A question of age
“Islamic terrorists.”Two words linked so often that they’ve become welded into a single phrase that rolls easily off the tongue and into the mind. And the ease with which we speak that phrase makes it easy to move a step further, to this: “Terrorists, all terrorists, are Islamic.”It’s not true, but there’s more than a mere kernel of truth to it. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Bali, Israel, Russia, Madrid … New York – innocent blood is spilled, and the attackers wave the flag of Islam.Terrorism seems to have a religion.That, of course, is not true. And yet … and yet … the savagery of the terrorists – murdering people in car-bomb attacks, beheading people on videotape – has become the face of Islam in the modern world.And while hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Westerners demonstrated against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there has been nothing even remotely comparable in terms of Muslim protests against Muslim terrorists.The Islamic silence can only leave us wondering how deep and how wide the vein of terror runs through the Islamic world. Yes, we do hear protests from Muslims, but not protests against the terrorists. We hear Muslims protest against the Western perception that Islam is a religion of violence.We are told that the Quran is filled with words of peace and love and wisdom. That may be true, but arguing that the beautiful passages in the Quran prove that Islam is a religion of peace is the same as arguing that the loving words of Jesus prove that the Spanish Inquisition never happened.Christianity has often been militant, violent and cruel. And the princes of the Church – bishops, cardinals and even popes – had a hand in the bloodiest acts of Christianity.And, in the Old Testament, thousands of years ago, when the Israelites conquered the “Promised Land,” they too were militant and cruel, as they destroyed those who stood in their way. Perhaps the issue is simply one of age.Islam is young. Mohammed founded his religion 600 years after Jesus lived and died. And 600 years ago – when Christianity was as young as Islam is today – was the time of the Spanish Inquisition, a time of violence and terror.It would seem as if violent acts are the behavior of a young religion – an adolescent religion.Adolescents are often belligerent and fearful. They want respect, but don’t know how to earn it. They want freedom, but don’t know how to handle it. They feel persecuted and strike out in response.Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the adolescent terrorists of Columbine High School, fantasized about terror on a larger scale. In a diary, they fantasized about hijacking a jetliner and crashing it into New York City.Does that sound familiar?The lesson, perhaps, is that the world has grown too dangerous for adolescent rage.For many thousands of years, young boys have seethed with rage and some have exploded into violence – but it is only in this modern world that Klebold and Harris could assemble an arsenal that would allow them to carry out mass murder. And while the violent adolescence of Christianity was certainly a vast horror, the zealots of that young religion lacked the tools to trigger a worldwide holocaust.But now, in our world of modern technology – the technology of mass murder made simple – the adolescent rage of the Islamic religion can slaughter thousands in a matter of minutes.Does this mean that Islam is evil?No. It simply means that Islam is young, too young, in a world that has become too dangerous for this kind of adolescent frenzy.Andy Stone’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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