The Dark Night of Dr Introvigne: "Religious minorities…"

The abstract of Introvigne's article in Terrorism and Political Violence begins with a note of fear: 
"Religious minorities in Western Europe today are often perceived as threatening…"
My mind goes to Italy. An Anglican church has been located in the centre of papal Rome for 130 years, without suffering any damage I know of. Muslim children in the schools are allowed special diets. Lutherans and Baptists have a right to money from taxpayers. The actor Moni Ovadia says that, as a Jew, the only form of discrimination he has ever suffered was to have people asking him why "you Jews are all so intelligent." Looking around Europe, I try hard to imagine what kind of "threat" German or Swiss Catholics are "perceived" to pose to the Protestant majorities. Then I realize that one example of discrimination against religious minorities does exist: Catholics in the UK are not eligible for the paparazzi-infested royal family. 

If there is one issue which is luckily dead in Western Europe, it is that of religious discrimination: the conflict in Northern Ireland is clearly ethnic or social, not theological. Tensions certainly surround Islam, but this is largely due to interaction with dramatic issues of worldwide migrations and international and class conflict. 

99% of the members of religious minorities in Western Europe are not perceived of as threatening, nor are they discriminated against. Introvigne is clearly using the name "religious minorities" for another reason: to forcibly enlist, say, Hungary's large, peaceful and respected Protestant population on the same side as the US multinational corporation Scientology.  

Introvigne then proceeds to discuss two very different issues: government reports critical of "cults" and certain individuals he dislikes on the Internet. Neither of these of course have anything to do with either "terrorism" or indeed any form of violence, but - as we shall see - Introvigne manages to introduce suspicions of violence here and there so the article will not be laughed out of a magazine normally devoted to such bloody issues as the conflict in Sri Lanka or in Algeria.  


ron hubbard scientology new religious movements cults
Scientology founder Ron Hubbard telling
tomatoes how to grow

Why are "religious minorities", i.e. Scientology and a few others, "perceived as threatening"? Introvigne quotes Philip Jenkins as saying that sects provide a common enemy "against which the mainstream can unite and reassert its shared standards and beliefs". Western Europe's "shared standards and beliefs" must be quite curious, if a couple of pages later, Introvigne describes the "anti-cultists" as a blend of Muslim fanatics, atheists, Communists and Fascists. 

However, Introvigne sails smoothly on, telling us that critical reports on cults by European governments base their accusations on two counts: "cults or sects are not religions" and cults perform "brainwashing" or "mind control".  

Though not completely erroneous, both statements by Introvigne avoid crucial aspects of the "cult" issue. Cult critics do not generally claim that the group they criticize is "not a religion"; rather, they claim that any group which commits certain kinds of deeds is a "cult", whatever its self-definition may be: religion, political group, psychotherapy, scientific organization, philosophy, business. "Cults" criticized in France include "Tradition, Family and Property" (a group which belongs to a religion, but is not a religion itself); Amway, which calls itself a commercial enterprise; New Acropolis which vigorously denies being a religion. 

Second, cults are not simply accused of "mind control". They are accused of using mind control for purposes ranging from exploiting unpaid labour to sexual abuse; from political manipulation to tax evasion.  

I say this merely to point out what Introvigne prefers not to say: my own opinions on these subjects differ both from Introvigne's and from those he criticizes.