Like the rest of the world, I’ve been watching the events in Paris unfold this week with a great heart of sadness. Anytime innocent people are the victims of a brutal attack makes me fall to my knees and ask God, “Why do we live in such a broken world? Who would do such acts of atrocity?” And I’m reminded, this world is not my home. The death, disease, and destruction that seems to win in its fight for power, I remind myself we are merely a part of a world that is in need of a great movement of reconciliation.
From the faith perspective provided through Jesus, I find answers when I read His words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” In other words, no matter how bad the world gets, there’s still hope that someday it will change. The Kingdom of God and the principles and teachings of Jesus are the hope for a world poor in spirit. I find that get me past these awful world tragedies.
But in the meantime, this week I had a number of phone calls, emails, and private Facebook messages asking me to help my friends understand what’s going on. Most of the correspondence came from friends who know I’m deeply connected in the Islamic world, and have Muslim friends who I love and cherish their relationships. In fact, I’ve experienced some of the most deep spiritual awakenings in the presence of Muslim Leaders. When I asked Jesus to show up and prove Himself real, He did over and over again.
So, I’ve held off from writing as to not add to the white noise of the media, but I feel like it’s time to just give another point of view.
I don’t know
The first thing I need to express is, I know about as much about these attacks as you do. I don’t hang out with terrorists and I don’t have a special Jihadi phone on my nightstand where I can call the leaders of terror organizations. So much of what I know is what you know. There were some deranged people who walked into a comic newspaper and shot a bunch of journalists. There you go. I don’t know them. I don’t know what organization they belong to. I don’t know any more details. But I do have a different perspective on what’s going on in the Middle East from a hundred thousand foot view, and it’s SUPER complicated.
The Mistake in the Media Coverage of Muslims
I’ve been to most of the Gulf States now, spent time in Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine; and although I feel like I’m learning at an incredible curve, I have a lot more to go. But what I do know is this: There are some INCREDIBLE people who believe in Islam. They have nothing to do with terror, and actually they hate this new “Jihadism” as much as people in the west. They cry out against violence as evident this week by the Muslim leaders around the World. Even the leader of the famed Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, commented the attacks in Paris did more harm against Islam than the cartoons. And if Hezbollah is condemning attacks on innocence you can rest assured the news channel you’ve been watching condemning Muslim leaders to stand up are baiting you to anxiety.
My point: Not all Muslims are Terrorists and we need to figure out a different way of labeling these violent offenders.
Islam does not equal Jihadi
These two terms couldn’t be more different. The group of people who are making up Al Qaeda, ISIS, AQAP, Boko Haram, and Al Shabab just to name a few, are people with radically different agendas than my Muslim friends.
Just because some people come from the region and have Arab like names doesn’t mean every Muslim is adhering to any particular ideology of hatred and violence. Just like us, they have a particular worldview that informs them to respond to the world around them. And for the Jihadi’s, their own vision of the world is clouded with darkness and evil.
This major distinction makes for convulsion of terms when we continue hearing “Islamic Extremists” on the news.
Do Jihadi’s use Islam as a calling card for their Worldview? Sure. But how many times do you hear the media attack Westboro Baptist church as “Christian Extremists?” Or, how many times do we hear the media use the label some of the violent Jewish Views of Judaism as “Jewish Extremists?” In the West, we would never hear this. So when we continue to hear Islamic Extremism, there’s a hinge of religion that ties 1.7 Billion people under the same umbrella.
Are there crazy people in religion? Of course!! But that doesn’t mean that we can throw people of faith under the same pitiful bus of violence. Religion has a deep dark history in all three monotheistic labels. Christians have killed as many people thought history in the name of God as every other. Jews have massacred people in different ages, and Muslims have done the same.
This all means we need to do our research and all stand against the ideology promoting the violence of innocence no matter what tribe it comes from. But it’s irresponsible to say or think, “Islam is the reason for this.”
There’s a Revolution Underway
Let’s not forget, there’s a revolution underway in the Middle East. As people are more aware of the Kingdoms of the World through the communication revolution of the last decade, there is a deep well of dissatisfaction with their own worlds. Some are being exposed for the first time to that old human conditionally problems of pride and power, and even within the religion of Islam there are those who are vying for power and prestige. But this violence we’ve witnessed this week isn’t about religion. It’s about politics, nationalism, fear, anger, brain washing, and charisma of a few evil people.
Much like my own tribe of Christians, I would NEVER follow some of the pastors I see on T.V., the internet, or at some of these major faith conferences. But I’ve been given that right from birth to think on my own, in my own way, and my faith isn’t dependent on agreeing with Christians I think are CRAZY!! That’s not the case in some parts of the Islamic world. There’s a revolution of free speech emerging, and we need to embrace and help promote the people in the Middle East who are asking good questions about what is true and what is real.
Remember, it’s only within the last 50 years that the leadership of the Middle East has changed so drastically. Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Religion is a NEW idea introduced in national discussions. Colonial empires of the west had similar policies until modern times, and this time it’s my Arab friend’s turn.
Take a cursory look at the modern history of the middle east, you’ll see the empires of the west had a great deal of control over the people in the Middle East. The British, German, French, Ottoman, and Americans all played at a level some would consider as meddling, and the governments of the region haven’t been able to operate without the influence of others. (That’s a post that requires almost book length.)
True to my new year’s resolution, I spent the last week reading John B. Judis’ book Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origen of the Arab/Israeli Conflict Imagine what it would be like to be in the middle of a revolution and have no power to control your outcome? Then layer on social dysfunction, fierce immigration policies, national identity issues, and all in a deeply religious region. This is not easy to simply say, “Well if the world can control Muslims it will get better.”
This evil barbaric ideology of Jihadi needs a new word, a new solution, and I believe the world is on the precipice of finding a new way.
Fortunately, today in Paris with nearly 1.5Million people taking to the streets, the outcome is starting to have a face. The World is standing at attention and is taking the problem head on.
I predict the next story of reconciliation is going to be one we’ll all tell our grandkids, “I remember when violence ruled.”
For those who are in this world of peace and reconciliation with me, I’m committed more than ever to reach out to students around the world to provide an environment for peace. My part is small, but it takes each one of us working diligently to fight against the broad brush strokes and soundbites provided by the media, and look deeply into our own gifts to contribute to the betterment of our planet.
That’s my take. Obviously these ideas are just mine, so take it with a grain of salt, and let’s pray for God to give us avenues to make a difference.