Religiously motivated murder

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While many acts of religiously motivated violence target the general population or a minority group, sometimes specific individuals are murdered based on a religious motivation. This is one of the reasons why religion is harmful to society.

Religiously motivated murder is a continuation of the historic persecution of heretics and religious minorities throughout the world.


Cases of religiously motivated murder

There are countless cases of religiously motivated murders. A few instances:

  • Film director Theo van Gogh murdered, Netherlands 2004
  • Sister Leonella and her bodyguard shot dead, Somalia, 2006[1]
  • Charlie Hebdo cartoonists murdered, France 2011
  • Salman Taseer murdered for trying to reform Pakistan's blasphemy laws. 2011
  • Several Bangladeshi bloggers and social campaigners murdered, 2011-present [2]
  • Rashid Rehman was murdered after taking on a blasphemy case, Pakistan, 2014
  • Muhammad Shakil Auj murdered for teaching a liberal version of Islam, Pakistan, 2014
  • Mohammad Akhlaq murdered by Hindus for allegedly storing and eating beef, India, 2015 [3]
  • Asad Shah murdered for being an Ahmadiyya Muslim. Scotland, United Kingdom, 2016. [4]
  • Bridget Patience Agbahime was lynched after an argument about religion with local tradesmen, Nigeria, 2016. [5]
  • Catholic priest Jacques Hamel was murdered by Islamists, France, 2016
  • Eunice Olawole murdered as part of continuing Christian-Muslim violence, Nigeria, 2016[6]
  • Muslim community leader Jalal Uddin murdered for practicing ruqya, a type of faith healing, UK, 2016
  • Some African witch doctors have albino children murdered so their body parts can be used in rituals. Adults with albinism are also at risk of murder. [7]
  • Nahed Hattar shot dead outside of a court where he faced trial for distributing a cartoon considered offensive to Islam. Jordan, 2016 [8]

Death threats

To avoid being murdered, many people have been forced into hiding.

  • Salman Rushdie was threatened with assassination after he published his novel The Satanic Verses in 1989. His murder was ordered by a fatwa issued by Ruhollah Khomeini, the supreme leader of Iran. Rushdie remained in hiding for decades.

Attempted murders

  • When just a young teenager, Malala Yousafzai spoke out for the education of girls in Pakistan. The Taliban attempted to murder her but she survived being shot in 2012.

Claim of diminished responsibility

Some apologists argue that the murder should not be held responsible as they were provoked by the victim into committing murder.

"If a very decent person has his wife or mother insulted then he cannot control his feelings and so he will put his decency and proper thinking to the side and get very angry and out of control. And that's what has happened. In this case he [Mumtaz Qadri] lost all control over his feelings and could not control his anger."

— Masood Qadiri[4]

While this argument is intended to shift the blame to the victim, it does have a grain of truth: we can also ask what religious beliefs motivated the murderer and who taught those beliefs to him. Therefore, religious leaders are complicit in religiously motivated murders.

Denial of religious motivation

Some religious figures simply deny the murderer is motivated by religion. Pope Francis compared murders committed by Islamists to non-religious murders:

"I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence in Italy…this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law…and these are baptised Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence[9]"

See also


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [3]
  4. 4.0 4.1 [4]
  5. [5]
  6. [6]
  7. [7]
  8. [8]
  9. [9]

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