We must condemn attacks done in the name of religion
by Mazin Qumsiyeh
The struggle against colonialism, imperialism, and Zionism by definition must be a human struggle for democracy, freedom, and human rights. Those who profess such a struggle must not be silent when gangsters attack in the name of religion, any religion. Whether it is the Jewish settlers who threw Molotov cocktails on a Palestinian family, the Christian Phallangist militias in Lebanon who massacred Palestinian civilians, the Buddhists who looted and burned Rohingya Muslims in Burma/Myanmar, or the Muslim hooligans who killed four Americans including the US ambassador in Libya. Those who commit such horrific acts always have excuses: a film or burning a Quran or cartoons. The recent "insult" was a "film" of very poor quality by an Israeli director that pokes fun at Prophet Muhammad. It is indeed despicable that in the USA there are people like Terry Jones who want to have public burning of the Quran or Samuel Bacile (Israeli who now lives in the US) who made this stupid film. I lived in the US for 29 years and traveled in 48 of its 50 states. It is a huge country and one cannot generalize on 300 million people. For just about all my adult life I struggled against unjust government policies whether in the US or here in occupied Palestine. I was unjustly investigated by the FBI and I also contended with attacks from racist Zionists on my character. But I also cherished free speech and worked with the most honorable decent human beings who cared about others around the world. For every single American who fomented hatred or committed a despicable act, I always found several Americans who are decent and caring and acted to help fellow human beings. Some like Rachel Corrie sacrificed their lives to defend Palestinians who happen to be Muslims.
If we believe in democracy and freedom then we must insist on full democracy and freedom which include the right of foolish individuals to express themselves verbally and indeed even to speak against religions. The maxim that no compulsion in religion must be observed and defended vigorously. Where modern society must draw the line is injury or killing of others. True religion cannot be insulted by silly things like movies or cartoons. And which is more offensive: starving Muslims without aid or a silly film? Which is more offensive and deserving of a challenge: judaization of Jerusalem or a few stupid cartoons? Is it not the impact on true believers that matter? Do such films or cartoons weaken the belief of true followers in any religion? Do decent human being murder in the name of religion? Would the violent reaction of a few goons instead weaken belief and also foment strife among humans (something religions tell us not to do)? Is that why intelligence operations by Israel or Western governments to foment hatred and "divide and conquer" can also be accomplished with a few mercenaries? [Remember when Mubarak secretely sent goons to attack churches in Egypt to blame it on Muslim Fundamentalists or when Israel bombed western interests in Egypt to blame it on Arab nationalists]. We do know that extremists exist in every community and every religion. Should the murderers regardless of their motives be excused? What religious belief excuses killing people for what someone else supposedly did? What religion condones individual action without legal due process?
In 1979, a British comedy film "Monty Python: Life of Brian" was released mocking the biblical stories including that of Jesus. Many Christian friends and relatives found it offensive. I believed and still believe that "freedom of expression" is a cherished freedom that must be protected. You cannot draw a line on this freedom of expression because each person would then have a different standard of what is acceptable or not. We know from history how societies quickly descended down the slippery slope to end up unlivable. We know that Europe was able to get out of the dark Middle Ages by shedding the controls on free speech wielded by a religious sect. We know societies who banned television, music, and art. We know the fate of societies that tried to erase their past by destroying shrines, monuments, and other archeological and historical treasures. Religion gives meaning and comfort to billions of people around the world. If we want to defend religion in meaningful way, we should start by unequivocally condemning those who murder in its name. Shouldn’t killers be brought to justice whether they claim Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or Buddhism as their "religion"?
Decent human beings of all religions must not remain silent. Societies must educate children that they can both cherish their own beliefs while aggressively defending the right of others to free speech and expression no matter how silly, satiric, or offensive such speech might be. We cannot succumb to the hatred generated by people like Sam Bacile, Terry Jones, John Hagee, many Zionists, or the killers in Benghazi. History cautions us of dramatic consequences of such hatred. Ultimately, all humanity is at stake.
We lost a dear friend and colleague, Dr. Gabi Baramki. May we remember him by acting as he did for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on the apartheid state of Israel. Boycott from Within activists Ronnie Barkan and Renen Raz pay tribute to Gabi Baramki by calling on the Israeli museum occupying the Baramki House to return the pillaged house to the Baramki family. The Baramki House: The Absent / Present. http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1988
The unrest, demonstrations, strikes and other actions continued in the occupied West Bank. People have openly called for ending the Oslo agreements and its appendages like the Paris economic agreement. They have also called for reviving the moribund PLO with elections and going back to being a liberation movement. But I think a lot more pressure will build before the "leaders" take more than cosmetic steps. After all, economy cannot survive under occupation/apartheid.
Video of Demonstrations
Amira Hass: Someone tell the Palestinians: It's the occupation, stupid!
The thousands who have demonstrated in the West Bank against the PA's economic policies play into the hands of Israel, which controls the resources but takes no responsibility
Boycott committee: Palestinian “Rawabi” tycoon Bashar Masri “must end all normalization activities with Israel”