Thursday, May 17, 2007

Killing in the Name Of

In the year since starting this little experiment of mine, one column above all the others has spawned the most heated debate -- and by that, I mean the most bitter indignation against my admittedly worthless opinion. In November of last year, I wrote what I initially believed would be a throw-away diatribe in response to the ejection of six Muslim imams from a commercial airliner (Imam-a-Rama/11.22.06); the men were pulled off the flight after another passenger complained that they had been acting suspiciously.

My provocative proclamation -- judging by the readers who subsequently proceeded to berate the living hell out of me -- was that a certain amount of ethnic profiling at our nation's airports is not only logical, it's necessary.

In the rather tempestuous back-and-forth that followed, I argued that many of those calling me a right-wing troglodyte were choosing to zero in on only one particular symptom of what I actually claimed was a much larger and more problematic disease: America's unwillingness to admit that it is, in fact, at war with an entire religious culture -- an intractable Middle-Eastern element which believes that God demands that it and the rest of the world never advance beyond the stone age.

An extremist viewpoint that demands absolute worldwide submission and requires the destruction of any and all who dissent.

At the time, I put it this way:

"One of the most gargantuan lies we've been told since 9/11 is that this isn't a war of cultures; on the contrary, that's exactly what it is. It is a fundamentalist religious culture which considers us heretical enemies of the one true God, and therefore dangerous and unworthy to exist upon his Earth. It considers us not only an abomination, but one which has humiliated and subjugated it simply by virtue of the fact that it has become the dominant way of life on the planet. As a good friend of mine once put it so beautifully, as far as Muslim fundamentalists are concerned, this is not World War III, it's World War I; it is the same war that's been going on since the dawn of time, between a theocracy bent on never moving past the first century and enslaving or destroying those who oppose it, and the forces of modernism and enlightenment. All one has to do to understand this fact is to look at the reaction to a harmless set of cartoons in Denmark, or a beauty pageant in Nigeria, or an absurdist comment from a silly little man in the Vatican."

Or, most recently, the decision of a teenage girl in Northern Iraq to leave her insular faith and convert to another to be with the man she loves.

That one choice -- that one attempt to take control of her own life and her own destiny -- cost 17-year-old Du'a Aswad her life.

She died in the most brutal way imaginable: she was viciously stoned by a mob of angry men -- some of them, members of her own family. It was what's known as an "honor killing," a tradition dating back centuries and one which inexplicably continues unabated in the Middle-East, here in the early days of the 21st century.

What's worse, if you can stomach it, you can now see for yourself this girl's final terrified moments, as she was dragged into the street by men who felt insulted and emasculated by her unforgivable attempt at autonomy -- men who felt empowered by their god to punish such impudence; as she was kicked and beaten while pleading for her life; as her beautiful yet sinfully seductive face was pummeled with rocks until it was nothing but bloody pulp; as she lay dead in the street -- at the age of 17.

You can see all of this, because one of her attackers -- one of these powerful men of God -- shot the entire thing with his cell phone camera, as if it were a celebrity sighting or a weather phenomenon.

There simply aren't words to fully convey the sheer insanity of the fact that such Biblical savagery can still exist in the year 2007 -- or that it can in any way be abided by the rest of civilized society.

It's true that action -- in some cases very brave action -- is being taken by many, both within the Middle-East and without, to put a stop to this kind of inexcusable barbarism. Still, I firmly believe that the root cause of this draws a straight line back to my original argument from last November -- and that until the issue of the region's overall religious fundamentalism is addressed, any attempt to halt honor killings will be akin to putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. The fact is that the comprehensive mindset of the Middle-East has to change -- and change drastically; it has to either be cajoled quietly or, if necessary, yanked forcefully from its irrational adherence to 1,000 year old superstition; it must be pulled, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century, for the good of all of us. Appeasing such lunacy through platitudes and inefficacies, particularly in this day and age, only puts the civilized world at risk.

I have no desire to die because of someone else's delusional claims as to the will of an invisible supreme being.

Likewise, I have no desire to see another Du'a Aswad die -- but another will, again and again, until someone steps up and makes it clear that there's no place in the modern world for the unreason that both fosters and condones such inhumanity.

It has to be done.


QueBarbara said...

Thank you for writing about this. I saw this news story earlier today and in the back of my mind I was hoping that you had seen the article, so we could get Chez' take, always well written, about it.

Fundamentalist Muslims = Fundamentalist Christians.

Chez said...

Agreed. I specified no one religion -- only the violent adherence to faith which runs rampant throughout the Middle-East and the intolerance of any dissention to such uttery insanity.

Anonymous said...

I am buying myself an ichez, so I don''t loose a beat. Will comment manana - going home.


Beleria said...

Damn Chez, Your page always brings me
down and I have to go straight to my humor sites just to get over it.
I keep coming back though-because to deny what's going on in the rest of the world would mean I was the same as those people on the other side of the world. They are still people, and therefore trying their best to live good lives by their standards, the great tragedy lies in their unwillingness to accept what the rest of the world already has:

Forgiveness and openmindedness.

Keep up the good work.

Diego said...

I wish I could write as well as you.

As I read this, I was reminded of some parents who locked their six year old daughter in a closet, threw feces at her, urinated on her, and told her she was the incarnation of the devil while also encouraging, her slightly older brother to abuse her in the same manner, which he did. The brother was/became/turned into a sociopath and the parents couldn't understand why anyone thought he could be a problem. The parents were fundamentalist christian and lived in the ever-so-civilized US.

Anonymous said...

As an atheist, I have to reply adamantly that Christian fundamentalists do not equal Moslem ones. When was the last time that anyone got stoned to death on the campus of Liberty University?

Marjorie said...

Do you mind if I put a link on my myspace page to your blog so some of your open mind might spread to some of my friends and family. Thank You.

Lorenzo said...

I recently read your post from November for the first time and the way nobody was getting what you were saying was nothing short of ridiculous. There's nothing wrong with a little profiling, it only becomes a problem when we're leaving due process at the curb and abducting people. Someone responded to your November post with a story about an ex of hers who had been abducted and detained without even being told why.

Today's posting here is another perfect example of why profiling is necessary. As long as "the enemy" (And I apologize here for using such a silly term, and by it I mean any enemy) is going to be brutally murdering innocent people, we can't wait to catch them in the act and politely ask them to stop because demanding it of them might be considered impolite.

If it's more than likely that someone is going to be committing a treacherous or terrorist act, even if our only evidence of this is their race, we need to stop them from doing it. We need to do it in such a way that said person does not have their civil rights violated. Making someone take a later flight is really no big deal. Especially when set up against another 9/11.

And what's the worst that will happen to them? They miss a business meeting? Boo hoo. Call your boss and say, "They pulled me off the plain because of the color of my skin." Nobody's going to fire you for that, not with the emphasis these days on affirmative action.

To be clear, taking someone to the back room and questioning them calmly, and maybe taking a closer look at their luggage is much different than taking them in a back room and pummeling them.

Or to paraphrase a line of dialog from Dogma being "bludgeoned to shit with big fuckin' rocks"

Anonymous said...

I believe I should point out for our other anonymous writer that although Catholicism appears relatively extremist free by today’s standards there was a point in time (oh lets say...the 13th century) when in fact it was marred by similar events of violence (Inquisition anyone?). It would seem to me the only difference between the two is a few hundred years of growing up. Thank you Chez for pointing out that this wasn’t a MUSLIM problem, but an EXTREMIST problem. It seems prevalent in today culture that the distinction between the two is so easily forgotten.

Chez said...

Before you begin patting me on the back -- you should probably know that I'm not a big fan of Islam, but for the same reason that I'm not a big fan of relgion in general: it bases life and death decisions on the completely irrational and those who adhere to it -- extremist or not -- believe themselves to be doing God's will.

Please note that I use the word "fundamentalist," as opposed to "extremist;" I happen to think that these two words both are and aren't interchangable. Let me explain: extremist has come to mean someone who warps the otherwise peaceful tenets of Islam, Christianity etc. But the reality is that if you read the Bible, and yes, particularly the Koran, there's very little that's peaceful about either. The Koran especially promotes dominion through violence and subjugation on almost every single page. The only reason that the most insane and dangerous aspects of both religions (and let me make clear that Judaism is not in any way off the hook here either) are no longer abided by a majority of civilized society's "believers" is that 2000+ years of continued assault by the forces of logic and modernism have proven so much of them to be nonsense; it certainly isn't because the religious beliefs themselves have changed -- they haven't one bit.

And that's kind of what I'm getting at here -- the political, social and cultural situations in the Middle-East have allowed for the growth beyond all but the strictest and most infantile adherence to the earliest human fairy-tales to be stunted.

In this day and age -- being that our weapons have evolved over 2000 years while many of those who have the ability to use those weapons have not -- that's a recipe for annihilation.

Unfortunately, not all religious fundamentalists are content to merely pick up the closest rock anymore.

Nancy said...

When I read the story yesterday, inside I knew I'd be reading your take on it today. Thank you.

It was a horrible, horrible thing, made even worse by the fact that it was filmed and the video was circulated. There are those, I know, who would argue that there are people who would need to SEE it to BELIEVE it. But there is something of the prurient involved that I find so distasteful.

TK said...

Hey, I said in my own blog post that I've accepted a little racial profiling, even when I'm the one getting profiled. I agree... it's an ugly necessity at times. I wish it weren't so, but while it's a bad thing, I can't say it's the wrong thing.

I don't always agree with you, but on religion we're pretty much on the same page. I try to take a pretty "live and let live" approach to religion. Sadly, religion does not seem to feel the same way.

Manny said...

I watched the video with Mrs. Disco and I couldn't believe that we were actually watching someone be killed. And to see her surrounded by poeple yelling what I believe to be "Allah" sickened me to no end. It was pure barbarism. The desperate act of a belief system that cannot tolerate any threat to its perception as a path to heaven and will destroy as many innocents as it needs to secure its stranglehold on its subjects. A very large part of me wished for a tactical nuke to have been dropped at that very moment, in that very spot.

I've always viewed anyone that espouses a belief in a "one true God" as a close minded fanatic......this just put the last nail in the coffin.

Anonymous said...

"When was the last time that anyone got stoned to death on the campus of Liberty University?"

Really good point. Let's ask the children of the Branch Davidians at Waco. Matthew Sheppard maybe?

I wonder if The Army of God or the National Liberation Front of Tripura might consent to an interview?

Nah, forget it, I'm just going to turn on CNN and see how Bush's crusade in the desert is going. 64,000 dead Iraqi civilians and counting.

Anonymous said...

Note, this wasn't an Islamic group, but a Yazidi group. Yazidi are not a sect of Islam.
It's a religion that pre-dates Islam. So Chez is definitely correct in describing them as stone age. Extremist doesn't apply as much, that would mean there are moderates in this religion. I don't think there are ;)

QueBarbara said...

Chez, I also meant to ask, where did you get the photo for this post? It is so fitting, or as you non-midwesterners say, apropos.

Have a nice holiday.

UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

One of the things that pisses me off about this is that Islam, in its original incarnation, was NOT a bad religion. In most of its modern incarnations, it's not a bad religion. But, like Christianity, it has been twisted by certain fanatical groups so that many people who AREN'T familiar with it believe it to be the source of evil incarnate. And, well, that's not true. It pisses me off to hear people speak of perfectly friendly Muslim American citizens in a hostile manner and then react positively to radical fundamentalist Christians saying that everyone but them is going to 'hell.'

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for quite a while and think that you usually make excellent points.

I wouldn't call myself a particularly religious person, though I am proud of the traditions I grew up with.

Anyhow, what I'm trying to say is that religion at it's base isn't supposed to be brutal or barbarous, like the example of Du'A Aswad. To me it is more a question of a code of conduct and holding on to certain values which we all find important such as friendship, family, kindness,...

I'm not saying religion is perfect,far from it.
I'm the first one to agree with "god created mankind, and to thank him, we invented god" so any religion sprouting from man can't possibly be completely right, no matter how you look at it.

Religion only becomes something dangerous or barbaric when it doesn't evolve over time, when people refuse to get out of their little cocoons and open their eyes. As for extremism: if certain rotten characters make it their goal in life to make illiterate and 'simple' people believe that the heighest goal their religion offers is killing yourself and half a dozen others is an act of god or that america should be reclaimed by the evangelists or jewish settlers should kill every moving thing they see in order to reclaim the Holy Land, the thought that i share the basics (whether you call it the Old Testament,The Pentateuch,...) makes my skin crawl.

My point being: religion isn't all THAT bad, as long as you don't force it down other people's throats and you respect everyone's point of vieuw.

wow...sorry, that wasn't supposed to become a lecture ;-) but the late hour (bloody Europeans..) is making my brain mushy

ps: Chez, I think you're a great writer, I really enjoyed your posts about your experience with the brain tumor and especially your post about Jorge, they both moved me to tears

Chez said...

Thanks very much for taking the time to comment whoever you are. : )

Chez said...

QueBarbara -- the wonders of Google image search. I lucked out; it's an amazing picture.

Anonymous said...

My dear racist friend, you are a through tool. The girl killed in Northern Iraq was not a Muslim, but a yazidi who was killed by her own because she converted to Islam. The real question is how much of this shit happened before yanks destabilized the Middle East.
Incredible how stupid you American fuckwads have become in your paranoia.

Chez said...

I'm a "through tool?" Where the hell did you learn English?

Listen dingbat -- I know full-well that Du'a was a Yazidi. I never said that she was Muslim, nor did I even state in this column that the issue in the Middle-East is a militant Islamic culture; I said that it's an extremist "religious" culture -- a belief that's completely insane and has never evolved, which makes it impossible to deal with, regardless of the particular God it happens to be applied to.

I figured I made that pretty clear, but as you've proven, there's no accounting for fucking stupidity. Now go away.