Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Opinion

The bloody stain of fundamentalism

"Truth crushed to earth will rise again." Martin Luther King Jr. (quoting William Cullen Bryant)

Sometimes, oceans are not enough.

Usually, the fact that we are barricaded on both sides by great bodies of water gives us in this country a certain sense of remove from the awful things people with funny names do to one another in strange places on the far side of the globe. But once in awhile, the thing is awful enough that you can't ignore it, or pretend that it is less real.

Such is the case with Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl whose shooting last week on a school bus in the Swat Valley sparked headlines and outrage here and around the world. Yousafzai, who at this writing is in critical condition after emergency surgery, has been an Internet activist, agitating for women's access to education.

The Taliban considers that a capital crime. It claimed responsibility for the men who stopped the bus and boarded it, who asked for Malala by name and, when she was identified, shot her and fled. The group has said that if Malala survives, it will come for her again. It says her death is required under Islamic law.

But make no mistake: Islam is not their religion. It is their excuse.

There are two reasons this story crossed the ocean. The first is that it is appalling. Human garbage does not get much ranker than a man who boards a school bus to kill a child. The second is that it is recognizable, that we see in their mad religious and ideological fundamentalism ghostly shadows of our own.

Granted, the outspoken child in this country is not in particular danger of physical violence from religious or ideological zealots. But the abortion doctor is. The gay couple is. The Muslim-American is.

Fundamentalism is fundamentalism wherever it breeds, always the same dark stain of unbending literalism, always the same shrill claim that it guards the one true path to enlightenment, always the same crazed insistence that the one unforgivable crime against faith, the one inexcusable heresy of ideology, is to ask questions.

But where there are no questions, there can be no true answers. And where there is not freedom, there cannot be real faith. How real can faith be if it is not a thing freely held, if it is something required, coerced, enforced?

This is something fundamentalists never understand. They think people can be intimidated or mandated into silence. They think people can be shot or bombed into obedience.

Perhaps, for a while, they can.

But the great man was right: Truth crushed to earth will rise again. And he was right, too, when, in the same speech, he quoted the abolitionist Theodore Parker: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Because there are not bullets enough in all the world to gun down the human will to be free.

So eventually and inevitably, there will always be someone who can neither bend, nor pretend, someone compelled by conscience — and yes, sometimes, faith — to stand and resist. There will always be a Mohamed Bouazizi, immolating himself in Tunisia, a Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat in Alabama, a Paul Rusesabagina sheltering people from massacre in Rwanda, an Oskar Schindler hiding Jews from the Nazis in Poland, a nameless man standing before a tank in Tiananmen Square. And a Malala Yousafzai, age 14, defying the Taliban in Pakistan.

In taking their lonely stands, these people birth myths and memories that make us — and generations that come after us — braver than we actually are, or would otherwise be. In a word, they inspire. So the irony here is almost poetic. The Taliban was so threatened by the words of a little girl that they tried to kill her.

And in so doing, they ensured that she will never die.

© 2012 Miami Herald

Comments
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18