"Religious Subversion via the Internet"
Faiz Abdul Rahman

Progress has a way of subverting the universal message of love, justice and brotherhood of mankind of the
great world religions. When the printing of religious texts became common place in medieval Europe, it
promoted greater intolerance among the Christians leading to the increase in the unchristian persecution of
religious sects. The most common of such persecutions were witch hunts and forced conversions.

All this happened because the common people were not prepared for independent thinking. Printed
texts merely reinforced institutionalised bigotry meant for perpetuating or enhancing the power of certain
church elements in the State since, from the priestly point of view, "correct" doctrine would not long
prevail without the protection of political authorities.

It has taken the greater part of this millennia for the various Christian factions to understand the
meaning of tolerance and accommodation. Hence one would have thought that such a costly experience
would have prepared us all, especially in this increasingly globalised world, for "progress" of a similar
kind.

The Internet like printing has brought about wave after wave of information explosions. Of course,
it is more democratic whereby institutional elements have little or no control what so ever over what goes
onto the Internet. Yet the fact remains that religious persecution continues to exist.

This is because the level playing field provided by the Internet has allowed everyone a say in any
particular matter regardless of how ignorant he or she may be. Although this may be advantageous in terms
of freedom of thought, it has the ability of side-lining authoritative writings or putting unscholarly works on
a par with scholarly writing.

Despite all the euphoria on the democratisation of information, such a phenomenon tends to justify
or legitimise the kind of random soup that people get on the TV, radio and in newspapers, all of which
remain significant and are, of course, open to manipulation. This is because the manipulative thrive on
ignorance and disinformation.

Those who surf the Internet must, by now, have come across inflammatory cartoons on Islam by
Chick Publications Ltd. It begins with a father and son (both of whom are non- Muslims) paying a visit to a
mosque in, what it seems, a Middle Eastern country. When the son asks, "What are they doing father?" The
father replies, it would seem, with the intent of provoking a response, not from his son but from Muslim
worshipers, "They are praying to their moon god, son."

This lack of humility in commenting upon the lives and history of Muslims would of course result
in a response from any sensible Muslim, except that in the next illustration, an Arab looking person replies,
"Did you know that the Quran allows me to KILL you for saying that?" which of course the Quran does
not.

It is quite possible that some extremist Muslims might hold such a view, but this illustration
merely seeks to enforce the stereotype that Islam and Muslims as a whole are a violent and intolerant lot. It
is probably the case that the cartoonists share an innate fear of the spread of Islam in the West so much so
that, insofar as Islam is the second largest and fastest growing religion in America, the Arab man in the
picture in made to proclaim that "you people should fear us!" more as a warning to Christians themselves.

And as way of affirming Christianity, the cartoonists have added a dimension of good old
rationalism to the argument. "History proves," says the boys father, "that before Islam came into existence
the Sabeans in Arabia worshiped the moon god." This moon god has been supposedly chosen by
Muhammad as a way to unite the Arabs and that in fact Muhammad himself had always been a polytheist.

As proof of this, the boy's father furnishes a photograph of an archeological finding of a figure
sitting on a throne with a crescent on its chest perhaps with the purpose of making the connection with the
Quranic verse of The Throne or ayat al-Kursi (See Quran, 2: 255).

One can only say that if this is only part of history which one may consider in order to derive
conclusive proof, then "history," as Gordon Sumner (better known as Sting) laments, "will teach us
nothing," because such people have