Last week we saw the terrible terrorist attack in New York City. It reminded us that terrorism is a problem in our society and will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future. Last month brought us the horrible shooting in Las Vegas. It reminded us that gun violence is going to be a problem in our society for the foreseeable future.
After the shooting I blogged about the tendency of some to try to use the emotional event like the shooting to push for gun regulations. These proposed regulations are usually not even geared to stop the shooting that had just taken place. What we need is cool headed decisions so that we can deal with the problems linked to gun violence. At the very least we should wait until a full investigation is completed before we decide what type of reforms we need.
Likewise after the New York terrorist event, there was a call for reforms to our immigration system before we had even completed the investigation of the event. Once again what we need is cool-headed assessments of what had taken place. Only after those assessments will we be in a position to consider changes that will better protect us against future terrorism.
Whether we are talking about gun violence or terrorism, we need to think about long-term solutions. Being caught up in the passion of the latest sensational event is not conducive to making long term plans to deal with those problems. For example, I have seen a dramatic uptick in the calls to stop Muslims from coming into our country. I have previously written about the need of Christians to advocate for Muslims. We should be disturbed by the recent calls to discriminate against Muslims.
In the past, I have talked about how our Christian values should ordain us to grant Muslims religious freedom. I have also talked about how in protecting the rights of Muslims we will also help to protect the rights of Christians. Trust me that whatever justification that is created to treat Muslims in an unfair manner will soon be used to mistreat Christians.
I have heard Christians talk about how Muslims seek to take over the country or are inherently oppressive. When I point out that many who do not like Christians will say the same thing, they do not believe that individuals would believe such foolish things. They think it self evident that individuals will see Christians differently than they see Muslims. But check out some of the statements some cultural progressive respondents made in my study of Christianophobia:
They are America’s Taliban. They will take whatever power they can get. The Catholic Church has a great record – look what they did in the middle ages. The Christian Right would put in a theocracy in a minute. (Male, aged 36-45 with some graduate school)
A dangerous group of stupid judgmental sheep following evil leaders. It is a major threat to our country, our constitution, and our rights. (Male, aged 26-35 with Bachelor degree)
They seemed like Nazis who KNEW they were right! (Male, aged over 75 with Doctorate)
These individuals tend to be white, male, wealthy and highly educated. They are powerful individuals in our society. It is not a small thing to have powerful people hold our faith in such low esteem. Do we dare provide them with justification to use that power in religiously discriminatory ways? We would do that by supporting religious discrimination ourselves.
Now I want to add even another reason why we should not engage in unfair discrimination against Muslims. Such discrimination may feel good in the short term, but it is a loser as it concerns a long term solution to terrorism. We cannot protect ourselves by simply excluding Muslims. Even if we could totally lock up our border to Muslims, we will still have to put troops in harm’s way if we do not want terrorist organizations to control and destabilize important countries. In some way we have to change the nature of our foes and find ways to support movement towards a moderate Islam.
Those who engage in religious violence are difficult to deter with traditional criminal justice techniques. But if we can move modern Islam in a moderate direction, then terrorists will face stigma from other Muslims. There are many interpretations of Islamic theology. We benefit if Muslims seek out those interpretations that do not prioritize violence.
Non-Muslims cannot speak to potentially violent Muslims in ways that matter as we do not share their faith. In combatting terrorism the most important player is the moderate Muslim. We need them to shame those who corrupt their faith with terrorism. Cultivating the power of moderate Muslims is the key long term answer for terrorism.
To make an effort to set an atmosphere whereby we can encourage a modern expression of Islam, we have to stop rhetoric that dehumanizes Muslims. If we continue to endorse demeaning stereotypes, moderate Muslims, who need to be at the vanguard of helping to create a religion less likely to engage in violence, are going to have a harder time influencing other Muslims. Efforts that dehumanize Muslims and support religious discrimination against them create more anti-American hostility. Any long term solution to terrorism has to include efforts to build relationships with them. Supporting anti-Muslim discrimination works against that goal.