Thoughts on Paris

“…whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and, whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” – Qur’an 5:32

“Those who disbelieve follow falsehood, while those who believe follow the truth from their Lord… So, when you meet those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them…” – Qur’an 47:3

The Qur’an, like the Bible before it and many other religious texts, is full of contradictions. It calls for peace. It calls for war and jihad and murder. It is self evident that those terrorists who committed the unspeakable horror in Paris last night do not represent all Muslims. But they do represent Islam. Not as a whole, but as a – perfectly legitimate, if despicable – reading of it.

I do not know how best to fight ISIS. I do not know if bombing should continue or escalate. I do not know if we should have troops on the ground. But I do know that we cannot continue respecting faith.

These fanatics had an unwavering faith in their religion and a belief that what they were doing was not just moral but mandated from a deity for which there is no evidence of existence. We must challenge faith. Call it out like you would call out racism or homophobia. It is not ok to believe in things for no reason because at it’s worst it leads to the murder of innocent people.

Too many UK and European citizens have joined ISIS because of their faith. If we value freedom, secularism, democracy, free speech, individual liberty and, above all, reason, we must challenge the root cause of the evils which seek to usurp those values, namely faith, and challenge them here at home lest any more of our citizens take up arms against us in the name of backwards, bronze-age mythology.

Evidence free ideologies, be it Islam, Christianity, Nazism, Stalinism or seemingly benign idiocies such as astrology or mediumship are a surrender of the mind and the only thing that separates us from other mammals. We cannot respect them because they give licence to the fundamentalists to commit horrendous violence in the name of faith. Moderate religious people may of course express distaste for such violence, pretending that the clear calls for grotesque and violent behaviour in their sacred book aren’t there and cherry-picking the ‘nice bits’, but they are still guilty of not opening up the subject of belief to rational discourse, and in doing so are part of the machinery that leads to all the ugliness caused by fundamentalism.

So of course those that took the lives of over 100 completely innocent people in Paris last night don’t represent all Muslims. Anyone who suggests so is as stupid as they are ignorant. But please let’s refrain from the empty and untrue appeasement of saying it had ‘nothing to do with Islam.’ It quite clearly has everything to do with Islam, everything to do with religion, everything to do with blind faith. It must be challenged.

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