John Locke and Terrorism

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In 1689, A Letter Concerning Toleration, written by John Locke during his self-imposed exile to his friend Philip von Limborch, was published without the author's knowledge. The Letter concerned religious intolerance. It essentially made the case for religious toleration on the basis of philosophical principles. Locke was concerned with the State's toleration of those not subscribing to the orthodox religion of the day and, by putting a high value on the preservation of negative liberty, he proposed the toleration of a wide range of religious beliefs. His view was at odds with the existing view of the State which, at that time tolerated one, and only one, orthodox belief. But Locke's Letter is not simply applicable to just the 17th Century. The strength and reasonableness of his arguments mean that, even today, they are convincing. I intend to show that The Letter can reasonably be interpreted to reveal how at least two of Locke's three arguments can apply to the religious fundamentalists who attacked the Twin Towers on September 11th 2001.

The perpetrators of that violent incident probably believed the Quran supported the view that, to die whilst killing 'infidels' would punish the wrongdoers and also ensure entry to paradise. But James Rachel in his essay, Ethics and the Bible, has a differing view:

"Islamic fundamentalists quote the Quran to justify Holy War against the West, but what does the Quran really say? Mohammed Atta, who led the September 11th attack on the World Trade Centre, left behind four pages of instructions to his men, which included 21 quotations from the Quran. Most of the quotations were exhortations to patience, promises of eternal life, and the like. As for justifying the attack itself, here are the three most belligerent passages:

'And the only thing they Lord, forgive our sins and excesses and make our feet steadfast and give us victory over the infidels.' 'Strike above the neck, and strike at all their extremities.' 'Oh Lord, pour your patience upon us and make our feet steadfast and give us victory over the infidels.'"

He also added:

"It is remarkable that this was the best the terrorist could do; a Christian would have no trouble producing much more warlike passages from the Old Testament"

ThinkIssue One, p. 95

Radical Moslems would be well advised to pause and reflect upon their fundamentalist views which, besides being irrational, are reductio ad absurdum.

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