Je Suis Charlie … I am Charlie

Je_suis_CharlieJe Suis Charlie.  The support for our ally France and its people has been wonderful to see. I find the discussion regarding the terrorist act of murder on our news channels a little bizarre however. On one side, there are the people that seem to only be concerned about not blaming all Muslims for this act. On the other side, it seems to be those that only want to blame Islam. Neither is accurate.

First, there have been terrorists who follow other religions so terrorism is not exclusive to the followers of the Koran. However, those are the most violent and widespread terrorists of today’s world. We should try to understand their motivation and try to stop their murderous acts. We should not bury our heads in the sand and pretend that there is no connection. There are schools and Imams that preach this hatred. It is then used by men and women who hate life and have deep psychological problems. Just as during the Crusades, there were Christians who used killing Muslims as a way to feel superior. Catholics and Protestants also killed each other in the name of religion in Ireland in the not too distant past. If individuals need to kill and torture, they will find an excuse for their vicious behavior.

So how do we help eliminate the enticement to these potential jihadists before they have joined the cause? I hear talk about the disaffected, poor Muslims who live in France and are not assimilated. That is true, but Osama Bin Laden, who founded the most recent version of this jihadism, came from a very wealthy family of Yemeni descent and was a citizen of Saudi Arabia. And, yes, the French have a large Muslim population that is not well assimilated into French society, but September 11th happened here by non-American terrorists who followed a very extreme faction of Islam.

As President el-Sisi of Egypt said on New Year’s Day, “I say and repeat, again, that we are in need of a religious revolution. You imams are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting on you. The entire world is waiting for your word … because the Islamic world is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost. And it is being lost by our own hands.”

Islam has never gone through the type of Reformation that helped Christianity develop and the European model of democracy and freedom – including the value of freedom of speech – finally flourish. Popular voices from the Islamic world, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, have talked and written about the need for Islam to be interpreted by Muslim leaders in a modern world that is more tolerant than it is interpreted in much of the Islamic world.  Perhaps we should listen to them and give more support to all the moderate, progressive voices of Islam that few non-Muslims know exist.

Charlie Hebdo ridiculed everyone and every religion as part of their satire.  It offended many on a daily basis, but only the extreme Islamic terrorists feel that they have to murder people to revenge the slight to their religion. If we turn against all Muslims, it will just make the situation worse and add more followers to the cause.  But if we pretend there is no connection and do not try to stop the spread of this violent version of Islam, which is practiced only by a miniscule percentage of the Islamic world, we are also going to add to the problem.

We need a balanced, honest look at the reality of this issue and mount a concerted effort to take on the challenge of promoting the rational, sane Islam – not the vindictive, vicious, exclusive, terrorizing version. We need to support the Muslims of the world who find this terrorist version of Islam appalling and help them spread their beliefs and teachings.

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