The puzzle of internecine religious violence

Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that religious groups, especially the orthodox/fundamentalist ones, seem to have no qualms about meting out harsh treatment to even their co-religionists for what, to the outsider, seems like absurdly trivial reasons. In that case, it was due to the inherent misogyny of orthodox/fundamentalist religions that seek to keep women in an inferior role, with strict rules about what they can wear, go, say, and do.

Even more puzzling, though, is the case of Islamic militants who bomb mosques that result in the deaths of dozens of people, like the attack that occurred just yesterday in Afghanistan. As far as I can tell, this was not the case of one sect of Islam attacking the mosque of a different sect. That kind of vicious sectarian conflict between closely related groups is unfortunately all too common.

The attack on this mosque seems to have been to target senior government and police officials worshipping there. If the attack was carried out by the Taliban, as is alleged, then what could the thinking behind a Muslim group attacking a mosque, and during services celebrating a major religious holiday to boot? Apart from surely alienating people from their cause, what kind of theological justification could they invoke to kill their co-religionists while they were engaged in an act of worship? What makes them think their god, who gets ticked off for the slightest reason, won’t be angry with them?

I am genuinely curious as to what possible rationalization there could be for an act that, apart from being horrific in its own right, is also self-defeating. What possible benefit could the Taliban hope to accrue from bombing a mosque of their own religion?

Any Islamic theologians out there who can explain?


  1. grumpyoldfart says

    Attacks like that are designed to frighten the population into submission …

    We can’t hide from them. They attack anyone, anywhere, anytime. Perhaps we should just let them have their way and hopefully the violence will stop.

    It may not always work, but that’s what they’re aiming at.

  2. sunny says

    Apart from surely alienating people from their cause, what kind of theological justification could they invoke to kill their co-religionists while they were engaged in an act of worship?


    Perhaps they are not pure enough. In fact, “the other” is never pure enough: hence, it is always a convenient justification.

  3. raven says

    is also self-defeating.

    Is it self defeating?

    The Taliban were Moslem Khmer Rouge, busily exterminating Afghan culture, society, and the Afghans themselves. Despite their long history of astrocities and serious plans for a New Islamic Dark Age, they remain popular and powerful.

    Average life spans were around 47, one of the lowest in the world. It still isn’t much better.

    I can’t explain it either.

    what possible rationalization there could be for an act

    I sometimes wonder how much the religionists in general and the fundies in particular really believe of their god babble. All those deeply held sacred core beliefs can and do get tossed whenever they want and not be missed.

    1. Do the Taliban really believe their own Islamic mythology? Maybe not.

    The fundies were what pushed me out of xianity. Rather than being better people for it, they are usually far worse, a lot of warped people led by vaguely humanoid toad leaders.

  4. abear says

    While I am not an Islamic theologian, the logic of their action seems clear enough.
    Life on earth (dunya) is dreary and unpleasant for muslims, what with having to grovel on your knees 5 times a day, forgoing a tasty glass of wine with your bacon, lettuce, tomato and prawn sandwich and so on.
    The muslims killed in the bombings go straight to heaven, mercifully shortening their period of suffering on earth. The non-muslims had it coming.
    Likewise, muslims should be thanking the Americans for their drone attacks, after all, they are achieving the same result.

  5. says

    what kind of theological justification could they invoke to kill their co-religionists while they were engaged in an act of worship?

    That’s the best time to kill catholics – right after they’ve confessed. You’re doing them a big favor, really, since they get to go to heaven all early and stuff.

    Why is it that none of the victims of these attacks are jumping for joy and ready to forgive the killers? Could it be that they know it’s all bullshit?

  6. says

    Joking aside, I don’t think any of this stuff is about belief – it’s all just political transformation through naked force. These clowns are all as atheist as I am, and I’m seriously athy.

  7. ShowMetheData says

    The desire to control comes first – which means the killing comes first – religious blah-blah blah is there to sort out later the reasons for the control.

    Much of the fundamentalist world is about what “other” people are doing. What others are doing impinges on the fantasy bubble of control. That control must be maintained – you, the rationalist, are looking for consistency when there is only control that is needed. With control, the internal contradictions and lack of consistancy do not have to be faced.

    It is a question of imagination too – there is nothing more haunting to the fundamentalist than someone who does not believe what you believe. Then you can start thinking those thoughts too… and burn in hell There is no agreeing to dis-agree.

    Someone had noted in his dealings with fundamentalist Christians that there was no inner privacy. Given the absolute power, fundamentalists would ask every second ….what are you thinking … what are you thinking

  8. Mano Singham says

    Yes, I get that. But that does not seem to have been the case here since there did not seem to be any such religious issues involved. So why would a supposedly religious Muslim group choose a mosque as the place to bomb an enemy? Surely they stood to lose more than they gained, even if a mosque is a ‘soft’ target?

  9. Charles Sullivan says

    Maybe the rationalization is that those who choose to pray with (or attend the same mosque as) the guilty, are themselves guilty for knowingly attending, and thus lending legitimacy to the guilty. The so-called innocent should have killed the govt officials themselves, or at least found a purer mosque. That’s one possibility anyway.

  10. Lofty says

    Looking at their population curves, they have a surplus of angry young men, for whom fighting and going straight to heaven is much more attractive than getting a good job. An older society may be a more stable society, young men are dangerous when uncontrolled.

  11. hyphenman says

    Good morning Mono,

    Religious justification? Feh!

    None of this violence has ever been or will ever be about any justification except obtaining and maintaining power so as to maximize economic gain. Full Stop.

    Do all you can to make today a good day,

    Have Coffee Will Write

  12. leni says

    I have wondered if some of them think that they are making the ultimate sacrifice: getting themselves banned from heaven for the cause of righteousness. If it turns out that they are right perhaps they will be forgiven, but if not then they will have sacrificed their very souls for the “betterment” of others.

    Ultimate suicide bomber, you know?

    I have no idea if anyone actually thinks that way and I sort of doubt it since this would not exactly be the best recruitment tactic, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if some did go that far.

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