You are currently browsing Hassan Higenyi’s articles.
Take it or leave it, terrorism is a religious global threat to humanity, irrespective of race and nationality.
Reportedly, Uganda is the latest (and so far the 33rd) country to get hit by terrorists, that’s if indeed the 7/11 Kampala bombings were carried out by the Al-Shabaab – an Islamist militant group – that expressed delight and claimed responsibility saying it’s a message to the Ugandan government to withdraw its troops from Mogadishu, Somalia. The bomb blasts killed at least 76 people and injured many others that were at Kyadondo rugby ground and the Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kabalagala, on the unfortunate night when virtually everyone’s attention was on the 2010 World Cup final match between Spain and Netherlands or Paul the octopus!
Now the country is on a high security alert because the Al-Shabaab threatened to carry on with more attacks on Kampala and Bujumbura (Burundi) if the respective governments do not heed the message. Understandably, in the wake of the attack, Uganda’s President Gen.Yoweri Kaguta Museveni took time off his countrywide assessment tour of the Prosperity-For-All program in Ntungamo district and convened an emergence press conference to address the country on the security threat. Predictably, being the soldier he is (‘once a soldier, always a soldier’), Museveni vowed to deal with (“crush”) the Al-Shabaab in the biblical Moses’ an-eye-for-an-eye style by deploying more 20,000 troops in addition to the ones already in Somalia.
While addressing the AU summit in Kampala, Museveni again urged his fellow African leaders to join hands in getting rid of terrorists in Somalia and Africa, and so they agreed to deploy more 2000 troops. At the risk of sounding unpatriotically cynical, the war against terrorism is a tricky one that I reasonably doubt can be defeated through conventional warfare, especially in Africa. The USA, with all its military might and resources, tried this approach and failed, though they can’t admit it. That poor Africa may succeed with the same costly approach is simply unrealistic. Question is, Which approach or counterterrorism idea is more effective than an-eye-for-an-eye?
Well, to get a solution to a problem, one ought to understand its cause. And, let’s face it; blind belief/faith is the root and breeding ground of terrorism, of which Africa is pretty vulnerable with plenty of potential terrorists (a.k.a conservative believers).
Because, according to the holy scriptures (both the Bible and Qur’an), a true believer in the supernatural Almighty ‘God’ of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) will do whatever it takes, including (and not limited to) killing or dying to appease God or prove his/her strong belief in Him (Yahweh or Allah), like Abraham ("the great grandfather of all believers") who was willing to sacrifice his own son; after all he/she would be abundantly rewarded for it in the hereafter (heaven). That explains a lot about the terrorists’ spirit and actions such as suicide bombings. So terrorists believe they’re fighting a holy war (jihad) in the name of ‘God’, the ‘God’ of Abraham or Ibrahim of the Bible and Qur’an!
It’s such shared and unquestioned beliefs that sustain evils like terrorism because terrorists use them to recruit other gullible believers, and Africa is full of believers of the kind.
Unfortunately, religion enjoys worldwide untouchable privilege or "undeserved respect" as Richard Dawkins calls it in his conscious-raising (indeed!) book ‘The God Delusion‘. An extract of the brilliant late Douglas Adam’s impromptu speech at Cambridge puts it well:
“Religion… has certain ideas at the heart of which we call sacred or holy or whatever. What it means is, ‘Here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about; you’re just not. Why not? – because you’re not!’…Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn’t be as open to debate as any other,”
…that’s what makes terrorism even more tricky!
Otherwise, in a nutshell, since prevention is better than cure, the most viable approach for curbing terrorism would be ensuring safety of the citizenry through security alert measures and mass sensitization against the deadly blind faith or beliefs that encourage it. That is, religion should be subjected to questioning so as to curb possible recruitment of the ignorant or gullible and vulnerable believers; for all we know, the Al-Shabaabs and Al-Qaeda may have already recruited many Ugandans and Africans.
I am confused but curious, God
If you really exist and you’re our creator
Then why are you so mysterious,
Are you hiding something from us?
I am confused but curious, God
If you’re omnipotent and omniscient
Then why did you create the devil,
Couldn’t you have known that he would tempt us?
And God, who asked you to create us anyway
Well knowing that we’d be misled by the devil you created
Is it fair of you to make hell and punish us for your own folly,
Or could it be that you’re the devil yourself after all?
I am just confused and curious, God
If you really wanted us to believe and worship you
Then why would you create us with other desires,
Or did you somehow lose control of things and just let be?
By: Hassan Higenyi
As arguable as it might seem, a scientifically validated finding holds that the maximum brain capacity known to humans is 10%. How they arrived at this is another matter, but the undeniable beauty of science is that it’s provably reliable and logical.
That said, the brain, particularly the neo-cortex is man’s real distinctive feature from other animals i.e. “Homo sapiens”, which is the scientific term for man, infers to the fact that we are “the thinking animals”. And by definition, the brain is the organ that controls the body. Thus, even while oblivious of such facts, we often simply say “it’s all in your head,” and also commonly realize that “all humans are fallible.”
Nevertheless, we all acknowledge that mankind has come a long way and, with the outstanding efforts of certain individuals that endeavor to use their remarkable (genius) brains, over time life is relatively simplified for successive human generations.
Interestingly however, whereas the possession of an exceptional thinking brain supposedly implies rationality in our ways, it is almost a fallacy in most cases. Because, if you paid attention to many normal people’s utterances and actions, as I do, you could greatly doubt whether we really use our brains at all.
As Albert Einstein once pondered: “The question that sometimes makes me hazy is, am I or the others crazy?”
I, too, was about to concede that, “we are all mad, only our levels of madness vary,” until a likeminded friend who is a Molecular Biologist intimated a scientific rationale that changed my mind.
He said, “Some people are in a vegetative state. Their bodies function well; their brains appear to be okay but are dull or inactive. So they actually seem normal, but are mentally abnormal Homo sapiens.”
Then it all now made sense to me. I mean; if you mix the ‘vegetates’ with the wilfully ignorant and misinformed, the desperately vulnerable, the manipulative, the indoctrinated, brainwashed or somewhat hypnotized and put them together with those that are overwhelmed by fear and desire of the imaginary hell-fire and the fantasy of paradise in the hereafter, respectively; you get the perfect picture of the real world we live in that is full of all sorts of superstitious beliefs that are based on general assumptions.
Therefore, it is no wonder that so-called believers, no matter how enlightened some might seem, their intellect is limited, biased and blinded by a deeply entrenched influence, until they independently subject their beliefs to critical thought.
Only then, with a truly liberated mind, can someone say and do something sincerely, not out of fear or expectation of reward.
Now, although I totally agree and support Article 37 of Uganda’s Constitution which clearly states that: “Every person has a right as applicable, to belong to, enjoy, practice, profess, maintain and promote any culture, cultural institution, language, tradition, creed or religion in community with others.”
I am of the cautious view that we all ought to thoroughly question and check the validity of our religious, cultural and sociological orthodoxies; otherwise they pose a massive danger to society, let alone inhibiting us from unravelling and demystifying the mysteries that clog our brains’ potential.
Because, in keeping with the tradition of beliefs or the way of the world, we tend to dogmatically and stereotypically uphold notions that restrict our curious minds to discussing only certain aspects of life while regarding others as sacred, unthinkable or taboo, and hypocritically pretending that all is well.
In other words, the inane inability to think outside the box (convention) is perhaps our continuous human undoing.
In that, people foolishly say and do things in resonance with and by influence of so-and-sos, without even asking or seeking other suitable ways of attaining their intended goals. That, in my view is a deadly coupling of blind faith and obedience, which is reinforced by ignorance and bigoted failure to question our dogmas, typically manifested in self-righteousness and impulsive actions that breed insurmountable sentiments and prejudice.
Indeed, on keen observation of the global human society, you will realize that religious and cultural or traditional beliefs and practices are ironically part and parcel of the evils and immoralities that bog down humanity. Unreasonable things like; terrorism, genocide, ritual murders, child sacrifice, genital mutilation, gender inequality, slavery, corporal punishment, polygamy, child abuse, discrimination, violence (religious and civil wars), and all sorts of inhuman deeds are absurdly rationalized in the name of protecting, maintaining and promoting the various religions, cultures and traditions that timelessly and greatly affect people’s lives and prosperity.
Because, as Robert Oxtom Bolton once observed: “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses, it is an idea that possesses the mind.”
But, as if that is not enough to endure, time and again, people are gullibly (mis)led into believing in supernatural powers through hearsay accounts of witchcraft, selective ‘miracle healings’, curses, demons, spirits, ghosts, etc.
And all just because the teachings of the various religions, cultures and traditions, that many people conform to and cherish, also acknowledge the existence of such things (through stories in the scriptures or passed on from one generation to another), the believers of the purported word-of-God automatically shut out logic without any-further-question or sufficient proof but faithful conviction!
Apparently, they contend that there is no logically better explanation for such ‘mysterious’ occurrences except the divine power of a God or Devil that “works in mysterious ways.”
With reserved contempt of such delusions, I concur with Joseph Conrad, a renowned author who once noted that: “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary. Men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.”
So, as the saying goes, “desperate situations require desperate measures,” for us to guard against such misconstrued and rampant beliefs and cultures that threaten the survival, morality and advancement of humanity, we ought to adopt an unorthodox but viable idealism essentially based on rationality, facts, science, empathy and tolerance, in order to counter and control their illogical weaknesses and potential adversity.
Well, given the realities of science in this modern 21st Century, maybe it is high time we considered embracing Charles Darwin’s realistic theory of evolution and natural selection. Who knows, the truth could be right in front of us after all. For what it’s worth, the theory rightly infers to the undeniable reality of gradual change that all animals and plants undergo in life.
In fact, if you thoughtfully look into its details of the survival and adaptability of all living things; evolution makes more real sense than creationism.
To me, yes; creationism is an interesting and awesome theory with touching and moving stories, but when you plumb it all the weaknesses abound and many things really don’t add up, especially with the numerous contradictions and (mis)interpretations of the good scriptures, just like with any masterpiece; it’s timelessly excellent and inspiring, but not logically ideal.
Unfortunately, it’s a pity that many people up to now cannot differentiate between reality and imagination, or fact and fiction.
Anyway, like DH Lawrence put it, in regard of Sigmund Freud’s Psycho Analytical Theory: “The writer sheds his ‘sickness’ on paper.”
In essence, all I am saying is that the onus is now on our generation to at least use our brains better, in a rationally critical way, to think and/or act with good will for posterity.
BY: HASSAN HIGENYI
A Pioneer Member of Freethought Kampala