On that awful day masked gunmen burst into the offices of the Charlie Hebdo French satirical newspaper and slaughtered 12 people in what appear to have been reprisals for the publishing of depictions of the prophet Muhammad.
A further five were killed in the days that followed as the suspects tried and failed to evade the authorities by taking hostages.
At this point you are probably wondering “yes, but what does this have to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
Simply put, the events in Paris teach us two chilling lessons, (1) that religious bullies will always try to silence those who criticize them, just as Watchtower repeatedly tries to silence its critics through slander, misrepresentation and threats of ostracism, and (2) that society in general offers little or no protection against harmful cults, because it ultimately fails to recognize the immense threat posed by undue influence underpinned by religious dogma.
Silencing the critics
I was recently myself accused of trying to silence people when I made a stand against “aggressive activism” in a recent YouTube video and accompanying JWsurvey article. Those leveling this accusation at me seemed to confuse the offering of an honest opinion in a persuasive way with some form of censorship.
I can only hope such people have witnessed the chilling events in Paris and have found the opportunity to reflect on what genuine denial of the democratic right to free speech really looks like.
If I really wanted to set about silencing people who disagree with me, I could do far worse than to take a few pages from Watchtower’s book. A good start would be to get any websites taken down that use my material in a way that fails to serve my agenda, just as Watchtower did in January of 2013 when JWsurvey was taken offline for 24 hours for the heinous crime of making a secret elder’s letter on child abuse available.
I could also lobby YouTube to take down any videos from critics that happen to reproduce my words in a manner of which I disapprove, just as Watchtower did only last month when they had one of my videos removed from YouTube simply because it featured the un-embellished words of Tony Morris.
If I were feeling especially malicious, I might find a way of violating the basic human rights of my accusers by somehow coercing their family members to ostracize them – perhaps based on specious public claims about their mental state, just as Watchtower does through its shunning policy (so recently underscored in the following sickly piece of propaganda in the April 15th Watchtower)…
I do not suggest for one moment that Watchtower’s shunning policy is somehow on a par with violent Islamic extremism, but the truth is there are some very concerning parallels that must be addressed.
A common denominator
If there is one thing all cults are good at, it is silencing their critics and stripping them of their basic rights. Islam does this through overt threats of violence and slaughter toward any who oppose or insult its prophet and teachings, while other cults like Watchtower find more subtle, insidious means of gagging their opponents, as mentioned above.
At this point you might be screaming “but Islam isn’t a cult, it’s a religion of peace!” And I wouldn’t blame you for assimilating the default position of almost all politicians and journalists, who have a vested interest in keeping everyone happy by making appeasing “one size fits all” statements about a religion they apparently know nothing about.
But the simple truth is, the most cursory study of the Quran and its accompanying Hadith reveals a religion brimming with hatred and intolerance of any who refuse to subject themselves to it.
Non-believers (“infidels”) and apostates are not to be accommodated in any form other than as slaves. They are to be subjugated or destroyed, just as any who reject the message of Jehovah’s Witnesses can expect a feathery annihilation once Armageddon arrives and hungry birds summoned by angels begin to circle.
The only explanation I have so far heard from Muslim apologists is that the numerous incitements to jihad in Islamic texts are to be taken figuratively, or refer to some form of “inner jihad” – a battle within oneself. But this explanation, at least from the perspective of this jaded cult survivor, simply doesn’t cut it – especially when you consider that the earliest mass conversions made by followers of Muhammad during the birth of the religion in Arabia were made, not by administering hugs and being nice to people, but by the sword.
Knowing your enemy
Islam is not a religion of peace, just as Jehovah’s Witnesses is not a religion of love. To say otherwise is to disregard the written teachings and commands of either or both religions.
Yes, the majority of Muslims are peaceful, and we should be thankful that this is so. Civilization as we know it depends on this being the case. But the fact that the innate humanity of most Muslims can cause them to ignore or re-invent passages in their sacred texts that summon them to “make war on the infidels who dwell around you” (Quran 9:123) in no way lets their religion (specifically its holy book) off the hook.
By the same token I know for a fact that there are Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse to shun their disfellowshipped family members (albeit secretly in many cases), but this does not represent a “get out of jail free” card for the Governing Body, or excuse them for their grotesquely immoral prohibitions on so much as emailing Witness family members who have left. (see w13 1/15 p.16 par.19)
As much as many refuse to accept it, the events in Paris were not the product of a few mindless psychopaths who would have found some other excuse to gun down cartoonists if they weren’t Muslims. We have all just witnessed the inevitable result of a lethal cocktail of harmful, absolutist ideology and traditions coupled with extremely potent and persuasive undue influence techniques – and not for the first time.
Unwilling to intervene
Once you allow yourself to fully grasp this realization there is something even more chilling to consider, and that is the total impotence of society in general to even recognize the problem, let alone deal with it.
Governments that mobilize and devote huge resources around a mantra as abstract as “the war on terror” without acknowledging their real enemy, Islamic fundamentalism, hardly seem equipped to grapple with the complexities of cult mind control and the damage it inflicts.
This is why authorities in countries that pride themselves on democracy and adherence to human rights flounder at almost every opportunity to deal appropriately with cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses when they mishandle child abuse, or tear families apart through mandated shunning.
At the very least such behavior should be met with the withdrawal of tax exempt and (it should go without saying) charitable status. If there is one area in which you CAN slap a cult’s wrist, it is on their balance sheet.
Instead, time and again intolerant organizations such as Watchtower are allowed to thrive as those in power look the other way, so terrified are political leaders of being perceived as (you guessed it)… intolerant.
It is for the same reason that bright young girls and boys continue to be radicalized into Islamic extremists: because governments refuse to accept the true, horrifying scope of religious indoctrination through undue influence.
Without even a willingness to address the problem of cult mind control (or whatever name you wish to assign it), there is little hope of authorities exploring means of inoculating young ones against these vile techniques, or reprimanding groups that utilize them to such deadly effect.
This merry-go-round of ignorance, ineptitude and injustice was one of the most depressing discoveries for me when I first awakened from cult indoctrination, and the events in Paris and the way they are being spun by the mainstream media are an unwelcome reminder of the broken world I live in – a world where the violent silencing of an opinion is followed by whining calls to “respect” the very thing responsible for pulling the trigger.
***I understand many of you will object to the tone of this article by saying that it contravenes the religious neutrality policy of this website. However, I have never been against people holding their own private beliefs, merely against these being inflicted on others. I feel recent events are an important reminder of what happens when we allow people free license to bully and intimidate people whether for religious or political imperatives, and I wanted to use this opportunity to explain why it is that we live in a society where groups that engage in such behavior are allowed to thrive.***