"Strike against Terror," by Thich Nhat Hanh, November 2002

08 Jul


“Strike against terror” is a misleading expression. What we are striking against is not the real cause or the root of terror. The object of our strike is still human life. We are sowing seeds of violence as we strike. Striking in this way we will only bring about more hatred and violence into the world. This is exactly what we do not want to do.

Terror is in the human heart. We must remove this terror from the heart. Destroying the human heart, both physically and psychologically, is what we must absolutely avoid. The root of terrorism should be identified, so that it can be removed. The root of terrorism is misunderstanding, intolerance, hatred, revenge and hopelessness. This root cannot be located by the military. Bombs and missiles cannot reach it, let alone destroy it. Only with the practice of looking deeply can our insight reveal and identify this root. Only with the practice of deep listening and compassion can it be transformed and removed.

Darkness cannot be dissipated with more darkness. More darkness will make darkness thicker. Only light can dissipate darkness. Violence and hatred cannot be removed with violence and hatred. Rather, this will make violence and hatred grow a thousand fold. Only understanding and compassion can dissolve violence and hatred.

Hatred, and violence are in the hearts of human beings. A terrorist is a human being with hatred, revenge, violence and misunderstanding in his or her heart. Acting without understanding, acting out of hatred, violence and fear, only helps sow more terror, bringing terror to the homes of others and ultimately bringing terror back to the homes of the attacker. The philosophy of “an eye for an eye,” only creates more suffering and bloodshed and more enemies. One of the greatest casualties we may suffer results from this wrong thinking and action. Whole societies are living constantly in fear with their nerves being attacked day and night. Such a state of confusion, fear and anxiety is extremely dangerous. It can bring about another world war, this time extremely destructive in the worst possible way.

We must learn to speak out for peace now, so that our spiritual voice can be heard in this dangerous and pivotal moment of history. Those of us who have the light should display the light and offer it so that the world will not sink into total darkness. Everyone has the seed of awakening and insight within his or her heart. Let us help each other touch these seeds in ourselves so that everyone can have the courage to speak out. We must ensure that the way we live our daily lives does not create more terrorism in the world, through intolerance, hatred, revenge and greed. We need a collective awakening to stop this course of self­-destruction…

It is no secret that I have been, and remain, an Iraq sceptic. While it is clear that Iraq is now infested with terrorists and extremists, it is also clear that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was not the best priority in 2002-2003 in terms of combatting terror. Rather, it has undoubtedly served to inflame terror. I feel very differently about Afghanistan. There is no doubt that was, and remains, a focal point for terror; in that country there is no doubt that (with hideous irony, given earlier CIA support for them against the former USSR) Al Qaeda was blooded and grew. Not that there is really a centre: rather there is a shifting network. (See Al Qaeda in Wikipedia.)

Iraq and terrorism were really separate issues back in 2001-2003, but our leaders went down one track, and here we are. At the same time, paradoxically, now that we are in Iraq I feel we have to do as good a job there as we can. So I do support our Australian military, and others there, to that extent, and obviously I do not want to see any of our own hurt. I am of course also mindful of the fact that we too have been “barbaric”: it is hard to think of any other adjective to describe those “shock and awe” scenes from two years ago, not to mention much that has happened since.

But while Britain’s involvement in Iraq must be relevant to what happened yesterday, it is far from the main game as far as the Islamist terrorists are concerned. They are indeed in a war against all that is best in humanity post-Enlightenment.

I am also a globalism sceptic. A glance at the links I offer on my Blogspot page and elsewhere will make that clear enough. I still think “when corporations rule the world” is not a recipe for heaven on earth. But the Islamotragics view of heaven on earth is no less dire, no less hideous. Not much less hideous are fundamentalist Christians slavering over Armageddon, or extremist Zionists willing to sacrifice all considerations of humanity over some dubious promise to a mythical forefather who, ironically, so far as there is substance in the myths, was an Iraqi.

All the great books and great teachings of wisdom contain gems from God; none of the great books of wisdom is an exclusive or final revelation; none of the great books of revelation and wisdom is an unalloyed, unmediated dictation by God to humanity. While billions cling atavistically to such illusions there is little hope, I am afraid.

Buddhism is so often sensible.

So are the Quakers.

Image hosted by Never be ashamed to change your mind.

One of the not-online features of the recent Policy (a publication of The Centre for Independent Studies) is Gregory Melleuish, “Globalised Religions for a Globalised World.” Melleuish “teaches Australian politics, Australian political ideas, political theory and European and world history in the History and Politics Program at the University of Wollongong.” Earlier today I wrote: “In the Policy article he seems actually to rejoice in the fact that pentecostalism and Islamic revival are likely to undo, indeed may already have undone, the secularist and humanist ascendancy in Western thought. He does rightly point out that the true clash of civilisations in the world is not between Islam and the West as such, as between humanism and the rest. He also argues rather convincingly in a 2003 Quadrant item ‘Multiculturalism and the Dhimmi’ that, while ‘compared to sixteenth-century Spain the Ottoman empire was very tolerant and, if one was a member of a persecuted religious minority, a far better place to live,’ the medieval Islamic world ‘was never multicultural in our sense, nor was the Ottoman empire’.”

I have changed my mind about Gregory Melleuish’s “Globalised Religions”, finding his conclusions somewhat irresistible:

…There is an interesting paradox here. Western societies, including parts of America, are becoming more secular. Certain types of Christianity, especially evangelicalism and Pentecostalism, are growing even in the most secular parts of the West, including France. At the same time the mainstream churches are undergoing decay as their membership declines and they struggle to remain relevant to the contemprary world…

Our world is a disenchanted and secular one. Our religion is no longer to be found in nature but in the hearts of men and women… Religion has become just another specialised element in our rather fragmented culture in which individuals pursue a rather bewildering range of interests.

One consequence of this fragmentation is that religious knowledge and training, especially for evangelicals and Pentecostals, is no longer conducted within the context of the broader culture but has become, like everything else, a specialised form of technical training…

Just as Christianity is being transformed through its global encounters, so is Islam. Neither religion is a fixed entity locked in a timeless mould. Just as the critical developments in contemporary Christianity may be occurring in Africa, so the crucial changes in Islam are taking place in its encounter with the West in the West. In his Globalised Islam Olivier Roy points to the encounter with the Western values in Western societies as the central transforming element in contemporary Islam and in the creation of Islamism…

In part, according to Roy, radical Islam was created by an input of Western ideas and values into Islam… More importantly this ‘fundamentalist’ Islam is not a ‘medieval’ religion. In fact just as evangelical Christians seek to convert Catholics to Christianity so Islamists want to get rid of the traditional rural Islam founded on saints and sufis. It is a thoroughly modern religion acceptable to scientists and engineers.

Both contemporary Christianity and contemporary Islam have elements that can be described as ‘Jacobin’… It is ironic that at a time when the ‘Jacobin’ political traditions of the West, including Communism, have exhausted themselves it is in the two most vital world religions that these ‘Jacobin’ tendencies should have re-emerged…

I should like to conclude with one final observation. From both a Muslim and an evangelical Christian persective it is not they who are strange and perverted but the modern world. It is between the religious and the non-religious that the fundamental ‘clash of civilizations’ is occurring in the 21st century.

See also “A funny thing happened on way to disbelief”, a review of Alistar McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World (London, Rider 2004) and Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (Cambridge UP 2004). Both are referred to in Melleuish’s article.

You don’t have to be Left to be right, of course: I am rather intrigued by the arguments of Tom Clark, for example: “Culture and Objectivity” and “Humanism and Postmodernism”.

See also Salman Rushdie: “Defend the right to be offended.”

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Posted by on July 8, 2005 in Christianity, culture wars, faith and philosophy, fundamentalism and extremism, globalisation/corporations, interfaith, Islam, London, peace, terrorism, Top read


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