There are religious extremists in every country, but laws in America, Europe, and most countries with secular governments keep these rants from turning to action (most of the time, anyway). Not so in countries controlled by religion.
I ran into this sad story, about a seventh grade teacher in India who was murdered yesterday. Muslim Youth League activists attacked James Augustine, a primary school headmaster in Malappuram. Augustine collapsed at the site and died while being taken to the hospital.
What did James Augustine do to deserve this Muslim death penalty? He taught from the government-approved social studies textbook. The book includes a story about a boy whose mother is Hindu and father is Muslim, and the boy doesn't want to declare himself to be either one when enrolling in a new school. The title, Life Without Religion, does not have anything to do with atheism, but rather is meant to illustrate tolerance, and to show that people of different faiths can get along and even marry and have children. Augustine died for teaching this.
People everywhere can be nasty, and put the worst spin on the most trivial things. I've been reading some atheist/agnostic blogs and newsgroups, and find just a few gems hidden in a huge pile of hay (most of which has been run through the horse). Unfortunately, the extremists are also the most prolific writers. And when I started digging into James Augustine's murder, I discovered that in India, the same thing is true. For example, check out this blog:
My conclusion is this - The textbook clearly requires a thorough review and correction. In its current form it requires only slight changes before it can be made into a "communist party manifesto"!.
These comments, and his readers' replies, are remarkably parallel to the atheist/agnostic blogs and bboards I've been reading: A few are serious, thoughtful writers, a bunch of people write but don't have much to say, and a few extremists sound kind of scary. But here in America, where freedom of religion has taken a few dents but is still pretty strong, these extremists' opinions stay just that: opinions.
Not so in places controlled by a religious majority. There, the online mobs turn into real mobs, and they murder real people, in this case a headmaster whose only crime was to follow the law, and teach religious tolerance and respect.
I'll take a secular government any day.