On the evening of the Boston bombings, my cousin called to deliberately inject me with a dose of fear.
I’m a Muslim and was traveling to give a speech on “Ending Religious Violence: The Journey to Peace.” He warned, “Go home! Hug your kids! This is a Christian nation!” My nerves were frayed.
I called the organizers and requested security. They conceded. My worries subsided.
Moments later, I received an email from John Poage, an American Christian and audience member who had attended a prior speech I had given.
Poage wrote, “Before we know what happened…when my mind turns to vengeance rather than healing, your perspective is a powerful example. Thank you very much for giving me some tools to deal with this …”
My fears vanished.
Poage exemplified what bejewels most Westerners – civility. He sought healing and to harness the power of understanding. I stayed the course. Days later, however, I heard the rhetoric on TV stations. The target was “they,” the Muslims. I delighted in reaching Poage before he stereotyped me with the others. Now, I felt defeated.
Some rhetoric grows the seeds for hate crimes. Greg Gutfeld, a co-host on the political talk show The Five, said, “…the burden is on us that they like us, when they come here…we must adapt to them….” These us-and-them broad-brush statements carry a formidable threat to innocent Muslims casting all of us as enemies. He continued, “…so many people left the desert to come here, and it is us who stick our heads in the sand.”
The first time I laid eyes on a desert was in 2008 on the way from Flagstaff, AZ., to the Grand Canyon.
Andrea Tantaros said, “The administration is blind to the threats …” Attributing the breach of security to a political party packs divisiveness of national proportions. If the goal is to turn citizens on each other, then well done! But, beware!
I recalled hearing the same repertoire during my budding years in the Middle East, home to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I observed the demagogues radicalize the public. I witnessed the forces that grip the hearts of civilians. I lived among righteous warriors who became Abraham’s nightmare and Satan’s fantasy. They made heritage, national pride, and “pursuit of peace,” the culprits of daily crimes against humanity.
Knowingly or not, divisive and negative rhetoric transforms some family rooms into incubators of a new generation of religiously motivated violent citizens. It equips some anguished, enraged, or terrified citizens with prejudices.
The religious conviction of some will harden. They will uphold only one truth. They will develop sentiments of indifference to the suffering of those who are not part of any transgression. They will make it their holy calling and patriotic duty to attack their perceived enemy. Visions of retaliations will motivate them. A new organic threat to our multi-faith and multi-ethnic nation will be born.
They will be the Holy Patriots.
I implore the few syndicated patriots and demagogues to summon the intellectual maturity to heed the unintended consequences of their hostile wisdom.
I implore the sincere knowledge seekers to challenge the snappy conclusions coined with zingers. No! There is no such thing as self-radicalization! Subject matter experts discussing the wrong topic do not make the topic right for discussion.
I implore the reluctant and clear-minded security experts and sideline politicians to act. Start an awareness campaign. Deploy a compassion dome that will shield the citizens from attacks on interfaith living.
I implore all entangled in the rhetoric to take notice that no two humans are alike. Qualify the falsely asked questions and learn from the infamous question after 9/11/01, why do they hate us? Exactly, who are they? And, who are us?
Now, the false question is “Why is Islam a religion of violence?” A better question is “Why do militant Muslim radicals find America to be the frontier?” The right questions diagnose problems more accurately.
Like almost all parents of radicals, the parents of the Boston bombings suspects are in denial. They are oblivious to how they unknowingly institutionalized their sons to commit a hate crime with global ramifications.
Realize that we have little control over how our children will internalize our words, or one day externalize them. Keep the recent shootings, on Aug. 5, 2012 at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI, an anomaly.
Finally, refrain from the inhumane desires of articulating thoughts of vengeance. Our children must not grow institutionalized by a history of suffering, but an outlook of harmony for all living beings of all faiths, ethnicities and dispositions.