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Religion as a Scapegoat

The terrible deeds of such groups as Al Qaeda and ISIL have dragged the issue of religion onto the world stage.

To fashion a pseudo-claim of legitimacy, while exploiting religious impulses, these groups have identified themselves with Islam. People in the West who know little about this religion easily conclude that Islam is a religion of aggressive sectarian war, dramatically brutal killings and torture, ominous sounding laws and a hatred of freedom. The fact that over a billion peace-loving people are Muslim, and that these terrorist groups reflect more of a militia-style extremism than a religious way of life has yet to sink in.

In defense of those who are wary of Islam, groups like AL Qaeda and ISIL purposely do everything they can to create and sustain this fearful image. Preying on human weaknesses like fear is part of every terrorist strategy. It helps eliminate local resistance, attract misguided recruits, and cripple the efforts of their enemies. Simply put, they want Westerners to hate Islam. It helps justify every atrocity that they perform.

We must prevent ourselves from doing that. It is bad enough that the secluded prison at Guantanamo Bay has made a defeated bunch of prisoners appear to be super-assassins that warrant such precautions. Our leaders, no strangers to exploiting fear, strengthen this image by refusing to bring them to American soil for trial. In this respect, they have contributed to the myth of terrorist invincibility in the face of Western cowardice. They have catered to fear and ignorance, while ignoring the greatest weapon that we have: the power of truth and reason.

When it comes to religion, it is well known that unscrupulous people can find scriptural references to justify anything. The Torah and Christian Bible have suffered from this abuse in regards to slavery, butchery and Inquisitions. The Koran and Sunnah continue to be subjected to the same creative distortions-justifying murder on one hand, while condemning a religion of peace on the other.

How do we change this?

We start by recognizing an obvious fact. People express their religious beliefs from what is held in their hearts already. People of peace and love find references to the same in whatever scripture fate presents them. Those who are bitter, envious, angry or bigoted will find words that resonate for them as well. So too the disenfranchised, the militant, those who cherish solitude and those eager to liken themselves a prophets. There are even those who feel that God's forgiveness allows them to sin without a twinge of conscience.

Consider how the many admonishments of Jesus about greed and religious hypocrisy have done little to stop the greedy and the hypocrites from smugly proclaiming him as lord, while humble Christians carry the message by tirelessly serving others from their hearts. The vast majority of Christians are somewhere in between. Same Bible. Different results. Closed hearts and stubborn minds see only what they want.

ISIL and Al Qaeda represent angry militants who, by nature or nurture, sadistically enjoy hurting people. That they cloak their evil in religion should come as no surprise. Christianity has owned such people as well. To say so is not an attack on Christianity, as some would claim. It is an attack on hypocrisy, which Christianity has long condemned.

If you want to help cripple Al Qaeda and ISIL, then refuse to be their psychological pawns. Show respect rather than uninformed hatred for Islam. Allow Muslims the world over see the West as being true to its own ideals, even in the face of these terrorist groups and their manipulative propaganda. The only way their negative beliefs can overcome our ideals, is if we fail to live them.

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