How violent is an attack on a person’s religion?

Both the reading from Inside the Wire and our recent discussions about the various forms of “sanctioned” torture in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere got me thinking about how violence and torture can take many different forms, including some that we might not normally think about. It was significant to me that, after the incident where the female MP used the threat of touching the detainee with menstrual blood on her hands, Saar left possibly feeling even more disturbed and ashamed of taking part in the interrogation than he might have if Fareek’s interrogators had used the threat or infliction of physical pain against him. Even without seeing Fareek physically hurt, the spectacle left both Saar and Brooke, the female interrogator, with an equal or greater emotional impression that an act of physical violence might.

It begs the question of whether or not a religious violation like the one Fareek believed he had suffered is an act of violence, and whether such a violation should carry with it the same ethical implications as inflicting physical pain or injury on another person. After all, targeting a person’s relationship with their religion is a kind of attack on the soul. A highly devout believer might prefer to suffer physical harm than jeopardize their relationship with the god or gods that they worship, and in such a case, a violation of their faith or religious practices would carry a greater cost to them than harm to their bodies. Is attacking a person’s religion an act of violence, and what kind of ethical weight does it bear in comparison to physical violence?

-Travis P.

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