TED Conversations

Barry Palmer

TEDCRED 100+

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Terrorists have NO religion. And we should not let them claim one.

The religion/philosophy of the terrorist is that violence is the solution.

Terrorists have no claim to any other religion or philosophy.

Violence, particularly violence to innocents, is wrong.

Throughout history people of violence have justified their actions by using religion. This also provides them with gullible recruits. The media can and should disallow these people from using this ruse. Reporting that a terrorist claims to be of some particular religion is participating in propaganda.

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    Sep 5 2012: Terrorism seems to me like rape. A believer in some religion can not convince others by ethical persuasion, and decides to use violence.
    Terrorists really have no religion. Religion, like sex, is good. But when one seeks to go about it through unlawful means; it turns awful.
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      Sep 9 2012: I disagree if you assert that religion can only be a force for good. History is littered with examples that disprove this.
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    Sep 5 2012: From memory the 911 bombers thought they were going to paradise with 70 virgins or some such. They claimed to be doing this atrocity in the name of the Muslim faith. Surely the thing to do is to go to the Koran & see if it would encourage such action. If so, we have identified a problem. If not, then we should broadcast it to deter others from believing such a thing.
    . As things stand all Muslims get tarred with this brush, & no-one has any idea whether there is justification or not.
    I guess the task should fall to the Muslim leaders, as they should know the context, & there people are the one's getting the blame.
    We need facts in order to form opinions.

    :-)
    • Sep 5 2012: Exactly. And all of that is just distraction based on the claims of people who, we know for a fact, have killed innocent people. Even if reporters can verify that the terrorists were practicing Muslims, there is no good reason to report this and thereby taint the Muslim faith in the eyes of the public. There are approximately a billion Muslims on this planet and very few of them commit murder.

      So no, I disagree with you. The thing to do is to ignore their claims, hunt down anyone who supported the attack, and put them in jail. Leave religion out of it altogether. It is just distraction from doing what is necessary.
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        Sep 5 2012: Hi Barry.
        It's not whether they are practicing Muslims that's important. It's whether the Muslim faith; or any faith; advocates such violence. If any faith supports such action, then we should know about it, & so should those who support it. Somebody is teaching these young men that mayhem is good. More young men are being prepared just now. There is no shortage of sincere young men willing to obey their god. If we just keep ignoring the cause, then the mayhem will continue.
        We had the same thing in Ireland. This problem was based on distortions of the bible, but this was never emphasised, so the carnage continued.

        :-)
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          Sep 5 2012: Beware! Both the Bible and the Qran have texts advocating violence. I'm surprised you overlooked that as a Christian. Or perhaps, you've read them but know you should not interpret them literally.
          You just bring up the problem of interpretation. If taken literally, evil can be justified by faith.
          AS Barry says, there are more than 1 billion Muslims and the overwhelming majority of them hates violence.
          :-)
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        Sep 6 2012: Hi Bruno.
        I agree that the majority of people; of any faith & none; want peace. Trouble is, it's not happening.
        Evil loves to keep under cover, the best way to eradicate it is to shine a light on it. If there were a rash of Christian suicide bombers " Bombing for Christ" , I would want to hear their justification. What scriptures etc. If it turned out that they were right, then I would have to evaluate my own spiritual stance.
        As it happens this appears to be an embarrassment for my Muslim brothers & sisters. I haven't studied the Koran; I have no idea where the bombers get this stuff. If, as Barry obviously believes, there is no scriptural backing for these atrocities, then why don't the Muslim leaders come out & make that clear ? Why have we not heard debates on the subject. It is all kept very hush hush, which plays into the hands of the bombers. It would be great to get it cleared up, & leave the bombers without any justification for their deeds. Hope springs eternal.."....

        :-)
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          Sep 9 2012: Peter, while Christianity has largely worn itself out in West Europe and is constrained by a secular constitution in the USA, you seem to be ignore the recent violence by Christians in the Balkans, by Christians for thousands of years against the Jews climaxing in the holocaust, the Christian violence in Africa etc. White christian supremacy movements in the US etc. The Irish conflict had Catholic and protestant christian links. Are you aware of the history of the UK and Europe and how different forms of Christianity have been responsible for much death and destruction?

          Just because Christians in the UK are relatively peaceful does not mean Christianity has a spotless record even in recent times.

          Having said that I find some forms of Islam particularly obnoxious and would rather live in a secular country with a Christian heritage.

          Although I suggest there is a complex connection between politics, power imbalance and religion in regards to Muslim terrorism.

          While I don't support blowing up civilians I can understand some terrorist motivations. Terrorism is the privatization of war. The UK and US have superior military force compared to various Muslim groups. Why wouldn't they try terrorism rather than go head to head?

          What can the Palestinians do against the US backed Israeli armed forces? Don't forget the West/UN gave Palestinian lands to the Jews. Lands that had been in Muslim hands for centuries. I would be furious too if half of Australia had been given to the Jews or whoever.
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        Sep 9 2012: Hi Barry, religious belief can be a important part of a persons identity. Religion can be tied up with tribalism, nationalism and politics, after all it is a human construct.

        Religious belief can be connected or even motive one to violence.

        Call a spade a spade.

        I'm just glad most people associated with the three bloody Abrahamic traditions live in societies that have evolved to either seperate church and state or be moderated by enlightenment values and don't consider it wise to follow the nasty doctrines. Thanks the gods the Jews no longer stone adulterers (mostly). Thanks the gods it is less acceptable to kill or torture those with heretical beliefs or are homosexual.
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    Gail . 50+

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    Sep 5 2012: OK, but now you must define "violence", and in this context, Christianity will be out of luck. Much of what they say is loving is HARMING many. Is that OK with you?
    • Sep 5 2012: I do not know where you are trying to go with this. If you are trying to make a case that 'Christianity' amounts to terrorism, that is off topic.

      The point of this conversation is that the media, when reporting on terrorist acts, should not be reporting any claims regarding the religion of the terrorists. Please stay on this topic. Every act of harm is not a terrorist act. Just to answer your specific question, no, harming others is usually not ok with me, regardless of the intentions or words of the people doing harm. Not every act of 'harm' is necessarily wrong. For example, a vaccination delivered by a needle does some harm.

      ---------------------
      From The American Heritage Dictionary, Third Edition

      violence n. 1. Physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing:
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        Sep 5 2012: Quite right Barry: media should not link terrorism to faith, as Feyisayo says, these people are not religious. When portraying Muslim prayers, the media systematically show the believers kneeling, whereas this is only a short part of the ceremony at the Mosque.
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          Sep 6 2012: Mr. Carre,
          The posted topic is not about how peace loving most Muslims are, it is about the right of terrorists to claim fidelity to a given religion. Those are two very different topics. If the religion a terrorist openly claims as the driving force behind his/her actions does, in fact, require such acts of violence then it is fitting and proper for that terrorist to claim fidelity to that religion. That religion should then be identified as an advocate for terrorism. If you wish to discuss the majority attitude of Muslims you should post that separately. Thank you!
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        Sep 6 2012: I think that it is a good thing when one religion is responsible for so much damage to others. Information allows me to make informed decisions. I think that portrayal of what religions are teaching should be broadcast to all. Not just the Muslims who are receiving unfair media coverage.
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        Sep 9 2012: I don't see why you wouldn't report religious links to terrorist acts if religion was part of the context motivation etc.

        I guess many Muslims see many conflicts as between the Christian Western Powers and Muslims.

        I guess genuine religious beliefs and identity is behind or connected to some of the violence. I see no issue reporting this.

        Why whitewash the truth?

        Are you trying to disassociate religion from all the nasty religiously inspired or connected acts?

        Also, Islam is doctrinally more political than Christianity. While the NT says give to Caesar what is Caesars, Islam is more theocratic. I guess some evangelical Christians see the middle East as some religious or spiritual war. I guess so do Many muslims.
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    Sep 4 2012: I guess the real question is whether terrorist activity is supported, advocated, required even, by the religion they claim to follow. If, in fact, it is then terrorists have every right to claim allegiance to that religion.
    • Sep 5 2012: Hi Edward,

      Terrorists cannot be trusted to tell us the truth. Nothing they claim should be reported without independent verification. I would agree with you, IF the reporter covering the story can get independent verification, and IF the claimed religion unquestionably advocated violence.

      When a member or a group of members of a religion advocate violence, this should not reflect on the religion itself.
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        Sep 5 2012: Precisely, Barry! As a Christian I expect to be held unswervingly to the teachings of the Holy Bible. If my actions are in accordance with the Holy Bible then Christianity can be identified with my deeds. If my actions are not consistent with the Holy Bible, no matter what I claim, Christianity ought not to be blamed for my behavior. I would add to your final statement that IF the teachings of a religion advocate violence then such violence should absolutely reflect upon the religion itself. Thanks!--Edward
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    Sep 18 2012: Isn't the term that you are using here, "Terrorist," media propaganda as well?
  • Sep 13 2012: I would not presume to tell anyone, be they terrorists or not, whether they are religious or not. I would allow them the freedom of belief that you would deny them.

    The recent spate of Islamist suicide bombers certainly thought they were religious, and if was this religious fervour which skewed their sense of morality, which fuelled their hatred of 'the other' and which gave them the incentive to carry out such atrocious acts.
    • Sep 14 2012: "The recent spate of Islamist suicide bombers certainly thought they were religious, and if was this religious fervour which skewed their sense of morality, which fuelled their hatred of 'the other' and which gave them the incentive to carry out such atrocious acts."

      This sentence contains not one single fact that you could possibly know from your own personal experience. This is pure conjecture.

      I would certainly tell murderers that I do not accept their claims to be religious, that I do not believe anything they say, that their actions speak for them, that by their actions they have chosen to exit civilized society. And my attitude contains not a trace of presumption. To the contrary, it is the murderers who presume that we will be gullible enough to accept their claims. Their should be no dialogue with murderers, no debate with murderers. We should simply capture them and put them in jail.

      The media gullibly accepted the meme of killers, and it has contaminated the world.
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    Sep 13 2012: ....mmmmmm....how do you know that?
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    Sep 9 2012: Religious identity and beliefs may be an important part of the context or motivation for terrorist (or freedom fighter, or warriors of god) actions and should be reported accordingly.

    If Christian militias in the Balkans slaughter Muslim men and boys, then the religious aspects should be reported.

    If a loony who happens to be a Muslim shoots 100 people at a Batman movie that has nothing to do with religion, then it is irrelevant.

    To think religion is not sometime a key part of violence and conflict is just delusional.
    • Sep 12 2012: "To think religion is not sometime a key part of violence and conflict is just delusional."

      I know of no major religion that advocates violence, so if you are using the word 'religion' to refer to the major religions, then I think this statement is completely false.

      "Religious identity and beliefs may be an important part of the context or motivation for terrorist (or freedom fighter, or warriors of god) actions and should be reported accordingly."

      Your words depict the practices of the media today. IMO, this is the result of a lack of critical thinking. The only people who know the true motivations of the terrorists are the terrorists themselves, and we can trust nothing they say.

      Reporting the religious claims of terrorists can lead to reprisals. Instigating reprisals could be the true motivation for the terrorists statements about their religious affiliation. By reporting the terrorists' claims, the media helps terrorists spread their violence.
  • Sep 7 2012: Um...
    1) There is a religion called Islam
    2) Islam is based upon writings that it and its followers consider holy
    3) Islam's followers consult these holy writings and look to them for guidance in how to live, how to behave
    4) These holy writings instruct its followers to engage in behavior that harms people
    5) Terrorists engage in some of these same behaviors written in the religious holy book
    6) Terrorists justify some of their actions by pointing out that their religious texts and teachings include rewards for carrying out behavior that we classify as terrorist, such as the virgins in heaven

    giving respect to harmless religions sets the stage for requiring the same respect for harmful ones
    • Sep 7 2012: I could rewrite your six statements substituting 'Christianity' for 'Islam' and all six statements would be just as true, with the exception of the virgins.


      "4) These holy writings instruct its followers to engage in behavior that harms people"

      This is not a simple fact.

      Parts of the Bible can be interpreted in the same way. Some Christians have interpreted the Bible to justify violence. The acts of a few violent people should not be used to justify the general statement that the Bible instructs its followers to engage in behavior that harms people.

      The vast majority of Christians and Muslims believe in living in peace. The harmful people interpret the writings to rationalize their harmful actions.

      Condemning Islam for the actions of a small number of its followers is prejudice. The actions of a few members of a group should not be used to characterize the group.

      You did not provide any specific references. Following your way of thinking, I could jump to the conclusion that your writings are an example of the prejudice that the media can induce in the public.

      "giving respect to harmless religions sets the stage for requiring the same respect for harmful ones"

      IMO, this statement is pure nonsense. The distinction between harmless and harmful is fundamental.
  • Sep 7 2012: This is the main idea I wanted to discuss here:

    THE MEDIA SHOULD NOT ALLOW TERRORISTS TO CLAIM ANY RELIGION.

    I admit, I picked a bad title.

    Opinions of which groups/governments should be labeled terrorists should be expressed elsewhere. For the purposes of this discussion, terrorists are people who are reported by the media as committing specific violent acts of terror intended to maim and/or kill people. Specifically excluded are acts of governments and their agencies. Whether the acts of the USA should be labeled terrorism could be an interesting, separate conversation.

    Also, I am not concerned with what the terrorists believe. I expect that all terrorists believe that their acts are justified. IMO, killing innocent people is never justified.

    I started thinking about violence and religion. As a child I learned that the crusades of the 11th 12th and 13th centuries were holy wars motivated by religion. As an adult I read that historians now believe that these were wars of plunder; that religion was a ruse to recruit soldiers. For centuries Protestants fought with Catholics. I am sure that some of the people involved were actually motivated by religion, but I suspect that there were many more motivated by the wish for territory, plunder and power. The troubles over Northern Ireland were nationalistic much more than religious.

    I came to the conclusion that in most cases the people who commit terror are more committed to violence than to any religion, and religion is used to rationalize their actions, perhaps even to themselves. Whether or not this conclusion is accurate, it is certainly a possibility with respect to any particular terrorist act, when it is first reported by the media. If a terrorist group claims responsibility for an act, and justifies it by their religion, the media just reports this claim, without even first verifying that the terrorists follow the claimed religion. This amounts to slander against that religion.
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      Sep 9 2012: Hi Barry,

      I kind of agree, up to a point.

      If an act of terrorism has no casual connection or direct relation to a the terrorists faith or religious beliefs, then it is irrelevant to mention the religious background.

      e.g. If someone blows up a government building because they are depressed, their religion is irrelevant.

      I disagree when religion has played a part leading up to the terrorist act. In these cases it is completely relevant and in fact should be mentioned.

      This should not be used to unreasonably tar the entire population of that ascribe to that faith.

      When Muslims blow themselves up screaming god is great on some jihadist action, when politics and religion and identity are all tied up it is completely reasonable and actually the duty of the media to mention the religious connection.

      Maybe we are not all well informed enough to differentiate between the violent streams of religions and the less violent, but that is actually a call to inform people better.

      I agree that when violence becomes religious dogma to enforce a religious or political point of view, they have actually lost the argument in terms of reason.

      However, you seem to be selectively deciding what the true form of different religions are. I think you are wrong if you just assume religions are about love and peace and imagined relationship with the creator or billions of galaxies.

      Some aspects of religion are violent. I don't like this, but it is true.

      I would agree that if there is no scriptural or historical basis to a claim someone is making then the link may be weaker or stronger.

      However, religions as human cultural and psychological are often based on texts or dogma that include violence. Read the old testament. Even in the New one the god of the Christians requires a blood sacrifice and sends people to hell to suffer for eternity. If you believe that there is plenty of scope for lessor acts of violence to prevent people from suffering eternal damnation.

      Also based on...
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      Sep 9 2012: Religions are also based on personal revelations, human authorities or personal religious experience.

      If someone feels a sense of divine peace and rightness, a connection to god when they contemplate an act of violence in gods name, that is just as valid as the same feeling for an act of peace.

      The problem is religions are man made and are not a reliable source of truth or consistency. They are based on subjective interpretation and misinterpreted psychological experiences. As human constructs they become part of our human struggles. The Christian Germans and Christian allies both thought they had god on their side.

      Over a thousand years of persecution of Jews by Christians had religious motivations. Now the Jews building settlements in Palestinian territories also have religious motives.

      Religion may not be the whole story but it is part of the story episodes of human history.

      You don't get to choose what the true religious interpretation is, except for yourself.

      I guess there are instances when people are dishonestly trying to connect an action or cause to a religion. But I guess many are quite sincere.

      Religion has a dark side. When the Aztecs sacrificed people to ensure the sun rose and crops grew, they were probably sincere. Many of the crusaders were probably sincere. Many terrorists are acting in accordance with their conscience and religious views.

      I think you also underestimate the violent aspects of Judeo Christian and Muslim scriptures.
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    Sep 7 2012: I don't understand the idea of not letting people think of their belief systems as their religions. People of all religions do things that seem to the outsider, and likely also to themselves, as violations of some of the tenets of their faiths.

    Religions tend to have enough in the way of internal contradictions to make room for a wide variety of behaviors.
    • Sep 7 2012: Fritzie, I apologize for the confusion. The title and explanation of this conversation were not clear.

      I have posted a comment that I hope clears it up.
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    Sep 7 2012: Terrorist have every right to believe in any gods they want.
    You can be an arse, a murder and be religious, and believe in this or that god(s).

    You also seem to be assuming religions or gods are against violence. Some are very violent, in terms of rules, myths. The god of the bible requires human or animal blood sacrifices. The god of the bible committed global genocide via the flood. Destroyed cities, sent plagues and ordered hundreds pf thousands of deaths - just the ones enumerated in the scriptures.

    The god of the bible promised eternal torture in hell to the majority.

    The god of the bible is the ultimate terror in some respects.

    You fail to see both sides of religion and gods and scriptures.
    • Sep 7 2012: Obey, I apologize for the confusion. The title and explanation of this conversation were not clear.

      I have posted a comment that I hope clears it up.

      Almost all religious texts are open to interpretation in many ways, especially the Bible. I believe that religion, gods and scriptures have as many 'sides' as there are people.
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        Sep 9 2012: Thanks Barry. That is clearer.

        However, I think you may have a rose tinted view of what religion is or should be. Religious beliefs and motivations run the full gambit from the wonderful to the woeful.

        You might think people are hijacking their faith when being violent in gods name. If a Jain blew themselves up I would tend to agree. But if a Christian fought against the abolition of slavery based on the support for slavery in the bible, they have a reasonable scriptural foundation.

        Also religion is personal and subjective. It has nothing to do with truth in my view. Some personal experience lead to so called revelations, that sometimes be come popular movements, cults or religions over time. Not a sound basis for truth as they all disagree in the details. But why is the revelation or interpretation connected to popular movements any more valid than that of an individual or small group.

        The protestant christian sects started of as subjective disagreements of Luther and Calvin with the subjective papal dogmas.

        IF a person has a religiously interpretation vision or hallucination etc and this inspires them to violence, this is just as valid as one that inspires them to a peaceful act. Both equally invalid in my view.

        Religion is a problematic pathway to moral behavior and codes and near useless when it comes to understanding the truth of life the universe and everything.
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    Sep 7 2012: "The religion/philosophy of the terrorist is that violence is the solution". Ha ha but this is the philosophy of the US government and fear (another word for terrorism) has always been used in the pursuit of political aims - especially in the US.

    Neoconservatives are terrorist by any meaningful definitions. What you must talk about is how terrorism is justified - some are underpinned by religious views others on pure political views.
    • Sep 7 2012: Ehis, I apologize, the title and explanation of this conversation was not very clear.

      I added a comment that I hope will make it clear.

      We should talk about how terrorism is justified, but that is not the idea behind this conversation.
  • Comment deleted

    • Sep 7 2012: "thats an old excuse fella."

      That is exactly my point.
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      Sep 7 2012: I think his point, is that letting terrorists, claim to be true believers in Islam... Is like pretending "America is a Christian nation"... No it's not... It wouldn't be doing all this stuff, if it was. Just like a true believer in Islam would not murder innocent civilians to make a point.
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        Sep 7 2012: Who are we to say who is a true believer?

        Which of all the thousands if not billions of beliefs is the truth? Any of them?

        Yahweh, took sides. Yahweh ordered death and destruction.

        Is there one true islam?

        I doubt it, being man made and man interpreted.

        Some terrorists are believers. Its just their beliefs may be different from others.
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          Sep 7 2012: A sane person, who doesn't murder anyone.

          Don't kill, don't rape, don't steal... Love people who are different than you.

          There is one true morality. See above.

          Terrorists believe in murder, death, and chaos... To call that a religion... Is like calling America a Christian nation.
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        Sep 9 2012: Hi David, I agree there are more or less ethical approaches if your aim is to reduce suffering and improve the human condition.

        Religious codes have mixed results in this regard.

        I'm just suggesting death, murder, genocide, eternal damnation, slavery can all be tied up with religions. I don't consider the genocide in the bible, the laws to kill disobedient children and homosexuals as particularly moral.

        While Christianity has some messages about love, it is based on a tribal old testament war god, relies on blood sacrifice, and threatens eternal damnation.

        Religion can strengthen the dark side and the light of human nature.

        It seems legitimate to me to call it for what it is. Some religious beliefs are dangerous and violent. I don't agree with them, they are all subjective beliefs, but they can be religiously inspiried.

        I think we probably agree in our opposition to hate and violence even if it has a religious connection or motive.

        I think we just disagree about what is true religion. I see both the light and the dark as part of religion.

        America is a nation made up of a majority that consider themselves Christian. Yet is based on stealing land off native Americans and Spanish/Mexicans. But it has one of the most amazing constitutions of its times that actually makes sure the nation is not beholden to one religious view over another.

        However, animal and human sacrifices have been part of religion. Sexism and racism and genocide have been infused with religion. Some murders and hate are religiously inspired.
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    Sep 6 2012: @Mr Long
    "Those are two very different topics. If the religion a terrorist openly claims as the driving force behind his/her actions does, in fact, require such acts of violence then it is fitting and proper for that terrorist to claim fidelity to that religion. That religion should then be identified as an advocate for terrorism. "

    Complete bollocks. Because a mad man says something he must be believed. Jesus.....
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    Sep 4 2012: Ding! Ding! Ding! And the winner by Technical Knockout... Reason!