Volume 97 Issue 10 Oped

Extremist doctrines, terrorism misrepresent religious groups

by Julia Wagner

When you think of religion, there may not be many negative things that come to mind. But if you pair religion with terrorism, suddenly a burst of negative thoughts can come to the surface. The fact that these two words can be correlated in our world is sad enough, but when some people use terrorist acts as a way to harbor hatred toward an entire religion, that is even more sad.

One of the religions that seems to carry the brunt of this hatred is Islam, largely due to groups such as al-Qaeda and the now rising Islamic State. They have perverted a broad religion to justify their own hateful acts. It is now far too common to hear people say hateful things toward Muslims.

One of the first articles that pops up on Google when you search “Muslims” is an article about Islamophobia in the UK. This fear is becoming an increasingly worrisome issue in which some people blame the entire Muslim population for the actions of a few extremists.

After the events of 9/11, anti-Muslim hate crimes became five times more common and have remained that way since. In 2013, 16.3 percent of the 1,092 reported hate crimes were committed against Muslims, representing 154 incidents and 184 victims.

The numbers have continued to increase; the Southern Poverty Law Center predicted that this year’s crimes against Muslims because of their faith will continue to rise.

On Dec. 4, a man left voicemails at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in St. Louis, threatening to cut off Muslims’ heads. On Dec. 10, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab was shot at while driving away from a mosque in Tampa, Fla.

These are only two examples of hate crimes and threats against Muslims. More recently, there were three boys who were shot execution-style. Mohamedtaha Omar and Muhannad Adam Tairab were Muslim and Adam Kamel Mekki was Christian; however, many believe that this was an anti-Muslim act of violence.

This happened in Fort Wayne, Ind. in February, and the police are currently investigating these deaths. The chief of police was quoted saying, “These young people were just starting out in their life.” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has started to reach out to the investigators involved with this case along with the families of the victims.

In place of violence, we should not judge the many on the actions of the few. Almost every religion has had a violent streak in its history. It is incredibly hypocritical to look at the Islamic faith and claim the followers are all bad, terroristic people. In reality, their religion preaches love and kindness.

The Prophet Muhammad said, “The Believers, in their love, mercy and kindness to one another are like a body: if any part of it is ill, the whole body shares its sleeplessness and fever.”

He also said, “The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Show mercy to those on earth and God will show mercy to you.”

Clearly what terrorists preach is a skewed representation of what Islam is. Similarly, the Westboro Baptist Church and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) are skewed representations of Christianity.

In the United States, rarely do people seem to cast Christianity in the shadows, even when there are terrorist attacks committed by people from the Christian community. Many turn a blind eye to the fact that the KKK is a Christian affiliated hate group.

The Army of God attacked abortion clinics and doctors all over the United States. People from the Concerned Christians group were deported from Israel on suspicions of planning to attack holy sites in Jerusalem.

People who take the actions of the few and punish many for their wrong-doings only help terrorist groups accomplish their goals and strengthen their fear tactics. The fear drives some people to do horrid things as retaliation against those who are only assumed to be affiliated but are in no way involved.

It can start a distorted domino effect in which more people of faith join terrorist groups because people are attacking them and making them feel unsafe. Not all people will turn to terrorism in retaliation to these hate groups, but even one will leave many people vulnerable since the key motivator in situations such as these is fear.

Religion can be a beautiful thing. It can bring people together and bring the best out of a community. Religion gives people something to turn to when all seems lost; it can be that small shred of hope for someone who needs to keep fighting and keep moving on.

Unfortunately, even beautiful things can be destructive and dangerous. People who distort their religion to justify doing wrong are people who do not practice the faith as the majority does. Beauty is seductive and can be manipulated to strike fear into people’s hearts.

Fearing someone because they do not believe in the same god that you do, because they do not share the same customs or beliefs, is childish at best. There will always be people who use their religion for the wrong reasons. If we let religious zealots instill fear in us, if we let them infect us with their hatred, then we are letting them win.

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