… make the horror of the world.
Remember Afghan’s Bamyia Valley? A site that was considered World Heritage by Unesco. Giant buddha’s who had been there for ages, overlooking the valley below. Until the Talibananas came along, decided it was not islamic and those idols of old needed to go. Before long, the gigantic ancient buddhas were blown to smithereens. I watched the footage on the news and felt utterly gutted, because there was something very dark, sinister and foreboding about this display of ignorance and violence.
Now take another look at the picture above. We all know that one. The pyramids of Gizeh, the architecture and intricate maze of passageways that keeps amazing scientists all over the world. The Sphinx, damaged through ancient turmoil, still inspiring and appealing to millions of tourists who flock to Egypt all year round to enjoy those ancient wonders. But not for long, if it is up to some radical islamists. Pagan deities, idols, false worship. Need to go. No place for them in an islamic state. Even typing this makes the hairs on my arms stand upright and sends shivers down my spine.
We all know that tolerance cannot be found under the T in an islamist’s dictionary. But to even think of willfully destroying some of the worlds heritage surpassing the buddhas from Bamyian Valley, wiping out the ancient Valley of the Kings, that is a big one even in their book.
What is it that makes some religious organisations so hellbent on destroying anything that does not fit with their world view? It’s not like this is a new phenomenon, mind you. It’s hardly an islamic invention either. The history of monotheism is fraught with violence. Be it the human sacrifices asked from Abraham, the unforgiving nature of the deity in the old testament, even the very basics of christianity, which are all about torture and a violent death, after all. Even though parts of the message aim to inspire acts of kindness, history has shown us that usually it’s violence inspired by religious zealotry that has shaped the history of christianity in Europe.
Back in 1566 the protestants in the Low Countries ransacked catholic churches, destroying a wealth of art, smashing sculptures, stained glass windows, tearing down ancient tapestries and slashing paintings, in a frenzy called the ‘Beeldenstorm‘. During the ‘Bloedbruiloft’ (Blood Wedding, also known as Bartholomeusnight) in Paris, France, a massive slaughter was performed by the catholics, randomly executing French protestants in the night of August 23 to August 24 in 1572, with the pope himself rejoicing of reports that the water of the river Seine was coloured red from the blood of slain protestants. Some 20.000 Huguenots went to meet their maker rather untimely by the hands of people saying they believed in that very same maker. On many other instances people believing in the same god have gone overboard, abandoning any last bit of morals and human dignity and acted like total savages – all in the name of god.
More than anything religion has been a powerful tool for the high and mighty, and although most religious wars used religious convictions as a pretext (and to gather the masses), there were always underlying motives that had nothing to do with religion and everything with power and wealth and consolidating those two assets. In that respect, even the conflict in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is no different.
In Europe, the age of Enlightment and the Age of Industrial Revolution brought ‘Entzauberung’, not only did the magic leave the forests and wilde plains, but as history moved on, a process of individualization took place, and religion gradually became an individual’s choice. Two very important factors in this were democratic progress, aided by a rise in literacy among the poor masses. In countries like Egypt, Pakistan and Jemen the poor masses are still largely illiterate, their only source of information on religious matters is their local mullah. Look at any news footage and see how easy they get riled about an issue, take on the streets, burn effigies of people they don’t even know because their ‘spriritual leaders’ tell them it’s the bad guy, and 9 year olds proclaim they will torch the infidels themselves if the adults cannot do it.
Hungry, angry, frustrated and uneducated masses, with a royal dose of religious zealotry, is the horror our world is facing today. No amount of stealth bommers and drones can take that threat away from us. What we and those masses need, is education, access to clean water and food, a good roof over their heads and most of all teaching compassion, teaching thinking of all of us interconnected instead of thinking only in ‘us and them’. But whether the powers that be in the rich, complacent West will realise this and take up that challenge, remains to be seen.