In the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Old Testament to Christians, God tells his chosen people to enter the Promised Land and “put the ban” on every town and city they encounter. To put the ban on a city meant to wipe it out completely: kill every man, woman, child, and animal; destroy every building and possession, and burn the city to the ground.
How many modern Jews and Christians believe that they should go around wiping out unbelievers by killing them and burning their every possession? The answer, of course, is that these stories are part of an ancient holy text, and they are to be interpreted in the light of what they might mean to people in a spiritual sense. In a spiritual sense, God was telling his people to rid themselves of vices, obsessions, and associations that keep them from holiness.
In light of the recent horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, and elsewhere, critics have begun denouncing Islam itself rather than just the barbaric fanatics who have twisted the religion into a violent call for jihad around the world. So the same people who realize that stoning adulterers, while in the Holy Bible, is not a justifiable action in modern society, turn around and assume the jihadists are truly representative of Islam by harking back to a quite literal interpretation of its holy book, the Koran.
ISIS quite literally wants to create the conditions laid out in the writings of the prophet Muhammed and bring about the apocalypse. (“What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic, March 2015) Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg put it well when he called this movement “medievalism.” It should be obvious that the vast majority of Muslims do not subscribe to this medieval interpretation of their religion. In short, ISIS doesn’t represent Islam any more than the Ku Klux Klan represents Christianity.
The danger of the current hysteria is that people will lash out at Muslims and Middle Eastern people in general. Numerous governors have already stated that they will refuse to house and help Syrian refugees on the grounds that terrorists might be infiltrating their numbers. This kind of fear-mongering and thinly disguised racism has been seen in this country before.
In 1942, shortly after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps across the country. Today, America recognizes this action as an egregious violation of Japanese Americans’ civil rights, and reparations were paid to surviving families of those unjustly imprisoned.
What is happening in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Africa, and even in the beloved capital of Paris, France, is frightening. It requires a concerted effort on the part of our allies to help end the reign of terror imposed by such groups as ISIS and al-Qaeda (Remember them?). But let’s all take a deep breath and use our reason, as well as our heart, to direct our actions in the upcoming months and years.
Rather than blaming Islam, we need to work with Muslim countries around the world to stamp out the fanaticism and promote the ideals so beautifully represented by the red, white, and blue.