Responses to Fears of Terrorism

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Dear Editor: Recently a friend (notice the lower case), asked me to explain “the Quaker position” on the current “Islamist attacks” (his words, not mine). I am curious to learn other Friends’ thoughts about this question. I am sure that if you got three Quakers together, you would get four different answers.

Some of my own responses are these: First, these are NOT “Islamist attacks,” they are terrorist attacks. These terrorists are not Muslims any more than KKK terrorists are Christians. “Not in My Name – Muslims Against Isis” is a group of mainstream Muslims who are speaking out against these horrible crimes. You can look them up on YouTube.

I can only begin to recount the acts of terror that are being committed today and that have been committed throughout history by so-called “Christians.” These include the ongoing killings of African Americans by “Christian” police officers and civilians. Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building, was raised in a “Christian” community. “Christians” kill doctors who provide abortions to women who need them. “Christians” killed tens of thousands of Japanese civilians with terrorist bombs. “Christians” kidnapped hundreds of thousands of Africans and held them as slaves. “Christians” slaughtered about 90% of the  First Peoples who lived in this land. Those terrorist acts do not represent Christian values. Neither do recent terrorist attacks represent Muslim values.

My next response is to try to understand the anger that motivates these attacks. Why do these people hate the West? Is it that every time we turn around, we are trying to invade (or whatever the military calls it) Muslim countries? Do they think, perhaps, that all we want is their oil? That we are waging a war against Islam? Is it that we spend more money on defense than all other countries combined? Is it that obesity is a national health crisis in this country, while elsewhere, children die of starvation?

So, first I determine that terrorists come in all flavors. Second, I attempt to understand their anger. Finally, I try to identify sensible responses. Killing is not the answer. We killed Osama bin Laden, but that didn’t stop terrorism. More recently, we killed Abu Nabil, and that didn’t stop terrorism either. The death of Hitler didn’t end World War II, and it certainly didn’t end evil.

If killing isn’t the answer, what do our “public leaders” suggest instead? Barring Syrian refugees from our country. These refugees are people who, like us, abhor terrorism. They are actually fleeing from terrorism. Yet our political leaders imply that they are terrorists. The people who attacked Paris were from Europe, not Syria. By rejecting Syrian refugees, we play right into the terrorists’ hands. When politicians suggest that we “keep a database of Muslims,” remember Nazi Germany. It is frightening.

So what can we do to get terrorists to stop? There is no quick and easy answer. We need to support people in the communities who are speaking out in support of peace and justice. Just as there are many good Christian leaders, like Dr. Martin Luther King, there are many good Muslim leaders, like Congressman Keith Ellison and Malala Yousafzai. Malala lived in a part of Afganistan ruled by terrorists, where girls were forbidden to go to school. Malala stood up to them while she was still in her teens. She was attacked by the terrorists for encouraging girls to go to school, then moved to England, and then became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize – for standing up to terrorists. That would be a good place to start.

– Gary Miller, Sacramento Friends Meeting (PYM)