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Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by Richard Dawkins

Google the name of Gabrielle Giffords and you get more than 90 million hits. Salman Taseer rates just over one million. It’s not immediately obvious why the week’s two assassination attempts should receive such unequal coverage. On the face of it, one might think that the successful assassination of a state governor should receive a bit more than one ninetieth as much public attention as the unsuccessful (so far) assassination of a member of the House of Representatives.

The two crimes are worth comparing further. Both were committed with legal guns: legal in the one case because it is the sacred right of every American to be armed to the teeth, even if psychotic; legal in the other case because the murderer was a trusted bodyguard of the man he killed. One killer is an unintelligent nutcase, incited by the sort of violent political rhetoric which, thanks to Rupert Murdoch and others, has become mainstream in America. The other killer is a devout Muslim, incited to do his Islamic duty by mullahs and imams, by whose efforts religiously motivated murder has become a mainstream ideal in Pakistan. He, but not his American counterpart, is now showered with rose petals, and if he ever comes to trial the judge and prosecuting counsel will be in mortal danger. The aftermath to the assassination of Salman Taseer has brought home the fact that the state of Pakistan is in grave danger of religiously inspired descent into chaotic anarchy.

Both countries have nuclear weapons. In Pakistan there is a very real risk that these may fall into the hands of those who incited the murderer of Salman Taseer and showered him with rose petals. In America, it would be nice to think that there is no immediate risk that the much larger nuclear arsenal will fall into the hands of those responsible for inciting the murder of Gabrielle Giffords. Yet it is impossible to forget that one such individual was the Republican candidate for Vice President in the recent election.


Mon, 10 Jan 2011 17:29:09 UTC | #576131