fringe growth

Islamic clerics in Afghanistan are none too happy about the release (thanks to international pressure, including President Bush) of that poor guy who faced the death penalty for being a Christian. They're doing what they do best -- stirring up the mob and demanding his death (and the death of all Christians):

On Monday, hundreds of clerics, students and others chanting "Death to Christians!" marched through the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif to protest the court decision Sunday to dismiss the case. Several Muslim clerics threatened to incite Afghans to kill Rahman if he is freed, saying that he is clearly guilty of apostasy and deserves to die.

"Abdul Rahman must be killed. Islam demands it," said senior Cleric Faiez Mohammed, from the nearby northern city of Kunduz. "The Christian foreigners occupying Afghanistan are attacking our religion."

Trying to save someone's life strikes me as a very odd way of "attacking," but then, these are Islamic clerics. . . As Eugene Volokh (via Glenn Reynolds) said earlier,
Trying to prevent people from being killed for their religious beliefs is not an "assault against Islam." It's defense against Islam, or to be precise against a certain strand of Islam that regrettably cannot be dismissed as just some unimportant lunatic fringe.
Usually the term "fringe" refers to loud, extremist minorities. By definition, people on the fringe are in the minority. If they are in the majority, then they cannot (and should not) be called "fringe." The problem I have seen in American politics is that fringe ideological activists end up in positions of leadership by default, because normal people tire of being in the same room (or perhaps "tent" if that's not an Islamophobic term) and listening to them till all hours.

Might the same thing be going on in Muslim countries?

Via Glenn Reynolds, Zeyad reflects on a recent incident of religious butchery in Iraq:

Islamic clerics (of all denominations) never fail to disgust me. Thanks to their efforts, we are becoming quite fluent in 7th century medieval vocabulary. How many Iraqis will listen to such sermons then go out on a rampage to slaughter their Nawasib neighbours, or their Rafidha friends?
Zeyad has a cell phone video of the incident, with cars driving by the whole time. ("Normal" traffic.)

I don't know how many Iraqis would actually go out and lynch someone, but the act doesn't require a huge number of people. A very small mob -- call them the "fringe" if you will -- can, by just a few lynchings, intimidate the vast majority of normal people who only want to be left alone to live their lives in peace. Given time, many of the ordinary people will chime in at least verbally, in the hope that they might be able to avoid being dragged through the streets and butchered themselves.

According to Eugene Volokh, even members of the accused Afghan Christian's own family expressed agreement with the murderous fringe:

What's worth remembering about the case, though, is that "even moderate Muslim clerics, as well as members of Rahman's own family, have said that death is the only fair and logical punishment for him." If that's "moderat[ion]" as Muslims go, that's mighty troubling.
It might just be cowardly behavior by otherwise "moderate" people, along the lines of, "Yes, kill our relative! Just please leave us alone!"

I don't mean to compare Islamic mob psychology to American mob psychology, but I have noticed that it's human nature to want to be left alone. Especially by activists. (Far be it from me to call them lunatic fringe. That might be interpreted as persecution.)

When I was a kid I noticed that bullies were experts at playing victim, and they were the first to cry foul if a victim got the better of them. Of course, victims usually didn't get the better of bullies. Often they ended up joining them. It's always tough for people to sit in judgment when they simply want to be left alone.

posted by Eric on 03.28.06 at 07:34 AM


So true about bullies and those who want to be left alone. Worse yet, those who want to be left alone would rather be victimized by the bullies, which the bullies make relatively easy, than even watch a confrontation or be forced to choose between a bully and someone standing up to a bully.

The following has NOTHING to do with the situation in Afghanistan, except maybe perhaps the same sort of psychology is in play:

I took my daughter to the county fair a few months ago and a bunch of stupid high school girls were cutting into line.

I didn't want to say anything... I didn't want to cause a scene or deal with the confrontation. But then a girl BEHIND me got pissed and decided not to allow it. The clique of girls she thwarted whined and moaned and bitched and then recruited some high school boys to help put pressure on her.

I was flabbergasted by my initial desire to tell the girl who was standing up to the bullies to let it go... that it wasn't worth it. Here she was doing the right thing, and being exceptionally brave, and I had accepted that as abnormal and the bullies as normal. I still didn't really jump in, I just stared down the high school boys that were trying to stare down and told her "you tell 'em!"

But it was unnatural. I had to talk myself into it. There is something missing in me, some righteous anger or outrage at injustice that that girl had that I simply lack. I had ZERO emotional investment- I backed her becaue I felt ashamed that I didn't want to back her...


Harkonnendog   ·  March 28, 2006 9:52 PM

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