Love, rather than fear, can defeat terror
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, will begin holding hearings Thursday on "the extent of the radicalization of American Muslims." Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has characterized the hearings as "a witch hunt." Are they?
King also has said he believes the "self-radicalization" of American Muslims represents "a very small minority" of the overall community. What are the potential consequences of singling out one religious group?
Score one for Al Qaeda.
Representative Peter King's hearings on "The Extent of the Radicalization of American Muslims" is a witch hunt when we understand this term to mean the selection of a particular unpopular group for harassment. The result of these hearings at the very least will be a victory for Al Qaeda in that it has caused even more division in a divided nation. At worst it will serve to cause Muslims who would not give Al Qaeda's rhetoric a second thought a reason to consider the logic of terror.
Let us review. The goal of terrorists is to sow the seeds of fear. Terrorism is a tactic of asymmetrical warfare in that the terror group knows that it does not have the military capacity to destroy a nation or a society from the outside. So it begins a process where the society destroys itself. The violence aimed at civilians is intended to cause people to become afraid, and with fear comes care-less-ness. We care less about our neighbor. We care less about our own civil liberties and the importance of our nation's laws. We care less about our own civilian criminal court system and worry that it is not up to the challenge of bringing terrorists to justice. We care less about our integrity as a nation and become willing to torture other human beings and to engage in indefinite detention. We care less about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We care less about groups of our own citizens who we consider the dangerous Other.
Such a house divided cannot stand. Fear corrodes and corrupts the foundations of the nation and before anyone knows it, only a whisper from an outside source is enough to blow the house down. Peter King is helping in this self destructive process.
There is a reason that the moral teaching of Jesus teaches radical love, a perfect, mature, complete love for everything that exists. Love and fear cannot coexist. When we love the Other, we do not fear the Other. Such love however, is a love born of faith in the proposition that God is Love. That Divine Love has the power to possess us, to work in and through us, to give us the wherewithal for compassion and for a logic beyond the logic of fear that seeks only preservation of the physical self. Such fear is a delusion because the physical self will inevitably suffer and die. It is the spiritual self, the anima, breath, soul that survives into the mystery of eternal life. This is the self that Divine Love protects and preserves. Fear leads to death of body and soul.
These hearings are not intended to get to a truth but rather to prove an assumption. The assumption is built into the title. It is a "when did you stop beating your wife" logic. That you beat your wife is assumed in the question. When the hearings are about "the extent of the radicalization of American Muslims," the assumption is that American Muslims as a specific group are being radicalized. There is no question that some individuals are being radicalized using the rhetoric of violent Islam, but that is a question of the seduction of violence that is a seduction for many individuals who are emotionally disturbed. Witness the shootings in Arizona earlier this year.
Violence to advance a political cause is seductive and Representative King knows this from his own support of the Irish Republican Army. This is where we see the wisdom of another of Jesus' teachings. Jesus taught us to judge not lest we be judged. When we observe any entity or phenomenon, we perceive only a portion of the thing. All cannot be perceived all at once. If we look at one aspect of the thing, we are not looking at another aspect of the thing. Very often, the aspect that is the point of our focus has to do with what is inside of us. That particular aspect of the Other becomes a mirror to our own souls. When Peter King looks at Muslims and sees the terrorists, the violent radicalization of a group, he is looking at a reflection of himself.
This is not reason enough to single out a particular group. The very act of targeting one group is itself harassment.
The more fitting response to a terrorist threat is not fear and the division that it causes, rather the more excellent way is the way of civic friendship. This is friendship among the citizens of the nation. Friendship happens when people come together, take the time to get to know one another, to grow to respect and to trust each other. The mutual trust that is fostered by civic friendship becomes the glue that holds the nation together. It is the love stuff that causes us to stand shoulder to shoulder and back to back against an enemy. Friendship love logic turns the words of anyone preaching violence in the name of Almighty God into gibberish. And the terrorists lose.
Valerie Elverton Dixon
March 8, 2011; 1:13 PM ET
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