Religious bullying is a problem around the world
Vigilante enforcement of theocratic codes can crop up when a minority group doesn't conform.
A friend, a Pakistani journalist, recently came out of the troubled Swat valley in northwest Pakistan and told a chilling tale. He said, "It is now halal [religiously sanctioned] to kill journalists."Skip to next paragraph
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The tribal Muslim clerics in Swat, he said, have declared open season on reporters whose writings they disapprove of. My friend, a brave and devout Sunni Muslim, seemed quite shaken, having spent two weeks reporting under threat in Swat, an area once called the Switzerland of Pakistan. Several journalists have already been murdered for a perceived breach of theocratic codes.
Such violence is religious "correctness" in the extreme, but vigilante enforcement of theocratic codes can crop up whenever and wherever an individual or minority does not conform to the religious tenets of the majority.
In the West Bank a decade ago, I witnessed Hamas activists taunting Christian women for wearing crosses around their necks. Though Palestinian officials deny religious coercion, the exodus of Christian Arabs from the West Bank suggests otherwise.
Another form of religious intimidation worms its way through US high schools. Teenagers complain of being verbally assaulted by "God squads," whose members roam corridors demanding to know if their fellow students share their messianic religious visions – and if not, why not?
Religious bullying is "a great concern," says Deborah Lauter of the Anti-Defamation League. "It does happen a lot … we believe it's a pervasive problem." Daniel Mach of the American Civil Liberties Union agrees: "It's clear this problem is not going to go away soon."