Je suis Charlie – A Different View of Terrorism
January 7, 2015 will forever be remembered with the term “Je suis Charlie”. I am hopeful that another day in 2015 will be remembered for something else, perhaps a real way to distinguish between the terrorists that commit these atrocities and the millions of Muslims around the globe that are just as shocked and disgusted as everyone else about them. Since the attacks in Paris the world has been inundated with discussions about “Muslim Extremists”, “Fundamentalist Muslims”, “ISIS” and “Al Qaeda” used interchangeably. I believe that this error is just the tip of the iceberg when beginning REAL dialogue about dealing with terrorism in our current social climate.
On July 22, 2011 a Norwegian of “Christian” beliefs named Anders Breivik set off a car bomb in the government quarter of Oslo which resulted in 8 deaths and over 200 injuries. He followed up this attack with a full assault (dressed as a policeman) of a Workers Youth League summer camp and killed an additional 69 people, mostly children and injured another 110. Although Breivik has been called a “Right Wing Extremist” there has been no mention of direct religion beliefs in spite of his own declarations of Islamaphobia. Nowhere is he listed as a “Christian Terrorist”.
Labeling every middle eastern terrorist a “Muslim Terrorist” is just like calling every southerner a racist or branding every Australian a criminal, yet we hear it all the time. These labels are not only incredibly wrong, they are hurtful and serve no purpose other than to incite further tension. The religion of Islam has over 1.5 billion adherents. If all Muslims were terrorists we would have a very big problem on our hands. Luckily, only a very small number of people that claim to follow the faith of Islam are committing these atrocities.
This lack of consistency in labeling those that commit these crimes only exacerbates an already deep divide between cultures that have lived side by side in relative peace for centuries. Although we tend to look at Muslim and Christian history as rife with war and death, the reality is that the majority of history has been filled with these two religions co-existing and even respecting each other. We all read about the Crusades in school and we all know of the recent historical feelings between our cultures, but these are small points of time in relation to our total histories.
I am not Muslim, I am Christian. I say that now not because I believe one to be “better” than the other but because I don’t know a tremendous amount about the Muslim faith. What I do know I have learned from many past co-workers and friends that followed the faith of Islam fervently. All of them were normal people. They worked hard. They had families just like mine and they had the same struggles that I had. Were there differences? Of course there were. Did those differences ever result in conflict of any kind? Never. Was I ever afraid that a friend or co-worker was dangerous due to his or her faith? Never.
It Makes for Good TV
I believe that the main culprit guilty of fanning the flames of hate and distrust is the mainstream media. In a world of ratings fights and corporate profits driven news cycles we can count on the men and women of our major networks to bring us round the clock sound bytes and videos of hate, murder, injustice and most importantly, incorrect information. We are inundated with graphics and color, summaries and titles of segments that speak to our worst fears and drive us to conclusions that they feel we should believe. Any clown with a weapon and a death wish can now get a full news cycle of coverage on every network in America if they can do something heinous.
Killers are Killers
One thing I know is people. I have studied people all of my life and they are not difficult to understand on the basic levels. Honest people are honest because they want to be honest. Nice people are nice because they want to be nice. Mean people are mean because they want to be mean. It stands to reason that killers are killers because they want to be killers. I do believe that some people can mentally “snap” due to a external pressure and commit a crime, even a heinous crime. I do believe that a person can become overwhelmed with feelings and commit a crime of passion. However, I believe the vast majority of people that plan and act out mass killings or terrorist attacks are not doing it because some outside force made them or compelled them. I think these people were simply killers. They found an avenue of thought that allowed them to rationalize what they have wanted to do for a long time and they used that reasoning to commit a crime that they would have eventually committed for any number of other reasons. We need to recognize this and stop perpetuating the idea that these people have a higher calling or a righteous cause.
Being a logical person I understand that many people will view this article as anti-christian or pro-muslim. The article is neither of those, I feel it’s best categorization would be “Pro-Logic”. I am entreating people to think about things instead of accepting the status quo or simply regurgitating the non-sense they hear on the news without reading it or thinking about it. The corporate news companies are hoping that you don’t.
Please remember that not all terrorists are Muslims and not all Muslims are terrorists.