My Deadly Misunderstanding coauthor Mark Siljander has a wonderful perspective on the implications and aftermath of the recent violence at Fort Hood, Texas. You can read about it here, but we also reprint it below:
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Once again the country recoils from violence, this time the deadly shooting that occurred last week at Ft. Hood. I am deeply saddened to see this violence, as in other incidents, being linked to Islam, raising concerns against Muslims living in the U.S. and in the military.
As always, I hear the question from my Christian friends: “Why don’t we hear condemnation from the Muslims for such horrific acts?” In fact, there are many Muslims who denounce the violence every time it occurs, as demonstrated by Muslim leaders in a press conference on November 5.
On the other hand, some Muslims feel that others must know they are people of peace and lament how the minority of extremists are causing the name of Muslims to be tarnished as a whole. Some of them spoke out in the Indianapolis Star this week:
“There is no room in Islam for this kind of behavior. These people keep doing it, and it is unfortunate,” Siddiqui said. “We can only do our part and live our lives and live what we believe is true.”
One of the two Muslims in Congress, Rep. Andre Carson, expressed concern for those impacted by the violence, but followed up with a further concern:
“[He] finds hypocrisy in the fact that faith has been at the heart of the discussion of the Fort Hood shootings when little has been said about the faith of a man who is accused of killing one person and injuring five at an office in Orlando, Fla., on Friday.”
We are wrestling as a nation; it is so tempting to pigeonhole religious beliefs as a motivator for this violence. In reality, both religion and unnumbered other factors are possible motivators in a person’s decision to inflict such horrible destruction on himself and others. Do we oversimplify to make quick sense of the unexplainable?
I must repeat that in all my relations with those of the Muslim faith, the few I have encountered who think violence and God go together have twisted the truth. It is a perversion of Islam, and a pervision in other religions or belief systems as well. As a Sudanese sheikh once told me, “True religion is a state of being — a state of submission to God.”
Where does this leave us? We would do our best to view Muslims just as any others, free to live as any other American. This is essential and a core of our constitution.
Does this mean we ignore warning signs of extremism? No. But a warning does not indicate we should condumn an entire people, but that we should aggressively fight to undermine the ideologies that influence a human to do evil against another person.
In the aftermath of Ft. Hood, my friend Dr. Tawfik Hamid commented on the importance of addressing the ideologies of violence that, in certain cases, infiltrate religious education:
“These educational or ideological factors must be addressed in an honest manner to avoid further calamities and to protect young Muslims from the damaging effects of these forms of teaching.”
This battle for the heart and mind is a battle only God can truly win. We do well to both leave it to God and actively become his emissaries. Not emissaries of judgment or ridicule, but of grace and mercy. We love because he first loved us. Do we have the right to any other option?
I would also like to share an excerpt from A Deadly Misunderstanding that seems particularly apt and helpful in light of recent events; you can find it on pages 219–222.
Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to spend some time with two former prime ministers of Somalia, a nearly 100 percent Muslim country so torn apart by its warring clans that it hasn’t had a functioning central government since 1991. Their comments echoed the same thoughts: as one lamented, since civil war seized his country the late 1980s, there had been endless division, lawlessness and interminable violence. He was now in the United States, he said, on a mission to find some kind of solution to his people’s seemingly interminable crisis.
I asked him what he thought was at the root of the problems in Somalia. Was it a religious division?
“No,” he replied, “we are all Muslims.”
Did he think it came down to a conflict based on ethnicity?
“No,” he repeated, “we are all essentially the same ethnic background.”
Was it tribal? He shook his head. Cultural? He sighed, and shook his head again. Grasping at straws, I asked if there were differences in language or dialect?
“No,” he said, “we mostly all speak the same language.”
Why would the Somali people stay so alienated for so long, and over what? What would drive the rage, mistrust, and wanton killing of neighbors and friends if they are all essentially the same people? As we talked, the prime minister and I came to the same conclusion: the center of the problem was simply the dark side of human nature.
While this book focuses on bridges between the Muslim East and Christian West, the issue at its core is humanity’s historic compulsion to be at war with itself. Our excuses for war are endless, but the truth is that war and conflict, division and mutual hostility need no more basis than the stubborn human tendency that is forever splitting our world into bitterly opposed camps.
Whether Arab against Arab (Iraq), Christian against Christian (Northern Ireland), or Arab, Christian, and Jew against each other (Lebanon), it is at its core the same conflict. Beirut’s Green Line, Korea’s 38th Parallel, Germany’s Berlin Wall, the United States’ Mason-Dixon Line, and all the hundreds of thousands of similar partitions that we have erected throughout history and around the globe-they are all echoes of the same barren line of separation within the human heart, the same deadly misunderstanding.
In ancient Egypt, the heart was considered the seat of thought and emotion, and was the only organ not removed during mummification. The heart is mentioned in the Bible more than any other topic, and is discussed more than 150 times in the Qur’an.
“If we could just find a way to influence the human heart to love rather than to hate,” said my Somali friend, “then there may be hope for Somalia.”
Indeed, if we can find a way to do this, then there is hope for the rest of the world as well.
The concepts Jesus taught are as radical today as they were two thousand years ago, because they run counter to our divisive human nature-a nature that is perennially finding new Green Lines to create and then shooting across them at each other. It seems clear to me that these concepts represent the only hope of bridging the Muslim-Christian divide and subduing the shrill escalation of rhetoric, resentment and retribution between East and West. We know that most foreign ministries and formal diplomatic bodies (certainly including the U.S. Department of State) will not likely engage a policy of “loving” their enemies. But you and I can do exactly that.
How do we do this? What does this kind of love look like? Again, Paul’s first letter to his little community in Corinth provides a vivid picture of both what this kind of love is not (envious, boastful, proud, focused on its own agenda, readily provoked, always keeping a tally of the other’s wrongs, or relishing trouble and misfortune) and also what it is: patient, kind, truthful, protecting, trusting, hopeful, enduring, and finally, consistent and never-failing. I have witnessed first-hand how friendships based on these aspects of love can yield power beyond imagination, penetrating the hearts of even the most hardened despot.
Can we do this? Of course we can, and we must. The alternative is to do nothing and see our world consumed by an irrational maelstrom of hatred and violence.
(from A Deadly Misunderstanding)