Religion and Violence

A cancer of violence and intolerance has spread through the Middle East as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – colloquially referred to as ISIS – uses Islam as a false pretense to promote its violent agenda.

Once again, anti-Muslim rhetoric has found its way back into parts of the American media as a distorted discourse eclipses the sincere meaning of the faith. Political personalities, most notably Bill Maher on his show “Real Time with Bill Maher,” falsely tell viewers that the religion is synonymous with terrorism.

But, there is nothing Islamic about terrorism: The issue does not concern the religion itself. Rather, it concerns the extremists who wrongly interpret the religion’s messages.

And extremists from all faiths exist and are equally as cancerous as one another – regardless of which faith they pervert.

As the media so extensively covers ISIS terrorizing Iraq and Syria, it seems to completely disregard another similar, ongoing catastrophe taking place in the Central African Republic.

There, the world can witness the terror of another ethnic and religious cleansing. Only this time, the context is reversed as Muslims are placed on the butting end.

The Anti-balaka, an umbrella name for radical Christian terrorists in the country, work diligently to erase the presence of Islam via lawless, sectarian violence against the country’s innocent Muslim citizens.

Sound familiar?

Photo courtesy TRAC
The Anti-balaka of the Central African Republic; Courtesy TRAC

ISIS; Photo courtesy The Guardian
ISIS; Photo courtesy The Guardian
When juxtaposed, ISIS bears striking similarity to the Anti-balaka of the Central African Republic. But for some reason, media coverage on the latter is muted.

You probably won’t be tuning into a heated debate on Maher’s show during which he claims Christianity a violent religion as he did Islam. And rightfully so, as Christianity is not a violent religion.

But neither is Islam, nor is Buddhism, Judaism, or any other faith.

When it comes to violence and religion, only one truism exists: Religions do not promote violence. People do.

So, to say that the malignant tumor stems from the brain of a religion, and not the radicals who practice it unconventionally, is as harmful a belief as it is falsified.

Religious communities, and the world at large, must collectively work to remove such tumors — not by adjusting faiths, but by silencing the voices of those who destroy religious sanctity.

The Poly Post, Vol. 30, Issue No. 5

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