Tuesday, May 5, 2009

'Jesus' comes to Afghanistan

It seems the Taliban are not the only extremists thriving in Afghanistan. In this clip broadcast on the English AlJazeera some elements within the US Army unashamedly draw a parallel between their duty as soldiers and their obligations as Evangelical Christians. Encouraged by a head chaplain (also a senior officer), they use militaristic vocabulary to justify their proselytizing strategy, with the use of Bibles translated in Pashtoun and other local languages.

Although this is probably not a reflection of the majority of US Servicemen, it is worrying that the Christian version of the Madrasas seem to operate unchecked in Bagram Air-Base. Over the past decade Killing in the name of! has become mainstream again and the rest of us are caught up in these anachronistic religious wars . It is high time for the seculars to step in.



Anonymous said...

You can be a secular and still promote a wacky version of religious beliefs to attain your political ambitions, no? It’s good marketing, if you ask me. A marketing proven successful IN PRINCIPLE in the Arab world, Israel, the United States, etc. The outcome remains questionable in many cases however.

However, a good example of successful implementation of marketing religion for nationalistic and patriotic purposes is Israel. And by the way, this is not intended to be derogatory to the State of Israel but a fact in my opinion.

David Ben Gurion the father of modern Israel questioned the presence and relevance of Deity throughout his life; yet he successfully promoted the Jewishness of Israel. The much controversial Mr. Liebermann – a fervent advocate of population transfer and Israel’s Jewishness – is also a fierce supporter of civil wedding and significant reduction of rabbinical influence on issues including marriage, death, inheritance.

The political strategy of the “us versus them” is widely popular around the globe. Religion particularly, is a very powerful component of such strategy. I’m sure you can recognize political differentiation rhetoric in many a political discourse in Lebanon.

With that said, I’m not sure I agree with the parallel you draw between Madrasahs and Evangelical Christianity. I also assume by Evangelical Christianity you mean radical Christianity.

Evangelical Christianity is the product of a more individualistic western culture that has learned to rely on legal (courts, judiciary system, etc.) and political (voting, lobbying, etc.) means to achieve gains in the homeland and abroad. Christians preach. If you don’t like what you see, you’ll lobby, preach, and brain wash people ad nauseaum until you get what you want.

Madrashas, however, are the product of a more tribal culture that believes in imposing views by force, far from democratic and/or legal doctrines. Dissent is generally not acceptable. Troublemakers are generally asked to leave, harassed, forced to obedience, or killed.

So while the outcome could be similar in a multitude of cases of religious extremism, Evangelical Christianity continues to be more tolerated in the West; Radical Islam on the other hand is strongly feared almost everywhere.

My two cents or maybe more.
Marwan -

Arab Democracy said...

The issue here is not whether Evangelical Christianity is equated to the Taliban ideology but how this kind of discourse is common currency among the US troop struggling to win 'hearts and minds' in a deeply religious society.

Although parallels with Wahhabi Islam, which heavily influences the madrassahs could be easily drawn.

With regards to the use of force to implement your vision for the world, as you said this is by no means a uniquely religious concept. Force has been used by secularists with known consequences (The Nazis, the Khmer Rouges to name a few...)and this is to be condemned regardless of the ideology behind it.

But, I would argue that radical christians would resort to the use of force if the balance of power was reversed. They might have a different style but at the core they are intolerant fundamentalists with the motivation to act.

From my perspective the choice is clear faith needs to go back being an individual choice with individual applications. The future of humanity will struggle to incorporate religion in its current form.


Anonymous said...

Your argument regarding radical christians is well founded in my opinion. However, as I indicated there's more effort vested in finding loopholes in the law and the minds of people to push a radical agenda. A behavior seen more in western cultures than more traditional cultures in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

Marwan -