Home » Business » Fanaticism – Beyond Mapostori’s Comic Relief [column]

Anyone who came down from Mars ndash nay, even from a neighbouring country ndash would be surprised at how an incident involving a religious sect has made headlines in the major newspapers. We are not, by the way, Nigeria and its Boko Haram or Kenya with the Mungiki or someplace like Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq where the usual suspects of Islamist extremists blow people to smithereens in suicide attacks.

However, the incident in which a certain apostolic sect in Harare’s Budiriro suburb attacked police officers, journalists and members of another religious body last Friday, has become the hottest news of the moment.

Major media organisations over the weekend feasted on the incident, while it also dominated discourse on social media, kombis and streets.

Perhaps as newspapers, in a country with a generous amount of problems, we should feel abashed that we have elevated the issue to headline material.

Or is it giving the country some comic relief?

Yes, like everything Zimbabwean, the incident has generated a lot of jokes and here is one that is doing rounds on the social networking sites:

“FINAL POLICE PASSOUT EXAM:

Answer all questions

1. What is a no-go area for a police officer? (a) A bar (b) A demonstration zone (c) Mapostori shrine

2. What is the most dangerous weapon among the following? (a) A gun (b) a knife (c) Tsvimbo yemupostori (staff)

3. How do you identify a dangerous criminal? (a) white garments (b) dark glasses (c) balaclava hat… ”

4. Who among these is most likely to free the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram? (a) Nato (B) Nigerian military (c) Budiriro Mapositori

So have gone the jokes as mapostori have suddenly become notorious overnight.

Now it must be admitted that the incident took the nation by surprise.

Generally Zimbabwe, being a law-abiding and God-fearing (and police-fearing) nation, has not been favoured with such spectacles as we had in Budiriro.

Zimbabweans have generally watched the horror versions of the same play out on television as extremists engage in religious wars of all manner and cause.

However, beyond the small-time violence that was unleashed by the sect members in Budiriro, miffed apparently by authorities’ unhappiness with the abuse of women and girls, lurks real the danger of intolerance creeping in in religious circles.

Granted, the mapostori in question are not the raciest of people, being generally associated with poor people who do not even dress attractively.

The men maintain bald heads, which are shaven in a rudimentary manner with the aid of a razor blade.

They worship under trees, without shoes, or watches or even bracelets.

Their lives are uninspiring, and people tend to laugh at their supposed powers to make others rich.

This is not to say they do not have followers of high a couple of notable and powerful figures in politics and business are members of the apostolic sects.

The more flamboyant members of society have found haven in the new Pentecostal churches that came at the turn of the century.

First, here is what John Firman and Ann Gila write about religious fanaticism, which is self-evident in some religious circles today:

“Our world today is torn asunder by men and women who claim that God is on their side, and who, secure in the righteousness of their positions, perpetrate acts of violent destruction. Such individuals are driven by the certainty that they are privy to sacred truths and are therefore morally obligated to do everything in their power — no matter how many people may suffer — to act upon these truths.

“Coupled with their inflated sense of personal rectitude, moral certainty, and ideological purity is a tendency to dehumanise and even demonise those who oppose them. Although this disorder can be called ‘religious fanaticism,’ those afflicted need not appear wild-eyed or deranged quite the contrary, they can present themselves as thoughtful and responsible people inspired by the loftiest of ideals.

“Nevertheless, their absolute confidence in themselves and their cause, their willingness to create massive destruction for a supposed higher good, and their dehumanisation of their opponents, all indicate the imbalance of a personality disorder. We need not point out specific examples of this disorder perhaps, except to say that it can afflict anyone, from the person on the street, to the international terrorist, to the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.”

On the issue of cults, Laura Weiss Roberts, Michael Hollifield, and Teresita McCarty write in one journal that cults “differ from formal religions in that they are characterised by the common themes of ‘deception, dependency, and dread'”.

As such, they argue, while formal religions generally are committed to disclosing theological doctrine truthfully, supporting personal inquiry, and promoting autonomous choice or acceptance of religious principles, cults entail the eradication of the individual self or the subordination of the self to the cult leader and the broader cult community.

The cult leader “is typically a highly authoritarian, determined, and charismatic individual who is alive and whose unusual life experiences (e.g. visions, trauma, dreams) become integrated into the cultic belief structure.”

Cults exploit individuals while using power unethically to ensure compliance of its members, say the writers, and there is totalistic control of the everyday life of the cult members.

Some characteristics of cultism include “purposeful deception” by leaders in order to appear to have special powers (mystical manipulation) shame and harsh judgment being used to ensure the psychological vulnerability of cult members use of ritualised, narrow repertoire of phrases to limit independent thinking and redefinition of those outside the cult, including friends, families, and entire nations of people as evil, unworthy, dehumanised, and perhaps deserving of retribution.

And lo and behold!

The extremists in Budiriro could have peers on the other side of town and their richer cousins have the same passions, inclinations, cultism and fundamentalism.

One only has to question or draw inferences on the same to realise how hell lacks the fury that these extremists have where their “anointed ones” are concerned.

One can be sure that if police officers were to do a Budiriro on some sects in the city, they would get value for their money.

And it will not only be a physical war where the choicest and handiest weapon is that rudimentary, Mosaic staff.

With members drawn from powerful sections of society that include the media and the civil service, the cults could unleash a real Armageddon.

In an age of various challenges that render people to all sorts of beliefs and, today, the desire for quick riches, the extremism displayed in Budiriro can only be the tip of an iceberg.

The tricky thing is that such extremists may turn the tables on authorities and claim religious persecution.

Meanwhile, it would be worthwhile to enjoy the Budiriro comic relief.

The real war is coming and you heard it from here first.

Source : The Herald

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