Every time a Muslim refugee or Muslim citizen commit a violent crime in this country, it gets fed through the right wing media machine. Then hundreds of people, most of them professing Christians, leave hateful comments filled with revenge fantasies and violent rhetoric. Read the comments section of any major mediaÂ article that even mentions Islam and you’ll see what I mean.
I have three things to say about this phenomenon.
1) This is called confirmation bias. One tends to find what one looks for. One pays attention to those things that support one’s beliefs and tends to ignore those that do not. We all do it. It becomes a problem when a bunch of people do it all at once and allow this collective confirmation bias to drive them towards fear and violence.
If I thought elderly white people were inherently violent, I would tend to notice all the stories about elderly white aggressors and would tweet and post such stories. Everyone else with my same bias would do likewise until there is a torrent of articles about the violence of elderly white folks. It doesn’t matter whether or not statistical data confirms my suspicion, just like the data showing that Muslim refugees aren’t more violent than other groups of people doesn’t matter to bigoted folks.
I get that this comparison is simplistic. But not any more simplistic than attributing all of the violence happening in a region to your superficial understanding of their religion.
2) If you follow Jesus, you have absolutely no justification for revenge. You have no justification for desiring violence against your enemies. Not only does Jesus tell us to love our enemies and lay aside our weapons, we are explicitly told revenge is forbidden.
When you use your Christian faith or evoke Jesus to support violence against your enemies, Jesus (sitting in heaven, I assume) feels phantom pain in his palms, side, and feet.
3) If you are concerned about the rise of anti-Western sentiments in the Middle East, about the rise of violent groups in the Middle East, or about the way in which Islam has been interpreted by those groups with violent intent, then stop scapegoating your Muslim neighbors. Instead of giving into fear, do some proactive research. Learn about the history of colonialism and conflict in the Middle East. Research the way in which global powers (like the US, Russia, China and the EU) use nations and factions in the Middle East and elsewhere like pawns, supporting one group yesterday and then condemning them as terrorists today. Ask yourself “why would we do that?” Look at a map of US military bases around the world, and at a list of drone strikes committed by the US in the past decade and ask, “where does anti-American sentiment come from?”
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