Reportedly one of the Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan, the older brother, became much more fundamentalist in his Islamic beliefs before he and his younger brother killed and injured so many people.
[Note: what follows is a great argument for encouraging young men to embrace marijuana, girls, and alcohol rather than strict religiosity.]
Once known as a quiet teenager who aspired to be a boxer, Tamerlan Tsarnaev delved deeply into religion in recent years at the urging of his mother, who feared he was slipping into a life of marijuana, girls and alcohol. Tamerlan quit drinking and smoking, gave up boxing because he thought it was in opposition to his religion, and began pushing the rest of his family to pursue stricter ways, his mother recalled.
"You know how Islam has changed me," his mother, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in Makhachkala, Dagestan, says he told her.
...Anzor Tsarnaev said he was "outraged" by his son's decision to drop boxing. He said Tamerlan told him that a Muslim must not punch another man in the face.
Anzor said he grew up in Soviet times, when it was taken for granted that Muslims didn't have to follow such strict rules. "I told him I trained him all his life so that he could accomplish something, so that he could be a champion at something," Anzor said. "He discarded it."
He said the tensions over Tamerlan's strict adherence to religion, along with his own health problems, weighed on him and his marriage.
Now, we may never be able to figure out the extent to which religion played a role in Tamerlan's conversion to terrorism, and how other influences -- psychological, cultural, political, etc.-- factored in.
But it's reasonable to wonder why, among all the world's religions, each of which is irrational in its own way, Islam seems to be the most dangerously prone to crazy violence.
On Bill Maher's most recent Real Time show, he correctly pointed out that only Islamic believers are going to get seriously pissed if you draw a cartoon ridiculing their faith. I recall that Maher asked if anything similar to The Book of Mormon broadway show could be staged that makes fun of Islam.
Almost certainly not. Muslims don't seem to have much of a sense of humor when it comes to their religion. Ask Salman Rushdie, one of Maher's guests, who had a fatwa requiring his execution issued against him after he wrote "The Satanic Verses."
So I tend to agree with Sam Harris' views about Islam. Harris has been criticized by Glenn Greenwald and others who, wrongly in my view, contend that Harris is an Islamophobe. Whatever that means. Harris explains his perspective regarding Islam on his website.
It's fairly long. By and large what he says makes sense to me. However, I don't agree that the most violent Muslims represent the teachings of Islam most truly. This seems wrong to me. But I'm no expert on Islam, for sure. I've read a lot of Rumi, yet the mystical side of Islam, Sufism, isn't mainstream.
Here's some excerpts from what Harris wrote.
My criticism of faith-based religion focuses on what I consider to be bad ideas, held for bad reasons, leading to bad behavior. Because I am concerned about the logical and behavioral consequences of specific beliefs, I do not treat all religions the same. Not all religious doctrines are mistaken to the same degree, intellectually or ethically, and it would be dishonest and ultimately dangerous to pretend otherwise.
People in every tradition can be seen making the same errors, of course—e.g. relying on faith instead of evidence in matters of great personal and public concern—but the doctrines and authorities in which they place their faith run the gamut from the quaint to the psychopathic.
For instance, a dogmatic belief in the spiritual and ethical necessity of complete nonviolence lies at the very core of Jainism, whereas an equally dogmatic commitment to using violence to defend one’s faith, both from within and without, is similarly central to the doctrine of Islam. These beliefs, though held for identical reasons (faith) and in varying degrees by individual practitioners of these religions, could not be more different.
And this difference has consequences in the real world.
(Let that be the first barrier to entry into this conversation: If you will not concede this point, you will not understand anything I say about Islam. Unfortunately, many of my most voluble critics cannot clear this bar—and no amount of quotation from the Koran, the hadith, the ravings of modern Islamists, or from the plaints of their victims, makes a bit of difference.)
...So, imagine: A copy of the Koran gets burned tomorrow—or is merely rumored to have been burned. What will happen if this act of desecration is widely publicized? Well, we can be sure that Muslims by the thousands, or even the tens of thousands, will riot—perhaps in a dozen countries. Scores of people may die as a result.
Who can be counted upon to defend free speech in the face of this pious madness? Will the editorial page of The New York Times remind the world that free people should be free to burn the Koran, or any other book, without fear of being murdered? Probably not.
But the secular Left will surely denounce the bigot who burned the book for his “religious insensitivity” and hold him largely (if not entirely) responsible for the resulting mayhem and loss of life. It will be left to crackpot pastors, white supremacists, and other jingoists on the far Right—and, of course, “Islamophobes” like me—to remind us that the First Amendment exists, that books don’t feel pain, and that the sensitivities of every other faith are regularly traduced without similar uprisings.
...Contrary to Greenwald’s assertion, my condemnation of Islam does not apply to “all members of a group or the group itself based on the bad acts of specific individuals in that group.” My condemnation applies to the doctrines of Islam and to the ways in which they reliably produce these “bad acts.”
Unfortunately, in the case of Islam, the bad acts of the worst individuals—the jihadists, the murderers of apostates, and the men who treat their wives and daughters like chattel—are the best examples of the doctrine in practice. Those who adhere most strictly to the actual teachings of Islam, those who expound its timeless dogma most honestly, are precisely the people whom Greenwald and other obscurantists want us to believe least represent the faith.
Well, this is a very easy difference of opinion to resolve: One need only study the doctrine of Islam—not merely as it existed in the 7th century, but as it exists today—and ask some very basic questions. What, for instance, is the penalty for apostasy?
Interestingly, it isn’t spelled out in the Koran—there, apostates are merely promised their just deserts in hell—but it is made painfully clear in the hadith, and in the opinions of Muslim jurists and Muslim mobs everywhere. The year is 2013, and the penalty for apostasy, everywhere under Islam, is death.
I have yet to meet an apologist for the religion, however evasive, who could lie about this fact with a straight face. (Perhaps Greenwald would like to be the first.) Needless to say, I receive emails from former Muslims who are all too aware of what it means to be a former Muslim. Depending on where they live, these people run a real risk of being murdered, perhaps even by members of their own families, for having lost their faith.
Wow. Makes me glad that I didn't become unchurched after being a Muslim.