Our minds are our own
Remember the Inquisition? Those were fun times.
Being alive now is being subject to a roving freelance Inquisition that can grab us at any time, as if we were 13th century Cathars. I feel pretty safe where I am, but with a freelance Inquisition one just never knows. If they did pounce, and pause to question me as opposed to opening fire on sight, I would be guilty on so many charges. Everyone I know would be. We all break the rules of obedience and submission every minute of every day.
Those people in Paris broke so many of those rules. They were out in public in mixed company – women and men together, as if all of Paris were a giant whorehouse. They were having a good time instead of knocking their heads on the ground. They were drinking and eating, they were listening to music, they were watching half-naked men kick a ball around. They were doing it in Paris, home of pagans and crusaders – and of blasphemers, anti-clericals, enlighteners, thinkers, talkers.
And a week later, in Bamako – what were the people killed in the Radisson Blu hotel guilty of? Perhaps of not being able to recite the Shahada, perhaps of not getting out of the way in time. Ultimately they were guilty of being in the place where a group of religious fanatics decided to commit mass murder by way of telling the world Allahu akbar. The roving freelance Inquisition doesn’t always care about precision: the fear of Allah and Allah’s volunteer enforcers is goal enough.
There are smaller, unreported examples of freelance inquisitioning everywhere, in families and schools and workplaces and the street. A Massachusetts cardiologist of Pakistani background, Kashif Chaudhry, posted about one on Facebook on Friday as the massacre in Bamako was filling the headlines.
As I write this, an Ahmadi-owned chipboard factory in Jhelum, Pakistan is being attacked by an extremist Sunni mob. The factory is on fire with many people still inside.
Saturday, he posted photos of the next step:
So after burning down a factory owned by an Ahmadi last night, extremist Sunni mob ransacked an Ahmadi Mosque in Kala Gojran (Jehlum), cleansed it by burning its property in the streets and then offered Asar prayer inside. Now it’s a Sunni Mosque.
Notice the soldiers in the second photo. Notice them standing there watching.
Kashif told me the people in the factory escaped, so that was one bit of good news, but the situation of Ahmadi Muslims – a branch of Islam, not atheism or any other secular worldview – is dire. This is a section of the application for a passport in Pakistan:
I looked for and found such an application, and that section really is there. At the bottom of the second (and last) page, it says exactly what’s in that image:
(i) I am Muslim and believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) the last of the prophets.
(ii) I do not recognise any person who claims to be a prophet in any sense of the word or any description whatsoever after Muhammad (peace be upon him) or recognise such a claimant as a prophet or a religious reformer as a Muslim.
(iii) I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Quadiani to be an imposter nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori or Qadiani group to be non-Muslim.
Could anything be more Inquisition-like? What business is it of the state what a citizen “believes in”? Of course Pakistan is officially a theocracy, so of course the state does consider the citizens’ beliefs about this prophet as opposed to that prophet very much its business, but this is why theocracies are so hellish.
The Labour MP Keith Vaz seems to think they’re not so bad, as long as they welcome everyone into their intrusive embrace. The National Secular Society reports:
[I]n response to discussion on new blasphemy legislation, Vaz, who is the chairman of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee, told Al Arabiya that under certain conditions he would have “no problem” with the reintroduction of blasphemy laws in the UK.
“Religions are very special to people. And therefore I have no objection to [a blasphemy law] … but it must apply equally to everybody,” the longstanding Labour MP added.
If there were to be new blasphemy laws, the MP commented, “It should apply to all religions. If we have laws, they should apply to everybody.”
So it wouldn’t be just the Muslim Council of Britain bringing blasphemy charges, it would also be the Wee Frees and the Vatican and that funny little congregation that sprang up in your neighbourhood a few years ago. No problem there then! Everyone would be equally subject to the prying attentions of angry fans of god.
No. Our minds are our own. Our beliefs are our own business. The state doesn’t get to tell us what to believe, and neither does the church or the mosque or the holy book. Inquisitions are a nightmare which much of the world awoke from centuries ago. We who have that privilege should fight with every nerve to extend it to everyone on the planet.