issues between those guys, I can’t get too interested–because no explanation will ever convince me of the reasonableness of killing people because of their beliefs, particularly when the differences, to me, fall into the “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” category. This rivalry seems to be relevant currently because of how the post-US Iraq deal seems to be shaping up (meaning lots of murder as between the Sunni minority and Shi’ite majority). Before the US invaded Iraq post 9/11 (a stupid idea if you ask me), a Sunni dictatorship ran Iraq, and the Sunni folks got the most goodies from their “government.” (Not that it matters, but I read that Syria has a Sunni majority but is run as a feudal fiefdom by a Shi’ite clique). Okay, enough digression.

I don’t know if Nigeria has a Shi’ite/Sunni problem. I don’t really care, or see any relevance of the facts about that to my life. Other than the nice Nigerians which send me email every so often offering to make me rich, I don’t know anybody in or from Nigeria. I have no stake, if Nigeria descends into religiously-based civil war, in which side wins, and if total annihilation of the opposition is deemed necessary by the prevailing party. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I do wish everyone would get along, and pull together to make a better life for themselves and their children while respecting Mother Earth. There’s just nothing I can do to make that happen, and, in my view, nothing my bankrupt nation can do about it or, for that matter, should do about it (talking Nigeria here, but I see the broader issue pretty much the same way).

So right about now anyone who reads this will be scratching their head and saying, “So, I get it, this guy doesn’t give a shit, so be it, why is he risking carpal tunnel syndrome typing all this?” Well, here’s why: I’m told I’m not supposed to think negatively about Muslims. I hear this “religion of peace” mantra pretty often. Didn’t Prez. Bush say something like that right after 9/11 (when speaking in the National Cathedral* maybe?)? I see Muslims doing bad things to us, to the Christians in Nigeria, and to each other (not forgetting the Muslim vs. Hindu thing, and the Mulims in Afghanistan shooting up the Buddhist antiquities), treating women badly, and so forth. So, what am I to think? I don’t mean by that “I’m determined to think of them badly, as a group/faith,” I mean “What am I to think?”

Really, what should I think?

*As for the National Cathedral, two things:
1) I watched the glimpses of Hilary Clinton while Prez. Bush was speaking in the cathedral right after 9/11, as did my significant other (yeah, I hate that phrase, too). She looked as though she’d rather have been getting a root canal without benefit of any painkillers. I saw a woman whose body language indicated something stronger than simple disinterest. It’s my lasting impression of her. Fortunately, she holds a meaningless position, Secretary of State, and there’s not much to worry about. I think she’s the only Democratic candidate I would have voted against (meaning for Sen. McLain) in the 2008 presidential election.

2) Years ago, I attended my significant other’s high school class reunion in the DC area. She had gone to a tiny, all female, boarding school in Northhampton, MA. After she graduated, that school merged with another, similar institution, and its old campus became part of Smith College’s campus. She, and the few women who graduated with her, started holding reunions on account of their “orphan” status, on an irregular basis, in various locations, usually the town where one of them lived. When we attended the even in DC, one of her classmates was a minister at the National Cathedral. One evening, dinner was held in the dining room of the College of Preachers (part of the Cathedral complex). It was a beautiful gothic room, and I remember the evening with fondness and nostalgia. The lady who was the minister there has since passed away. And speaking of orphans and school mergers, my SO matriculated at Carnegie Tech, but ended up being in the very first graduating class of Carnegie Mellon University (because of merger).

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