More Muslim–and Christian–Terrorism

Since the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo last week there have been plenty of discussions of what is really terrorism, and whether there is such a thing as explicitly Muslim terrorism.

 

Let's take a look at the definition. Federal law defines terrorism as follows:

 

“International terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:


Involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;

Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

Occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.*

 

“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:


Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;

Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and

Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

 

There are some differences, but the key concepts include violent or dangerous acts intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population. Let's keep those concepts in mind.

 

Last Friday, a blogger in Saudi Arabia received the first fifty lashes of the sentence he received of ten years in prison and one thousand lashes for “insulting Islam”. According to the Washington Post, In 2011 prosecutors alleged that his Web site “infringes on religious values.” He was arrested in 2012, when a well-known cleric issued a religious ruling that Mr. Badawi was an apostate who must be tried. 

 

In the Philippines, local cultural activist Carlos Celdran is appealing a sentence of imprisonment imposed for violating the law against “offending religious feelings.”

 

In both cases, the state seeks to carry out violent acts to prevent public criticism of the dominant religion.

 

There are differences. For instance, critics of Celdran might be quick to point out that the crime he was convicted of involved his going into a church service with a protest sign, but look more closely: he wasn't charged with unlawful trespass, or disrupting the church service. The gravamen of his crime was that he offended religious feelings.

 

The State Department publishes a list of state sponsors of terrorism, countries that have been “determined to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”. The listing has always been political. Nevertheless, given the actions of these two United States “allies”, one of them, Saudi Arabia, being one of the most repressive regimes in the world, can we justify not targeting these states for terrorism against their own people?

2 thoughts on “More Muslim–and Christian–Terrorism

  1. It raises the larger question of why, even in the U.S., it is still considered censorable (at least in some communities) when someone exhibits or says anything that might offend members of a specific religion.  

    I’m not talking about hate crimes, which are a different matter altogether and rather easily distinguished from simple blasphemy.  Simple blasphemy should be, but isn’t always, treated as a matter of free speech.

    Remember Anthony Serrano’s “Piss Christ?”  Created in 1987, exhibition of this sensational artwork unleashed torrents of ugly backlash and even death threats.

    As of 2012, it was still capable of generating high-powered outrage.

    Why do religious beliefs still occupy such a cosseted place in American culture?  Surely even beliefs based on overwhelming scientific evidence, like Climate Change, may be ridiculed freely without  offending

    social taboos.

    In fact, it seems that this social privilege is only extended to conventional religions as witches are routinely lampooned without causing outrage

  2. How about “Shock and Awe”? The use of violence to terrorize a civilian population in order to achieve a political goal. We even came up with a catchy phrase to advertise it.

    I’d go further. Torture, even “secret” torture, is not meant to be totally secret. The purpose of it isn’t to extract actionable intelligence. People are tortured to either 1) extract false information that conforms to government propaganda, or 2) scare the shit out of political opponents. Yes, there is a fate worse than death, and we are willing to inflict it upon people. If we torture people unconnected with any political movement, the Buttles of this world, so much the better for general docility.

    Torture is the use of violence to create fear in a civilian population in order to achieve a political goal.  

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