January 9, 2015

The "Religion" of Terrorism

"Terrorist attack."

It is a vocabulary term we should have never had to learn. And yet it is a cultural buzzword.

When did you learn it? When did it become a "thing" in your life?

I was fifteen and eating a bowl of cereal. My dad was about to take my sister and me to school. The phone rang. It was very strange for the phone to ring before 8 in the morning. My grandma was calling, and all she said was, "Turn on the news."

Skyscrapers. Airplanes. Fire. And then the towers fell.

I didn't know anybody who died on September 11th, 2001. I was a teenager on the opposite side of the country. 

Now I'm an adult within two hours of all the insanity of Paris. I don't know anybody involved, but I know those streets. I know those buildings. I know those metro stops. 

The ease in which I used to wander where I wanted and as often as I pleased has passed.

I can hear and understand the French. They are debating race politics. They are arguing about immigration laws. They are comparing problems that, sadly, don't seem to have any resolution in sight.

They are saying all of the things we Americans said to each other over a decade ago. I remember sitting down to my old Apple Macintosh computer (not connected to the internet) on September 11th and writing a paragraph or two about how it all felt. That piece of paper is in a box of my journals at my parents' house. I will need to read it again the next time I go back to America.

I have never felt the need to unabashedly mock another person's belief system. I've seen my own worldview mocked too many times to purposely offend anyone else in the same manner.

Is it really a belief system that is creating these inhumane reactions of forcing fear and murder?

Yes. It is absolutely a belief system. But it isn't Islam.

"But they're Islamic extremists! They said so themselves! So, Muslims are the enemy!"

NO. Terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda hold to belief systems of political tyranny that use "Islam" as an excuse and violence (terror) as their bible.

When a "pastor" on television "preaches," "If you come to Christ, you'll get rich and have an awesome life," what do we say?

We say, "He's obviously not a real Christian, and he clearly has never read the Bible."

I've never read the Koran. But you talk to any real Muslim, and they'll tell you, as they've told me, "Those terrorists know nothing of Islam or Mohammed. Our religion is one of peace."

The "Islamic extremist" terrorist groups have ironically stigmatized both the entire ethnicity and religious following they swear to kill and die for. Only X-number of people may have died in Paris this time around, but the effects of something akin to "terrorist racism" have victimized millions more.

Muslims are not all terrorists. Arabs are not all terrorists. As Americans, we remember the several tragic school and public shootings since Columbine. If a white kid is angry/crazy at the world, somehow gets a hold of guns, and opens fire on children or moviegoers without warning, does that not make him a creator of terror? He may not have an organization to back him up or claim a religious cause, but that doesn't make him any less of a terrorist.

Are we convinced that all Catholics - or all Irishmen - are terrorists because of the IRA?

Of course not.

If you are not religious, "religious acts of terror" may push religion even further down your list of "things to never do." If you are religious - ere, especially if you are religious - you should be able to understand that when a human truly seeks out something spiritual, it is 99 out of 100 times in a quest for peace and love. True Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Muslims, Christians, Jews, worshipers of nature - even agnostics and atheists can attest to being at peace with what they believe to be true or untrue - are just trying to live their lives in a manner glorifying to what they believe to be the source of glory.

Terrorists bow to their gods of tyranny, fear, hate, and supposed martyrdom. The only "religion" a terrorist understands is the one they have suited to meet their end game.

It breaks my heart that another nation I love has been cut deeply by the evil in this world. I am saddened that instead of lighthearted laughter over shared coffee and cigarettes on sidewalk caf├ęs, there will be anger and fear and grief and distrust.

Drawing credit: My Little Paris
We will all be Charlie Hebdo for a while, reminded by the posters, flags, signs, and lights. But hopefully after the right amount of time, we will be able to be ourselves again.

Somewhere in France, a teenager has written down or drawn their response to the events of the past few days. I just pray that thirteen years from now, they won't have to write or draw another one.