Passion overcomes reality
In every group, in every family, you will probably find individuals who fill the room with eggshells. Walk softly, be careful what you say, don’t sit in certain chairs, consider closely what you laugh at; someone might be offended and cause a scene.
Muslim extremists in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India and other countries already have closed down freedom of speech in their regions for all people — even those who simply wish for peace. They also use violence and threats of violence to extend their powers beyond their borders, trying to control what people in free countries can say, see and hear as well.
Because they say they are “offended.”
The Internet video Innocence of Muslims can indeed be offensive to Islam, just as countless movies, books, plays and instances of ordinary speech can be offensive to Christians, or to the holders of any faith.
The degree of offence taken that began the riots that shut down Western embassies in a number of countries does not justify the violence and killing that hateful clerics foment.
Religious leaders can be violent and hateful for political gain, and the world should recognize when religious leaders tell violent lies in the same manner that we recognize the lies of politicians, or anyone else who promotes hateful acts as a means of exercising power.
I’m glad I am not a cabinet minister who must decide when and where to close an embassy in a country that has lost the ability to act rationally. It’s hard enough in families and groups to decide when the cost of interacting with individuals with hateful spirits becomes too high. Higher than the cost of watching when people who should know better isolate themselves in their perceived grievances.
But isolation is just part of the plan for the clerics who incite riots over “insults” that occur thousands of kilometres away. They want to keep their minions poor, ignorant, under control and expendable. That’s why if Canada must close embassies in countries run by religious thugs, we should not be cutting aid to their victims.
Like many Canadians, I question the overall effectiveness of Canada’s international aid program. I can’t see for myself if the results are worth the expense. But I have been part of an international aid mission that didn’t cost a lot, but has certainly done a lot of good for the people we visited.
I also support and admire the work of local groups like A Better World, who work directly with people in their communities, who fight the fires of hatred and hopelessness, with water, food and education.
If you want to be angry with the religious extremists who abuse and misdirect their followers and send them further into despair and even death . . . well, that’s just the reaction of someone who’s rational. But we should also feel pity for the people who are consumed by their lies. We should not abandon them.
Greg Neiman is a former editor at the Red Deer Advocate. Follow his blog at readersadvocate.blogspot.ca. Email him at greg.neiman.blog.gmail.com.