It’s not religion, it’s intolerance

It’s not religion, it’s intolerance

The Paris massacre committed by Muslim extremists is not a problem of one religion, but the product of fundamentalist fanaticism and intolerance, which are nor exclusive characteristics of one creed.

The killers of the Charlie Hebdo journalists and cartoonists imposed at gunpoint their interpretation of Islamic law, killing those who mocked Muhammad. Intolerance led them to anger and to kill people who do not share their same values. Religious fanaticism led them to try to impose their values with a violence that invalidates ideas and beliefs.

It is regrettable that this tragedy has given some an excuse to attack a religious collective, especially one that has the same roots as Christianity and Judaism. Islam is undergoing a moment of conflicting interpretations with deadly results and extremist aberrations, as in the embattled Isis caliphate. What is unacceptable is to literally read the Koran with the purpose of concluding that Islam is a religion of hatred. Many Biblical passages, if taken literally, would not pass that test, much less the Crusades, in which noble Christians and the Church committed the worst atrocities in the name of faith.

It’s very easy to declare that this is a war of civilizations, a combat of religions. This helps set apart the “good” from the “bad”. But intolerance and religious fundamentalism has more to do with human condition than divine interpretation.

Fanatic violence attacks non believers, but also moderate and enlightened Muslims who long for a religion of peace and tolerance, not the fundamentalist aberration that the Islamic world suffers today, from Algeria to the Far East.

Religion has a both a private and public space that needs to be respected. Everybody thinks their God or spirituality is the true one, but that doesn’t mean it should be imposed at gunpoint, or by governments that do not understand moral and religious diversity, and thus try to cancel it. This intolerance and fanaticism does not use guns but laws based on an exclusionary religion that is incompatible with democracy.

The threat to freedom of faith and expression has no religion. What’s dangerous is the fear of difference; the intolerance and fundamentalism that causes losing sight of the diversity of human nature and thinking. This is the tyranny that turns someone who does not think like you into an enemy