--Merriam Webster Dictionary
Beirut, November 12th, suicide bombings: 43 dead, more than 200 injured
Paris, November 13th, suicide bombings, direct assaults: 129 dead, more than 300 injured
In just two days last week, that’s the carnage from the Islamic State’s (Daesh’s) war on anyone (including moderate Muslims) who does not give complete fealty to their insane brand of radical Islam. It was the bloodiest 48 hours of terror and terrorism in recent memory.
We felt deep sadness. We were outraged. We are now very angry and so we want to do something, anything in response.
Yet before we do, consider this. Daesh’s attacks are all designed to get “us” to hate “them” and split the world into two warring camps, in the warped and barbaric hope of igniting World War III. The end of this world as we know it. That’s the ultimate goal of Daesh. A world aflame. They seek nothing less. That’s why what western governments and peoples choose to do in the days ahead is so fraught with danger. How will we respond?
Will we hate in response to the hatred and barbarity of Daesh?
Daesh is too small a movement to wage a conventional war. They have no military infrastructure or heavy weaponry in the traditional sense, no western like government institutions. They control territory in the Middle East but their most powerful weapons are fear and an insane willingness to die for their beliefs, all in one hope: to start a global war. As Daesh wrote in its English language magazine “Dabiq” in February 2015, "There is no grayzone in this crusade against the Islamic state....the world has split into two encampments: one for the people of faith, the other for the people of kufr (disbelief), all in preparation for the final malhamah (great war).”
But their “great war” can only happen if we hate. If we imagine, for example, just shutting down mosques in the cause of “security”. If we lash out in anger at all Muslims, allowing a handful of radical extremists to determine what we believe about the 1.6 billion followers of Islam worldwide. If we indiscriminately round up those whom we now fear as potential enemies. If we shut down national borders, and view with suspicion and terror any folks who are not like “us”.
If we hate.
Of course we are frightened right now. On edge. Wondering, worrying, if, when, Daesh might strike again, even here in the United States. Of course we must protect ourselves. We must work in partnership with allies like France to take out Daesh: its training camps, its terror cells, its oil fields which finance terrorism. We must act strongly and directly to support and defend liberal democracy and freedom here at home and everywhere.
I pray to God that we will not allow ourselves to be seduced and tricked by Daesh and play directly into their apocalyptic and chilling fantasy about their war to end all wars. That is precisely what Daesh wants us to do. They want us to hate them. They dare us to hate them and add more fuel to the fire of an already red hot war on terrorism. They want us to ignore the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the globe who reject Daesh and all it stands for. As Faraz Sattar of San Ramon, California tweeted in the #notinmyname campaign last week, “As a Muslim, I condemn such acts of terrorism and killing of innocent people. No religion teaches violence and killing of people. These barbaric people are not Muslims and they will be defeated. Together we will succeed in eradicating terrorist and make it a safe place for all our children.”
As a person of faith, it frustrates and angers me that folks like Daesh and its followers use the false cloak of God and religion to justify their evil actions. I’ve no doubt that God in heaven weeps at their heinous cruelty. But I’ve also no doubt that God finally and fully rejects hatred in all its forms. As the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King once wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
So may we all pray for Paris. May we all pray for Beirut. May we all pray for the broken places in our world torn asunder by extremism and violence. And may we all pray for the courage and the commitment to reject hate, now and always.