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By Henry Millstein, PhD, Content Manager & Programs Analyst.
This opinion appeared at the ING blog.
The Crusades. The Inquisition. The wars of religion. The persecution and oppression of Jews. The burning of “witches.” Even the Holocaust—for though the Nazis did not claim to be motivated by Christian faith, the genocide they perpetrated would have been unthinkable without the centuries of Christian anti-Semitism. These are the things that run through my mind when I hear of a terror attack committed in the name of Islam.
I’m a Christian, not a Muslim. It would be presumptuous for me to see that I know in any first-hand way what Muslims must feel when people claiming to be of their number commits an atrocity in the name of their faith. Still, bearing in mind our Christian history, I can imagine, however faintly, what it must feel like to have the faith commitment that lies at the very center of your being dragged in the mud by being used—or better, abused—to justify revolting crimes—and then to have millions of your fellow citizens believe that your religion really encourages such acts and to blame you for supposedly not condemning them, after the leaders of your faith community have roundly condemned and denounced them, only to be largely ignored.
It would be even more presumptuous for me to lecture Muslims on what they should do to respond to this challenge. Still, I can observe, from my vantage point as part of a Muslim-founded organization, what Muslims are doing. I see responses that are not simply reactive but constructive, based on the principle that evil cannot be countered simply by condemnation; it must be countered by good. In this case, that means by efforts to counter the twisted version of Islam, and the twisted views of Islam by non-Muslims that it engenders, by presenting what the overwhelming majority of Muslims actually believe, say, and do. That’s what I see many Muslims, individually and in organizations, doing, in mosques, in interfaith engagement, and in their daily lives. And that’s why, at a moment like this, I’m glad to be working for an organization like ING that has as its mission to present a balanced view of Muslims and Islam through interfaith engagement and to train young Muslims to speak accurately and convincingly about their faith and what it means to them.