Moving Forward From Violence and Hate

Much of the news this past week, that is not election related, focused on the assassination of Ambassador Stevens and the continued violence related to an offensive video clip that demeans Islam. It is shocking the level of violence that an obscure and amateurish youtube video can unleash. The video, of course, is an excuse for anti-western groups to whip up their followers into mob violence. It is indicative of the deep cultural divide that exists in our world and the beliefs of some extremists that they can get their way through assault and murder.
In order to move forward it is essential for all good people to condemn such extremism. One such call came from Imam Ibrahim Negm, special senior advisor to the grand mufti of Al Azhar University, who, in an essay condemning the attacks wrote,

It goes without saying that violence of any sort, whether inspired by religious sentiment or secular interests, must be condemned unequivocally and in the strongest terms possible. This is in keeping with the best of Muslim tradition, which abhors sectarian rife, inter-ethnic conflict, and interreligious violence. This lesson is best contained in the example of the Prophet Muhammad himself, who was repeatedly subjected to the worst treatment by his enemies, only to consistently disregard these insults and instead take the path of forgiveness, mercy and compassion. This is why he is known to Muslims as “the Mercy to all worlds.” Indeed, this example is most succinctly summarized in the Qur’an itself, which instructs believers as follows: “The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better.”

I was heartened by the Imam’s words as we do not hear enough in the west about moderate Muslims. There is a tendency for some in the US to paint all Muslims with a single, biased brush. One step toward building bridges of understanding is to use our own free speech to repudiate hateful images and videos that are directed at all Muslims. Brian McLaren, an influential evangelical pastor and author (Time Magazine named him one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America in 2005), in an essay on the CNN website entitled “My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic Evangelicals To Choose,” calls on American Christians to repudiate hatred toward Muslims. He writes,

I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America, and any discussion of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations around the world must include the phenomenon of American Islamophobia, for which large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse.
At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam – beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamophobia.
Many of my own relatives receive and forward pious-sounding and alarm-bell-ringing e-mails that trumpet (IN LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!) the evils of Islam, that call their fellow evangelicals and charismatics to prayer and “spiritual warfare” against those alleged evils, and that often – truth be told – contain lots of downright lies.

McLaren goes on to say, “If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends, it would be this: The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety.”
Jesus’ message is always focused on finding ways to love our enemies. Even, in his greatest challenge, “to love our enemies.” If we are going to find a way forward to a lasting peace we need to use our free speech to condemn violence, but also to condemn unfair depictions of other religions in the name of Christianity.

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