Rich (in CT) delivers his second Comment of the Day this month, as he delves into the complex ethical considerations affecting our understanding of the relationship between Islam and Islamic terrorists. (President Obama’s delusion notwithstanding, “What relationship?” is neither an honest nor responsible position.) This is really two comments from Rich over the past 24 hours. Fascinating, thoughtful and helpful.
Here is Rich’s double-Comment of the Day, on the post, The Washington Post Tries To Hide A Muslim Attack From Its Readers: What’s Going On Here? Or Rather, What The HELL Is Going On Here?:
The difference with a Christian abortion clinic bomber over even a true “lone wolf” Muslim bomber/attacker/etc is that with the former the vast, VAST majority of Christians here and abroad would loudly, LOUDLY, denounce the attack. Pro-Life organizations nationwide would denounce; the Pope would denounce; even the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople might denounce! There would be no reasonable doubt that such an attack was an isolated anomaly. It would be utterly rejected by all mainstream Christians.
When Islamic extremists attack, there is no similar worldwide denunciation. The Grand Ayatollah issues no denunciation; the King of Saudi Arabia, one of the credible claimants to the Caliphate, issues no denunciation; not even the Palestinian Authority adequately denounces rockets fired from within its borders. Let’s face it; the media is so saturated with Muslim sympathy, that they are not merely leaving such comments unreported; they are unreported because the they are unmade!
I do not for a minute believe that these oppressive governments represent all Muslims; even the majority of Muslims. I hate that peaceful Muslims here and abroad get lumped in with the violent minority (especially when many left to ESCAPE said violence and oppression). I find it especially frustrating that many of these governments were propped by First and Second World nations as part of a global chess game during the Cold War (potentially crowding out moderate factions). However, the deafening silence when Muslims commit violence in the name of Islam makes the claim that these attacks are mere “lone wolves” not credible.
These “lone wolves” are motivated to lash out in a manner that they believe will be socially acceptable. Yes, by definition, they must be “unstable” to believe that blowing people up is “socially acceptable”. However, in Nazi Germany, it became socially acceptable to murder Jews; would Jews be slaughtered if the Nazis did not implicitly endorse such behavior? In Soviet Russia it became socially acceptable to persecute Christians; would priests have been sent to the Gulags if the authorities did not implicitly endorse such behavior?
There is thus a pattern established across cultures of violent behavior spreading when not condemned by credible authorities. Both German and Russians are “White” cultures, yet they devolved into inhuman endorsement of unjustifiable violence. It is thus not racist to observe that when Muslim authority figures do not feel the need to condemn attacks, the unstable among them feel at liberty to attack. Violence following silence is a universal human trait.
There are some true lone wolves out there; those who lash out because of rejection or perceived reject from society. The number of these cases is vanishingly small; the motive is almost always a desire to belong.
The call for an end to violence must originate from within a community to be credible. Much of the media tends to be liberal, and thus overlaps considerably with atheist or at least secular community; they have no credibility trying to teach what a “Good Muslim” is to those who are religiously observant in anyway. They do have a duty to report the news without bias, even if unfavorable news, so that Muslims and others know what needs to be corrected.
When Irish Catholics in New Haven experienced discrimination in the late 1800’s for allegedly being a drunken, slovenly bunch, a young priest among them founded the Knights of Columbus to give direction to the men who worked dangerous jobs, and drank their misery away. The priest, himself of humble origins, had the credibility to engage them, and direct them into civic engagement that actively countered the real behavior behind the stereotypes.
Muslims need to similarly engage each other in productive directions, while condemning and rejecting the violent directions. This can only come from within, not from without.
I urge caution when wading into the theology of other religions. For hundreds of years, Islamic nations were at the forefront of culture and sciences; the religion thus certainly does not inherently promote backwards thinking.
The decentral nature of Islam, more than anything, likely allows its image to be so easily used to justify violence. To the outsider, the leadership is very opaque. I spent quite a bit of time trying to untangle how Islam works, and still feel I have only scratched the surface.
At its core, Islam is about personal devotion to God. There is no mediator or church (at least in Sunni Islam). One need only formally profess one’s belief in God as taught by his prophet, and one becomes a Muslim. However, through study of scripture and Islamic traditions, one may become a “scholar” and gain influence by peer recognition of one’s knowledge and wisdom. These scholars offer their interpretations of scripture for a given situation, and other Muslims accept or reject their interpretations. (How this translates to the ownership of mosques or the need for a Caliph, I am still unclear…)
Peer recognition is at the heart of Islam. It is thus imperative that moderate devotees who see Islam as a “religion of peace” to speak up and explain their reasoning, and bring others into their fold. If the moderates gain the respect of the overwhelming majority, the extremists and/or terrorists loose their credibility; the motivation to impress others with violence diminishes.