Posts Tagged With: Al-Qaeda

RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM

At the heart of religious fundamentalism is the unquenchable thirst to dominate other people’s lives. To dictate to the populace what it can and cannot do. The self-gratifying, lustful power to reward or punish others based on how they respond to religious edicts. That power to include torturing, imprisoning or out-right killing other human beings should they disobey those edicts. This has been on-going for tens if not hundreds of thousands of years, or ever since mankind began forming into various types of societies such as tribes or clans. Most early tribal leaders had the power to destroy the lives of their fellow clansmen should they disobey the craven idols they had carved and called gods. Such power has always been too intoxicating for most leaders to ever relinquish.

Which brings us to the events going on in most Arab countries in the Middle-East. It was only a few years back that the world was enchanted by what was called the Arab Spring. Ruthless dictators that had been in power for decades, such as Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, were being overthrown and the prospects of freedom and democracy throughout the Mid-East seemed to burn brightly. Today those dreams have turned to ashes, as most Arab countries have become hollowed-out shells of their former beings. You can thank religious fundamentalism for most of this, including the fact that people all too often make incredibly bad choices and turn out to be their own worst enemy.

In Egypt, after the fall of Mubarak, Egyptians were allowed to hold free elections that would determine their next government. In an act that can only be described as incredible stupidity, the people chose leaders of the Moslem Brotherhood to run their country. The Moslem Brotherhood had, over many decades, openly espoused and advocated for the imposition of strict Islamic fundamentalism for Egyptian society. Once in power, that’s exactly what they began doing. Who could have guessed? When those very same Egyptians that had voted the Moslem Brotherhood into power, began seeing the ugly face of Islamic fanaticism being put into practice, they cried and begged for relief. They held massive demonstrations and prayed that the military would intervene and save them. Fortunately for them, the Army did come to their rescue and overthrew the Moslem Brotherhood. Today, there’s a new Army General in charge of a government that allows and tolerates secularization in Egyptian society.

Most other Arab countries, however, are not as fortunate. It was not long after the Prophet Muhammed established the Moslem religion that two factions of Islam suddenly sprung up. Both factions pray to Allah, both recognize Muhammed as the prophet, so that the religious differences among the two sects are relatively minor; yet the two have created a chasm between themselves that’s deeper than the Grand Canyon. One faction is called Sunni and the other Shia, and their hatred of one another has led to deaths among Arabs in the hundreds of thousands or more. It’s all about the power and the ability to impose one’s religious beliefs on often unwilling populations. All this division and dysfunction has led to terrorist organizations being created, such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS who view killing people and instigating atrocities to be such jolly good sport. Ostensibly their intentions are to kill western heathens such as Americans and Europeans. And, of course, Israelis and Jews. That goes without saying. But in the end, they wind up slaughtering  their own fellow Arabs and Muslims by the thousands. Much easier to kill Arabs since they’re right there in the Middle-East and so readily available. Today, Iraq, Syria and Libya have been almost totally destroyed by terrorism, while Jordan and Tunisia are tottering on the brink. The terrorists have carved out a huge hunk of territory in Iraq and Syria, with stated intentions of taking over the whole Mid-East. And somehow, all this derangement, slaughter and destruction, in the name of Islamic-Jihad has proved to be an attractive recruiting tool for hundreds of young Europeans, and even some Americans. They have gone over to the Mid-East to join the terrorists on their murderous quests. After all, why should only Arabs have all the fun.

In a way, it’s a bit unfair to cite Islam as the only example of religious fanaticism, since Christianity has its own bloody history. From the time that Roman emperors allowed Christianity to become the official faith of the Roman Empire, (a few centuries after Christ’s death), the Papacy was established and became a dominant power in the affairs of almost all European nations. Europeans that deviated from various papal proclamations were often imprisoned or burned at the stake. One of my favorite episodes on the top ten list of religious fundamentalist hits was known as the Spanish Inquisition. Started in Spain in the late 15th century, the Inquisition sought to convert mostly Jews, but some Muslims also, to Christianity in order to save their souls from hell and damnation. Those “heretics” that refused to convert were often tortured and then murdered. The religious theory behind the killings were that since these Jews and Muslems would be dying at the hands of God’s children, (Christians), their spirits would be pervaded by the wisdom and knowledge of God’s followers, and they would therefore be spared from the fires of hell, and be transported into heaven. The old kill the person to save their soul gambit. This practice went on for centuries before some semblance of reason and sanity finally did away with the Inquisition.

Today, Christian fundamentalism, at least in the U.S. and elsewhere, takes the form of trying to forbid a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, or seeking to deny homosexuals their basic rights such as marriage. Certainly a lot tamer than beheading those that are considered unholy heathens. But sort of the same mentality of trying to force their fundamentalist view of life and religion down the throats of people that don’t share their beliefs. As I’ve said before, religious fundamentalism is all about the power to foist one’s beliefs on everyone else. After all, wouldn’t God want it that way?

 

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NEW YEAR, SAME OLD HATREDS

A recent Gallop poll showed that close to two-thirds of all Americans considered 2013 to be a bummer. A year in which their fortunes or circumstances not only did not improve, but mostly worsened. So, as the festivities surrounding the artificial demarcation of the calendar have now ended, it might be useful to view where the world stands and what we can expect in 2014. A good place to start might be the Mid-East where centuries of embedded hatreds have come bubbling to the surface with a vengeance, resulting in the slaughter of thousands of people. Besides the hatreds between Palestinian Moslems and Israeli Jews, there are the larger hatreds between the primary two factions of Islam-the Shiites and the Sunnis. Both factions pray to Allah; both observe nearly identical religious rites, and yet both despise the very existence of each other’s lives. Never underestimate man’s capacity to revel in the depths of hatred and thirst for vengeance, which is like a bottomless pit.

A good example of this is current-day Iraq. Remember Iraq; the place that used to be ruled by the tyrant Saddam Hussein. Remember back in 2003 when President George W. Bush stated that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weaponry. How the world could not allow such a blood thirsty butcher as Saddam to possess these WMDs. How we had to go to war with Iraq in March 2003 in order to depose Saddam and rid Iraq of these WMDs. And how, after we easily won that war, we found that, lo and behold, there were actually no WMDs in Iraq whatsoever. Oops. A slight miscalculation in our intelligence community. We finally extracted our forces out of Iraq after nearly 10 years of on-going bloodshed, after the deaths of over 6000 U.S military personnel and civilian contractors, the expenditure of nearly a trillion dollars, and the slaughter of close to 200,000 Iraqis. What’s left now, however, is an Iraqi nation in shambles with Shiite and Sunni factions, along with the emerging presence of Al-Qaida, murdering each other by the thousands.

In 2013, almost 9000 Iraqis were killed in suicide terrorist attacks. When Saddam was in charge, he had led his minority Sunni people to rule over the majority Shiite population. With Saddam gone, and with no U.S. presence to mediate between both Islamic factions, the majority Shiites have taken control of the government led by Prime Minister Maleki who has moved harshly against the Sunnis; including handing out death sentences against Sunni political leaders. As a result, old hatreds have come to the forefront with Sunnis going on a killing spree against Shiites to avenge the oppression they’re experiencing.  Al-Qaida, ever vigilant for new opportunities to spread their unique brand of terrorism, has stepped into the fray by aligning themselves with the Sunni minority. But in reality, Al-Qaeda is just out for themselves, and has now taken control of a significant chunk of Iraqi territory; including the city of Fallujah, where so many U.S. lives were lost. As the beat goes on, old hatreds keep on bubbling to the surface as Iraq continues to degenerate or devolve into never-ending tribal warfare.

I’ve written extensively before, about the 3 year-old civil war going on in Syria, which has now claimed about 125,000 lives with hundreds more lost on an almost daily basis; so I won’t repeat the details here. Except to note that Al-Qaida also has a growing presence in that debacle as well; with the goal of uniting with Al-Qaeda in Iraq so as to control a huge area of land and population from which they can indulge in their terrorist fascism with impunity. The rest of the Mid-East is a similar basket case. Libya, which commendably overthrew its own bloody tyrant, has now degenerated into a conglomeration of tribes that are constantly at war with each other. Tiny Lebanon, has the unfortunate circumstance of having a major terrorist organization within its borders thanks to funding and support from Iran. It’s part of Iran’s scheme of one day destroying Israel. And speaking of Iran, 2014 should be the year that it is allowed to, at last, come into possession of nuclear weaponry. While this country, and the rest of the world, sits by and lets it happen. Sort of the way the world watched Hitler and Nazism rise to power in the 1930s, and did nothing about it until it was too late.

Which brings us to the most intractable of all Mid-East hatreds-that, of course, being between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Both sides have been in a kind of constant state of war, hot or cold, since Israel was granted statehood in 1948. The problem is that both sides seek to be the dominant force in a relatively small geographical space that is, apparently, not big enough for the both of them. As a result, both sides are trapped in a never-ending cycle of terrorist attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians, resulting in a series of harsh reprisals and segregation of the Palestinians by the Israelis, countered by cries for vengeance and and destruction of Israel by the Palestinians, etc., resulting in a never-ending merry-go-round of bitterness, dysfunction, and revenge. Our Secretary of State, John Kerry, is engaging in almost super-human effort to bring both sides to the negotiating table to find a peaceful resolution of this on-going mess. Remember John Kerry? He ran for President in 2004, and lost by whisker to George Bush, when Ohio tipped into Bush’s column. Now, he’s making it his life’s mission to forge a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state, where both parties can live in peace and harmony. He deserves an A for effort; but the prospects for success remain quite poor. The reason-its not easy for people or nations to give up on their centuries old hatreds or lusts for vengeance.

And so this is the way the world spins in 2014, or at least that part of the world I’ve discussed in this entry. Doesn’t look very appetizing does it? But, we have almost an entire year to see how all this plays out, before we once again, engage in the rites and rituals surrounding the artificial turnover of the calendar that occurs during every winter solstice.

 

 

 

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