Is Islam to blame for terrorism?

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August 2005

Is Islam to blame for terrorism?

Terrorists are certainly capturing a great deal of attention with their suicide bombings and other deadly attacks on innocent people, not only in war torn Iraq, but in populous London.

Terrorism is an ugly word. It’s easy to oppose it, as it is easy to oppose any abstract idea that is repulsive. Acts of violence, such as in London or Spain or the US on 9/11 put a real meaning to terrorism. So do the beheadings and bloody battles by insurgents in Iraq.

In order to truly fight terrorism, however, one must put a face on it. We know how to fight people. As a result it is easy to put the face of terrorists on many Middle Eastern people if one is a Western Caucasian.  Such is the case of those who want to blame Islam for “letting” Muslims become terrorists. Kathleen Parker is one of these thinkers.

Islam

In her column, Parker (MDN, July 17, 2005) suggests that Islam is part of the problem. She says moderate Muslims need to eradicate the element of their numbers that insist on terrorist activities for the benefit of Islam. She says, with a couple caveats, that Islam must regulate its members or be held responsible for the terrorist activities.

On July 18, 2005 Tom Tamcredo, U.S. Representative from Colorado, suggested on a talk show in Florida that we could take out Muslim holy sites if fundamentalist Muslim terrorists make a nuclear attack on the United States. Later, when asked about this, he said he was speaking hypothetically, but he held his view. Parker and Tancredo are two of a kind apparently.

Suicide bombers are only one kind of terrorist but perhaps their thinking sheds some light on terrorism. Robert A. Pape, University of Chicago political science scholar studied 402 suicide bombers between 1980 and 2003 and came to a conclusion that surprised him: the suicide bombers are a mix of religious and secular individuals who fear the takeover of their country and culture by outside forces (Detroit Free Press, 7/17/05). It’s not religious fanaticism that guides them.

Christianity

Let’s put this same thinking to the test in judging Christians. There are a lot of Christians acting in the name of their belief in Christ that prompts them to act in ways that, in my opinion are despicable.

Let’s start with the war in Iraq. While President Bush never said this war was based on Christian belief per se, he did say early on that this was a “crusade” against evil. He got such negative reaction to the use of this word that he hasn’t used it since, but clearly the reference is to the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages to eradicate the infidel Moslems from the Holy Land.

When I wrote against the war before and after President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, people argued that Bush was a man of faith and so they trusted him. The implication was that this war is a Christian endeavor.

There is no one leader of Islam who dictates what adherents can do, just as there is no one leader of Christianity to dictate what Christians can do. The Catholic Church does have a universal leader who is respected, not only by Catholics, but by many other Christians. Yet his words are ignored by many adherents and others.

Parker expects Muslims to clean up their ranks, yet the Pope and the leaders of most of the Christian denominations told Bush not to go to war in Iraq. He ignored them. Are only Muslims to clean up their ranks?

Are double standards at work here? Does justice only exist on this side of the world? Does hatred exist only in the hearts of Muslims? We all have work to do and it begins with you and me at home, in the work place, and in public life.

Peace and understanding

The work we have to do is the same work of Rev. Reihnold Niehbuhr before and during World War II, when he promoted peace and understanding during a period of heavy anti-Semitism and other ethnic hatred, according to David Crumm of the Detroit Free Press.

Crumm continued his column by saying that it was during this period of Niehbuhr’s life that he wrote the famous Serenity Prayer. The original words go like this and are a fitting conclusion to this column: “God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

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