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Can we reassert the right to scientific and scholarly criticism of ANY religion?

Reader comment on item: Denying Islam's Role in Terror: Explaining the Denial

Submitted by Martin H. Katchen (United States), Mar 15, 2013 at 20:49

Gaetano Ilardi knew very well to caution his police against mentioning Islam in connection with terrorism in the Australian state of Victoria. The State of Victoria has a law against "religious vilification

"(www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/rarta2001265/, www.police.vic.gov.au/content.asp?Document_ID=23370, www.abc.net.au/.../religionreport/...religious-vilification...victoria/3442496 and he and his officers could be charged under that law by the Crown Prosecutors and lose their jobs if they are accused of saying the wrong things--especially since he is charged with enforcing that law. I know about it because a friend of mine who ran a Christian mission got convicted under that law for charging that the local Ordo Templi Orientis chapter sexually abused children and had to move to the Northern Territory.

While the Victoria law is admittedly extreme, these laws are the result of a concerted lobbying campaign by religious groups that began in the late 1970s. At that time, we had a framework for discussing religious extremism; that of cult brainwashing--remember Jonestown? Admittedly the theory left a lot to be desired but unfortunately, because this theory became identified with upper middle class parents attempting to recover young adult offspring by "deprogramming" temporary guardianships or abductions, it sparked a backlash on the American Religious Right and among American and European academics in the field of sociology of religion and religious studies that marked the beginning of the successful effort to create a taboo against criticism of religious belief and the effect of religious belief on it's adherents.

Sociologists of religion such as James T. Richardson, G. Gordon Melton, Anson Shupe, David Bromley,Yet Richard Anthony, John R. Lewis, Thomas Robbins and Massamino Introvigne actually brought religious groups together that had nothing in common doctrinally such as Church of Scientology, the Unification Church (which turned out to be far better connected in the American Conservative movement than its critics gave it credit for being), Children of God, Church Universal and Triumphant, Hare Krishnas and a number of others (Jehovah's Witnesses apparently joined later) around a common legal defense strategy of attacking it's critics as anti-religion and attacking the idea of brainwashing as wrong and a violation of human rights. The academics drew from historical research observations that most established religious denominations had gone through periods in their beginnings, like the Mormon Church, in which they had been persecuted by the State.

So these so called "cults" were simply new religious movements going through this phase of persecution that would be followed by inevitable (andl legally required under the 1st Amendment) acceptance.

(see www.rci.rutgers.edu/~zablocki/.../ZablockiScientific%20Theory%20of%20Brainwashing.pdf )

See also Brainwashing: Blacklisting of a concept found at Benjamin Zablocki's home page www.rci.rutgers.edu/~zablocki/ .

This was a way to turn sociological theory into aggressive legal strategy and academics into in some cases well paid consultants to the very groups they were studying. These academics organized themselves into an organization called CESNUR Center for Study of New Religious Movements a group tied to Alleanza Catolica.

During the 1990s, this approach yielded dividends for cult groups. After an unsuccessful attempt at deprogramming a member of an evangelical Christian group got linked to the major anti cult group, Cult Awareness Network, was successfully sued under civil RICO, bankrupted and bought out at auction by Church of Scientology in 1995. The more scholarly cult-critical organization American Family Foundation embarked on an ultimately fruitless flirtation with the False Memory Syndrome Foundation during the 1990s which it gave up on after the passing away of it's dean, Margaret Singer and two other board members. American Family Foundation selected Alan Scheflin as it's new President for a l year term, chaned it's name to International Cultic Studies Association where it exixts to this day, trying to claw back credibility for the field of cultic studies.

It has not been easy in the current academic climate. And one of the reasons for this, and perhaps the biggest reason why this climate has persisted in the US is that evangelical Christians have benefited from this taboo against criticism of religious authoritarianism too. The taboo, and the discrediting of the brainwashing-PTSD model of religious recruitment or retention has given space for a number of Christian organizations from Focus on the Family to Exodus Ministries to more extreme groups like Quiverfull-- members of which would rather see Islamists continue to be immune to criticism on the basis of brainwashing than risk themselves coming under criticism. Such is the power of "scratch one, we all bleed".

Yet without a well defined set of criteria for what separates open religious tradition from destructive cultisim we are probably going to lose the argument with the Islamists --or with other absolutists such as militant Hindus, who endorse many of the same things Islamists do such as honor killings. It is very easy to get caught up fighting one enemy and wind up endorsing something worse if that is possible, much as we did allying with Stalin to fight Hitler--without a clearly defined set of principles that separate us from them.

And because we know a lot more about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder now than we did in the early 1980s it will not be difficult to come up with an updated brainwashing definition of destructive cultism that would be a yardstick to separate "moderate Islam from Islamism. And a lot less of Islam would fall on the moderate side than people realize, I suspect. Because the real issue with Islam is not the doctrine but the attraction of the Islamic doctrine for and it's interaction with people with PTSD. Islam, with it's doctrine of retribution, standing up for Allah, jihad (both with self and in physical war) and ultimately vindication holds an appeal for anyone who has grown up bullied and abused. That is it's seduction and that is why in this country, it appeals so much to prisoners. Phyllis Chesler and Nancy Kobrin have done some work in this area and this work needs to be supported and brought to publication.

But to do this we need to start challenging this taboo against talking about religion, brainwashing and abuse in the same breath--even if doing so does discomfit many conservative Christians. Because there is a need for standards that all can live with.


Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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Reader comments (55) on this item

Title Commenter Date Thread
"Moderate Islam" as compared to..... What?? [95 words]Ron BlowerFeb 9, 2016 02:29227996
This Great Article Made Me Think That Guliani Should Have Made This Contrast Between His Recognizing Islamofascism and Obama being Blind To It [277 words]Mike ConlonNov 16, 2015 22:25226429
Picture worth 10,000 words? [1 words]JIMJFOXAug 9, 2015 12:40224626
Losing by intimidation [202 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
jdubowMar 17, 2015 20:34222403
... in denial- pun intended [60 words]JIMJFOXAug 9, 2015 12:52222403
2jihad [69 words]cavan edwardsApr 30, 2013 11:23205753
1Da nile, not just a river in Egypt. [44 words]LynnApr 28, 2013 09:21205701
Islam is not the enemy, Muslims are not the enemy, the WSTJ cult is the enemy of the West [50 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
AthosApr 26, 2013 02:27205630
You forgot Sirhan Sirhan [135 words]Wallace Edward BrandMay 7, 2013 01:40205630
1What message islamic terrorists are REALLY sending! [160 words]SteveMay 23, 2015 18:29205630
Disingenuous- Ironic, some?? [42 words]JIMJFOXAug 9, 2015 12:44205630
It needs to be monitored [187 words]john w. mcginleyApr 4, 2013 16:28204949
James Holmes of the Colorado massacre converted to the religion of peace! [39 words]dhimmi no moreMar 23, 2013 11:07204627
Islam & Islamism, one and the same. [19 words]Steven LMar 19, 2013 22:26204510
Denial Symptom [49 words]Clifford IshiiMar 19, 2013 20:50204505
1Denying Islam's role in Terror. Explaining the denial, rather the Obsession. [123 words]AnneMar 17, 2013 18:10204428
west,the terror of the world. [69 words]Muzaffar hussainJun 7, 2013 23:20204428
1Denying Islam's Role in Terror. The Denial is on your side. response to Muzzafar. [224 words]AnneJun 9, 2013 07:55204428
1Denial by Making an Issue Abstract (about 'Hate' Speech) [275 words]Ron ThompsonMar 17, 2013 08:09204409
2WHITE HOUSE COVERUP ON BENGHAZI ASSAULT [72 words]JERRY BORISMar 16, 2013 16:54204393
3Germany [68 words]ChristaMar 17, 2013 16:18204393
2Truth first, and then use the "shame" weapon [790 words]Mike C.Mar 16, 2013 14:00204387
1Can we reassert the right to scientific and scholarly criticism of ANY religion? [1020 words]Martin H. KatchenMar 15, 2013 20:49204377
1Good points, but I disagree with your conclusion [199 words]saraMar 15, 2013 21:10204377
I must respectfully rebut your disagreement [547 words]Martin H. KatchenMar 16, 2013 00:58204377
A voice of reason [13 words]LenoreMar 19, 2013 19:20204377
1Denying Islam's Role in Terror / Explaining the Denial [142 words]JudithMar 15, 2013 19:45204376
Excellent Review by Daniel Pipes [265 words]Carol CassadyMar 15, 2013 18:42204375
If you don't blame Islam, blame Asians [41 words]GamalielMar 15, 2013 18:39204374
So long as we look the other way... [182 words]NuritGMar 15, 2013 18:00204373
1A Different Suggestion on Why It Is So Very Hard to Get THE OBVIOUS Widely Accepted [1875 words]Ron ThompsonMar 15, 2013 13:41204366
Time to Stand-Up to Extremist Da'Wah and Jihadism! [225 words]GKMar 14, 2013 14:06204323
An idea [61 words]Kepha HorMar 13, 2013 21:18204306
1The terrorism that dares not speak its name [73 words]stuffagainMar 9, 2013 22:50204169
8Islam and terrorism [478 words]dhimmi no moreMar 9, 2013 08:07204144
Turkish Intelligence Recruits Al Nusra Terrorists to Fight in Syria [17 words]Young MCMar 10, 2013 09:27204144
The Turks and Jihadists fighting in Syria [120 words]dhimmi no moreMar 13, 2013 10:14204144
3Excellence [255 words]Tom DundeeMar 8, 2013 14:08204123
3They are not medical doctors [187 words]Y Brandstetter MDMar 7, 2013 06:03204087
I Agree With Your Intent, But Not Your Rationale [166 words]Tom DundeeMar 8, 2013 15:30204087
4When Islamists tell us the truth, can't we just listen? [331 words]JeffMar 5, 2013 13:01204051
why we listen and do not understand - aggression vs hostility [312 words]mythMar 6, 2013 06:57204051
2Dutch AIVD partly in denial [173 words]mythMar 5, 2013 04:59204046
3Our Government Has Forgotten Its Obligations [108 words]DaveMar 4, 2013 08:01204019
1Religion of Peace [45 words]Tom DundeeMar 8, 2013 15:12204019
7So who is really our enemy? [106 words]dhimmi no moreMar 4, 2013 07:29204017
9what is the nature of the Obama-moderates? [56 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
mythMar 3, 2013 19:33204006
9The elephant in the room! [131 words]dhimmi no moreMar 4, 2013 07:55204006
6moderate muslims [25 words]diana westMar 4, 2013 08:43204006
Excellence in Writing [102 words]Kevin SynnottMar 8, 2013 14:18204006
Outstanding Catch [2 words]Tom DundeeMar 8, 2013 14:21204006
response to moderate muslims by diana west [69 words]LilyApr 19, 2013 18:43204006
4Islamists have been given the license to kill [96 words]TomMar 3, 2013 19:14204004
6German "Verfassungsschutz" report a good read for US authorities [208 words]mythMar 3, 2013 18:19204003
2The agenda [42 words]BillMar 3, 2013 17:46204001

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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