Can Religion be so Blinding?


By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

From the moment I learned that a terrorist belonging to the so called Islamic State shot his own mother, executing her for apostasy, my mind had been wandering, thinking ofall mothers including mine and motherhood in general, most of the time. But, at other times, I was feeling very low, how such a dastardly act could have happened in anera we consider enlightening. A nasty virus picked up at either the Vatican Museum or the Sistine Chapel, both wonderful sites teeming with pilgrims and tourists alike in spite of chill winter winds blowing in Rome, did not help my mood. Watching the dawn of a new year in bed, sneezing and coughing, is not anybody’s dream but I had to contend with that reality giving me more time to think and empathise.

If there is one regret in my life, it is that I did not do enough to repay my debts to my parents when they were alive, especially to my mother; for what they did to make me what I am today. I know they did not expect anything in return; they did what they believed to be in my best interest and out of unconditional love. My mother was a typical Sinhala mother; backbone of the family making all the important decisions yet allowing my father to feel that he is the head of the family.

Mesopotamia, on the banks of the Euphrates River in the modern day Iraq, is considered the cradle of modern civilization, which started over 5,000 years ago, though recent work suggests that it may have extended in an arc across to the Indus valley in India. In Mesopotamia women were considered superior to men, as only they could give birth and continue the species, but since then roles have reversed and women had to fight a prolonged battle to achieve equality, not superiority, but it is still lacking in some quarters. Unfortunately, religion is an oft used weapon to supress women.

Whatever the place of women in different societies or different cultures, a universal fact is that a mother’s love is unconditional even to an adopted child. Not that all mothers are angels, some treating their children even in inhuman manners but still no child contemplates killing the mother. May be because it is such a rarity that this episode continues to haunt my mind so much, so long.

I have known some who hated their mothers. A colleague of mine hated her mother so much that she berated her secretary for having taken a message and conveyed to her that her mother is desperately ill. However, when the mother died, she realized that the hated mother had left a vast inheritance which enabled her to quit her job, exchanging Cardiology for training dogs! I wish she had the honesty and decency to donate the inheritance to a charity in her mother’s name but greed piled up on hatred.

At the back of mind, a song I heard in the seventies kept on playing hauntingly; "Mother of Mine" written by Bill Parkinson and made famous by a Scottish former child singing star, Neil Reid, which goes as follows:

"Mother of mine you gave to me, all of my life to do as I please, I owe everything I have to you,Mother, sweet mother of mine.

Mother of mine when I was young, you showed me the right way things had to be done,Without your arms where would I be,Mother, sweet mother of mine.

Mother of mine now I am grown and I can walk straight all on my own,I'd like to give you what you gave to me,Mother, sweet mother of mine."

But, alas, what this terrorist gave his mother for her love was a bullet, why?

I do not name him as I am determined not to give him the publicity he craves for, though anyone who is interested or doubts my story can find the details on Googling. His mother was a postal worker in the Northern Syrian city of Raqqa, self-proclaimed capital of the so-called Islamic State and her crime; protective motherly instinct. As the West has intensified attacks, especially drone attacks on Raqqua, she had pleaded with him to leave IS and Raqqa. He had reported her to IS who found her guilty of apostasy.

Apostasy is defined, in the Oxford English Dictionary, as abandonment or renunciation of a belief or principle. According to Wikipedia in Islam it is commonly defined as the conscious abandonment of Islam by a Muslim in word or through deed. It includes the act of converting to another religion, by a person who was born in a Muslim family or who had previously accepted Islam.

It is an offence punishable by death in some countries, surprisingly not challenged by human right activists who castigate other countries for lesser deeds!

When this unfortunate mother walked out of the Post Office, after work, he shot her dead in front of hundreds of onlookers. Did he shoot her in her heart, the heart that beat to nourish him through the placenta when he was just a foetus and the kind heart that beat to protect him? Or, did he shoot her in the head, to blow to pieces the brain that made her plead for his life and safety? I do not know. Not that it matters. I do not want to call him an animal as it will be insulting to animals. I know of no animal that will kill its’ mother when she tries to protect. He simply is a terrorist deluded by ‘religion’.

Many songs in Sinhala have been written about mothers but none is more appropriate than the beautiful lyric of Karunaratna Abeysekara brought to life by the melodious voice of Indrani Wijayabandara (Senaratna):

"Somnasahosantapayahamuwesihiwe, sihiweAmma


Which, very un-poetically, translates as:

"In happiness or sorrow, remember, remember you mother

A statue carved out of the essence of kindness"

And the song ends thus:



"Even sacrificing my life is an insufficient homage for my mother

Why worship an unseen God when the mother is the God of the Home"

Can religion be so blinding?

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