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9/11 and Islamophobia

As the anniversary of 9/11 was approaching these past few days I began to reflect upon the state of the world a decade later. Radio programs, news channels and online writers provide a lot of gut-wrenching images and moving things to think about. Yet one thing kept coming to the forefront of my mind: How would any of this have happened without Islam?

In contrast to what may be labeled “Islamophobia” these days, I am not talking about promoting prejudice, hatred, or irrational fear of Islam or Muslims. (I have had many close friends that are practicing Muslims and I once lived in a predominantly Muslim country.) I am also not saying that other social, economic, and political factors were not to blame. I am referring to the specific and tragic consequences of holding certain irrational beliefs, like martyrdom, as true with no justifiable evidence.

9/11 was such a shock because very few people suspected that 19 human beings could be persuaded such madness was a good idea. It took the specific misguided belief of martyrdom to do that. Why don’t people stay up at night worrying about Mormons flying airplanes into buildings? Perhaps it is because there is nothing within their religion that would lead to, sanction, or justify that sort of behavior. I think back to another suicidal period in history when the beliefs and traditions of Japanese soldiers in 1944 led young men to adopt Kamikaze tactics, whereas similarly desperate British soldiers in 1940 did not. Beliefs matter.

To justify the practice of martyrdom you need to establish several, if not all, of the following:

  1. the existence of a god,
  2. that god is actually Allah (not Zeus, Thor, etc.)
  3. that the Quran was divinely communicated
  4. there were no changes/edits over time
  5. the existence of a soul
  6. the existence of heaven/paradise
  7. surety that Allah wants your sacrifice …

I could keep going, but I am simply getting tired. People should demand extraordinary evidence for such an extraordinary claim. Yet it seems that one verse in the Quran – Surah 9 verse 111 –  is enough to convince many young Muslims:

“Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain. It is a promise which is binding on Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an.”

Just as specific verses from Leviticus are largely responsible for Christian bigotry toward homosexuals, the beliefs of those attackers, born from Islam, has culpability for the tragedy of 9/11. It is the responsibility of those religions to root out the causes for these destructive beliefs and eliminate them.

My point is simple. While it is completely unacceptable to be suspicious of all Muslims for the murderous misdeeds of a small and insane minority, it is equally unacceptable to overlook the specific elements of Islam that facilitated that day of horror ten years ago. All reasonable people, from any faith or none, should join in demanding reform from the Muslim world and criticize them freely until this changes. We must demand a world where it is impossible for single sentences in ancient books to convince people that flying into a building is the right thing to do.

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Categories: Politics, Religion
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