Shock. The world is in shock. It is terribly criminal.
While the world is debating what to do with the scores of refugees in diaspora from the war-torn Middle East, these refugees’ fellows in the region have been committing the atrocities leading to the current crisis, sometimes in the name of Islam. As one French politician put it on CNN the day after the horrible and deadly Paris attacks, these crimes were “not committed in the name of Buddha.” What was implied was that it was committed in the name of the God of the Muslims and their faith.
It is not surprising that some politicians now leverage that shock and fear in their campaigns and demand that Muslims be registered and walk around with special ID cards. In the words of another politician, these measures are “to determine who the bad dogs are” so they can’t “run around the neighborhood.”
It is time for the world to learn its lesson simply by looking back; they say history is the best predictor of the future. In ensuring justice and equality for all, the free world has ignored these lessons and has instead put the safety of countries before compassion, understanding and any attempts at inclusion and integration. There is enough history there to allow us to finally make a call and learn the lesson.
Let me share a few examples from history to illustrate this point:
Centuries ago, combating and suppressing other beliefs was core to how the religious establishment thrived. Religious leaders made it very clear what is the right belief and any other belief was simply unacceptable.
Political leaders, who were seen as divinely appointed, authorized the identification, prosecution and execution of anyone that held alternative faiths within their own communities to ensure purity of faith. They allowed themselves to confiscate the property of those who were not of pure faith because they were heretics.
Then came the use of military violence against people of other beliefs. The idea of “holy war” against “infidels” was created. Their armies, empowered by a promise of complete redemption from sin and the reward of heaven in the afterlife, swept through the lands of their enemies with unprecedented fervour. They justified killing hundreds of thousands of people of any other faith they encountered, all in the name of their holy war. In one incident, they ransacked a city and murdered every single man, woman and child inside with blood reported to run in the streets like rivers, reaching the knees of the soldiers.
In the 1990s, militias following instructions from their leaders simply massacred in cold blood what is estimated to be between 500,000 and 1,000,000 of their neighbors in one of the worst ethnic cleansings in history. They killed at will anyone who did not belong to them, reducing them to “cockroaches,” just insects that deserved to die.
Some religious leaders did not stop at just advocating terrorism but embraced it in their agendas. In the early 20th century one religious and political figure who was also a teacher and writer proposed the enforcement of religious law. This meant that any person of a different faith living in their territory had one of three options: Remain as a “resident stranger,” leave and receive compensation for his property or be forcibly removed without compensation. He founded a group that was convicted of many terrorist acts, including an attack on a United Nations mission and kidnapping a diplomat but was then allowed to go back to his country, where he became a member of parliament.
And there is the example of the terrorist group that believed in a conspiracy by the Jews, Freemasons, Dutch, the British Royal Family and rival religions. Their leader saw himself as the only enlightened master and planned a series of attacks in the subway of one of the busiest cities in the world, killing tens and injuring hundreds.
They always believed in their superiority, believing it was bestowed upon them by birth. They believed they had a right to preserve that superiority. Violence, even outright murder, was justified. It was an almost divine calling to scare those who were beneath them and show them who those chosen to rule were. The others were nothing but slaves.
They actually believe they are divinely guided and that they will eventually win and rule the entire planet. To them killing is like a ritual and the highest ranks among them are reserved to those who are the most ruthless. They lure in the ignorant and psychologically unstable with an opportunity to let out their deepest and most violent fantasies in this life and a promise of castles, endless riches and hundreds of women in the next life.
I really do hope that this time we learned our lessons from history. All the examples above are real. The one thing that I did not mention is that these examples are NOT about a specific faith or religion and each refers to a different time or movement. Our human history is full of movements, criminal actions and groups who have justified their actions by distorting faith, ethnicity or belief. Their crimes are universal and more often than not are directed against their own people before others.
Here is what these examples refer to in order:
The Rwandan massacre,
Meir Kahane and the JDL,
The Tokyo subway sarin attack by Aum Shinrikyo,
The Klu Klux Klan, and
Christianity is one of the world’s greatest religions regardless of the Inquisition and the Crusades. Rwandans are a great people despite the actions of the politically motivated criminal few. A religious Jew is someone who brings holiness into everything they do, by doing it as an act that praises God and honors everything God has done, never one that destroys or hurts others. The Japanese are (in my view) among the most civilized and polite people on the planet. America is the leader of the free world and Islam is by name a religion of peace.
In all cases, these are exceptional times and they require exceptional measures. We have to do something to protect our world. Extreme measures are warranted and even necessary.
Here are a few actions we could consider:
For starters, control should be exercised on what is being preached. Short of banning them completely, any group leaders who do not follow the script and fit into the pre-approved definition of society should be prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law.
As a precautionary measure, all adherents to that faith need to be easily identifiable to the authorities. There are many ways for this to be implemented, including something as simple and non-threatening as a pin attached to their clothing or an armband that they can be required to wear in crowded public settings. This will make their identification and monitoring easy when needed. If this does not work, they could all be required to wear clothing of a specific color.
As an additional step they could be relocated to specific neighborhoods with walls and gates built to control flow in and out, at least until the danger has been nullified. Since the expectation is that the next criminal from amongst them will be a young male, every woman that gives birth to a baby boy should register him with the right authorities to monitor him closely. If the boy grows to become a security threat, that threat needs to be eliminated correctly.
If all else fails, the neighborhoods could be sealed off completely and they can only be allowed to enter other neighborhoods with special passes. They could have their own government since they would not be allowed to have representation in the regular political parties or parliament. However, a degree of control must be applied to their government to make sure only an approved party comes to power, and that full control is retained over their government finances.
These situations are not unique to this day and time. Some societies justified taking extreme measures against people of a certain faith, ethnicity or belief to further a political or economic agenda. In fact, each of the actions I mentioned above have been implemented by societies and leaders in the past. They are explained below in order:
The Romans’ reaction to the emergence of Jesus,
What the Jews were required to do in Nazi Germany,
The children of Israel in ancient Egypt before Moses, and
Israel’s current policies in the Palestinian territories.
The real lesson of history is that we should not keep falling into the same trap of allowing a few criminals to represent an entire faith or ethnicity and allowing politicians to react through collective punishment and persecution.
The first thing we need to do is advocate objectivity and enlightenment and not hate and ignorance in the media. The second is to react by addressing the core issues of poverty, ignorance and exclusion from society, rather than react in the exact opposite manner.
I hope that, for a change, we do not fall into the trap that these criminals have built for us, by creating even more reason for hate and driving more people into their arms. I pray that , this time, we will learn our lesson.
The views and statements expressed by the author are his own personally.