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Tony Grist

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The Fault Line [Nov. 5th, 2004|09:28 am]
Tony Grist
Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch film maker (yup, he was the great-grandson of Vincent's brother) was murdered last Tuesday. His killer shot him several times before cutting his throat and stabbing him in the chest.

The man they've arrested is an Islamic fundamentalist. Van Gogh had a history of saying intemperate things about Islam- like it was a "backward religion", like it was "misogynistic", like the prophet Mohammed was a "lecherous tyrant".

He had been offered police protection and refused it. "Who shoots the village idiot?" he asked.

I have Muslim friends and neighbours. I like them. I like them partly because they're old-fashioned and their kids are well behaved. It's like living in a little 1950s enclave, where the manners are better, where respect is shown....

But I'm not happy with the way women and girls are treated. And I'm not keen on all that religion. I see the kids trooping off to the madrassah in their robes and head-scarves and I know they're going to have this seventh century text drilled into their delicate skulls. I asked an educated Muslim whether there were Islamic scholars who subjected the Koran to critical examination (in the manner of 20th century Biblical scholars) and he got all flustered and said, oh no, that was never going to happen.

Of course, this whole issue is clouded and confounded by race. My position here is entirely straightforward. I love multi-culturalism. I want immigration restrictions eased. I believe in the brotherhood and sisterhood of Man.

But fundamentalist religion- now that's something else. And I'd feel the same qualms if all the neighbourhood children were being marched off to Baptist Sunday School.

Fundamentalist religion closes down enquiry. It is against science, against the liberty of the individual. It encourages subservience and stupidity.

Theo Van Gogh was unwisely impolite but he wasn't saying anything that wasn't true.

Here's the fault line that runs through the modern world. The US election showed it up clearly. Closed minds on one side, open minds on the other. Tolerance on one side, intolerance on the other.

And the tolerant have this big existential question to answer. How can you tolerate intolerance?

Do I simplify? Of course.

And do I have any helpful suggestions for easing the situation? Of course not.

I find it heartbreaking.

How many hundreds of years is it going to take us to sort this thing out?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: ksp24
2004-11-05 01:41 pm (UTC)
centralasian had an interesting piece on this a few days ago.

It's a sad event and it's true, we really do have such growing polarity in our society.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-05 04:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-11-05 02:30 pm (UTC)
And the tolerant have this big existential question to answer. How can you tolerate intolerance?


Bush must feel grateful to his God:

"The people have spoken. Thanks for hearing their prayers, God. Now we can make the world into the holy place you had in mind when you wrote the Bible."

And in every fundamentalist, Primitive Fellowship Grace and Love church, I can just imagine all the happy prayers: "Finally! We have God's man in the White house! Thank you, Jesus! High time, God!"

My supervisor, the man who thought Adam had gills until the Fall, actually thinks God speaks in Elizabethan English. He thinks Jesus said things like "Thou wast." I'm sure he thinks Jesus has blue eyes and sensitive pianist's hands with long delicate fingers.

I find it heartbreaking.

How many hundreds of years is it going to take us to sort this thing out?


Sadly, not in our lifetimes, I fear.

Except:

We never know what strange things might transpire. A meteor might hit the planet. A plague might wipe out most of the population. My sister is convinced that, within six months, Al Qauida will try dropping a "dirty bomb" over the Jesus belt. "I'm glad," she says, "that we live in the hill country."
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-05 04:53 pm (UTC)
I saw a thing on dirty bombs the other day. Apparently they don't work. The Pentagon has tested them (so did the Iraqis) and the radioactive material gets spread so thin that it's harmless.

Only if you stood stock still in the blast area for a year would you take on enough radiation for it to damage you.
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From: archyena
2004-11-05 04:55 pm (UTC)
I've got a helpful suggestion: find the preachers and imams, shoot twice in the back of the head, tie to cinder blocks, dump in East River. Repeat as necessary. I'm convinced the mob has a perfect system for dealing with this sort of thing.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-11-05 05:45 pm (UTC)
The French revolutionaries tried that one, so did the Russkies. So- now I think of it- did the ancient Romans.

Tertullian has the definitive word on the matter. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."
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