WHY CAN”T WE ASK WHY TERRORISTS DO WHAT THEY DO?

A PERSON OF FAITH MUST ASK "WHY".

rn

I don’t understand an intelligent and reportedly a religious person like British Prime Minister Tony Blair lashing out people for suggesting that there was a connection between the July 7 London bombing and British involvement in the Iraq war. The target of Mr. Blair’s fury includes the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Mr. Blair’s former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Gwen Dyer, and the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Is it not only legitimate but also imperative to ask why terrorists commit those heinous acts, if terrorism should be stopped?

rn

After devastating calamities befell on a righteous man like Job, he asked "Why, God?" A "why" question asks for meaning and reason behind events and facts. It is a spiritual quest, which all faith traditions rightly pursue. This is why I believe that religion is basic in our lives. By asking why, we religious people, like Job in the Hebrew Bible, make important contribution to the society by searching for an answer on a deepest level – not just symptoms but root-causes.

rn

Only a unabashed racist, for example, would speak about a disproportionately large number of Afro-American or First Nations prison inmates without raising the "why" question. When you do, a "why" question leads you to the problem of injustice in our society. Without knowledge of the cause, we will never be able to find the real solution.

rn

Unfortunately however, when an unspeakably brutal and senseless crime is committed, people who ask the "why" question are often accused of justifying evil. This, of course, is nonsense because analysis does not equals justification. They are not same. Tony Blair made that mistake when he angrily denounce those who made a connection between the London bombing and Britain’s involvement in Iraq War. He called it a "misunderstanding of a catastrophic order." But I believe that real understanding of an issue will expose a true nature of evil thus to a much more forceful rejection of it. Those who seek root causes must not be intimidated by those who accuse them of tolerating evil.

rn

I, for one, categorically condemn all terrorist acts that cause loss of innocent lives, particularly the suicide bombing that rejects one’s own precious gift of God as well. Meanwhile, I try hard to understand the situation that drives people into such a senseless action, so that a real solution to eradicate violence will be found. I was in Palestine as a member of the WCC’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Program for Palestine and Israel in the fall of 2003 living in a village in the occupied West Bank. During the three month stay, there were incidents of five suicide bombings. One of them was a 14 years old boy who blew himself up in a nearby village only a kilometer away, a part of our daily jogging route. I came back from the Middle East more firmly convinced that suicide bombing must be denounced. Those bombers were all deceived by evil minds. Those who encourage young people to become martyrs (euphemism for suicide bombers) were not themselves prepared to die. Neither did they really believe what they told the bomber candidates: that their places were guaranteed in heaven. I believe taking other people’s lives and suicide are against Islam. Suicide bombers are perpetrators of heinous crimes just as much as victims of deception. Child soldiers in Congo or Sierra Leon belong to the same category. Suicide bombing is totally unacceptable because it makes both the innocent and the bomber the victims of the diabolic act. The Sabeel Center for Liberation Theology in Jerusalem rejects it. "Sabeel" is a Palestinian Christian organization and is a partner of the United Church of Canada through sharing of financial resource from the M & S Fund.

rn

 

rn

I heard of similar deception in Japan during the World War II. It’s the brain wash the military inflicted on teenage candidates for Kamikaze mission- suicide bombing by fast boats and/or airplanes. One math teacher in my junior highschool was a former fast boat Kamikaze pilot who came home alive because the end of the war came before his scheduled mission. He told us how the military propaganda machine twisted the minds of the innocent young boys. All the boys in the same group were completely intoxicated by the idealism of self-sacrifice as a highest form of patriotism. But every night, sanity always found its way into his consciousness. He tossed and turned in bed trying very hard to figure out how he could bail out before his boat hit an American warship.

rn

However, if you spend even a day in some place in the occupied Palestine, you would understand why some naive and young people were easily conned into believing such evil acts as noble. The situation in Gaza, for example, is so bad as some newspaper called it "a cesspool of misery and poverty." If you are a resident of a squalor called refugee camp, which is a result of Israeli occupation, and your daily living is exacerbated by daily humiliation at the border crossings and the check points, you will be so angry and easily be persuaded by a twisted logic justifying indiscriminate killing of innocent Israelis. It is important to understand this background. Otherwise, you will never understand why there is no short of candidates for suicide bombing. Or you will never understand why Hamas, an Islamic extremist group, is increasingly popular among Palestinians. (Hamas made a big gains in the recent municipal elections.) Likewise, we must try to understand why an extreme form of Muslim fundamentalism attracts young Muslims. We need to do a lot more background check and thinking.

rn

We must also recognize that an extreme and violent form of religious practice, often in a form of fundamentalism, is in all religions. During the bloody civil war in Lebanon in the 1980”s, Jason Burke reports in the Guardian Weekly ( July 22-28, 2005 70% of suicide bombers came from Christian groups. He goes on, "Think of the muscular Christianity of imperial Victorian Britain (or, indeed, of contemporary America) or Hinduism’s lunatic fringe (in India). In Sri Lanka, even smiling, happy Buddhism has exacerbated one of the most vicious civil conflicts of our time." I would continue to ask, "What about the Jewish extremist assassin who killed Israeli Prime Minister Izak Rabin or the one who massacred tens of Muslim worshipers at Abraham’s tomb in Hebron? What about Crusaders’ killing field in Jerusalem?" There were KKK’s, Michigan Militia in the United States, and countless others American home-made terrorists which are often connected to one form of extremist Christianity or another. Many of them commit terrorism in the name of religion. We must try to understand each one of those incidents in context and find out where and how believers got it all so very wrong.

rn

I don’t know of any major religion that does not prohibit taking of lives of other human persons. However, we must recognize that the scope of prohibition evolved particular to universal. In the earlier writing in the Hebrew Bible, the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" was applied only to the Hebrew nation. The king Saul, for example, was condemned by God for not committing genocide of a ceratin number of non-Hebrew tribes despite the Ten Commandment. However, as the scope of religious ideas expanded from particular to universal, so did the jurisdiction of the religious commandments. Christians applied the prohibition just like the earlier Hebrews, only to the Christians, just like a certain type of fundamentalists among us. Happily most of religions apply basic moral principles universally nowadays. Very few people believe that infidels can be killed. However, this particularism is still very much alive among some rigid ideologues and nationalists. I believe that the time has come to apply all our common basic moral principles, such as prohibition of taking human lives universally. Abolition of capital punishment and renouncement of war should be the most logical conclusion of universalism.

rn

Towards the end of Apartheid in South Africa, one Christian think tank published a document called , "Road to Damascus." It is a document warning the danger of some of Christian fundamentalism which created an ideology totally opposite to the Gospel. As you recall, Apartheid was justified by many believers of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, and supported by many Christians of the same persuasion in other countries. In this context, it is useful to recall a history of the African National Congress of South Africa, which for a long time had been called a "terrorist organization", and Nelson Mandela a terrorist. When it began, however, the leadership included people like not only Chief Albert Lithuli, but also many members of clergy as well as Communists like Joe Slovo, both black and white. It declared itself to be a non-violent movement. They staged many non-violent and peaceful demonstrations. It was only after massacre of non-violent demonstrators, and the subsequent banning of the organization, the ANC decided to take violent action. Score of demonstrators were shot in the back as they were fleeing the gun-totting police officers. Even after the decision to launch armed struggle, the ANC aimed at properties only. They were always careful to avoid loss of human lives. It was only other groups which followed the ANC, some took violence against human lives. The ANC until the end maintained respect for human lives.

rn

Politicians rarely admit publicly that they are wrong, even if they know they are wrong in their hearts. Therefore, it is our duty as Christians to honestly search for truth no matter how it hurts. We must ask ourselves why some people hate the West so much. I don’t think it is right for us to let our Muslim sisters and brothers to fend themselves. We don’t have to defend our faith by denouncing Anti-Semitism and racism over and over again. All sane people know that there are difference between regular Christians and the KKK or Nazism. Let us stand side by side, hand in hand, with people of many faiths, condemn violence and search for truth.

rn

Tad Mitsui

rn

Lethbridge, Alberta

rn

July 30, 2005

rn

 

rn

 

rn

 

rn

 

rn

 

rn

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.