Friday, February 22, 2008

Religious Conflicts?

Farook once said to me, more than a year ago, 'The Vedas tell the Hindoos to do only good things; the Torah tells the Jews to do only good things; the Gospels tell the Christians to do only good things; and the Koran tells Muslims to do only good things. But then people do bad things.'

Last week, Farook asked me about Northern Ireland. The question, I assume, was about the period that ended around 1990. My answer, which he did not accept, was that the conflict was similar to that between the Sunni and the Shia, although I knew my answer had several problems. Farook pointed to another Sunni and said, 'We are both Muslims, we never fight,' a rather disingenuous answer in my opinion. I pointed out that both were Sunni. 'I never fight with Shia.' Also true, but only because Farook refuses to associate with Shia.

I have read that Sunni and Shia never fought before the US interfered; however, there was no US at the time Ibn Batutta was writing, and he wrote that, while the Koran strictly enjoins Muslims from killing Muslims, it does not prohibit Sunnis from attempting to convert Shias by beating them with sticks, and he was proud of threatening Shia with a stick until they agreed to say they accepted Sunni doctrines. Also, the word 'never' when used with respect to human conflict is almost always false. However, it is certainly true that lethal engagements between Sunni and Shia were less frequent and involved fewer fatalities before the rise of the US to the status of world power, though this may or may not be a causal relationship.

I finally tried to explain the conflict in Northern Ireland by quoting Farook's own statement back at him, but he denied ever having made it, so, at that point, I gave up.

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