Terror

3 False Assumptions About Muslims in the Age of ISIS

Syrian refugees who came from Aleppo waiting at the refugee camp in Essalame border gate on Turkey - Syria border in Essalame, Syria in February. gungorkarakus / Shutterstock.com

The Christian tradition calls its followers not to bear false witness. So how do we live out this calling? What does it mean not to bear false witness against Muslims in the age of ISIS? Here are three false assumptions, if not outright lies, often repeated about Muslims and terrorism, along with some facts that can help us have more honest conversations about our Muslim neighbors and about the violence we encounter in western nations.

Deny the Terrorists Their Victory

Metro station Bourse is closed after the Brussels terrorist attacks that took place on March 22
Metro station Bourse is closed after the Brussels terrorist attacks that took place on March 22. CRM / Shutterstock.com

Terrorists want to “terrorize” us. They want to make us angry and hostile. They want us to react and overreact to them. They want us to suspect, to racially and religiously profile, discriminate against, and attack all Muslims. Because that will help the terrorists recruit more young Muslims to their cause — and make it harder for other Muslims to work against them. They want to politicize everything and turn people’s attention away from the massive losses for human life that these evil terrorists represent.

We must deny them their victory. Here’s how.

In Remembrance of Me

Stained glass window depicting Jesus and the apostles at the Last Supper in the cathedral of Brussels. by jorisvo / Shutterstock.com

I am this broken and bleeding world.
I am Brussels, blown apart, the strewn limbs, the piercing wail of a mother for her baby.
I am Yemen, at the marketplace, charred bodies of children face-down in the dust.
I am Syria, families cramming into boats as guns and missiles chase them from the shore.
I am Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, pockmarked by bomb blasts, orphaned children hiding away from clear blue skies.
I am the growling of empty bellies drowned by the sound of gold pouring into the bottomless coffers of the war machines as they devour their sustenance and spit out death in return.
I am generation upon generation of silenced and vanished victim buried in the ground and trampled.
I am slain from the foundation of the world.

Brussels Attacks: How Radicalization Happens

Image via /Shutterstock.com

The actions of the shooters like those in San BernardinoParis, and very probably Brussels are difficult for most people to understand. But the work of scholars specializing in extremism can help us begin to unravel how people become radicalized to embrace political violence.

Security experts Alex Wilner and Claire-Jehanne Dubouloz define radicalization as a process during which an individual or group adopts increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations. The process involves rejecting or undermining the status quo or contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice.

Newly radicalized people don’t just agree with the mission and the message of the group they are joining — they embrace the idea of using violence to induce change.

Meditations on Love in Times of Terror

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"Instead of preaching, perhaps what is more appropriate is, in fact, confession of how hard it is to actually love our enemies,” says Pastor Jarrod McKenna.

Though this video reflection for Common Grace’s Love Thy Neighbour campaign was filmed a few weeks ago, its pre-scheduled release today goes right to the heart of enemy love and offers a Christian response to terrorism in the days after shocking attacks in Brussels, Istanbul, and elsewhere.

“This teaching is the most often quoted teaching of the early church, because it is the teaching that sums up the cross the easiest,” he says.

Anti-Semitism Spikes in France, Report Finds

Image via REUTERS / Charles Platiau / RNS

As France marks the anniversary of the terrorist shootings that targeted a kosher supermarket and a satirical weekly, a new report warns anti-Semitism here continues to rise, taking a myriad of underreported forms.

“Violence targeting Jews and Jewish sites has led to a heightened sense of insecurity, and an increasing number of Jews are relocating in or outside France for security reasons,” U.S. advocacy group Human Rights First wrote in a report published Jan. 7.

Let Our Prayer Be More Than a Hashtag

Syrian refugees in Slovenia
Syrian refugees at the Slovenian border in September. Photoman29 / Shutterstock.com

God’s been telling the story of restoration since Genesis when we were created selem Elohim, in the image of God. We were created into perfect communion with God. From Genesis 3 until the end of the Old Testament, we see a narrative of a people in exile and God giving opportunities for reconciliation and restoration of relationship that humanity is incapable of accepting. Reconciliation is an exchange of something worthless (our condition of sin) for something immeasurably worthy (communion with God).

In the New Testament we see a biblical narrative through Jesus of now-but-not-yet restoration. In Jesus we see the coming of the Kingdom of God and get to be reconciled back to God. We even get a glimpse of an eternity where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

If we truly believe we are the image of God, it changes how we approach the image of God in the world. Our call then is to actively partner with God in taking the world somewhere.

Moving from Fear to Hope

Vigil for Paris
A candlelight vigil outside the French consulate in New York City on Nov. 14. a katz / Shutterstock.com

My son’s public school is amazing. The community is everything I had hoped it would be. There are several parent and grandparent volunteers who come in and out of the building daily to help in the classroom, playground and lunchroom. At first, I had wanted to make a big fuss about security and locking the front door during the school day. I thought that was going to be my platform, my soapbox. But after the crying incident, I decided that something in me had to change. I didn’t want to live in fear anymore. I didn’t want to let fear drive me. After some reflection, I had to shift that fear and move to a place of hope and love. Hope that this kind of violence would never touch my school community. Belief that our community is strong and committed and that love would ultimately win and have the last word.

In the Wake of ISIS Terror: Mourning, Lament, Discernment

Prague prays for Paris
Image via Bianca Dagheti / Flickr.com

From a religious perspective, the hardest thing about confronting evil is the painful human tendency to only see it in others, in our enemies, and not see any on our side because of the blurred vision caused by the specks in our own eyes, to paraphrase the gospels. In discussing ISIS, we should clearly use the language of sin — the enormous sin of the ideological hate of ISIS finding its victims all over the world.

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