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Thursday, January 07, 2010

terror

A few miles south of where I live by the Rocky Mountains a number of paramilitary groups have their home. If you look up their websites, they always seem to be led by a Reverend somebody who has a high definition portrait taken in suit and tie (not camo) and they invariably have some sort of quasi-Christian creed they subscribe to. They want nothing to do with African-Americans, Hispanics, immigrants of any visible minority, and they don't like Jews. Armed to the teeth, they promote a holy white supremacy in the name of Jesus Christ (who, apparently, was not a Jew).

About a thousand miles east of me there is talk of sharia law. One imam on a television documentary states that Allah recognizes no such country as Canada. The only nation Allah recognizes is Islam. Another imam declares it is the "will of Allah" that sharia law come to Canada and that Canadian law is not valid for the Muslim, only sharia. Muslims should do whatever they can to make sharia law part of the Canadian fabric.

Terror has existed on our planet for a long time - terror, that is, which is politically motivated. The terror of the czars of Russia was politically motivated and so was the terror that Lenin and Stalin brought in after the czars. Terror existed under the kings of France but the Revolution that overthrew them had not been around long before it succumbed to its own Reign of Terror. When the American South lost the war in 1865 the region spawned a movement that subjugated African-Americans for a century and effectively produced an American Apartheid that was nothing less than terrorism. Terror came to Germany as government under the Nazi regime.

It is true that poverty can be a breeding ground for movements of terror. The French Revolution and the subsequent Reign of Terror rose out of poverty and misery. The Russian Revolution and its subsequent purges erupted from the grinding poverty of the peasants. The American South was dirt poor after the War Between the States. Nazism came to power out of a Germany impoverished from its defeat in the First World War and humiliated by the penalties its conquerors inflicted upon it. People point to poverty in Yemen and Afghanistan to explain the proliferation of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, both radical Islamist groups that use terror to promote their agendas.

Poverty explains why such movements can gain a large following for they provide people with meaning, purpose, identity, hope. It helps explain why terrorist movements gain ground in the first place because the movements tap into a frustration and an anger.

Yet I feel this only partly explains why the leadership of such movements come into being.

The leaders of terrorist cells may or may not come out of poverty and humiliation. But they know how to harness that poverty, humiliation and alienation to a cause, a greater cause that they believe in.

For many of the paramilitary groups south of me in states like Idaho and Montana (and north of me in regions of central Alberta and British Columbia), the cause is the supremacy of the white race. The groups tap into poverty, job loss, the need to belong and a twisted version of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

For the Islamist radicals, nothing less than the annihilation of Western culture and the domination of Islam will satisfy. They also tap into poverty, unemployment, the need to belong and a twisted version, Muslim moderates say, of the teachings of the Quran and Muhammed.

That white supremacist groups and Islamist supremacist groups will come to blows in the near future in Europe, the UK, Canada and the US is inevitable. That they will strike out at civilians and civilian targets, as well as military ones, is also inevitable. What is not inevitable is that any of these terrorist groups should prevail.

First, our law should be as fair and inclusive as possible and it should be the one law for all people groups. It should not be a religious law, not a law for Jews or Christians or Muslims or whites or blacks or Native Americans. It should not be a law that ties a nation to a creed that denies freedom of speech, religion, press or beliefs.

Second, it is imperative that a nation's sovereignty not only be respected but safeguarded. A nation cannot be subjugated to the totalitarianism of any belief that denies the nation's freedom, legitimacy or authority.

Third, the rights of all people groups within the nation must be respected and upheld and any movement that seeks to destroy the rights and freedoms and lives of these people groups must be resisted legally and effectively.

Fourth, it is incumbent upon the moderates who exist outside or on the fringes of supremacist movements to speak up. Christians should be pointing out the differences between the legitimate teachings of Christ and those of the movements that twist his words to racist ends. Similarly, Muslims should be pointing out the differences between the legitimate teachings of the Quran and Muhammed and those of the movements that twist the words of the Quran and Muhammed to racist and life-destroying ends.

As a Christian, I have a responsibility to challenge those who shoot abortion doctors and then say they are pro-life and have upheld a higher law. I have a responsibility to challenge paramilitary groups who say they follow Jesus but hate Jews and Muslims and African-Americans. I have a responsibility to challenge those who in the name of Christianity destroy life far beyond the mandate of any legitimate law enforcement group or military group to maintain order and resist lawlessness.

I expect the same from Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Taoists, Buddhists and other religious followers. They should not let their faith communities become wombs for hatred and bloodshed and intolerance. But I also expect the same from atheists and agnostics - their organizations should not become think tanks of exclusivity and racism and intolerance either. Neither should the ranks of political parties or NGOs or human rights groups. Human nature is easily capable of subverting the most idealistic agendas and turning those agendas into licenses to kill.

Terror will always be with us. But so must the will to resist its intolerance and totalitarianism and viciousness. It is not simply the job of a few enlightened human rights leaders or politicians. The better angels of our human nature must gain the ascendancy. All of us who oppose the tactics and agendas of supremacist groups must find our voice. Or, in these days and times, risk losing it forever.

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