Libya highlights ongoing and dangerous problem

I don’t get it. I admit that I don’t get it, and what I don’t get is how an obscure video about Islam and the prophet Mohammed could fuel such violence against our embassy in Libya. We even heard concerns that there may be more attacks on our citizens abroad after “friday prayers.” I don’t get them, and they don’t get me. Or us.

One of the problems related to extremists of any brand is that there is a tendency to believe that “they are all like that.” Americans have gone through this and continue to deal with these perceptions, especially on the heels of another 9/11 remembrance. There are those who live in the Middle East who have lumped all Americans into the same religious and political basket as well. One assumption that has to be thrown out the window is that we all are coming at this situation rationally and with a common desire to live in peace with each, regardless of our beliefs. 

I came across this article which offered some help to understanding the mentality of persons who have been under a dictatorial government. If you have lived in this type of environment where the government controls you and everything that happens, then you might conclude that the same is true in other places. And when you come across a video that portrays the prophet Mohammed in an unfavorable light, then you conclude that the American government sanctioned such propaganda. Thus, it is justifiable from this vantage point to attack American targets because the government is behind it.

I’m not excusing the behavior, but I am trying to understand it more. And the harsh reality is that I may not ever understand it. I don’t understand how people could react so violently and act out in such hatred over a video. And when the Koran is burned halfway around the world, this too generates violent reactions.

Tolerance is not a popular word when dealing with extremists, and while I am sympathetic to the mindset as reflected in the CNN article, I do not want to excuse the behavior or blame the recipients of the attack and say it was our fault in the first place. There is no way to monitor or control the behavior and thinking of 300 million Americans. Unfortunately, the people who initiated this latest attack either did not know and/or did not care about that aspect of living in a free society.

Freedom is a precious gift, and living in this country means allowing for those differences of opinion even when differ signficantly from your own. I think the hope is that better communication between cultures and religious groups can assist in greater understanding. We do recognize that not everyone has the same cultural and religious milieu, and sad to say, but religion has been a catalyst for all kinds of hatred and violence through the centuries. Things have been done in the name of Christianity that we wouldn’t be pleased about either. But, we know that these actions have not reflective of the attitudes and beliefs of many other Christians.

Our government needs to do what it should to protect us and our freedoms, and bring those persons to justice who carried out these terrible acts. In the meantime, followers of Christ should live out their faith in such a way so as to raise questions about “the hope we have within us.” The best form of persuasion is not necessarily a great speech but a life well-lived. So, as the world continues to move closer to us, let us take advantage of opportunities for witness and conversation, and do our best to avoid stereotyping all persons from different religions by the actions of extremists.

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