I am going to try and discuss some difficult topics here. I do not profess to be an expert on foreign policy or politics or even religion, so I hope I have not got this too wrong. I usually try to avoid religion if I can, simply because of the impossibility of a reasoned and rational debate on the matter, in most cases.
We are now seeing calls for banning of extremism. The wiping of such things from social media.
Now, I think I know where they are going with this. My understanding is that there are groups of people that not only have their own political agenda, but are actually quite good at "indoctrinating" people - so much so that they manage to create suicide bombers and suicide "mad stabbing rampage" nutters even, as we saw yesterday. Somehow people who may otherwise be normal and rational have managed to be convinced to take radical, and life threatening steps, in the name of some belief they now hold.
This is quite scary. It shows the power of such things, and is part of a problem with religion generally. I would not dream of picking on one religion here. It seems to me that all religions have the unenviable challenge of convincing people to believe something with no evidence. This is very contrary to our normal rational thought processes. I suspect some people are much more susceptible than others. Personally, I think we create this problem by bringing up children with belief in religion - we indoctrinate our children (well, not mine, but a lot of people do) in to some belief (the same one we learned when we were young). We force children to compartmentalise a set of irrational and unsubstantiated views and beliefs in a part of their mind that they can keep separate from their other sane and rational part of their mind - and wrap that irrational part in immutable walls of "faith".
I cannot help thinking that a child raised without indoctrination, even one educated on the ways of religion as a thing that exists in the world - like teaching of the old Norse Gods and so on - an interesting set of beliefs people once had and some people still have for the few religions still "alive" today - that such a child would be much harder as an adult to pull in to a cult and make in to a suicide bomber. Is this just my being optimistic, or is it true.
However, we see people use religion as a tool. It probably does not matter which religion they choose, most of them will have suitable wording in their holy texts that can be distorted to your goals with the authority of being ancient and revered. It is often said the the best way to turn a Christian in to an atheist is to get them to property read and study the bible, and I suspect the same is true for many religions. But being selective and however they do this brain washing, they seem to succeed in making human weapons.
So let's get back to the politics for a moment. We want this to stop. Personally, I think we need to be understanding the motives of the organisers - why they are doing this and what do they want? Can we work with them, as we have done in the past in terrorist disputes, to find common ground and an resolution to conflict? I don't know.
What we see cries for is to pull the extremism from the internet. This is hard, the extremism is exploiting religion. Even our own state religion (Church of England) has many dark things in the bible - things that will definitely count as extremist texts. To ban extremism is pretty much to ban religion - because religion is extreme - it is believe something with no evidence.
That may sound sensible to many, but sadly it has been seen not to work - once a meme is out there, especially one as old as most religions, banning it has the opposite effect and creates underground movements and followers. You have to tollerate it, allow it, tax it, much like alcohol. Banning it won't work.
But even if you wanted to try and ban the most extreme bits, you have a massive problem, because there lies the curse of censorship and control of free speech. Where on earth do you draw the line? And how do you stop that line creeping ever closer to any thoughts that are not sanctioned by the thought police?
I really feel free speech, and freedom of expression, even by religious groups, is a human right we should not be compromising - especially at a time like this.
P.S. Yes, I am expecting this to be a tad controversial to some, so please do comment.
[also, for those that would rather listen to me than read...]