Symbolic Forest

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Blog : Posts tagged with ‘fanaticism’


In which we ponder religious motives

As it’s Sunday, let’s think about religion for a moment. More specifically, let’s think about Norman Kember, the peace activist rescued last week after spending several months as a hostage in Iraq.

The big news story since his release, of course, is that he didn’t seem particularly happy to be freed. His gratitude to the SAS seemed rather forced, and he repeated his anti-war position. And that, in itself, is an admirable thing – I’d respect him much less if he had switched to say: “actually, now, I think the SAS are doing a damn fine job out there.”

Whether he was right or wrong to go out there is something that can be debated for hours, but it isn’t what I want to talk about. I’m more interested in whether he wanted to be rescued or not, and how that might be down to his religion.

There’s no doubt that Kember was deeply religious.* His behaviour, it seems, is classic for deeply religious people – it’s a case of self-martyrdom. Since the earliest days of Christianity – well, since the days of St Anthony, at least – the devout have flocked to non-deadly varients of martyrdom. St Anthony himself favoured hermeticism, but not all of us, particularly today, could cope with living on our own in the depths of the desert. So, people have found other ways to suffer in the name of Christ,** particularly by self-denial and “mortification”. Kember accidentally found an excellent modern way to suffer and mortify himself, and serve his favourite political cause along the way: be a hostage. No wonder he didn’t particularly want to be rescued.

* And the two Canadians who were captives along with Kember look, in the pictures shown on the BBC site, to have a bit of a fanatical gleam in their eyes.

** The best-known being the Stylites, probably because they sound rather silly.

You can justify anything with a word-processor

In which we discuss an evil man

The other day, Peter of the Naked Blog said he thought the BBC should not have given as much attention to the video of the suicidal murderer Mohammed Sidique Khan:

MSK didn’t justify anything. What he did was demonstrate his religion-related fanaticism. By airing and promoting his views like this, you are guilty of leading thousands of ignorant assholes to follow in his vile ways.

Now, his first two sentences I agree with. I don’t think, though, that the BBC should just have ignored him. Mohammed Sidique Khan was, we can clearly see, a twisted, insane, brainwashed murderer who had fallen under the influence of evil, cold, vicious men claiming to be “religious leaders”.* You can’t explain to people how sick and twisted his views were without telling people what they were.

It’s impossible to negotiate with people as mad as MSK was. You can’t pull out of Iraq, because Iraq isn’t really the issue here; and if Iraq wasn’t an issue at the moment then MSK would have been told he was killing himself in the name of Palestine, or Kashmir, or Afghanistan, or any country in the world which doesn’t have a Talibanesque government. One of the main problems politicians have is that by and large, they are intelligent people; but they have to deal with people who aren’t intelligent, people who are stupid, people who don’t think, and people who are downright insane. There is nothing we could have done to save Mohammed Sidique Khan from becoming the deluded murderer he was, other than making him less stupid and gullible to start with.

* I admit to being slightly biased on this.