Here is an illustration related by Steven Galster, author of a book on the war: “In March 1979, before the military intervention, the Afghan government’s literacy campaign for women encountered strong resistance from mullahs and other conservative elements in the western city of Herat. Demonstrations culminated in a revolt in which several Afghan officials and Soviet advisers were slaughtered, cut to pieces, and paraded around the city”. A BBC documentary in 1986 featured a rebel leader of the National Islamic Front who said he had sentenced between 6,000 and 7,000 prisoners of war to death. (A different group, Hezb – i – Islam, denounced the BBC as “the voice of the demon.”)
Reporter John Fuller, in his book The Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan, described this treatment of captures Russians: “One group was killed, skinned, and hung up in a butcher’s shop. One captive found himself the center of attraction in a game of buzkashi, that rough – and – tumble form of Afghan polo in which a headless goat is usually the ball. The captive was used instead. Alive, he was literally torn to pieces”.
Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan were widely reported, but those of the Muslim rebels drew little notice. Asia Watch reported in 1989 that mujahedeen and Wahhabi Arab volunteers captured a city in Kunar province, and then ravaged it in a spree of killing, looting and raping. Although America’s CIA smuggled US$2billion worth of weapons to the rebels, to undercut the Soviet Union, Muslims hardly were US allies. American columnist Richard Reeves observed: “Fundamentally, the mujahedeen see us as no different from Russians. We, the communists and the democrats, are both modernisers. And it is modernism that the warriors of Allah are fighting. Most of them will turn on us in a moment if we advocate the same godless reforms as those initiated by the Soviet invaders – especially the modern reform the Afghan fighters hate most, the education of women”. The Afghan society has also witnessed the massive and brutal killing of homosexuals.
In Nigeria, apart from the current Boko Haram infamous act of terror, several Muslim groups engaged in murderous uprisings in the past. One sect led by Mallam Marwa stormed the old walled city of Kano in 1980 in a clash that killed 400, including Marwa. In 1982 his followers, called heretics by other Muslims, seized the city of Maiduguri and began killing “infidels”. When the militia arrived, the fanatics sprinkled themselves with magical powder to make them impervious to the police bullets. It didn’t work. After four days of battling, more than 1,000 were death, including fanatics. Another Muslim – versus – Muslim clash in 1985 at Gombe killed 100.
In 1987 a Muslim woman slapped a Christian evangelist at Kafanchan, saying he had insulted Islam. Riots broke out in several cities, causing dozens of deaths and the burning of hundreds of churches. The tragic incidents led the then government to ban open – air preaching.
In Bahrain, a group of Shi’ite fanatics plotted in 1981 to seize the tiny Persian Gulf sheikhdom, but the conspiracy was discovered and stopped. A total of 73 Shi’ites were convicted and imprisoned.
In Tunisia, terrorists of the Islamic Tendency Movement were imprisoned in 1987 for bombing hotels. In the Philippines, armed Muslim squads rule certain territories, in Indonesia, combat between Muslim militants and police in 1989 killed 32. In Soviet Uzbekistan, rioting between Sunni and Shi’ite believers in 1989 caused more than a hundred deaths. In Israel, the government banned fundamentalist Muslim organisations, adding fuel to the Palestinian protests.
Meanwhile, the grim shari’a Islamic religious law was applied in several Muslim lands. In Pakistan in 1987, a 25-year old carpenter’s daughter was sentenced to be stoned to death for having unmarried sex. In Saudi Arabia in 1977, a teenage princess and her lover were executed in public. In the United Arab Emirates in 1984, a cook and a maid were sentenced to stoning for adultery – but, as a show of mercy, the execution was postponed until after the maid’s baby was born.
In Koritnik, Bosnia, in 1992, Orthodox Christian Serb gunmen herded Muslim families into a basement and tossed in grenades then joked that the screams sounded “just like a mosque”.
In Greysteel, Northern Ireland, at Halloween 1993, Protestant terrorist bursts into a Catholic pub, shouted “trick or treat”, and opened fire, killing seven and wounding eleven.
In India in 1992, about 2,000 Hindus and Muslims killed each other in rioting over a site where Hindus say Lord Rama was born 900,000 years ago. Meanwhile, massacres occurred in the province of Kashmir because fanatics barricaded themselves in a mosque to protect its sacred relic – a hair from Muhammad’s beard.
In Oregon, USA in 1993, a fundamentalist woman who shot an abortion clinic doctor called it “the most righteous thing I have ever done”. A Florida man who killed a clinic doctor was called “a hero” by a fundamentalist magazine.
In Saudi Arabia in 1992, an outspoken man was beheaded in public with a ceremonial sword after a religious court ruled that he had “insulted God, the Holy Qur’an, and Muhammad the Prophet”.
In northern Somalia in 1993, religious leaders sentenced five women to be stoned to death for adultery. Worshippers killed the women after evening prayers. Cheering onlookers videotaped the execution. United Nations observers who tried to save the women were driven off.
In Texas in 1993, besieged cultists known as the “Waco wackos” died in a fire that stunned the world.
In Nigeria in 1991, government officials granted permission for a German evangelist tos. Muslims rioted and burned Christian churches. Christians rioted and burned Muslim mosques. Hundreds were killed.
In Sari Lanka in 1990, in the civil war between Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils, Hindu gunmen entered two mosques and killed 150 Moslem worshippers because they suspected Muslims of supporting the Buddhists. In 1993, a Hindu suicide bomber killed the Buddhist president.
In Israel’s occupied West Bank in 1994, an intensely religious Jewish doctor smuggled a machine gun into a historic mosque and murdered thirty Muslims as they knelt in prayer. The massacre triggered yet another wave of killing between Jews and Muslims.
The socio–economic, political and governance problem of the government of Central African Republic’s former Seleka (unity) coalition of rebels groups of the Muslim minority and the Christian anti–balaka coalition resulted to massacres committed by the groups against one another. With the Christian group still continuing to massacre Muslim civilians and forcing thousands to flee the country.
As put by a critic religion is a word with so many meanings that it nearly defies definition. That it means Appalachian snake – handlers dying of rattlesnake bites because the Bible commands believers to “take up serpents”. That it means Mother Teresa feeding and clothing the poor of Calcutta. That it means Hindu Tamils and Buddhists killing each other in ambushes on the island of Sari Lanka. That it also means 25 years of armed stand–off between Muslims and Orthodox Christians on the islands of Cyprus.
In the face of such terrific horrors, one is compelled to ask what separates constructive religious impulses from destructive ones. And how does someone who begins by contemplating his relations with God end by committing an act of murder? Some argue that religiously motivated evil always represents a corruption of true religion. Some are also quick to suggest that religion itself is the root of extreme violence. While others have turned to the popular explanation that the problem is not religion itself, but the other fellow’s religion. But as it is, reality unfortunately does not seem to lend itself to any of these simple approaches.
Scholar author Schlesinger Jr observed in a 1989 speech: “As a historian, I confess to a certain amusement when I hear the Judeo–Christian tradition praised as the source of our present – day concern for human rights; that is, for the valuable idea that all individuals everywhere are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on this earth. In fact, the great religious ages were for their indifference to human rights in the contemporary sense. They were notorious not only for acquiescence in poverty, inequality, exploitation, and oppression, but also for enthusiastic justification of slavery, persecution, abandonment of small children, torture and genocide”.
It is ironic to claim that Christianity in particular and all other religions are a source of present–day human rights culture, when a total of 257 men of the cloth used the Bible as proof that white people were entitled to own black people as work animals. Other religions also made justifications of slavery and the enslavement of people a norm and value.
Religion is most likely a human invention, as it is highly possible that early man had no religion and that there was most likely no form of worship during the stone and iron ages. Therefore one can safely believe that religion became mankind’s possession at a time of greater civilization far from the stone and iron ages. As a result on would be tempted to ask was the need to stain the baths of most religions such as Christianity and Islam with such much blood. Blood baths which extended to contemporary times and still seemingly continues without an end in sight. Al-Qaeda is still active and determined to have every living person on earth embrace and accept Islam and ready to achieve this by any means necessary including violence.
I doubt anyone would argue that the issues of violence raised in this essay are past records of the history of religion and of no relevance today, when we continuously listen each day and minute to modern day Islamic scholars in the case of Islam in particular openly with seeming pride increasingly talk of such infamous records of Islam’s history over public radios and other forums. I have listened to stories of the Badar, Karbala, Uhud and other such battles told by scholars over radio and other forums such as gamos (the celebration of Prophet of Islam’s birth) many times.
With Christianity, the church is not in the habit of talking of the bloody past of the Christian faith, such as the inquisition and the reformation among others. Christian preachers mostly concentrate on the good deeds of Jesus Christ such as his acts of ‘rising the death’, ‘restorations of limbs’ of victims of leprosy and restorations of sight to the blind. His miraculous virgin birth, his rise from death and resurrection, his early life among others, thus, most Christians fail to know that the faith at one time had engaged in the spilling of too much human blood.
I sometime wonder how great it would have been if all the people who accepted these religions with such bloody past were not forced Mohamed Ghilan, neuroscience PhD candidate and student of Islamic jurisprudence, University of Victoria, Canada has observed that: “One could ask whether it is an Islamic objective to artificially inflate the numbers of Moslems by including those who would not be so if they had the option”. If the principles: “There is no compulsion in religion” 2:256 and “Whoever so wills may believe and whoever so wills may deny” 18:29 had originally been of the Islamic faith, then the much blood that is spilled in the campaign to propagate and spread the faith would not have occurred and as a matter of fact death would not have been a still remain the punishment for apostasy.
If all the campaigns for others to embrace these religions and the attendant practices whose pasts were so soaked in blood was done by peaceful and non – violent means. One may safely argue that some of these conflicts were initiated by those who denied the genuineness of the ‘divine’ claims and the ideas of the men of God, but one can also further believe that most were largely of moves for expansion and greater acceptance.
I am usually of the idea that the God sent messengers of Christianity and Islam could have been of the attributes to ‘turn the other check’ were provoked by an opponent. Emanuel Jesus Christ is anyway generally said to have been known of the principle of turning the other check, which explains why the church was not at his time flowing with blood during his time at Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem. Others such as the early prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and others including Musa (Moses) all had smooth bloodless reigns on the throne and kingdom of God, with Musa known of having committed only one killing. He is said to have’ led his people out of Egypt with only the non–violent slogan of ‘let my people go’. According to Islam, Ibrahim is known to have attempted to sacrifice his son Ismail to God and with the said intervention of angel ‘Gibril – Gabriel’ he was safe from having committed a murder.