July 2004: Page 1, 2, 3, 4

Jumada I 1425

Volume 20 No 7

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Submitters Perspective

Monthly Bulletin of the International Community of Submitters Published by Masjid Tucson

Oppressive Behavior

and the Importance of God’s Guidance

The recent events in Iraq including both the prison atrocities and the decapitation of an innocent businessman by terrorists highlight the horrors of war. These incidents have made the news, partly because people connected to them in some way tried hard to make the information public. There are thousands of perhaps more grisly crimes that we do not even hear about, whether they occur in the Middle East or Africa or some other place far from our perception. To an extent we are grateful not to have more images and stories of human brutality bombard our senses. One thing is clear. Times like these have been known to bring out acts of courage and compassion, but for the large part they unfortunately bring out the worst in human beings.

I am no psychologist, and for the most part I do not understand why humans behave the way they do. However people have theories about it. In the 1970s experiments carried out at Stanford (http://www.prisonexp.org/) and Yale (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment) showed that authority and legitimizing ideologies could influence people’s actions. In the presence of social and institutional support subjects went as far as inflicting harm upon their fellow human beings. The prison guards in the Stanford experiment often grew sadistic and cruel (even though they knew it was only an experiment) and the study had to be cut short to prevent further mistreatment.

One of the observations made by the researcher in the Stanford experiment was that of the fifty plus people who had seen the prison, only one of them questioned its morality.

The subjects in the Yale experiment were willing to hypothetically induce shocks of 300-450 volts on the “errant learner” because they were told the experiment required it. Normally, the people in the experiment would not approve of or indulge in the previously mentioned hurtful actions.

This kind of cruel and oppressive behavior is not new or representative of “our evil generation” by any means. It has plagued humankind since the beginning.

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