How can I begin to describe my reaction to this news? Dismay seems inadequate. First, People who are held to a system of belief on pain of death are not adherents nor are they faithful.
Let me state that I believe there could be a God, like famous secular humanist and scientist Carl Sagan said "absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence".
I like to imagine that Islam is a peaceful religion that brings a sense of order, meaning and morality to the lives of millions. I watch the Haj on PBS and am impressed and moved by the devotion and community experienced by the participants. Extremism is supposed to be a fringe element that is co-opting the religion and using it to fuel violence. Then I see the Government in Afghanistan who want to kill a human being for simply believing differenly. I thought the Taliban was driven out of power over there!? Is it not enough to have historically spread a religion by the sword? Must there also be talk of murdering anyone for leaving it?
Of all the education that is needed in many nations, that of the value and dignity of human life seems to be the most urgent. Why are suicide bombings seen as negotiation in these cultures? I will never be able to see that as anything but the most debasing madness ever conceived. Parents pride themselves upon their dead children who murder innocent bystanders. In many cases these families have received payoffs from governments. It seems the culture of violence may not only be at the fringes of Islamic society.
There really needs to be a system of secular law to keep ideals from being brought to bear on human lives. There are many readily cited examples of this culture of killing. I recall hearing, many months ago, of the desire of a Nigerian Muslim community to stone a pregnant woman and her unborn child for adultery, the lust for blood outpacing the need for evidence. It is my understanding that the couple had simply taken some time apart, with a few conjugal exceptions and that the woman's husband was the father.
The BBC reports stories of "honor" killings in many countries which are some of the most dishonorable things I can imagine. The ease with which insurgents in iraq combine divine invocations with beheadings, even killing fellow Muslims, shows that this is a wounded society and religion in need of some enlightenment.
The cartoons of Mohamed with a bomb in his turbine illustrate poignantly the awful irony of the culture of killing that seems to stretch from the extremists, to families to governments. When violent attacks are the response from Muslim communities to this critique, it is the height of irony. These make it very difficult to remember that the comic was insulting to Islamic religious sensibilities. Many Muslim communities have been misled and lied to about what was published. They were shown even more offensive cartoons that were never published. These lies and misrepresentations sparked even more unnecessary violence, ultimately underlining the point of the cartoonist.
The Janjeweed of Sudan are a testament all their own to the horror that religious and ethnic hatred can bring, but are also yet another mind numbing example of Islam's relationship to wanton violence and disregard for human life. These are Muslims driving out and killing Africans who are not Arabs, but in many cases are Muslims as well. Does this religion condone genecide? Where is the outrage about this!? (instead of a cartoon)
I wish that more of what must be a moderate majority of Islamic believers would stand up, speak out and denounce violence. This would help people in the west sort out whether there is a cancer in the system or whether the culture of violence is such a historic and integrated part of Islam itself that it cannot be separated from it.
Meanwhile, I condemn the new Afghan government's intolerance and insist they refrain from throwing their citizens to the lions and instead live together in peace and harmony with Sikh, Hindu, Buddist and Christian alike.