Could we all possibly take a deep breath and not go insane over the terrorist brutality in Paris? Yes, it was horrific, cowardly, and barbaric. Innocent lives were murdered in cold calculating hate. But there needs to be a sense of reasonable thinking now. Not just panicked terror. That is the precise goal of terrorism: to provoke fear, frenzy, paranoia, and chaos. And when all of Europe and the Western world collapses in horror and hysteria, screams threats against Muslims, reaches for the big weapons, stirs up more hate and violence; and the decent and the thinking and the caring people of the world give into the urge for matching ruthlessness, then terrorists have truly hit their target.
This is a war of ideas. You can’t kill an idea with bombs. This is a war of beliefs. You can’t annihilate a belief system with deadly arsenal. And let’s not compare this to Nazism thinking we that destroyed that idea with war. Nazism was the mastermind of one brilliantly demented man. The whole mad enterprise was centered in Hitler. And once he deteriorated mentally and physically, made crucially disastrous tactical decisions, the end was in sight.
What we’re facing today is completely different. Radical Islamic terrorists are operating out of deeply committed religious beliefs that call for revenge and acts of terror against those they believe threaten their faith, their culture, their people and their way of life.
The ISIS crowd is a particularly nasty group that consists of not only the radicalized religious faithful but certainly unhinged zealots hungry for blood. These are killers without conscience or fear. Some of them are fighting for something they thoroughly believe in; others are just murderers filled with hate against all non-Muslims. Both are ready and willing and happy to die for the cause. And since martyrdom is considered a highly rewarded part of their belief system, that makes for very determined enemies.
President Obama is correct in working to bring a core of allies together to face this menace. Not just to try and crush them with violence but to try and find a way to deal with the idea of Islamic terrorism.
That is what we need. Leaders in the world, including our own, who understand the clearer issue here. This is about religious intolerance, religious control, and religious fanaticism. We have to take the longer look and see what’s underneath all of the hatred and violence of radical Muslims. We have to see what part we have had in the past and continue to have now in that hatred and violence. How complicit is our interference in the Middle East tied to the stampeding rage of Muslim extremists? And how can we either back off from that or find constructive ways to better understand and respect what Muslim clerics and Imams and the hard core leaders of ISIS want and need.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best in the violent upheavals of the Civil Rights movement: “Violence as a way of achieving…justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”
It is extremely difficult to enter into the wisdom of this kind of thinking when faced with the brutal slaughter of people. But King was so right. And unless we embrace that wisdom as leaders and as a nation and even as a world the killings will creep forward in their bloody savagery across Europe, the Middle East, here and everywhere.
© 2015 Timothy Moody