Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association

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Atrocities committed under the guise of religion will always find defenders

09 January 2015 • 366 words

It seems that there is no atrocity which will not find defenders, once those atrocities are committed under the guise of religion.

In the case of the murders of 12 people at the offices of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, a statement from the head of the Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat Association (ASJA), which represents the majority of Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago, asserted that such an act “does not represent the true behaviour and teachings of any Muslim, anywhere.” But Al-Qaeda and ISIS and other such groups all base their actions on Islamic ideology.

Moreover, the same ASJA in 2006, responding to Muslim outrage over cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad, described such drawings as an “act of sacrilege” which they “strongly resented and condemned." The ASJA added that "Press freedom must have its limits” – a line now being echoed by those who believe that religion should be immune to any and all criticisms.

Such a view is based on the obviously false premise that religion is always a force for good. Those who argue that individuals and groups who kill in the name of religion are not following God’s word are ignoring not only history, but their own holy texts. More perniciously, this kind of defence does not only come from the faithful, but also from those in Trinidad and Tobago who style themselves as “liberal”.

The historical and sociological fact, however, is that progress in human affairs has more often been achieved in the teeth of religious opposition rather than otherwise. It was so in European countries three hundred years ago, which is why the concept of separation of Church and State was invented there. The medieval ignorance which caused wars and oppression in Europe centuries ago continues to exist in countries where religiosity (of any faith) is high and, invariably, such societies are marked by violence, corruption, and oppressive government.

Criticism of religion is thus one of the many tools needed to achieve peace and prosperity. People who think such criticism should be one whit less severe where the killing of cartoonists is concerned are helping to bolster the ignorance which, ironically, does the most harm to believers themselves.

T&T Humanist Association

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