On Sunday, all over the Muslim world, adherents of that faith celebrated Eid al-Adha. What were they commemorating? The willingness of Abraham to kill his own son because God asked him to.
We are so often called to be tolerant toward moderate believers who do not, supposedly, hold the bizarre beliefs of the extremist minority. But surely a willingness to murder in the name of God (or even a celebration of this willingness) is extreme, no matter how moderate its supporters otherwise claim to be?
Where else in society do we celebrate the unthinking readiness to put a knife to someone’s throat at the command of an authority figure? Among the brainwashed subjects of a dictatorial megalomaniac, perhaps, but not in any example of modern, enlightened society. Only in religious traditions do we find such barbarism openly cultivated.
And don’t get me wrong: Islam is not alone in its support of such bloodthirsty devotion to God. Christianity is guilty of it too. Indeed, the Abraham and Isaac story is also part of the Christian canon. And although God may have taken mercy on Isaac, he did not take mercy on, say, Jephthah’s daughter, or even his own son (who, like Isaac and Jephthah’s daughter, were innocent of wrongdoing). The celebration of Passover among Jews is another example: instead of recognizing the awful loss of life that allegedly occurred to innocent children in Egypt, Jews instead celebrate that fact that their own people were spared. Where is their outrage?
It is worth remembering that even the most moderate adherent to an Abrahamic faith carries around with her a holy text that espouses countless acts of barbarism committed out of fealty to God. Open support of such barbarism, as seen in the Eid al-Adha celebrations, is not particularly common, and most moderates reject the use of violence in the name of God, even if they celebrate historical examples of it. Nonetheless, even these moderates should be called to give an account of their adherence to such beliefs – beliefs which surely cannot be considered moderate by any stretch of the imagination.