The apparent suicide bombing in Manchester at the site of a Arianna Grande concert resulted in a present death toll of 22 with nearly 60 others injured in the explosion. My offering of my deepest sympathies and condolences, while genuine, seem so empty in light of yet another senseless terroristic attack, this time targeting an audience of innocent children and teens.
Of course this is not new:
We live in a world of conflict and at times it seems that societally we are more divided than ever along racial, cultural and religious lines. Divided that is until the unfortunate circumstances of tragedy seem to bring us together. It is a testament to the resolve that people have and also to the inherent progressiveness that people truly are united and bonded with their humanity and empathy more than they may in fact be driven by their cultural, racial and religious differences.
There are approximately 6.9 Billion people on earth. Of those, approximately 2.2 Billion are identified as Christians. Islam is second, with approximately 1.6 Billion people identifying themselves as Muslims. I point out these numbers for a few reasons. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack as it has for many of the most known terrorists incidents for the last several years. Before that it was Al-Qeada.
Let me sound particularly politically incorrect for a moment, but the interchanging names of the leading or most feared terrorist organizations are interchangeable for most. For the most part, right or wrong, since 9/11 most people identify terrorism with extreme jihadist Muslims. Now the numbers of Muslims in the world show clearly that the percentage of Muslims that would fall under the extreme category are really small. The number of Muslims that could be described as terrorists so much smaller, even an infinitesimal percentage of those followers of Islam in the world.
Yet, Muslims, largely because of the high profile nature of these cowardly terroristic acts by groups such as ISIS or their misguided followers, have a horrible Public Relations perception as the face of terrorism. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful people. A second reality, however, is that the majority of these individuals and groups that practice extremism and jihad are Muslims from traditionally Arab nations or backgrounds.
We cannot vilify 1.5 Billion plus people for the actions of a vast minority. Yet the divisiveness will continue until terrorism is not seen as coming so centralized from a particular group. Muslims need to do more to fight extremism within their own religions, cultures and nations. Clerics must not allow mosques to be safe havens or breeding grounds for extremism. It is a slippery slope to police religious beliefs, but Muslims need to understand that the unfair prejudice and profiling that they experience, while in no way fair and their fault, can only be overcome in part by condemning others that disparage the religion through extremism as well as showing the world that the vast majority or Muslims are good people that should not be persecuted for the sins of the relative few. It may not be a popular analogy, but it would be like condemning all of christianity for the horrific sins committed by church members against children.
The Catholic church ignored and covered up the problem for so many years that it was a public relations nightmare and it eventually took lots of financial settlements and a Pope who was seen as progressive and emphatic to the problems within the church to change a perception that did damage the perception of the church. I am arguing that Islamic leaders need to do something similar. Get in front of the issue and the problem. Acknowledge the problem and be more vocal in the condemnation of those that sully the religion with extremist views and actions.
People are scared of terrorists and unfairly or not, terrorism has a name (Muslims) and a face (usually Arab men). This profile and prejudice against so many will continue and this divisiveness will continue until we come together more. Unfortunately tragedy proves we have the ability to do so. Now, if we can take that same energy and empathy to be strong and resolute and use it to promote greater empathy and understanding, we may all better come together to eradicate extremism, particularly in areas in which diversity should be celebrated not feared.
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