John Kiser’s opinion piece in last weeks’ Rappahannock News couldn’t be timelier in the aftermath of the recent horror in Paris. John brings forth a shining example of an Islamist emir who, after fighting the French for the right reasons, losing, and then being imprisoned and terribly mistreated, was able to “turn the other cheek” and forgive his enemy.
There may be a lesson or two from history that we can extrapolate from his story relevant to today’s extremist reaction to feelings of segregation, persecution, oppression, and desperation found in many Western cities shared by Muslim immigrants. Those feelings are the underlying fuels that have ignited the fury and terror of a small — I underline small — segment of the billion-plus Muslims spread widely across world.
The radicals are distorting the truth about their religion to rally support and fighters for their jihad. I think Christianity can point to historical parallels. Many Germans after World War I felt similar persecution, oppression and desperation heightened by their humiliating reparations and the depression which brought us Hitler and the anti-semitism that slaughtered tens of millions of Jews. Hitler told lies to his people just as are the extremist jihad leaders. Certainly words weren’t enough for that tragedy to emerge and repeat itself as history shows numerous examples of ethnic cleansing perpetrated for unjustifiable reasons in many parts of the world.
But we can use words to dampen the threat of violence and growing passion for more war. This time there is no country to fight so it makes the challenge of countering lies with words of truth even greater — not to mention the distortions Hitler (the first modern media-savvy tyrant) used but which are greatly magnified by the internet, social media and other mass media. This is about what is not being said that more of us in the West must say more often and using all the communication avenues at our disposal.
John has served the cause of truth-telling with his article. So let me try to extend the reader’s interest to encourage more propagation of the untold truths about Islam. In a Jan. 2 article in The Washington Post, Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, asks the question: “Why don’t more moderate Muslims denounce extremism?” His research shows that they do speak out but “we’re just not listening.”
Yes, we have to listen more and hold a truth: just as there are extremists in other religions, the vast majority of people want what Christianity values and are shared principles with Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions. (onenessonline.com). But we need to do more or we risk being enablers of extremists and their unholy cause.
We must encourage and act to spread messages of Islam that the vast majority of believers in Mohammed and his teachings and writing profess. We must encourage and act to spread the good news about Muslim people who want what all religions want and how their acts of love, kindness, forgiveness (as the life of Emir Abd el-Kader shows) are demonstrated in their families, communities and countries.
To do less will enable the haters, and their supporters who allow fear of the extremists to dominate reason, to expand this troubling moment in history into a religious war in which isolated moments of terrorism will become a protracted war against Muslims. The casualties will surpass the deaths of Hitler’s ethnic cleansing and the war it took to subdue and conquer him.
One other important lesson of history: After we defeated Germany and Japan, we forgave the people of those countries by helping to rebuild their nations. Perhaps we need to look closely at what kind of policies we can adopt that would, other than warfare, prevent the need to heal and rebuild a world after another religious war.