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Even if we ignore the issue of terrorism, I have a disagreement with many of my fellow atheists about the aspect of tradition.

It's true that religions created some very stupid traditions. It's also true that religions cemented other traditions by giving them divine justification which can only be challenged at great personal danger. However, I think it's significant that religions often end up perpetrating pre-existing traditions which weren't part of them (or which they were originally even meant to root out). Take honour killings, for example: an ancient Middle Eastern "custom" in which the statistically worst offenders aren't even Muslims but the Yazidi. Or consider the Christian idea of charity: originally supposed to be the distribution of wealth among the needy without expecting anything in return, turned into the wealthy giving droplets of their wealth to the needy in full expectation of thankfulness, praise, and prayers for a better afterlife.

In my mind, tradition is a greater and deeper evil than religion.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 11:45:10 AM EST
I am well old enough to remember all of the events you describe. I was even in Saudi Arabia '84 and '85 and can attest to the wariness of educated Saudi's and others of Arab descent I met about Palestinians. They might support their struggle against Israel but they considered them to be trouble on two feet. And Palestinians already were the most highly educated population of Arabs in the world.

I was also aware through friends of friends working for various princelings of the ambivalent attitude about Wahabism held by members of the Royal Family. The Arab News, an English language paper, regularly described certain ministers as 'going home for prayers' - which most took to mean anything else but praying. Meanwhile foreigners learned to lie low during noon and evening prayer times. Otherwise you might encounter the Mu'tawain in an ugly way. And these religious 'police' were old men in dirty thobes who drove around in beat up '60s Blazers when not patrolling the souk and hitting foreigners on the head with metal tipped canes if they stood or looked to closely or too long at a young Saudi female in a chador. The regime wouldn't even bother to make them appear presentable.

Well to do Saudis  were  upset about all of the strife in Lebanon, as they had considered Beirut to be their 'beach', where they could go and be 'western'. The distrust of Shias was palpable and they were concerned about native Shia on the 'Arabian Gulf' and the role of Shia in the sectarian conflicts in Lebanon. They were glad that Iran had become pariah to the US.

I have always rejected as mostly BS the common framing of 'Islamic Terrorists' for and after '911'. That made little sense from what I knew. Complements on putting all of this together into such a fine, lucid diary. I find nothing with which to quibble.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere." (But it helps!)

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jun 5th, 2016 at 02:28:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Take honour killings, for example: an ancient Middle Eastern "custom" in which the statistically worst offenders aren't even Muslims but the Yazidi.

It's funny you mention that.  Back when we and our BFFs, the Kurds, were trying to prevent Daesh from slaughtering/starving all the Yazidis, I also had to shake my head a fair bit at the press treatment -- which, of course, everybody (at least in the states) believed -- of the Yazidis as these peaceful, snuggly little oddball Pagans.  The honor killings were the first thing that always came to mind, given their propensity for getting into the news for them.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jun 6th, 2016 at 11:06:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then again, I wonder to what extent Daesh's decision to use Yazidi girls as sex slaves was designed as a violation of Yazidi "honour". Here is a heartbreaking story about the fate of two of these sex slaves, as told by a defector:

The reluctant jihadi | Robert F Worth | News | The Guardian

The next day Abu Ali was transferred to another guesthouse in the city of Falluja, not far away, which was under Isis control. This one was crowded with men. Not long after, he was amazed to hear the sound of two girls giggling in the next room. Another fighter told him the girls were Yazidis who had been captured in northern Iraq eight months earlier, when Isis overran the area and sold hundreds of Yazidi women and girls into sex slavery. They were 13 and 14 years old, the man said. They had been offered to the governor of Falluja, who didn't want them, so they were being kept there for the moment. Abu Ali had heard about the Yazidi sex slaves, though he had never encountered any himself. The men called them "sabaya". They were mostly rewards for officers or men who had done well on the front - not for delinquents like Abu Ali. Over the next few hours he heard the girls laughing, and once he heard them sobbing. He assumed it was because they missed their families. Later that day, a shouting match erupted in the dozen or so men in Abu Ali's guesthouse. All of them wanted the sabaya. It went on for half an hour or so, getting increasingly heated.

Then a man in fatigues burst into the guesthouse. He looked like a commander. He asked where the sabaya were, and one of the men pointed to the door of the next room. He marched in without a word. Two loud shots rang out. The man in fatigues walked out again. Abu Ali, sitting in a chair by the door, stared up at him, frozen. "What did you do?" he asked. The man seemed unruffled. "Those girls were causing trouble between the brothers, so I dealt with them," he said. And he walked out.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 06:38:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it certainly can be a greater and deeper evil, with religion simply serving as an amplifier, but the two play off each other to a large degree, and divine justification can enable overthrowing tradition.

Asherah-worship used to be a-okay.  Then Jeremiah came along.  Paganism used to be a-okay.  Then the Christians got hold of the empire.

Religion is simply a newer, broader form of tribalism.  And like any tribalism, it incorporates some traditions and purges others.

Tribalism is the real evil.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Jun 7th, 2016 at 08:40:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is a quote from an op-ed with a similar tenor as the diary. This one based on actual research, which is usually ignored in the terrorism "debate".

I've studied radicalization - and Islamophobia often plants the seed | Sarah Lyons-Padilla | Opinion | The Guardian

Many assume that people who commit terrorist attacks in the name of Islam are religious zealots. Actually, many Muslim radicals were not particularly religious at the get-go. Indeed, a substantial number of Isis sympathizers are converts to Islam - hardly lifelong devotees.

If not religion, then, what is to blame?

Researchers have long studied the motivations of terrorists, with psychologist Arie Kruglanski proposing a particularly compelling theory: people become terrorists to restore a sense of significance in their lives, a feeling that they matter. Extremist organizations like Isis are experts at giving their recruits that sense of purpose, through status, recognition, and the promise of eternal rewards in the afterlife.

My own survey work supports Kruglanski's theory. I find that American Muslims who feel a lack of significance in their lives are more likely to support fundamentalist groups and extreme ideologies.

What we really need to know now is, what sets people on this path? How do people lose their sense of purpose?

My research reveals one answer: the more my survey respondents felt they or other Muslims had been discriminated against, the more they reported feeling a lack of meaning in their lives. Respondents who felt culturally homeless - not really American, but also not really a part of their own cultural community - were particularly jarred by messages that they don't belong. Yet Muslim Americans who felt well integrated in both their American and Muslim communities were more resilient in the face of discrimination.

The Florida mass shooter's justification for lying about knowing the Boston terrorists (the reason for his earlier FBI investigation), teasing from work colleagues for being Muslim, could well have contributed to his radicalisation (on top of being a mess).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 05:15:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is hard to give a sense of purpose to all, especially on a post-industrial planet. In non-progressive societies, mere survival and slight status improvements give people more congruous purpose, perhaps.
by das monde on Tue Jun 14th, 2016 at 06:30:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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