We have seen this before – bad things happen, a group gets singled out, their rights get restricted, eventually they are demonized, cast out or put into prisons or concentration camps or reservations. Pharaoh did it to the Jews, America did it to the Native Americans, Hitler did it to Gypsies, Homosexuals, Jews, and anyone else he didn’t like, and now we may be moving towards doing this to Muslims.
I have to admit that I predicted this about 6 years ago. I said, in a discussion group, that because so many terrorists claimed to be Muslim, this would eventually lead to many nations expelling and/or keeping out anyone who seemed to be Muslim. We won’t do this to other kinds of terrorists – we let the Klan and White Supremacists walk free, claiming that their hate-crimes are freedom of speech. We call them lone gunmen or mentally ill, when in fact they are infected with the same disease that any terrorist has.
I also need to say that if more people of faith, be they Muslim, Christian, Jew, etc, were to speak out and point law enforcement towards “faith-based” terrorists, there might be less generalizing. This does happen occasionally, but not enough to stem the tide. We have seen multiple terrorist attacks by fake Muslims in Europe, and there will be more to come. The person who figures out how to stop this will win the Nobel Prize forever.
That won’t be me – I have no idea how to stop terrorism, and I am in good company. Experts have been trying to out-terrorize the terrorists with little success. The chaos of terrorism can’t be cured in the short term, and none of us has the patience for long term answers. In many ways, economic disadvantage grows discontent (read “The Spirit Level” for more on that), and nobody seems to want to admit that keeping people in poverty by taking advantage of them is a core source of discontent that leads to terrorism. We know this is true about violent gangs in our country, and they are just a smaller version of what we see around the world.
I do know that throwing gasoline on a fire just because it is liquid does not extinguish the fire – it only makes it worse. And while water will put out a wood fire, it will make a grease fire explode. We need the right answers for these illnesses. Our leaders need to be listening to experts who understand how terrorists are made so that we can begin to address those social inequalities. I think back to the LA riots of the 1990’s, and all of my white and/or middle class friends who asked, “Why are they destroying their homes?”. My answer was that these are not their homes – they are ghettos that are being rented to them at very high prices, and if you saw the inside of most of them and walked the streets they are forced to live on, you would want to destroy them too. More than that, people living in poverty and being oppressed daily have often tried to change things through the legal system, but that system works far better when you have money. Oppressors generally have all the money – the oppressed do not.
We have begun the slippery slope of hate, and if we don’t stop it now, we will end up at the bottom of the whirlpool – and we will all drown. Peace?
Pastor Steve Ohnsman has served Calvary UCC in Reading, PA since 1999. He has a BA in Religion & Philosophy from Wilmington College (OH), a M. Div. from Drew Theological Seminary (NJ), a D. Min. from United Theological Seminary (OH), and a Ph.D. from Alvernia University (PA).