Yesterday, I read an article entitled “Please, God, don’t let the Boston Marathon bomber be a Muslim” and found it to be one of the best op-ed pieces I have ever read. And, unfortunately, the current reports show that the brothers involved in the Boston Marathon attack are, in fact, Muslim. The article as a whole, though, raises personal questions about the ideas of terror and terrorism.
Wikipedia defines terrorism as, “…the systematic use of terror, often violent, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no legally binding, criminal law definition. Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetrated for a religious, political or, ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians).”
Personally, I feel like this definition is a bit narrow. The definition of terror (as opposed to terrorism) lends itself to a more accurate notion of what terrorism is. Terror is defined as, “The use of fear to intimidate people, especially for political reasons.” Terror, then, is not limited to action, but rather, could include words.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Rev. Jerry Falwell stated, “I think Muhammad was a terrorist…a violent man, a man of war…” In 2005, Pat Robertson stated, “Islam, at its core, teaches violence.” And, more recently in 2009, he stated, “Islam is a violent — I was going to say, 'religion', but it's not a religion; it's a political system. It's a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world, and world domination. That is the ultimate aim. And they talk about infidels and all this, but the truth is that's what the game is. So, you're dealing with a — not a religion — you're dealing with a political system.”
These words and statements very clearly point an ignorant and uninformed finger at an entire group of people. And, while the words are not a physical attack, the words incite a feeling toward a group of people. As people of influence, words like these have the potential to incite others to act — even ignorantly — and hurt people and people groups.
Are statements like these, then, acts of terror?
Or what about groups like the Westboro Baptist Church that spread a message of hate, condoning violence and death (even going as far as to label them the actions and will of God)? Are their words a form of terrorism?
I do not have the answer.
I will say, though, that ignorance perpetuates stereotypes and vice versa. And the only way to get through ignorance is education and experience. My hope, then, is that local mosques see a growth in visitors — not necessarily converts — who desire to stand in solidarity with another group of God’s people.
At the core, God is God. God is Allah. God is YHWH. Love God; love each other; act in love.