The recently established Lifton criteria to determine the conditions that make a religious group engage in terrorism can help to understand the type of mentality that stands behind unscrupulous acts such as what the world witnessed on Sep 11, 2001. Care must be taken, however, not to make an amalgam with all Muslims, as well as to distinguish these criteria from the exploitation fanatical anti-cultists will attempt to do to in their effort to lump together these groups with relatively innocuous new religious movements.
After the shock of the horrible events of this 11th of Sep, 2001, many people wonder how it is possible for human beings to commit such horrendous acts in which thousands of innocent people died in atrocious circumstances.
In a recent paper delivered less than a month before the World Trade Center tragedy, Dr Massimo Introvigne delineated, among others, the recently establish Lifton criteria that attempt to distinguish a "world-destroying cults" from more genuine religious groups:
Although the aim of this paper was to address what is commonly referred to as "dangerous cults", like Aum Shinri-kyo who was responsible of a sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway, the main aspect of these criteria certainly apply in the case at hand as well.
The Koran indeed does not have as part of his doctrine a belief in the immediate resurrection of the soul after death. Like in the Jewish faith, the deceased have to wait the "End of Times", at which moment they will be resurrected and put in front of the Great Judgment. There is, however, two exceptions. Saints and Martyrs fallen in heroic acts for the Jihad, the Holy War, have direct access to heaven without having to wait for the Final Judgment. There is no doubt that certain Muslim fundamentalist leaders make use of this belief in the framework of an apocalyptic vision to convince others to commit the most absurd and horrible crimes.
What is important to note, however, is that context more than content is ultimately responsible for someone to act on such beliefs, and moderate Mullahs make sure to place these aspects of the Koran in the framework of a respect towards life and human dignity. To make therefore an amalgam with all Muslim would thus be most unwarranted and undesirable.
Caution must also be taken towards extremists of the anti-cult movement who have already used other Lifton criteria, the eight criteria of though reform, to push the agenda of a crude brainwashing theory which Lifton himself disagreed.
For a full explanation of all these aspects, I can only advise anyone to read the excellent paper of Dr Massimo Introvigne at http://www.cesnur.org/2001/mi_aug01.htm
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