Monday, January 25, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 78

Tice on Statistics

Parsons on Cars

Staff Editorial

Letters to the Editor

About the Cougar

Strong beliefs can lead to fanaticism

Sonal Patel

I recently attended a forum held Jan. 19 and conceived in response to the death of James Byrd in Jasper.

Several members, including the Lost Nation of Islam, the Black Panther party and UH students and faculty, spoke about their concerns regarding the stance of race and community relations.

Although the Ku Klux Klan was invited to participate, it was not present at the forum held in the UC Underground Mediterranean Room.

The focus of the discussion revolved around the opinions of the majority of the participants and audience, who were African American.

The forum promised to "welcome all viewpoints and voices in the spirit of deep democracy," recognizing "true dialogue, no matter how controversial."

A speaker from the Lost Nation of Islam, Minister Omar, called for reparations. "We have our views as our nation of Islam, and we have the right to have choices. Are you exemplifying the God that you serve with those rights?

"When we say reparations, it means to repair the wrong that has been done to our ancestors. We aren't asking anybody to go to Africa, but we have that right, and we'll take this right," he said.

Kenniq Conney, a UH student affirmed, "I'm a Christian just like other Christians, but it just so happens that I'm black. Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins just as he did any other Christian, any other color."

Later, a young blond girl in the crowd asked, "Do you want an apology? Will that make you feel better?" The crowd's eyes widened, and their heads nodded in approval. 

Three major groups spoke about their "political" ideologies that day. I speak about these ideologies and the support of certain opinions, beliefs or doctrines, because sometimes these beliefs are deeply rooted within an individual's social environment.

When these opinions are shared, cultivated and activated, they can become, in the end, a kind of fanaticism.

Fanaticism does not necessarily have to connote a negative idea. In this case, however, it may.

The forum was called for a saintly reason: to discuss the death of Byrd, a victim of brutal racism.

If there were a goal, it would be the attempt to reconcile social differences, and the hope of finding a solution.

Fanaticism arises out of many things. There are religious fanatics. These are the fanatics who call for war in the name of their god(s).

There are patriotic fanatics who kill and die for their nation. They fight for a region with imaginary boundaries.

Political fanatics, although the least violent of any fanatic group, destroy with the conflict of power.

They make accusations, castigating others by accusing and putting them under oath. They attack anybody who responds to humanity.

Any deeply rooted collected belief carried to excessive limits can be called fanaticism. Ultimately, fanaticism defies the law of moderation.

It was Henry Kissinger who said in 1923 that moderation is a virtue only in those who are thought to have an alternative.

It's the alternative that we seek now -- not the extreme.

Patel, a senior journalism major, can be reached at

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