In the Arena

Bigoted Religious Extremists

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There are today several odious attempts by Jewish extremists, like this one by Martin Peretz and this one by La Pasionaria of the Neocons, to argue that the massacre perpetrated by Nidal Hasan was somehow a direct consequence of his Islamic beliefs as opposed to a direct consequence of his insanity. To be sure, extreme religious beliefs and violent insanity are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they tend to track–among fanatics of all religions. There was, for example, the lunatic Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, who opened fire on Muslims praying at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994, killing 24 and wounding more than 100. There was also the lunatic Jewish settler who assassinated Yitzak Rabin. I can’t remember many Jews calling these effusions of violence as a natural consequence of devout Judaism. They were acts of psychopathy, as was Hasan’s bloodbath.

Do extremely religious people tend to be more psychologically damaged than less religious people? I doubt it, but it’s not a bad question: Do any readers have access to polling or academic studies about the incidence of violent insanity among the devout?

In the meantime, we should identify the notion that Hasan’s act was somehow a consequence of his religious orthodoxy for what it is: anti-Islamic bigotry.