Today, there is a broad tendency to connect a Muslim, any Muslim’s actions when suited, to Islam. And these days, violent actions by Muslims are always given this treatment, good actions? not so much. But how about the actions of people that claim to have no religion? Or people that are probably Christian? Or secularist?
Somehow, like in the case of a secularist, it becomes a little hazy to connect the perpetrator with an ideology and say that secularism kills, or that secularism causes insanity and depression. But why not? Why is it more legitimate for secular commentators to point to specific verses in religious texts and accuse said religion of spreading violence through its teachings than for a follower of a religion to point at secularist teachings and accuse it of causing spiritual death, materialism, mass depression and other mental diseases, the breakdown of families, the alienation of children, sexual perversion, sexual abuse, pornography, the objectification of women, I could go on.
Bottom line of what happens is that an external point of view comes in and, based on pre-existing notions, like ‘Islam is violent hence Muslims are naturally predisposed to violence’ ‘this quranic verse must be universally acknowledged to mean what I specifically interpret it to mean’ or ‘secularism is Godless and thus anyone that doesn’t believe in God must be an evil pervert’ directly connect the acts of anyone they consider to be a part of that ideology, based on a marker highlighted by the media such as a name or a membership of an organization, to that ideology itself.
And perversely, they proceed to attribute similar qualities and behavioral traits to everyone else who’s identity also lays a claim to said ideology. So for example if Muslim, his actions would directly point to Islam as a whole and ‘institutionalized Muslimness’, a cultural collective where all Muslims are in on a conspiracy to undo non-Muslims, something that I can safely say does not exist. If an atheist, or someone registered with a democratic party and no religious ties, to secularism and all its ‘Godless’ teachings damning every single individual that does not go to church, mosque or temple based on whether the observer goes to a church, mosque or temple. This categorization can and does happen also between members of one religion against another, or within one broad sect of a given religion against another sect.
Hamza Yusuf talks alludes to it in this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GOXmiGCNsU); crazy people exist, crazy people will do crazy things and they will base them on ideologies that you and I are familiar with, but interpreting them in a completely perverse way. We see a hammer and see a tool we can use to build something, while at the same time they will see a tool of destruction.
This is the same if you are talking of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism or Sinhala Buddhism; Democracy, Secularism or Atheism. Ideologies are structures people use to interpret the world, they are fluid markers of identity, and often just form a portion of a person’s identity. It is not the ideology we claim to subscribe to that decides who we are, human beings are not computers, programmable to a uniform pattern of interpretation and behavior by loading up a DVD, human beings are intelligent, individual and at times collective interpreters of ideas, and therefore any ideology that can be used by those that want to see the world prosper can also be used by those that want to see the world burn.
This is why I have no patience with people who go on about how ‘religion is the source of all evil’, ‘religion must be banned’, and ‘religion is the biggest thing that kills people’. If you think this then your worldview and understanding is unbelievably stunted. Religion doesn’t kill people, people kill people. The tens of millions that died in the 20th century’s wars did not die because of religion. They died for governments that fought under banners of ‘democracy’ ‘freedom’ and yes, ‘facism’. Far more people than were ever killed by modern day terrorists touting religion are killed, in blatant disregard for any form of accountability or justice, by established governments in the name of ‘secularism’, ‘democracy’ ‘freedom’ yet why do we choose to simply ascribe blame to ideologies we do not subscribe to? And choose instead to ‘tactfully interpret’ the one’s we like?