Fanaticism and Equanimity

​Last June the Government of Libya announced that Mokhtar Belmokhtar, founder of the Islamist group Al-Mourabitoun and brain of the attack to a gas plant in In Amenas, Algeria, had been killed with other six terrorists. The assault on the gas plant, which occurred more than two years ago, led to the death of 38 foreigners, among them my son Carlos, who worked there or were visiting the facilities. Was I soothed when I learned about the fall of the evil terrorist? No, I was not.

The death of Belmokhtar could not be confirmed and, right from the beginning, Al Qaeda denied the report. Recognition tests failed to identify his body. The search for the murderer is still active and it appears that he is still transgressing. Did it make me mad the denying of the initial news? Neither.

The pain in my son’s disappearance is immeasurable and will accompany me to the end of my days. My indifference about the fate of this criminal, however, does not allow me to brag of equanimity; the elimination or the evasion of this bandit do not alter in any way my sorrow though, of course, it is important that there be justice. My greatest frustration is not associated with an occasional ungrateful name but with the sinister and continued stupidity of the fanaticism of any kind, whether religious, political or racial. The atrocities of fanatics never stop generating ruthless suffering to millions of human beings.

There is no much difference between the violence brought about by religious creeds, political dogmas or racial segregation. Horror of horrors when the three things come together! In all cases, terrorist actions and violations of the most elementary rights soon become permissible tactics for the groundless cause. And, when fanatical leaders are the power holders in a society, tragedies reach absurd excesses.

The extremists of the Muslim religion, the regrettable example of the moment, want to impose their metaphysical beliefs at any cost, in a way similar to what was attempted by many Christians and Catholics regimes until not long ago. This trend is intrinsic to all faiths. Even the wise teachings of the Buddha, when his followers make out of them a religious sect or a political party, lead to the persecution and discrimination that are now suffering the Rohingya Muslims in Western Myanmar and the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

​The well-intentioned social justice of the socialist left led to the Chinese and Soviet horrors as well as to the countless acts of terrorism that have occurred and keep repeating thanks to the populism promoted by corrupt demagogues and egomaniacal leaders, only interested in enriching themselves and imposing social models, well-recognized as ineffective and disastrous. And the supposed superiority of the ‘Aryan’ race, a macabre example of tragedy, led to the Nazi atrocities.

The believers of a religion, the followers of a political doctrine or the supremacists of a racial group are commonly proud of their positions, illusory and irrational as they are. Still the majority of these characters see themselves as objective: “I’m an unbiased individual with much respect for other people’s opinions”. Would these ‘tolerance models’ seriously consider the possibility that their religion may not be true, their doctrine may be wrong, or that their race is not genetically superior? Whoever fails to open the mind to the eventual fallacy of his or her biased thinking, bears seeds of violence. Unfortunately, when it comes to supporting a cause that its followers consider ‘fair’ and ‘true’, many of these ominous seeds will eventually germinate.

Well said Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize in Physics 1979: “With or without religion you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” Or political beliefs, or assumptions of racial supremacy, I add.

No, neither the disappearance of Mokhtar Belmokhtar diminishes my sorrow of father nor his survival increases my grief. Instead, the continuing presence of fanaticism in any of its multiple expressions, murdering innocents in the name of ethereal or absurd causes, does make my pain more acute. When somebody remains uncompromising against fanaticism, as this columnist, can this person claim to be dispassionate? I am not so sure whether we can be fanatics of anti-fanaticism. Each individual should answer such question.​

Atlanta, September 16, 2015


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