Monday, July 02, 2007

Non-Muslim religious terrorism

In a comment to one of my posts, Jesse asks

I need a little help, if you could. It's not necessarily blog-related, so I'll bury it back here. I'm getting into the standard "Not all muslims are suicide bombers, nor is there anything to suggest that Islam is inherently more violently inclined than Christianity, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Any chance that you can provide me with links or examples of non-muslim religiously motivated violence (preferably the more recent the better. The person I'm arguing with seems to think that christianity has evolved past this point. Though that would seem to argue that Islam may also.) I'd prefer to counter with recent events suggesting that we're not so much beyond. Any help would be appreciated.

This is a sort of argument that I've frequently run into, and I think it is quite important to point out that religious fanatics of all sorts do terrorist acts. The willingness to commit atrocities in the name of the cause, is part of the mental make-up of fanatics.

Now, there is no doubt that the biggest terrorist acts in recent years have been committed by Islamic fanatics, but there have been numerous terrorist acts and attempts of terrorism that can be laid at the feet of non-Muslims.

In Northern Ireland there have been a large number of terrorist acts committed by Christians of both the Protestant and Catholic branches. These terrorist acts have spilled over into both England (especially London) and Ireland. For example, the Provisional IRA detonated bombs in London as late as 1996, and the Real IRA did the same as late as march 2001.

While some might argue that these attacks are based upon nationalism, the truth is that the conflict is entirely religious in nature, and the nationalism is an offspring of this religious conflict.

Already there we can dismiss the claims of Christians are not violently inclined if they feel threatened. However, given the question was raised by an American, it's probably not a bad idea to mention the more, to Americans, homegrown terrorists. The Christians targeting abortion clinics.

In the US being working in a clinic that provides abortions is not without its dangers. You will often be targeted by demonstrations and insults on a daily basis, but you will also run the risk of becoming the target of much more deadly attacks.

Most of the successful attacks are arson, but bombs and physical attacks also happens. Just couple of months ago, a man was arrested for attempting to detonate a bomb at a Texas abortion clinic.

There is also the Christian identity movement, which is allied to the Patriot movement. Not all militias in the Patriot movement belongs to the Christian Identity movement, but all militias in the Christian Identity movement supports the Patriot movement. Christian Identity adherents have been involved in numerous crimes, most notoriously was The Order, whose goal was to overthrow the US government, who they thought were ruled by a cabal of Jews. This antisemitism was partly religiously motivated.

Now, some people will argue that abortion clinic bombers and Christian Identity followers are fringe groups of Christians that don't represent Christianity.
However, to claim that, is to misunderstand the nature of terrorists. Terrorism is only used when people feel they are fighting an asymmetrical battle. This explains why the Catholics in Northern Ireland used terrorism more than the Protestants, who were allied with the British troops, and why terrorism actually decreased when the British troops left Nothern Ireland.
The examples of Christian terrorism in the US mentioned here, were done by Christian extremists. However, there US is a Christian nation by the large, so it would not make sense for the less extremist Christians to take up terrorism. Instead Christians in the US (and other Christian-dominated countries) can use the political process to force their ideas through. However, the extremists' willingness to take up violence, shows what can happen if the mainstream Christians in the US feel that they are oppressed. This can also be seen in India, where there are several Christian terrorist groups (see Wikipedia list linked below).

Islamic terrorists are on the other hand often in a situation where they are fighting an asymmetrical war against a more powerful enemy. Also, it's often unclear how religiously motivated they really are - it can be argued that the terrorism committed by Palestinian, Chechen, Afghanistan, and Iraqi groups are nationalistic in nature, and is only considered to be religiously motivated because they are fighting against forces from different religions. Especially in Chechnya, the religious differences are only used as a rally cry to gain support from foreign groups.

Wikipedia has a decent list of terrorist groups, which shows that while the majority of terrorist groups currently are Islamic, there are many that's not. I don't agree on their classification of the Northern Irish groups as nationalistic, since the nationalism there is based upon religion, but these are probably the official grouping by the US and EU.

For an article related to this subject, I came across this Washington Post article about Eric Robert Rudolph: Is Terrorism Tied To Christian Sect?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. Remember -- all I am offering is the truth, nothing more."

~Morpheus, "The Matrix"


July 02, 2007 11:12 PM  
Blogger Jesse Wiedinmyer said...

Thanks, Kristjan.

July 03, 2007 6:02 AM  
Blogger Lim Leng Hiong said...

Hi Kristjan,

Great post - your point about asymmetrical warfare reminds us that in the turbulent world of politics today's terrorists could become tomorrow's freedom fighters.

I just wrote an article about the mental health of the doctors involved in the latest terrorist attacks in Britain.

You have an excellent blog. I write a science blog called Fresh Brainz mainly about evolutionary biology and occasionally about current affairs as well.

Would you like to exchange blog links?

Best regards!

July 05, 2007 9:23 AM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

Thank you for your kind words.

About exchanging blog links - it's actually not something I do. I link to blogs that I find interesting, and which I at least somewhat recommend to other people. However, I took a look at your blog, and it certainly would fit well on my blogroll, so I'll add it next time I update my blogroll.

July 05, 2007 1:11 PM  
Blogger Lim Leng Hiong said...

Hi Kristjan,

Thanks for checking out my blog. Much apppreciated!

July 06, 2007 4:30 AM  

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