Fear of extremists incites ignorant fear of religion


The Appalachian Online

Lauren Burrows

In America today, the idea of any religion beside Islam pursuing violent action has subsided and often gone ignored, with most of the blame of extremism landing on the shoulders of innocent Muslims.

Many in the United States now, understandably, fear ISIS – a jihadist rebel group that has gruesomely executed many Christians, civilians and Westerners, all in the name of Allah – and extremist Muslim activity, but the problem lies in the ignorant fear of peaceful Muslims.

Latifah Alsenidy, a Muslim freshman English major at Appalachian State University, denounces the idea of a violent Islam by saying that the members of ISIS are not only “outside of the religion of Islam and what it stands for, but outside of humanity.”

“ISIS does not reflect Islamic beliefs,” Alsenidy said. “To cover your face by doing ugly things, you wear a mask. Islam used to be beautiful.”

However, ISIS is not the only example of religious extremism happening in the world today.

Beginning in 2013, a massive ethnic cleansing of Muslims occurred in the Central African Republic by Christian militias, known as the anti-balaka. Muslims all throughout the country were executed on a large scale, with the only survivors leaving their home country for fear of their lives.

Antonio Guterres, head of the United Nations refugee agency, observed “indiscriminate killings and massacres” and “shocking barbarity, brutality and inhumanity” from the Christian militia, according to CNN.

Half a million Central Africans were displaced between December 2013 and January 2014 and 2.5 million were in need, from burnings of villages and other systematic religious violence.

Much like Muslims, however, Christians do not want their religion to be identified as violent because of this extremist act by one hateful militant group. Nor do they want the followers of their religion to be seen as violent because of acts by hateful people covering their faces with their religion.

Recurring violence goes on between Hindu and Muslim religions in other countries, mostly due to the difference in polytheistic and monotheistic ideologies.

Thomas Ellis, professor of philosophy and religion at Appalachian, described the situation of religious violence as “intricate” and “important.”

“People are not bombing buildings over impeding interpretations of Hamlet,” Ellis said. “We must pay attention to how important religion is to people. Before we cast stones, we all live in glass houses.”

Before we blame Islam for all religious violence, we need to realize that it is not only Islam that is involved. We also need to realize that a religion’s true followers will typically live by the religion’s peaceful values.

We must, as humans, learn to look past extreme action, and toward the peaceful doctrine surrounding the majority of religions, and even more toward the peaceful followers of the religion living around us every day.

Burrows, a freshman journalism major from Mint Hill, is an opinion writer.