From Rick Tavan:
Re: Collective rituals spur support for suicide attacks: researchers (Feb. 19): That seems like pretty naive science with a tinge of irresponsibility. I understand that your articles are brief and may not cover all aspects of a study but there was no evidence of a control group of people who attended other kinds of institutions than houses of worship. Of course people who are regularly exposed to praise for some kind of personally difficult action will come to see that action as acceptable, worthy, even desirable. This happened in American schools in the 50s and 60s where we effectively created a new era of positive race relations. It happened in Nazi Germany where the press, schools and other public forums fanned the flames of anti-Semitism, creating a generation of Germans who were capable of genocide. Prayer has nothing to do with socially unacceptable behavior. Mosques are common venues for sermons and other exhortations encouraging behavior that we in the West consider anti-social. So the research is a big yawn, wrapping some data around an obvious conclusion.
What I find irresponsible is the inclusion of a group of Jews in the study, asking them whether they would consider suicide attacks on Muslims acceptable. I am not aware of a single instance of a Jew committing a suicide bombing and I am insulted that these “scientists” have coerced the concept of scientific neutrality so far as to imply that there might be a relationship between Islamic public incitement and Jewish communal discourse. So even if the response “data” correlate with those gathered from Muslims, there is no evidence that the synagogue plays any kind of parallel role to the mosque with respect to encouraging anti-social behavior. To the contrary, although the occasional synagogue discourse on Islam might include elements of despair or even disrespect, it is almost entirely pro-social and defensive. The researchers should have attended some mosques and synagogues and compared the sermons. It wouldn’t take long to discern the difference.