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Unholy narcissism fuels left and right extremists

By Jan Ireland
web posted September 8, 2003

What do American convicted murderer Paul Hill and Islamic bomber-murderer Raed Abdel-Hamed Masq have in common? There is the obvious, that both are murderers, and the further obvious, that both have ardent supporters who would vehemently dispute that they are murderers. Both killed innocent people, who had no reason to know or think these particular murderers were on the way. Both had happy families with children. Both wanted to die for their cause. Both thought a big reward for their 'just' behavior waited just the other side of life. Both so much alike, they are the players in two seemingly disparate events, which happened across the world from each other, but which show through a closer examination of the similarities of their reasons for killing, that unholy narcissism fuels both left and right religious extremists.

Paul Hill, seen during a September 2 prison press conference, was put to death by chemical injection the next day, becoming the first person executed in the U. S. for murdering a doctor who performed abortions
Paul Hill, seen during a September 2 prison press conference, was put to death by chemical injection the next day, becoming the first person executed in the U. S. for murdering a doctor who performed abortions

Paul Hill was a 49-year old father of three, a Presbyterian minister, who not quite a decade ago, took a shotgun and laid in wait for Dr. John Britton, a doctor who provided abortions. Hill shot the doctor, and his escort, retired Air Force officer James Barrett, as the two were arriving at the clinic in Pensacola, Florida. Then he calmly sat down and waited to be arrested.

Raed Abdel-Hamed Masq was 30, and a member of Hamas. He had two young children, and was happily married. Religious life-long, he had committed the Koran to memory, and preached in local mosques. He was educated, approaching a master's degree. (So much for the liberal view that poverty and ignorance cause Islamic terrorism.) Masq got on the bus he blew up, in disguise as an orthodox Jew – the very individuals he was planning to murder.

Each of these men was influenced by others. Each seems to have come in contact with persons in their respective religions who somehow conveyed approval of their horrendous plans. Each man made his choice, for which each must answer. It is left to us, the living, to make sense of intention gone so horribly wrong.

There is a tendency to turn from the discussion. Political correctness would dictate that we only murmur our pity. That we choose a special Hallmark card, tsk tsk once or twice, and leave it. But that approach emboldens the atrocity to happen again. In an age when moral clarity escapes the majority, we must look at these acts for what they are.

On the surface, Hill's claim that he was glad to save the babies that would have been aborted that day seems laudable. And it would have been, had he employed other means to stop the doctor. Had he worked on educating the public; lobbying legislators; aiding Operation Outcry; or perhaps just praying more. But killing?

We have only to carry his action to one next step, to see the error – indeed horror – of his thinking.

What if he had not been arrested that day? What if he couldn't have gotten to the doctor? Bullet-proof vest; armed guards; police presence. What if he had been forced to abandon Plan A? What would Plan B have been?

Would the obvious next choice have been the woman? Or women? Some women use abortion as a form of birth control. Would he consider stopping the source? After all, only women can have children. Would he have considered drying up the abortionist's clientele, if he had not been able to get to the doctor?

Frame from TV showing Raed Abdel-Hamed Masq a mosque preacher from Hebron, identified by Hamas as the man who blew himself up in Jerusalem on August 19 on a double bus packed with Jewish worshippers who were returning from the Western Wall, killing at least 18 people and wounding more than 100
Frame from TV showing Raed Abdel-Hamed Masq a mosque preacher from Hebron, identified by Hamas as the man who blew himself up in Jerusalem on August 19 on a double bus packed with Jewish worshippers who were returning from the Western Wall, killing at least 18 people and wounding more than 100

Raed Abdel-Hamed Masq joins a seeming unending line of killers of Israelis. Though they themselves die in their act, there seems to be no shortage of others to repeat or even expand their action. Some would call his actions freedom fighting, but this fails even cursory scrutiny because Raed Abdel-Hamed Masq deliberately targeted innocent victims.

It is easy to ache for the more than 40 million babies in America who have been killed by abortion since the 1973 Supreme Court decision, and gut-wrenching to know that it still happens more than a million times a year. Paul Hill undoubtedly felt that gut-wrenching ache, and wanted to stop those numbers. But in choosing how to respond, Paul Hill turned to the narcissism of his makeup.

Sitting down to wait for the police did not show the depth of his commitment, as some have contended. Combined with one of his last statements, that he was expecting a big reward in Heaven, and the fact that he mounted no appeal, suggests that he wanted the limelight. That he wanted to be the first. That he wanted the eyes of the nation to be on him. That he wanted to go down in history as the first to be executed for killing an abortionist.

Raed Abdel-Hamed Masq's family was surrounded by well-wishers after his death. Though there were tears, the emphasis was on how honored the family was by the terrorist's action. That Allah would be pleased, and again, how great a reward the bomber could expect in Paradise. It is easy to believe that Raed Abdel-Hamed Masq chose the bomber's 'martyr' path because of the narcissism in his nature. Because he bought into the corrupt teaching that his religion deserved to be best in all the world, with all nonbelievers submitting to it – or dying. It is further evidenced in the disguise he adopted, to enable him to be concealed until he could find the most victims at once.

Religion is under attack in America, perhaps in the world. Recently an 'interfaith' group called for the removal of all crosses in America, saying that the religious cross represents suffering, bigotry, and exclusion. One ACLU lawyer in Florida expected the 'crazies' in the anti-abortion movement to copycat Hill's act ad infinitum. It is almost certain that the current Palestinian leadership will be unable to keep other Hamas bombers from carrying out more attacks.

But these extreme actions do not represent real religion. Narcissism motivates these extremists. Unholy narcissism fuels both left and right religious extremists.

Jan Ireland can be reached at ciscja@hotmail.com.

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