A few days ago, President George W. Bush referred to those recently arrested in England as “Islamic fascist terrorists”.
That statement – and we have all heard dozens like it in recent months and years – raises in my mind the question, Is it possible to be a practicing, aspiring follower of the Teachings of Mohammed and of the Qur’an, and at the same time be a terrorist?
Similarly, Is it possible to be a practicing, aspiring follower of the Teachings of Jesus and of the Gospels, and at the same time be a terrorist?
Or, Is it possible to be a practicing, aspiring follower of the Teachings of Moses and of the Tanakh, and at the same time be a terrorist?
And so on.
In other words, is it okay for me simply to proclaim “I am a Muslim” or “I am a Christian” or whatever, and then go out and blow up an airplane full of passengers or burn down a clinic where abortions may be performed.
Where in their Teaching, do we hear Mohammed or Jesus or any other True Teacher, begin a Lesson with the word “Kill”?
Now, of course, terrorists or other bad guys are free to use labels to describe themselves which they hope will justify their motives and their actions.
But should others accede to their use of those labels? Should the President of the United States, for example, refer to terrorists as “Muslim terrorists” just because the terrorists so describe themselves? Isn’t there a danger that by doing so he (1) elevates them and their actions and (2) sullies all those who are truly seeking to follow the Teachings of Islam and (3) confuses everyone else about the True Nature of Islam?
And again, the very same reasoning applies to so-called “Christian terrorists” and any others who label – mislabel? – themselves in a similar way.
If the claimed religious affiliation has to be mentioned, then perhaps the answer is for government officials and the press and others, to start using expressions like “so-called Islamic terrorists” or “self-styled Islamic terrorists”.
In a word, surely it is not enough for me to say “I am a Muslim” to be a Muslim, or to say “I am a Christian” to be a Christian. Unless my actions, inner and outer, reflect the underlying teachings evoked by that statement, I am neither.
Here, I am reminded of the story about the thief who met the Buddha, and asked to follow him, but said he could not give up thievery because it was the only profession he knew. The Buddha told the fellow not to worry, to go on doing what he did, but as he did it to remember always to think of him. Some time later, the two met again, and the Buddha asked the fellow how things were going. The erstwhile thief said, “You ruined my life!” to which the Buddha asked, “How is that?” And the fellow replied, “Bringing you to mind as I robbed others turned all the fun of it to shame, so I have had to give up thievery and find an honest way of life.”
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