Like everyone, I was horrified by the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, for which the Islamic State is claiming responsibility.
When things like this happen, the Internet predictably divides itself into camps. I’m part of the camp that doesn’t want to see innocent Muslims demonized and discriminated against because of the actions of a minority of violent people who claim to honor the same prophet.
When the Ku Klux Klan burn a cross in a black family’s yard, prominent Christians aren’t required to explain how these aren’t really Christian acts. Most people already realize that the KKK doesn’t represent Christian teachings. That’s what I and other Muslims long for—the day when these terrorists praising the Prophet Muhammad or Allah’s name as they debase their actual teachings are instantly recognized as thugs disguising themselves as Muslims.
I did not realize at the time that this was a recycled article that was written in response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year, attacks that are believed to have been orchestrated by Al Quaeda, a group whose aims, methods, and ideology are quite different from those of ISIS.
While my original intent in posting the article–to highlight the fallacy of tarring all Muslims with a terrorist brush–is still valid, my posting it became a learning opportunity for me.
A Facebook friend who is career military took issue (politely) with the article, and posted a link to another article that I have found tremendously enlightening. I knew very little about the Islamic State before reading it, and now I feel that I have a much better understanding. I am grateful that he took the time to read my post and to share his perspective with me.
Some key points:
We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world. . . .
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam. . . .
Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.
I myself have no problem distinguishing between the Islamic State and the vast majority of Muslims who are peaceful and law-abiding citizens of the countries they inhabit, any more than I have a problem distinguishing the vast majority of Christians from various crazy fringe groups who spout hate-filled rhetoric Jesus would never endorse.
We can acknowledge the religious motivations of the Islamic State without accusing our Muslim friends and neighbors of being terrorists. There is no need to follow the example of the candidates at the second Democratic debate, who were all reluctant to talk of Radical Islam and tried to minimize the role religion may have played in the recent attacks in Paris. To ignore the ideology of the Islamic State is perilous. We must know the enemy to defeat it.
And we shouldn’t be afraid to challenge one another on whatever assumptions we make, and to listen to and learn from one another.