A television program once featured an angry young girl, a student in an American primary school, saying with all the fervour of a typical religious zealot: "God hates homosexuals and I hate what God hates."
This simplistic statement was made with great conviction, but its naivety is mind-boggling. It begged many questions of which she seemed totally oblivious: Is there a god? If there is, then how can we really know that there is? How could we possibly know what he or she really hates? If a god is all powerful, then why did that god create people whom he or she hates so much? And, in any case, why should we assume that we have to share such an irrational hate?
At another level, what should we think of the ethics of parents who brainwash a child in this way?
Little wonder that extremists who believe that "abortion is killing" see nothing wrong in themselves murdering in cold blood not only public-spirited doctors who perform such medical services but also other persons who just happen to be in the vicinity.
However, nothing should surprise us in a country which turned a murder trial involving a sporting figure into a virtual industry and in which even a liberal President once forced out of office a Surgeon-General for daring suggest that masturbation might be mentioned in schools.
Of course, the primitive fundamentalist Christian beliefs prevalent in middle America, while surprising in a modern Western country and astonishing in a scientific age, are relatively harmless when compared to happenings elsewhere.
Of considerably greater concern must be the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, which probably poses a much greater threat to civilisation than fascism and communism ever did.
Consider a terrorist incident over Paris some years ago. What hope is there when extremists who, when they are about to blow up an aircraft full of innocent people as a political gesture, actually go to the trouble of handing out scarves to the female passengers so that these can cover their heads as they die?
Even more disturbing was the case in Pakistan in which a 13-year-old illiterate boy from a Christian village was ordered to be hanged for blasphemy. When this verdict and sentence were reversed on appeal a hostile crowd of some 5000 chanted an intention to kill the accused person anyway - as well as a proposal to kill the judges, the defence lawyers and even Christians in general.
Fanatics of all types are always dangerous. Religious zealots seem doubly dangerous. If this is what they wish to do to fellow believers in a god then the lives of non-believers must be at even greater risk.
Freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of religion should be regarded as fundamental human rights. It is absurd in this day and age to treat blasphemy as a crime at all, let alone as a capital crime.
At the most the alleged offender in this case should have received a small fine for writing graffiti on a wall - although even that seems rather inappropriate for an accused who cannot read or write.
The international community cannot afford to let outrageous incidents of this type go unchallenged. If a country insists on having Draconian laws on its books and if it chooses not to control its citizens from inciting hatred and promising the murder of innocent persons then that country needs to be treated as a pariah and effectively denied the benefits of being part of the civilised world.
© 2000 N E Renton. All rights reserved.
Back to the top of this Page Home