Scrolling Headlines:

Amherst PD to encourage registering off-campus parties with implementation of Party Smart Registration program -

July 23, 2016

UMass Board of Trustees votes 11-2 to raise tuition and fees an average of 5.8 percent -

July 14, 2016

Mike Stone announces retirement following 2017 season -

July 13, 2016

‘Warcraft’ delivers a likeable mess -

July 5, 2016

Former UMass field hockey coach Carla Tagliente accepts job at Princeton -

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50 Activists attend meeting as UMass Board of Trustees approves motion of divestment from fossil fuel companies -

June 16, 2016

Four former Minutemen depart from UMass hockey program -

June 14, 2016

Boston Calling 2016 delivers rousing farewell to City Hall Plaza -

June 2, 2016

Sufjan Stevens unearths quirk at Boston Calling -

June 2, 2016

The Collegian live tweets Boston Calling -

May 28, 2016

UMass baseball finishes season with sweep over George Mason -

May 22, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse falls in NCAA quarterfinal -

May 22, 2016

‘Green Room’ is a bloody blast of survival horror -

May 21, 2016

DaLuz: Boston Celtics stuck trudging in the mud -

May 18, 2016

Despite tallying double-digit hits, UMass baseball falls to Fairfield Tuesday afternoon -

May 17, 2016

Radiohead returns to the top with gorgeous, illuminating ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ -

May 16, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse advances to quarterfinal of NCAA tournament -

May 16, 2016

UMass baseball outlasts Rhode Island in series finale behind strong pitching of Brandon Walsh -

May 15, 2016

Eileen McDonald’s overtime goal advances UMass women’s lacrosse in NCAA tournament -

May 14, 2016

12 UMass students face possible arrests in connection to an alleged bad LSD trip -

May 14, 2016

The fight against religious extremism

Flickr/cattias.photos

January’s news and much of the news of the past six months has been dominated by the ongoing fight against terrorism. September and October were clouded with news of violent protests against clips from the film “Innocence of Muslims,” a low budget production portraying a very negative depiction of the Prophet Mohammed’s life. Although the film was never completed, overdubs in Arabic became a focal point for violent protests that claimed lives. The start of 2013 has been similarly marred by the outbreak of violence in Mali and the deadly hostage-taking at an Algerian oil refinery, in which as many as 50 hostages died.   The common factor uniting these recent, violent events is religious extremism.

The fight against religious extremism is a growing issue, and has become a much more publicized conflict since the Sept. 11 attacks. But unlike earlier fights that pitted democratic governments against movements such as fascism and Marxist-Leninist communism, today’s democracies are scared to condemn their enemies. During the recent film protests, the U.S. denounced the work of the maker of “Innocence of Muslims,” even as innocent people have suffered as a result of religious fundamentalism. Offensive as such productions may be to some, Western democracies have no right to apologize for the very rights that their citizens have fought and died for – the right to freedom of expression.

People across the globe have every right to be offended by projects such as “Innocence of Muslims,” and should feel free to express their opinions in constructive ways, through editorials or peaceful protests; resorting to violence is intolerable.  By denouncing the film clips, the U.S. sends a weak message to religious extremists, almost exonerating the actions of mobs and organized terrorist cells such as Ansar al-Sharia. The stance of such groups is clear. In an interview with the BBC in September, Sheikh Mohammed Zahawi, a spokesperson for Ansar al-Sharia told journalists, “We want to tell the world that the democratic project doesn’t suit us and doesn’t suit Islam.”

Instead of apologizing, Western governments must defend the right of individuals to espouse ideas and create intellectual property of a satirical nature that some may deem offensive, a right enshrined in almost every democratic constitution. Instead of apologizing, Western governments must condemn every act of terrorism and mob violence, and act to prevent future events. To date, religious extremists have had some notorious successes, most notably the Sept. 11 attacks, the July 7, 2005, bombings in London, and the March 11, 2004, attacks in Madrid. Many other plots have been stopped thanks to the vigilance of law enforcement agencies and the ineptitude of many conspirators. But the evidence is growing that religious extremism is on the rise. In countries such as Pakistan, radical Islamists control huge swaths of territory threatening to overthrow already unstable nations, turning these countries into springboards for terrorism.   Even in developed countries, religious extremists are making dangerous inroads – for example, Christian fanatics have assassinated doctors who perform abortions. Finding allies in the war on religious extremism is difficult, with two-faced behavior from many nations. Saudi Arabia, an ultra-religious absolute monarchy, is considered a key U.S. ally in this war, yet funnels millions of publicly and privately held money annually to Wahhabist madrassas (religious schools) that indoctrinate students in their extremist version of Islam and serve as recruiting posts for groups such as al-Qaeda. However, there are many madrassas across the globe that do not indoctrinate students with radical ideas and generally stay within the ambit of secular ideas. Whatever their creed and wherever they operate, religious extremists share common goals – the removal of democracy, the overturn of freedom of speech, religion and hard-won gains in civil rights by women and minorities.

It’s time to identify the enemy and stop apologizing. Western democracies must make it very clear to their citizens and to other countries that they are not at war with any one religion, but rather with the violent extremist elements of many different religions – whether Christian, Jewish or Islamic. It’s a war that will not be won with troops alone, but also with education, health care, economic development and the extension of democracy.

Eamon McCarthy Earls  is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at ecmccart@student.umass.edu.

 

Comments
2 Responses to “The fight against religious extremism”
  1. Arafat says:

    Eamon,

    Your article is disingenuous. You insinuate other religions produce extremists like Islam does, and this is simply untrue.

    In the past 36 years there have been six abortion clinic attacks resulting in eight deaths. There is not a day goes by that Islamic extremists don’t kill many multiples of that number.

    Pure and simple Islam IS unique among all religions. It IS the only religion whose prophet was a warrior, a man who stole from defenseless caravans and villages so as to increase his wealth, a man who enslaved, raped and tortured those who refused his demands.

    Today when Muslims act they quote chapter and verse from the Quran and model their actions on Mohammed’s as described in the hadiths.

    Mohammed is the polar opposite of Christ as is Islam from Christianity, and you do yourself and your readers a great disservice by insinuating otherwise.

    “Allahu Akbar” they shouted as they slowly cut off Daniel Pearl’s head.

  2. Arafat says:

    Eamon,

    Let me also say I completely agree and commend you for your belief that it is long past time we started being honest about the problem.

    The alternative – Obama’s choice – is to continue to whitewash and to even lie about the true nature of Islam. It’s time for honesty and education for only through doing that will we help address the problem.

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