Guest post: Prevention is better than punishment

Originally a comment by Ben Finney on Maajid Nawaz takes this moment to salute Gita Sahgal.

zubanel, #4:

I’m saying disregard the religious element as essential and focus on murderers.

So, we focus on those who have already killed? We are to direct our attention away from the ideas that strongly compel them to premeditated murder of strangers?

That doesn’t do it for me. I want to detect potential murderers before they do murder, and obligate them to not murder.

For that, we need to focus on the ideas which compel some people to murder — and that inevitably requires that we spend a lot of attention on combating Islam, which is a set of ideas that explicitly and actively compels people to do murder.

There is no need to invoke “monster” for these people because they are all too human. They are simply, incurably, one-dimensionally uncivilized.

Again, I can only point out to you that there are many people – the person named in this piece being a prime example – who were devoted to religious ideas compelling premeditated murder of strangers, and yet they were cured and civilised to the point of not holding those ideas any more.

To write off such people as “simply, incurably, one-dimensionally uncivilized” and to advocate killing them, is to kill people like Maajid Nawaz before they have a chance to change.

That would be an unacceptable loss. Killing is only going to lead to more motivation for killing. Whereas counter-jihadi propaganda from organisations like Quilliam – which can only exist because we don’t apply your hopeless ideas – will prevent killing. I know which I would prefer.


  1. zubanel says

    I suppose you can kiss the machete as it”s cleaving you in two, your choice of course, but it seems insensitive to ask others to it, and frankly it’s a view that betrays a lack of appreciation for the fact others have thoughts and feelings that don’t match yours. This particularly ironic when you appear to be arguing against what i’ve said on the basis that we should regard other people’s ideas and beliefs, somehting I explicitly said was irrelevant to the argument. But then I’m guessing you are speaking from a pretty safe situation.

  2. Ben Finney says

    zubanel, #1:

    you appear to be arguing against what i’ve said on the basis that we should regard other people’s ideas and beliefs, somehting I explicitly said was irrelevant to the argument.

    You did say that, which is exactly what I’m pointing out is not true. People’s ideas and beliefs are clearly a significant factor – one among many, but a definite factor – in whether they commit premeditated murder of a stranger.

    And some religious ideas, such as those in Islam of the virtue in killing apostates and blasphemers, do reliably convince some people to commit premeditated murder of a stranger.

    Which is why it is quite relevant to combat those religious ideas before more people are influenced to act on them.

    We should not of course kiss the machete as it strikes us; I have never argued that. Where you are wrong though, is this: we should not dismiss as irrelevant the very ideas in the person’s head that would compel them to wield it in cold blood against a stranger.

    On that latter point you evidently disagree with Maajid Nawaz and the goals of the Quilliam Foundation, and I’m glad he is more experienced and humanist and proactive than you appear to be.

  3. Anne Fenwick says

    So, we focus on those who have already killed? We are to direct our attention away from the ideas that strongly compel them to premeditated murder of strangers?

    I think there’s a question of whether a specific religious idea, or a religion in general is the most accurate pre-cursor of murderous behavior or should we pick some other trait?

    In this case, it seems to me that a willingness to engage in hate speech, let alone hate-based activism is quite a likely pre-cursor to violence. It’s hate speech we should be treating as potentially murderous, and only those ideas which specifically constitute hate speech. In consideration of freedom of expression, stating a negative opinion about the choices of apostates, gays, cartoonists, etc without being called a ‘murderer in waiting’ should remain possible (much as I disapprove of those ideas).

    It’s the people whose ideas involve stating the intention or desirability of taking violent personal action, or even those who substitute insults, abuse and threats for opinions whom we should be after. Those people are bad for everything, starting with freedom of expression itself, even before they get around to violence and murder.

  4. quixote says

    @zubanel, if you’re uncomfortable with the point that a religion generates murderous actions, just remind yourself that fanatical anti-abortionists in the US have killed people too. Lots of religions work for that. Nothing quite like having god on your side.

    Anne Fenwick makes a good point. You can tell them by their hate speech. All the religionists make their intentions quite clear. But they’re given a pass, because religion. And also, very often, because women.

    Religionists’ first targets are generally women. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, women find it easier to be clear on who the religionists are. As Maya Angelou said, when someone tells you who they are, listen.

    Let’s face it. Amnesty International’s problem was siding with leftist tribalism and not facing their own leftist misogyny. All evil is due to Western imperialism, so ignore the fanatics dumping on women. Women don’t matter. And fire anyone who says they do. Then when the fanatics start killing people who matter, try to hide behind “respect” for religion until that becomes too absurd for words.

    BS. When people tell you who they are, listen.

  5. zubanel says

    I agree. When people tell you who they are listen. but that doesn’t mean that they are self aware enough to know why thy are who they are. My point was that what was driving the violence wasn’t the religion. If it was, then anyone who adhered to it would inevitably be violent. the people who are violent, whether because they adhere to a religion or political view or any belief, WHEN THEY THEMSELVES ARE NOT IN FACT BEING THREATENED, are doing so because they are uncivilized, socially undeveloped with no effective capacity for nuanced thought to the point that anyone who does not think as they do is a threat. I can’t figure out why this concept is so hard to get.
    Trying to prevent people from killing is a great idea but I think while you’re busy doing that, you better figure out how to stop the ones that are already murdering from continuing. I can only imagine that anyone who puts prevention in front of that is not in any particular danger themselves and is not particularly concerned fro those who are.
    I am hardly arguing that religion has nothing to do with bad behavior. Religion is the result of a lower order adaptation that we share with other animals which, if left to govern our thinking will give rise to the kinds of behavior that is either oppressive or murderous. It is not the specifics of the religion that does this. If it were, as I said before, no one who belonged to a religion that engendered such behavior would be able to resist it and would necessarily engage in the behavior.
    To illustrate the effect another way, the issue is often raised as to scientists who are religious. How can this be when they should know by their observations and works that there is no truth to the matter? For the same reason. It is a human adaptation that they are just as subject to as anyone else and if they don’t or can’t mitigate the effect, then they will accept it’s outcome. We deal with this adaptation all the time in other ways and with know problem. The big issues can get stickier.

  6. quixote says

    @zubanel of course the current murderers have to be stopped. But unless you want to be in a constant and escalating Whack-A-Mole, prevention is at least equally important. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    Religion is important not because it’s a direct cause, in which case, as you say, everybody in that religion would be a murderer. Religion is important because it provides the strongest and best excuse (besides nationalism-tribalism with which it’s often allied).

    That’s why it’s necessary to name and shame religious and national barbarism wherever it occurs. Taking away the excuse at least prevents social approval of barbarism, which quite obviously reduces the frequency of murder. Yes, you still get the Breiviks, but Scandinavia is pretty clearly a much more peaceful place to live than among the loonies in Syria. Human beings are all rather similar. The difference is down to what’s socially approved. And that depends on the kind of prevention — yes, by people who are safe — that you’re saying is unimportant.

  7. zubanel says

    Well I doubt shaming will work general and then only on those who are already more developed than the murderers we’re talking about. At the point of killing, prevention is too late and is irrelevant to that particular problem. Unfortunately there are minds, and many of them, that are immune to the experience of grasping that other people have minds that think things other than themselves and that it is ok that they do so. Neither shame nor reasoning will affect them. They are and will remain in a state of absolute and unshakable knowing. And apparently either I’m either communicating very badly or I’m not being properly read so this is the end of this thread for me, though I must say that for all the dissention, it’s amazing how much we all generally agree.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *