September 24, 2020

The Editor Speaks: Taking a break


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I shall be taking a small break over the next few weeks due to health reasons so this space will taken up by guest columnists who write a lot better than myself so you are in for a treat.

Today’s column is:

The bell tolls for all

Carol-Ann-Rudy11By Carol-Ann Rudy

Paraphrasing that line from the poem by John Donne, we in the west should be hearing that metaphorical bell ringing and not have to ask for whom it tolls: it tolls for us. It is warning us of the ever-increasing tide of terrorism. Last week’s onslaught by Islamist terrorists in France and all the preceding incidents in so many countries around the world should surely put an end to the euphemistic language I keep hearing on broadcast news and seeing in print media: “Activists”. No, terrorists, pure and simple. The long gap between the time when the brothers in this latest round of attacks were first radicalized and the time of their first attack reminds me of the TV series, “The Americans”, about a Soviet spy cell in the US in the 50s – 60s and how they were embedded in US society until activated – similarly to some Islamist terrorists in civilized countries.

It is the terrorists’ cowardice and their desire for immediate gratification that drives them as much as religious zeal. It is these individuals’ frustration, whether about a perceived insult of religious icons, a down-ward spiralling economic state of affairs in their adoptive country or country of origin, or a soaring unemployment rate that seems to prompt this. They are for the most part unemployed young men from many countries. Do they gain anything from their attacks, whether in Europe, Asia, or the western hemisphere? Anywhere? I think not, except the fear generated by their actions which is then turned to anger and suspicion of all Muslims, deserved or not. One could say they may actually enjoy the adventure of it, as young men seem to who embrace the adventure of enlisting in legitimate armies and going off to war, hardly thinking beyond the moment. Do they gain respect for the religion they claim to embrace, and in whose name they fight? No, only fear. Do they gain acceptance of their communities by other non-muslim communities? No, only fear, anger—and often, contempt.

“What have you gained, if you have not love?” Love for your neighbor, no matter his or her religion, sexual orientation, race, or culture. Nothing wrong with that sentiment, but….it has to work both ways. Terrorists seem unfamiliar with the concept, and yet as I understand it the Quran teaches that the worst crime, above all, is the taking another’s life. Christian and Jewish doctrines teach that as well as other religions. Granted, in recorded history there have been heinous battles fought in defense of one religion or another, so no one of (almost) any religious persuasion can claim innocence for his particular religion. Often, a battle fought in the name of religion has only been a smoke-screen for political gain, expanding one’s borders, seizing the wealth of other nations. In this case, I have yet to detect a smoke-screen identify anything beyond their stated goals, the “protection” of the name of the prophet.

In my lifetime, it seems that only secular nations, France being one of the earliest if not the earliest to establish a secular nation, have been able to accomplish the feat of allowing free expression of religion – or having no religious beliefs – and having laws in place protecting an individual’s rights under those laws. But it makes me wonder: should countries recognize and legislate a division between an established religion and its military expression or arm? Can a government deny and criminalize military activities supported by and undertaken on behalf of a religion? Not just the act of terrorism, but the promotion and creation of it whether from a pulpit or a publication? In countries with free speech, anyone can preach from a podium or pulpit, praising terrorists and promoting terrorism through teachings. However, it is in the actions of some worshippers, the listeners to those dialogues, that the fault lies when they act on it, so it’s doubtful that any government anywhere could find a way to slice it – to identify and outlaw the military arm or branch of a religion. It’s a wry twist that the one sect in our modern world calling itself an army is The Salvation Army – and a more peaceful bunch would be hard to find!

The poison of Islamist terrorism has certainly made inroads in our western hemisphere. Our point of view is distinctly different: a curious feature of Islamist militants is the mentioning of the Crusades, hundreds of years ago, which hardly figures in our usual conversations about Islam or terrorists. Fortunately, we tend to look forward, not backwards in our society. I have friends in France one of whom echoed my words upon hearing of the second tower being attacked on 9/11: life has changed, and it will never be the same. Their treasured values, and ours, are under attack.

I am not a political scientist nor an expert on comparative religions, nor a history major. Therein lies my weakness – and my strength, the ability to look with a jaundiced eye at the proclamations and protestations around me, weigh them, and pay attention in my being – to the sound of a bell, ringing out a warning.



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