Opinions

August 12, 2015 By FM

Scholar’s corner: what can René Girard teach us about religion and violence?

It is almost unthinkable to speak of violence without equating it with religion. This is true in many ways as Mark Juergensmeyer notes: “Violence has always been endemic to religion. Images of destruction and death are evoked by some of religion’s most popular symbols, and religious wars have left through history a trail of blood. The savage martyrdom of Husain in Shiite Islam, the crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity, the sacrifice of Guru Tegh Bahadur in Sikhism, the bloody conquests in the Hebrew Bible, the terrible battles in the Hindu epics, and the religious war attested to in the Sinhalese Buddhist chronicles indicate that in virtually every tradition images of violence occupy as central a place as portrayals of non-violence. This raises two haunting questions: why are these images so central, and what is the relationship between symbolic violence and the real acts of religious violence that occur throughout the world today”.[1] Juergensmeyer raises some interesting questions and René Girard believes “that [his] mimetic theory offers an exhaustive explanation of the phenomenon of religious-inspired violence”.[2] In contrast, Michael Kirwan confidentially claims that Girard anticipated ‘religiously-inspired’ violence and atrocities (including 9/11).[3] Therefore, one does not need to look further to understand this [...]

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August 11, 2015 By FM

Why World Humanitarian Day is so important

As we approach World Humanitarian Day (Aug 19), we should take time to reflect on the global human efforts to create the conditions for peace and prosperity amongst all mankind, and to stand in solidarity with people wanting to bring about progressive social change in their communities. As society comes together with the assistance of new forms of connectivity and transportation, we are transforming into an increasingly inclusive, interdependent and co-operative global community. It is in our nature to feel a sense of community with those we share resources, time and environment with. However, achieving such conditions is not without its challenges – discrimination, inequality, poverty, a worsening in national security conditions and the disregard of human life, all of which are still prevalent. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we do not turn our backs on progressive causes and that humanitarians take the lead on sharing the global dimension to all these common challenges. It these themes that World Humanitarian Day was made to celebrate. Designated on the anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq, which killed 22 UN staff members, World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity when all peoples can [...]

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July 24, 2015 By FM

Asia Bibi and the continued problem of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

The Supreme Court of Pakistan recently suspended the execution of Asia Bibi – the Christian mother-of-five convicted on alleged blasphemy charges that reportedly started over a glass of water. It sounds positive, as historically Pakistani courts seemed to be under enormous pressure whenever it came to blasphemy related cases. One of the judges of the same court, Justice Arif Iqbal Bhatti, was assassinated in 1997 after he acquitted two Christians, Salamat Masih and Rehmat Masih, in a blasphemy case because of insufficient evidence. According to various reports, 1274 people have been charged with blasphemy between 1986 and 2010 – 51 accused have been murdered before finishing their respective trials. With that in mind, it is possible to see how the above potentially influenced the decision to uphold Asia Bibi’s death penalty conviction last year (without any credible evidence). The above numbers signify a horrific picture for the fate of anyone accused of breaching blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Whatever the courts decide about the case, the religious fanatics rarely allow them to survive. Not only are the accused at risk; but their supporters and lawyers are targets and killers are sometimes glorified. Under these circumstances, no one should think that Asia [...]

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July 6, 2015 By FM

Ignorning young British Muslim voices damages the radicalisation debate

This Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the London bombings done by four men who professed to be Muslims, and carried out this attack in the name of Islam. Yet, the words of George Gordon Bryon could never have been truer: “History, with all her volumes vast, hath but one page.” The notion that history all too often repeats itself is both sad and shameful. Looking back a decade later, it is hard to indulge the fact that although our efforts may have increased, the violent ideology that caused the death of 52 people, has evolved and spread. Where there was just Al Qaida and the Taliban, we now have a so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and many other smaller death cults. The sad truth is that a decade on from the July 7 bombings, we are none the wiser as to what attracts Muslims, in particular young people, to travel abroad, and engage in some of the most brutal acts of violence under the guise of worthwhile deeds. In countering violent extremism, we have heard academics, security experts, political commentators, politicians and community activists take vastly different views on what are the drivers [...]

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How Many Children Have To Die for Palestinians to Have Their Homeland?
February 16, 2015 By Faith Matters

How Many Children Have To Die for Palestinians to Have Their Homeland?

We see the cycle of hatred, an Israeli Jewish couple murdered, Jewish settlers retaliate by running over innocent Palestinians and burning olive groups, apart from the harassment and humiliation they mete out to Palestinian farmers. A Jewish man is stabbed in the Old City by young Palestinians, whilst Palestinian children are shot and killed in cold blood […]

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