I am not a political writer. I am not a foreign policy expert. I fear guns and bombs and terror. I fear mass chaos and my loved ones dying. I fear my country going into war, spending billions of dollars, and sacrificing millions of lives to fight a group of radicalized young men. Closed minded facebook posts frustrate me and peace movements move me. I want to inspire understanding.
Radicalism is not religion. Terrorism is not faith. Mindless killing is not hope. This is what The Islamic State is selling. Not Islam. They are political figures that target people, often young people with identity crises. They use small segments of The Quran to trick the western world into believing they are faith based and to lure new converts and lost young people to them. Has there ever been a human on the planet that didn’t at some point feel a loss of identity? In this beautifully written article I read this morning, Mehdi Hasan sites the most interesting people who are analyzing, studying, trying to understand this terror group that I have yet to come across. He labels them, The Analyst, The Spy, The Theologian, The Radical, and The Pollster. They all align with the fact that the people who join these groups are not purely following a faith driven mission, in fact it has to do, says “The Spy” Richard Barrett, “with the search for identity… coupled with a search for belonging and purpose.” Sound familiar? “The Islamic State offers all that and empowers the individual within a collective. It does not judge and accepts all with no concern about their past.” I’m not trying to get us to relate to this violent group but I do want to humanize them if only to stop our fear of religious, apocalyptic terrorism. A message of faith - or at least what I know faith to be, grounded in truth, love, goodness, and knowledge – is not what drives them. It is a message of acceptance and anger towards countries that took that acceptance away.
Barrett goes on to say they, “are clearly convinced they are following Allah’s will,” and that, “we should not underestimate the extent of their belief.” And I kept thinking, there has to be a difference between belief and striving towards a life of faith. There has to be some form of separation because if there is not one, then religion is a pathway to violence (exactly the opposite of my point). But then I realized, belief is the human part - easily manipulated and misused - while faith is what humans should aspire to. Belief can be used to give young men purpose with a gun and a suicide bomb. But faith is higher than that. Faith is good when there seems to be no good. Faith is love when there seems to be no love. And faith brings hope when all around us are opinions that ignite fear and suffering. We must put down our seemingly religious doctrines and take up the core of our religions. Peace, faith, hope, and love. Our brothers and sisters, humans all over the world, are dying and being persecuted but not just because of some radicalized group. They are being persecuted by us. We say a religion is based in violence because of a political group of murderers set on the notions of greed and power and we leave no room for understanding. We say our religions are not violent and that they are good and full of love but then we let fear turn us away from all of the people around us hurting and longing for acceptance. In turn giving The Islamic State, and groups like it, exactly what they want. Hurt, angry humans with no place to go.
Humans kill. And they use whatever means necessary as justification. But faith, no matter what God holds the base of that faith, is not violent. And I’m choosing to align my beliefs around that. I hope you will too.
Good read, stick it out to the end - How Islamic is Islamic State? by Mehdi Hasan.