Faith-Based Terrorism ( 1 page)
Most religious traditions have produced extremist movements whose members believe that their faith and value system is superior to other beliefs. Many fundamentalists have used this concept of the “one true faith” to justify violent intolerance on behalf of their religion. Religious terrorists are modern manifestations of historical traditions of extremism within the world’s major faiths.
For example, within Christianity, the medieval Crusades were a series of exceptionally violent military campaigns against Muslims, Jews, and heretical Christian sects. Later, during the 16th and 17th centuries, Catholic and Protestant Christians waged relentless wars against each other, which were marked by extreme brutality. In the modern era, Christian terrorists and extremists have participated in communal fighting in numerous countries and in the United States have bombed abortion clinics and committed other acts of violence.
Within Judaism, the Old Testament is replete with references to the ancient Hebrews’ faith-based mandate to wage war against non-Jewish occupiers of the Promised Land. In the modern era, the late Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach (Kahane Chai) movement in Israel has likewise advocated the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel. Two members of the Jewish Defense League were arrested in the United States in December 2001 on charges of conspiring to bomb Muslim mosques and the offices of a U.S. congressman in Los Angeles.
Within Islam, the relative religious tolerance of the 15th and 16th centuries is counterbalanced against modern intolerance among movements such as Afghanistan’s Taliban, Palestine’s Hamas, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Numerous examples exist of political and communal violence waged in the name of Islam. Overt official repression has also been imposed in the name of the Islamic faith, as in Saudi Arabia’s policy of relegating women to second-class status.
Modern religious extremism is arguably rooted in faith-based natural law. Natural law is a philosophical “higher law” that is theoretically discoverable through human reason and references to moral traditions and religious texts. In fact, most religious texts have passages that can be selectively interpreted to encourage extremist intolerance. To religious extremists, it is God’s law that has been revealed to—and properly interpreted by—the extremist movement. At what point does the character of faith-motivated activism become extremist and terrorist?
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