The news in the UK at the moment is that a 23 year old Afghan man has been granted asylum on the sole basis that he does not believe in a god. The issue in play here is the Islamic belief that murdering those that once believed and no longer do is the duty of “good” Muslims in Afghanistan. The story about all this in The UK’s Guardian reads …
The Afghan was brought up as a Muslim and fled the conflict in his native country. He arrived in the UK in 2007, aged 16. He was initially given temporary leave to remain until 2013 but during his time in England gradually turned to atheism.
His case was taken up by Kent Law Clinic, a free service provided by students and supervised by qualified practising lawyers from the University of Kent’s law school along with local solicitors and barristers.
They helped him submit his claim to the Home Office under the UN’s 1951 refugee convention, arguing that if he returned to Afghanistan he would face persecution on the grounds of religion – or in his case, lack of religious belief.
He could, the lawyers argued, face a death sentence under sharia law as an apostate unless he remained discreet about his atheist beliefs. Evidence was also presented showing that because Islam permeates every aspect of daily life and culture in Afghanistan, living discreetly would be virtually impossible.
Why is it like this, what motivates people to murder others for simply not adhering to a specific religion anymore?
Before I answer that I will first make a quick observation about the latest news. What is interesting about it is that it sets a significant new precedent for UK asylum and immigration cases, because it is the first time somebody has been granted asylum on religious grounds for not actually believing anything at all. This is already an established criteria in other nations such as Australia, but not in the US (given the numberer of religious loons in the US, that last one is not a surprise).
Now, lets move on and probe into the issue a bit more.
Is there a real danger here, would he in fact face death or is that simply a bit of an exaggeration so that he can get asylum?
Alas, the threat is ever so real. Within Islam, the term used to describe a Muslim who quits is Apostasy – a quote from the Wikipedia page that covers that in detail (with references) explains …
The majority of Muslim scholars hold to the traditional view that apostasy is punishable by death or imprisonment until repentance
This one fact alone tells you all you really need to know about Islam. When a belief uses violence and fear to retain its followers, then you know that they have no rational or logical evidence-based arguments to verify the belief.
Do all Muslims truly adhere to this?
Actually no of course not, the term “Islam” shelters a vast diversity of thinking and so you will find many who renounce all violence and completely reject this notion.
Alas, within many Islamic nations the belief is embraced by a large majority. For example, a December 2010 Pew poll found that 76 percent of Pakistanis think that apostates should be killed. So while this view is indeed endorsed by the majority of modern Islamic scholars, the good news is that most do not actually act upon the belief. It does however create a climate of considerable fear and also generates a lot of intimidation against any who simply dare to doubt.
What is going on inside their heads?
Having debated on-line with some Muslims who adhere to this line of thinking, it soon becomes clear that smart people can indeed rationalise quite abhorrent ideas. I’ve been advised that since Islam is pure and good and right, anybody who dares to reject it is committing treason and so that justifies “death”.
That is of course an utterly daft idea; if you take this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion then the following would also be true …
- People who previously used Windows and go out and buy a Mac merit a death sentence from Microsoft for treason
- Quitting a job and going to work for a new employer entitles your old employer to murder you for your act of treason.
Yes the “death for no longer believing” really is that insane, but people do truly think like this even though it breaches a rather basic human right known as “freedom of thought”
But why do people think like this?
Interestingly enough we can look a bit further at this because Thunderfoot has just uploaded a video to YouTube on the topic of how Religious belief can enable humans to be happily murder other humans. It is a short clip in which he focuses on the Bible’s directives to murder, shows it to a Christian, and because it is in the bible, the Christian decides the directive to murder is moral. When asked, “Would you kill somebody for simply picking up sticks on the wrong day“, the Christian confirms without any hesitation or doubt, “Yes“.
Make no mistake, we are all prone to the psychology at play here and are in no way better or superior than any of those who do advocate “death” for simply believing the wrong things. Those that embrace beliefs that befuddle their ability to have empathy for others due to the psychological tricks that beliefs can ensnare humans with deserve our pity and empathy, not just righteous anger. We need not look too far back in history to see what can happen to entire nations when fanatical ideas take root – the result can be an entire nation going quite insane.
The very best defence against such a trap is to nurture a culture that consists of independent critical thinkers, people who refuse to simply do what they are told, refuse to simply follow the popular line, and who will not accept every whack-a-loon idea tossed at them.
“If you look at the people who sheltered Jews under the Nazis, you find a number of things about them. One is that they tended to have a different kind of upbringing from the average person: they tended to be brought up in a non-authoritarian way, brought up to have sympathy with other people and to discuss things rather than just do what they were told” – Professor Jonathan Glover, Philosopher.