Editorial: Religion and terrorism
Socialists are always cautious about the term ‘morality’ because within class society it largely pertains to what the ruling class have established as acceptable and unacceptable behaviour or actions or activities which are regarded as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Nevertheless it is easy for Socialists to empathise with the feeling of popular revulsion that followed the acts of mass murder in London on 7 July. As always when guns and bombs are used as political weapons, the victims of the bombings in London were innocent and without any influence over the agenda that motivated the murderers; they were simply people going to work.
The general feeling, from the government, the Queen, the churches, the media and the public at large is that it was an outrage; that slaughtering innocent people simply because you oppose the actions of those you perceive to be their leaders is a barbaric act that cannot be justified by the idealism, ideology or political or religious beliefs of those ordering or carrying out such an act.
To raise the question of the war in Iraq is in no way to imply sympathy with the terrorists but it is reasonable to look at Iraq and, indeed, the entire panoply of violence, armaments and warfare that latter-day capitalism generates.
The British Labour government largely in obedience to the dictates of the political kings of US capitalism – just like those who ordered what is agreed were barbaric acts in London – did co-operate in the massive slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis who, rather than supporting Saddam Hussein were, according to the Anglo-American coalition, the real victims of the dreaded dictator. The result of both actions, though not the numbers of victims, was identical: innocent people who were wholly bereft of any power or influence to concede to the demands of those ordering the killings were wantonly slaughtered.
All forms of warfare – and terrorism is a form of warfare – present the threat of death to the participants whether they are professionals (people prepared to kill in circumstances determined by their employers) or serious amateurs (people prepared to kill for a specific cause). In either circumstance risk to life comes easier to those who believe that life on Earth is a mere prelude to a life hereafter. It is a notion that gives solace to believers; making them less anxious to question their role in a situation that defeats rational understanding. That is why governments promote irrational religious belief for their armed forces and why they provide facilities for religious rituals, make priests and parsons officers and pay their salaries.
For the terrorist the most pressing incentive is belief in the virtue of their cause. The man or woman facing the dreadful hazards associated with terrorism has to be morally reinforced with the idea that their god is on their side. God as Allah, as the Great Jehovah, or whatever other identity he takes on in any of the myriad of religious beliefs, is always stern and demanding and his strictures are always accommodating to the belligerence engendered by the exclusivity of faith. God is indeed a vital weapon in the psychological make-up of the terrorist; a guarantee that sacrifice will be rewarded with eternal happiness.
A verse of an old Irish rebel song devoted to the IRA goes:
‘Upon their shield, a stainless field, the virtues blazoned bright,
‘With temperance, and purity and truth and honour dight;
‘So now they stand at God’s right hand Who framed their dauntless way,
‘Who taught them and Who brought them the glory of the day!’
For someone not utterly drugged on the belief of the inseparability of god and cause, the idea of committing suicide in order to take the lives of other anonymous people is too utterly sick for contemplation. Allah, like the Christian God and his rivals, is a demanding and cruel god and without him and the imagined comfort of eternal salvation, it is hard to imagine the foul practice of suicide bombing or other sort of bombing existing.