One does not have to be Marxist to appreciate, if not be governed by the saying: “Religion is the opiate of the masses”.
One should not have to be a non-believer to surmise that the violent turmoil in the Middle East over the satirizing of Muslim prophet Muhammad in film is unnecessary. One does not have to be an atheist to accept the madness of strapping a bomb to one’s chest and blowing oneself and thousands of others to wherever departed souls go other than the grave.
We make these observations as we follow with dismay the violence occasioned by a westerner’s exercise of his rights of freedom of expression in the United States. We are shocked that in 2012 in what is considered an enlightened age that while folk enjoy the beaches of Florida, the culture of New Orleans, the music of Chicago, Muslims in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Europe wreak havoc on their own structures and properties in the name of Muhammad and Allah.
We accept the right of all peoples to practise the religion of their choice.
We also accept the right of dissenters to criticise the aspects of any religion as they see fit, within the realms of the law of the land. But what we do not accept, at home or abroad, is wanton violence in the name of God, Allah, Yahweh, Jah, Buddha or whoever.
But we are not surprised. History is replete with examples of religious extremism. There have been countless wars fought on behalf of a deity we believe in that we have never seen, and might never see, whether He be the raison d’etreof the Christian crusades or the forger of the Islamic sword.
We have had the first Islamic civil war of 656 to 661. We have had the Christian crusades blessed by the Catholic Church and inflicted on Muslims between 1095 and 1291 with the intention of restoring Christianity in and outside of Jerusalem. We have had the European wars of religion waged between 1524 and 1648, following the onset of the Protestant Reformation in Western and Northern Europe.
History shows that Muhammad and his allies attacked peaceful countries and imposed Islam. Islam was imposed on Syria, it was imposed on Jordan, it was imposed on Egypt, it was imposed on Iran, It was imposed throughout North Africa, and elsewhere. History also shows that Christians were guilty of doing likewise elsewhere.
The faithful in Allah will obviously find justification in their Koran for imposing Islam on non-believers by sword or C9 explosives, in as much as the faithful in Christ have previously solidified their God in the psyche of the unholy by sword, guillotine and the like. We posit that people be allowed to find their God and their Allah independently with the same fervour that they be allowed to ignore the existence of either. We appreciate that acculturation will lead to certain belief patterns and behaviours that will be difficult to deviate from.
This is perhaps why within certain belief systems education for the masses is so controlled that it is amounts to ignorance and propaganda being religion’s greatest ally.
We abhor religious intolerance in any form. We also denounce violence used in the name of any deity for the advancement of personal foibles. We are often amused that some of our religious leaders would seek to assume that God or Allah speaks through them, rather than to accept that their attempt is to speak on behalf of their belief systems.
We recall the last days of our late Prime Minister David Thompson when some religious zealots basically guaranteed Barbadians that the late leader would survive his battle against pancreatic cancer. That hundreds were swayed by these religious leaders speaks to the power which religious faith carries among believers. It is at once a commendable and a dangerous thing
This is Barbados, a peaceful place, but as we view our televisions and read our newspapers, we see how far extremists can carry beliefs. Even respected political leaders can put $100, 000 bounties on the heads of non-believers in the name of religion. In essence, we posit that offering a bit of heaven above is not worth creating a lot of hell on earth.