For years I’ve advocated and explained that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda or ISIS do not represent true Islam, and that they try to hijack a religion of peace in the name of their deformed inhumane extremist ideology. I explain that it would play into their strategy to deem Islam itself as the problem, and to foment a division among religions. I’ve always explained our task is to empower moderates in all societies, including Muslim leaders, that can be role models to their people. I still believe that the key is to empower moderates everywhere so they seize back the agenda from forces of violent absolutism that are otherwise going to drag civilization into the dark ages. That said, listening to the attached video also makes me confront a troubling reality that we cannot escape. It is important for all of us, including heads of state and religious leaders, particularly Islamic leaders, to acknowledge the source of this fundamentalism and confront it head on. So long as we turn a blind eye to those who teach hatred and fund extremist education, we will never really be able to turn the page of terror. We cannot beat terror purely with force. Force is necessary to defeat those who threaten us. But education that highlights our shared values and shared human fate is even more important as the only long term solution to overcome fatalistic ideologies such as that of ISIS. Every religious leader and head of state and civic leader – whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, or other – needs to actively work to discourage their religion and their national pride from being misused to dehumanize the other. Educating children to recognize what we all have in common – what brings us all together, what binds our fate as the human race, and the empathy that we need to find towards one another – is the only true long term antidote to terrorism.
My sister shared this note with me. It is from an “avatar” that is the founder of the Oneness movement. Often, I find these things a bit out there, but these words really spoke to me….
“What can we do as individuals in the face of inhuman violence, terrorism?”
“We wake up to another day’s revenge, retribution and rancor . The violence and brutality that surrounds us is the result of the destructive effect of fragmentation – one individual against another, one group against another, religiously, socially, culturally and economically. We are brothers and sisters, children of the same mother, inheritors of the same collective destiny. What we do to another, we do to ourselves. Why then do we behave as though we are inhuman warring tribal factions? How can we hunt or kill another? Is not the experience of pain same for all? Do not all living beings dread fear? How then can we perpetrate violence and pain on another? Will we today take the time to teach our children that division in any name whether sacred or secular is a crime? Will we tell them that we are human beings and not labels that divide us? Will we in this moment of crisis mould their young minds to be citizens of the world and not narrow bigots?
Ideological differences are at the root of the violence that is robbing sanity and endangering survival. When we become concerned with our own individual survival, with the survival of our group, our belief, we are being divisive and threaten the actual survival of the whole.
A beautiful song by Alicia Keys.