In a February 12, 2015 speech at George Washington University, FBI Director James B. Comey said assumptions based on routine and cynicism make “…it easy for some folks in law enforcement to assume that everybody is lying and that no suspect, regardless of their race, could be innocent.” Through his bold and truthful words, Director Comey eloquently confronted how learned bias plays a role in the mistreatment of others. Broadening his message beyond law enforcement and racism, cynical views of and by Muslims exasperate the threat of terrorism.
For those who view Islam as a militant, violent religion, a war on Islamic extremism is a war on Islam. This perception encourages people in the Muslim world to support terrorism in order to defend Islam from the outside world while it drives people from outside of the Muslim world to view the followers of Islam as a threat. Instead of being seen as the victims of extremists, the Peoples of the Middle East are viewed as the cause of terrorism. In turn, even those who view Islam as a nonviolent religion start to believe terrorism is so prevalent in the Middle East, because the Peoples of the Middle East do not stand against that violence.
Looking at the fight against the Islamic State, growing numbers of governments and individuals have taken a clear stance against the Islamic State, which has produced significant results thanks to the aid of Western military intervention. Unfortunately, Al Qaeda is using political strife in Yemen to strengthened itself as the unchecked Boko Haram expands its operations into a fourth country, i.e. Chad. Meanwhile, conservative factions in Israel are so against reaching a nuclear deal , whether it is a good deal or not, with Iran that the Israeli leadership has essentially pledged to booby trap talks. If a deal is reached, the state of mind of hardliners in Israel is such that they may even react with violence, which could include the possible use of nuclear weapons.
Although many would look at these examples among a multitude of others and conclude the situation is hopeless, the shared fault of these ongoing situations is not a failure of will power; it is the ability and decision of a few individuals to undermine peace , stability, and social development. For Westerners, it is easy to forget widespread terrorism, war, and violent crime thrived as a part of our daily life only decades ago. Clearly, violent crime continues to be especially prevalent in neglected corners of our societies. In fact, the Chapel Hill murders of three young Muslims is helping reinvigorate this very conversation on how people view Islam and its role in terrorism.
Looking inward for insights, those living in remote areas of the US, as well as other Western nations, have likely encountered “mountain man" and "hillbillies" who have no qualms about engaging in violence. There are those who would even shoot someone for supposedly “trespassing," i.e. an unknown person walking, on their land and feel their actions were thoroughly rational. They would even see their arrest and incarceration as outrageous and unprovoked. Until the police and their communities reculture these individuals, who can be Christians, to view violence as an unacceptable means of addressing their grievances, they will respond violently for no apparent reason. That is from the perspective of a more civilized individual.
The US has fortunately cultured most of the people in our country, so we do not see the same widespread violence experienced in much of the Muslim world. The difference between the Middle East and here is that our law enforcement officers out gun and outnumber those who turn to violence, so they can suppress the natural violent tendencies of most people. Consequently, there are plenty of peaceful people in the Muslim world. Unfortunately, those who turn to violence in order to assert their views happen to be the ones who force their rule onto others.
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