Op-Ed: When We Let Fear Rule Us, We Score A Point For The Other Side

I’m tired of hearing people say “Ship ’em all back” and “I’d shoot them all” in reference to Muslims. People who buy into rhetoric like Donald Trump’s ridiculous proposal to ban all Muslims from America are doing EXACTLY what Daesh wants. Daesh — whom some call ISIS or ISIL — wants to frame their crusade as a clash of civilizations. They want a holy war between the Islam and the west. They want us to kill Muslims; it justifies their actions, in their minds. Every time you say, “All Muslims are terrorists,” you score a point for the other team. Stop playing according to their rules. Stop letting fear win.

But, since Daesh is not really Islamic — according to the vast majority of Muslims — they should not be set up as being representative of that religion. Doing so is like allowing people like Robert Dear and Timothy McVeigh or Westboro Baptist to be set up as representative of Christianity.

Daesh wants to be seen as the new Islamic caliphate. Accepting them as representing all of Islam does exactly that. Other Islamic groups, who deny Daesh’s legitimacy, are telling us that Daesh is usurping their faith. But we cannot hear them over the noise Daesh is making and our own panicked response. When even Al Queda says you’re a bunch of asshats, maybe there’s an issue.

Listening to fear has its place. Fear is what keeps us safe. But we can’t let fear rule us. We are not meant to live cowering in a corner, afraid of life, afraid of one another. Be brave. Tell the crazy voices that you will think for yourself, thank you very much. Tell them that you refuse to be afraid of something that, statistically, has less of a chance of killing you than a falling bookcase. Tell them that you are smarter than they are.

Nor are we meant to live in a state of constant conflict. Hating is easy. Hating someone takes no effort. What’s hard is loving. Or, at least, tolerance. It’s hard because it requires thought, reason, acceptance and self-awareness. Not hating makes us have to stop and understand the other person. That requires questioning one’s own thoughts, weighing one’s biases, reflecting on one’s preconceived notions. It is the act of a courageous individual.

For my Christian friends, it is the one command that their Lord gave them: love one another. Every religion has a similar directive, as my years of comparative religious study have shown me. The great men of faith, the teachers — Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Muhammad, Bahá’u’lláh, Buddha — all told us to love one another. We say we venerate these men, that we follow their teachings, yet we vilify and kill one another. Usually, because the “other” follows the “wrong” teacher. There is no “wrong” when it comes to personal faith and saying so is only a way to quell your own insecurity. All religions are “true.”

For sane people, people of peace and tolerance, it is difficult to see our fellow human beings acting like this. It is hard to watch as our brothers and sisters are killed for the sake of insanity. But our response should not be to ban or kill others based on their religion, race or nationality. Why is it so difficult to understand that the actions of a few are not representative of all? Individuals act on their own impulse. It is their choice to break the edict of every culture and religion in the world, which tells us not to kill one another.

This is a scary time. There are crazies coming at us from all sides. They are saying that they represent their chosen cause, whether that be some twisted view of Islam or a political movement or racial purity. Accepting the words of crazy people is, in itself, crazy. And it will make you crazy if you listen to it for too long. Stop letting them control you. Stop letting them win.

Featured Image via Pixabay

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