Understand why terrorism has no religion

The concept is simple — terrorism is defined as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” My faith in Merriam-Webster leads me to believe that the linguists were onto something with their definition. With no mention of religion or nationality, the word “terrorism” does not apply as a description to anyone or anything other than those involved in perpetrating acts of terror.

Friday’s attacks on Paris are heartbreaking and an outpouring of support is what should be expected as the shock of needless violence begins to sink in. Every time the death toll rose, it felt like a punch in the gut. Of course, people are experiencing fear, sorrow and anger, but not one of these is an excuse to express hatred toward another person for their religious background.

When I read comments on news articles, cringe at social media posts or overhear conversations on public transportation, I still hear an extension of the terror itself. Americans uttering anti-Muslim words and using Islam as a synonym for terrorism is uneducated, disappointing and racist.

Acting on a lack of knowledge about different cultures and religions extends the hatred and violence of actual terrorists. Think about the goals of a terrorist — to hurt people, to scare them, to incite chaos, to lessen the shock of violence, to make hatred common.

This is the desire of a limited number of extremists, no one else. So, when we allow the people next to us on the light rail train to make a racist comment, we are legitimizing their ridiculous notions.

What many fail to realize is that Islam is a faith based on many of the exact same ideals as Christianity. Here are a few similarities:

  • Both believe in and worship the same monotheistic God. The Arabic translation is “Allah.”
  • Both believe in heaven and hell.
  • Both recount the stories of prophets like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Joseph, John the Baptist and Jesus, as well as parables like that of Adam and Eve.

Now, let me list a few differences:

  • Muslims believe that Moses, Muhammad and Jesus were all prophets and messengers sent by God, but do not consider them divine.
  • Original sin, or the sin Christians believe all humans are tarnished with at birth, does not exist in Islam.
  • Muslims do not believe that Jesus died and was resurrected, but was actually just ascended into heaven.

Neither faith is based on violence, condones terrorism or desires a world without peace. It is a fundamental failure on the part of modern education not to teach the beliefs of many religions and it is unfortunate that so many Americans lack the understanding of any culture but their own.

Muslims are just as much the victims of these acts as any other religion, country or group. Followers of Islam are subject to the exact same fear anyone felt upon hearing news of the attacks on Paris. Hatred of a faith or stereotyping a culture as inherently bad is carrying that initial horror further. These horrific acts should bring us closer together and call for more understanding and action in preventing future violence. 

Terrorism is an attack on society, on establishment and on safety. The people responsible for it lose their credibility as anything other than monsters the moment they agree to hurt someone. They are no longer members who can represent their religion or citizens who can speak for their country. Terrorists’ actions no longer reflect their cultures or traditions because they are choosing to abandon them.

There are 7.38 billion people living on this planet. The two largest religious groups are Christianity and Islam, making up more than half of the total population. So, before you speak or accept the stereotypes perpetrated by the confused and uneducated, remember that the goal of terrorism is to make you hateful out of fear. Respond with knowledge.

World Religious Populations

Reach the columnist at smmaki@asu.edu or follow @symmaki on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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