WHAT ISIS AND other terror groups who share their views want is precisely to terrorize us. They want to turn our fear of them into fear of everyone who looks like them, and everyone who follows the religion they are trying to hijack. They want us to suspect, fear, and hate the 1.6 billion people of the world who practice Islam—including millions of Muslim Americans. They want to provoke us to anger, and they hope that in our anger and pain we will overreact.
Right now, unfortunately, they are succeeding with too many of our fellow Christians, and even with some of the candidates for our highest political offices.
When ISIS terrorists succeed in provoking Islamophobic responses, they come closer to their goal of dividing the world into two categories—Muslims and non-Muslims—which also brings them closer to their goal of claiming the mantle of being the only “true defenders” of Islam. Islamophobia thus directly helps the terrorists recruit more young Muslims to their cause and makes it harder for other Muslims to work against them.
Here are some ways that we can deny the terrorists their victory:
FIRST, WE MUST focus on life and the terrible human suffering that these attacks are causing all over the world. When you add up all of those killed, maimed, wounded, and traumatized—and all their family members, friends, fellow congregants, and co-workers—the number of human beings impacted by terrorist violence is almost countless. We must also include the impact on all of our children whose fears these attacks kindle, and the fears we in turn feel for them.
Two years after the abduction of nearly 300 Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria, some parents are still hoping their daughters will one day be rescued. But some church leaders there are concerned that the authorities have not done enough to rescue the girls, who were ages 16 to 18 at the time of the kidnapping on April 14, 2014. About 50 of the girls escaped, but 219 remain missing.
As many Christians sat down Sunday morning to celebrate Easter, a suicide bombing targeting Christians halfway across the world in Lahore, Pakistan killed 72 people and injured at least 320. Right as American Christians were shouting, “He is risen, Alleluia!” an entire city cried out in horror and mourning. As American children hunted Easter eggs, a bomb exploded into Pakistani children visiting a neighborhood park.
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.
Pope Francis made an emotional appeal for global peace during his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) Easter blessing, urging people to remember victims of the “blind and brutal violence” in recent terrorist attacks, such as last week’s Brussels bombings that killed 31 people.
Throughout, he emphasized a key theme of his pontificate: mercy.
I’m convicted that my desire to applaud this “security at any cost” rhetoric and policy is a temptation to worship the idol of safety. It is not something to be admired, it is something to be acknowledged, questioned, and repented of (turned away from). Worshiping the idol of safety greatly inhibits our ability to worship the crucified and risen Jesus.
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 the space between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, between the acclaiming of Jesus as a king and his execution as a threat to the political order, I was no more ready to read the news this morning. The stifling, exhausting repetition of violence and terrorism is both all too common but still shocking. And yet, I hope that Christians in particular can draw upon the narrative arc that moves us from Jesus’ triumphal entry to his seeming defeat on Calvary.
I arrange my Mondays around a certain ritual, a yoga class taught by my gifted teacher, Mireille (Mimi) Mears. She’s from Belgium. From Charleroi, to be exact. It's about 30 miles away from Brussels. Her nephew lives a few minutes away from the attack site with his wife and three children under the age of 6. Mimi always closes our class with a ritual, this prayer/meditation/homily (with her beautiful Belgian accent) and yesterday was no exception.
The actions of the shooters like those in San Bernardino, Paris, 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.
"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.
Belgian Muslim and Catholic organizations are condemning the terrorist bombings in Brussels. A statement issued by the Belgian Muslim Executive (EMB) committee, an umbrella group, said the organization “condemns with force and without reservation” what it called “acts of extreme cruelty against innocent civilians.”
The Pentagon plans to submit a report to Congress on Feb. 23 detailing how to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the plan will call for the closure of the prison and offer several different ways to go about doing so.
A bombing in Turkey's capital, Ankara, on Feb. 17 killed at least 28 and injured 61 others, according to Turkish news organization TRTWORLD.
Both soldiers and civilians were killed in the attack, according to Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulumus, who also called the attack well planned.
After the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, the French government declared a state of emergency, which has now lasted three months and violated the rights of hundreds, according to a new report from Amnesty International. After thousands of house searches, nighttime raids, travel bans, and curfews, hundreds report being traumatized and stigmatized, according to the report which is titled “Upturned Lives: The Disproportionate Impact of France’s State of Emergency.”
In times of rising Islamophobia, President Obama made a plea for religious tolerance at the first visit to an American mosque of his presidency. A lot of Americans have never been to a mosque, the president said as he began his speech, shoeless per Muslim tradition, in the Islamic Center of Baltimore’s prayer hall on Jan. 3.
Last fall, 16 West Point cadets — none of them Muslim — signed up for an elective on counter-terrorism and created a Facebook page to appeal to young Muslims thinking about joining the so-called Islamic State group. The cadets aimed to convince those tempted by the terrorist cause to see jihad in Islam as a peaceful endeavor. For their project to succeed, the cadets knew, they would have to learn more about the faith, and build a social media platform that reserved judgment even on those who expressed admiration for committed terrorists.
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.
Religion inspired countless other acts of forgiveness, mercy, and hope this year. But religion — or perversions of it, some would say — also inspired horrific violence: the “faith-based” cleansing of ancient lands, and bombings and shootings motivated by scriptural justifications. It was a year also of religious-inspired activism, seen perhaps most prominently in a pope who advocated for the poor and for a solution to climate change. Here is an overview of some of the most consequential religion stories of the past year, with thoughts on what to look forward to 2016.