Monday, July 26, 2010

... then the terrorists win

If Americans continue in their fear and hatred of Islam, then the terrorists win.

I realize this might be a provocative statement. Hear me out.

I realize using "then the terrorists win" as the predicate to any statement makes it quite logically suspect since it's highly pejorative and almost entirely devoid of context. So let me explain what I mean.

Americans who have lived through the past decade generally associate the term "terrorists" with Osama bin Laden, al Qeda, and others who advocate and practice indiscriminate violence against others in the name of Islam. For the moment, this is what I mean as well.

The thing is, though, that "the terrorists" do not truly represent Islam. As one of the three great monotheistic religions that follow the God of Abraham, true Islam is a beautiful, peaceful religion that has been twisted and used as a front by those whose core values have nothing to do with the God they claim to worship. "The terrorists" are a very small minority, and it is a tragedy that people who should know better group all Muslims in with them.

In fact, the real tragedy is that most of those who judge Islam by its worst examples claim to be Christians. And it's not like Christianity hasn't had more than its share of worst examples. We have a Christian terrorist group that started in my home state of Tennessee: it's called the Ku Klux Klan. Christianity has its own shameful history of indiscriminate violence that blasphemes everything that Jesus stood for and died for: the Crusades.

The essential message of "the terrorists", people like Osama bin Laden, is this: this world isn't big enough for the both of us. We can't all live together in peace. One of us has to go. It's either you or us.

That's what "the terrorists" believe. And sadly, it's what a growing number of Americans believe. Our country is beginning to come to the same conclusion as those for whom death for their enemies is the only justice. Those who believe this ignore the teachings of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, which tell us that to love our enemies and to live in peace with all of God's children is the true will of God.

With all that said, I'll say it again: if Americans continue in their fear and hatred of Islam, then the terrorists win.

If communities in New York City and Middle Tennessee reject the building of mosques for no reason other than fear and misunderstanding, then the terrorists win.

If a church in Florida holds an "International Burn the Koran Day" on September 11, then the terrorists win.

I don't want "the terrorists" to win. I don't want to live in a world where we believe that we can't all live together as one great human family. I don't want to live in a world where hatred gets the last word, and someone has to lose for us to "win". Do you?

If you don't, please take a stand with me. One way you can take a stand is to sign this petition saying that you support freedom for all religions in the USA. America is a country for whom freedom of religion is a core value, and at this moment we stand in very real danger of tossing this value out the window.

Take a stand. Speak up. Don't let "the terrorists" win.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have you read Sam Harris's "The End of Faith"? He presents a long and well-reasoned argument in the other direction.

Matt Kelley said...

I haven't. Sounds interesting. Can you summarize?

Anonymous said...

Harris, being an atheist (which is probably why you don't hear the Christian right quoting him) starts out by explaining why he regards religion in general as being a millstone around the neck of civilization; he then explains why he considers modern Islamic fundamentalism to be particularly dangerous, and goes on to a lengthy discussion of ethical philosophy from a secular viewpoint. It's a very interesting book, and a good guide to atheist thought without the strident shrillness of some of the more famous atheist authors.

"A future in which Islam and the West do not stand on the brink of mutual annihilation is a future in which most Muslims have learned to ignore most of their canon, just as most Christians have learned to do. Such a transformation is by no means guaranteed to occur, however, given the tenets of Islam." (p. 110)

Matt Kelley said...

Interesting. So you're saying he's a more moderate Dawkins or Hitchens?

Thanks for sharing.