Monday, September 13, 2010

Three Vignettes

September 13, 2010

Newsweek (September 13, 2010 p.21f) tells the story of Hafiz Hanif, a young Al Qaida recruit. He goes back and forth to his home while training to make bomb vests for would be suicide bombers, use guns and explosives and the like. He remembers finding the head of one of the trainers after a US drone attack on his camp. He sometimes got sent on the food run to buy supplies for the entire camp. He reported never being short of cash for those kind of necessities. He wrote his last will and testament on his 16th birthday as all would be suicide bombers do, urging his male kinsmen to ”join the jihad, seek martyrdom and see him again in the company of the virgins.” The reporters, Sami Yousfzai and Ron Moreau convey a stunning sense that all this is quite normal in the eyes of their subject who is simply a boy growing up in unusual circumstances.

A friend who has spent a lot of time in Afghanistan in recent years reports the regular rape of recruits by more senior members of the Afghan military and Police. This, he says is all bound up with a perversion of the belief that there will be virgins in Paradise. Muslim women must be kept pure and protected (with the Burqa and other veils for example) meaning that male ‘needs’ must be met with boys or with young Christian women who have been kidnapped for the sex-slave trade. In some strange moral calculus this all seems to be OK.

The Week (#780, August 21, 2010) reprints much of an article from The Times Magazine/N.I. Syndication telling the story of a man in Pakistan who helps rescue young British girls from forced marriages, often contracted for purposes of acquiring visas for men to enter England with, or more often without their brides. Albert David is the rescuer who approves of arranged marriages as a cultural tradition and expression, but not these forced marriages that are akin to kidnapping and imprisonment. The article tells of Tania whose 16th Birthday present was a one way ticket to Pakistan and to a kind of perversion of marriage.

Where do we see the equivalent perversion of all that is good and holy and healthy in Christianity? When does our sense of ‘morality’ lead us off the rails with oppression, degradation and hatred dressed up as religion? We can certainly point to the laws that were proposed last year in Uganda that would criminalize all kinds of associations with homosexuality allowing the death penalty in some cases. We know that in some sense Christians support such moves because they are in competition with legalistic forms of Islam for ‘market share’ and seem to forget the fundamental Christian teaching about God’s grace. But what about closer to home? Are we, as President Obama said of Islam recently, a “religion of peace”?

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