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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Violence in the Name of God

By Erich Follath, Manfred Müller, Ulrich Schwarz and Stefan Simons

Murder and terror do not figure in the teachings of the monotheist world religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Yet time and again, their fanatical followers embark on bloody rampages, their rage fired up by zealous priests and religious scholars.

The orders handed to the suicide killers are brutally clear: "This is the hour in which you will meet God. Pray to God and ask him to help you carry out this act. Once you are on the plane, you should pray to God because you are doing this for God. As the almighty Prophet says, a deed for God is something better than the whole world."

Again and again: Pray, pray, pray so your faith doesn't waver and you don't abandon your mission out of fear. "Open your heart. Welcome death in the name of God." And, finally, when the deed is done, "angels will call your name and put on their most beautiful dresses just for you."

Considering that nearly 3,000 people perished in the events of September 11, 2001, the "spiritual guide" for the attack on the World Trade Center, retrieved by FBI agents from terrorist Mohammed Atta's luggage, reads like a document born of religious paranoia. Allah is portrayed as providing the moral justification for the most horrific terror attack in history, one in which many fellow Muslims were also killed.

This document may seem macabre, but it reflects a breed of fanaticism that infuses numerous faiths, certainly not just Islam. The Jewish extremist Jigal Amir, who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, also claimed he was merely carrying out God's will. And strict tutors at Jesuit colleges might use the same language as the "guide's" Islamic author when demanding absolute obedience to superiors and total dedication to God: witness the teachings of Ignatius of Loyola, the order's founder: "I believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical church so defines it."

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