Daryl Ilbury

Posts Tagged ‘militants’

Why ISIS and Boko Harum are right

In Eish!, Fools, Scoundrels on January 19, 2015 at 7:10 am

religious_discriminationThe report that Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram kidnapped dozens of people in neighbouring Cameroon would no doubt have caused a murmur of concern throughout the Western parts of the world. This comes hot on the heels of other Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria, the killing of a reported 2000 people, and the terror attacks by Islamic-aligned militant groups in Paris. It’s fair to say that most people can’t rationalise why these militants are doing this.

Here’s the explanation: They’re doing what they doing because what they’re doing is right, and because they have ‘evidence’ that what they’re doing is right.

It is of course not right – and as a humanist I condemn it – but they believe that it is, and that’s an important clarification, and the explanation for that will be uncomfortable for many people. But here it is:

Imagine the biggest library in the world. It exists, it’s the US Library of Congress, the de facto national library of the United States. On a large table in the library sits a book. Just the one book. It is an ancient religious text. No-one knows for a fact who wrote it, and so nothing in the book can be verified. 

Understandably, millions of people in the world dispute the veracity of its contents. Nevertheless millions of other people around the world still believe what’s inside it to be true, absolutely, unequivocally true. More importantly they see it as their sole frame of reference for understanding the world and interacting with other people. In fact they see it as a book of answers to any questions they have – any questions whatsoever. 

And it can be, because with the guidance of self-appointed interpreters, all they have to do is find a phrase in the book and twist it to address their question or, more worryingly, to support their purpose, to be ‘evidence’ that what they’re doing is right – no matter how abhorrent it may seem to other people. 

This is possible because – like horoscopes – the wording is broad, often vague, and in many places even contradicts itself.

That book is of course…the Bible.

What? You were expecting the Qur’an? That’s understandable because it could easily be the Qur’an. But then it could also be the Torah, the Talmud, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, the Guru Granth Sahib, the Dhammapada, in fact any one of many diverse and disputed religious texts.

Think about that for a minute: Of the over 158 million items in the Library of Congress, many people in the world take as their absolute doctrine the contents of just one book, the contents of which can’t be verified and yet can easily be interpreted to support any belief or purpose.

The militants are simply doing what millions of other people of all religions do every day: do what they do because they believe what they’re doing is right, and they have ‘evidence’ to prove it.

Oh, and by the way…humanists? They’re interested in what’s in the rest of the library.