• Dr. Mark A. Gabriel

Between Manchester and Portland

Two recent incidents have demonstrated once more that an ideology of hate seems to be growing in our world today. This ideology of hate represents a great threat to humanity. Violent radicals from two opposite sides disturb the peace and public safety in the Western world.

Manchester Suicide Attack

On the one hand, we see the suicide attack in Manchester, where 22 mainly young people were killed. The Manchester attack was carried out by a young Muslim, the Libyan descendant Salman Abedi. Abedi was driven and inspired by the radical interpretation of Islam that made him believe that killing non-Muslims would make Allah happy, and would serve the Islamic cause of struggling against what he believed to be ‘enemies of Islam’. This understanding of radical Muslims is based on interpretations of some early Islamic scholars who came up with an extremely wide definition of who are the ‘enemies of Allah’ mentioned in the Qur’an (‘those who fight against Allah and his messenger and who strive for mischief through the land’). This dangerous interpretation of Islam, however, is not a true reflection of what Shariah teaches. Shariah, in fact, calls to protect human life. In Surah 5:32, for example, Shariah says that ‘if someone kills a human life, it is like killing all mankind’. The world needs to learn about these contradictions between Shariah and Islamic law, for this is necessary to counter the radical Islamic interpretations that represent an ideology of hate and threaten humanity. The radical Islamic interpretations are even harmful to Muslim society itself since they damage the image of Muslims in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Portland Attack

The second recent hate-crime is the incident in Portland, Oregon, where a white American man publicly insulted and threatened two Muslim women. When two men tried to defend the women, the attacker stabbed and killed the two men. The Portland attacker was inspired and driven by the ideology of hate against Islam and against all Muslims and believed to serve his country by acting as a good patriot. This case of the vicious Portland attacker will be viewed by radical Muslims in the Middle East as a confirmation of their claim that America is a great Satan and that Americans are the most wicked, evil society on earth. This view, of course, is wrong, because the Portland attacker is not a true representative of the American society.

The majority of Americans are genuine, brave people who stand for respect, fairness and tolerance and many are willing to defend freedom and human rights for all even at the expense of their own safety. This is what the two brave men in Portland did. They tried to stop the radical, racist assaults against the two Muslim women and they were able to successfully protect the women, while they paid with their own lives.

We should not generalize

Just as the Portland attacker is not a true representative of American society, also the Manchester attacker is not a true representative of Muslim society. This is why I always stress that it is important to distinguish between radical Islam as a teaching and Muslims as people. Even if we disagree with some of the Islamic teachings, we should not disrespect Muslims as people. Many Muslims are born into their religion and are thus not Muslim by choice or personal conviction but rather by chance. And many of them disagree with the radical Islamic interpretations and hold to the peaceful teachings contained in Shariah. It is a wrong perception to believe that all Muslims are dangerous or that all Americans are evil. The real problem is not with the Muslim or the Western society in general, but with the attitude of hate and the ambition to defend the own worldview or religion by using violence.

We should not generalize

A hero, to me, is anyone who maintains a peaceful and respectful attitude even towards people of a different religion or worldview, and who is willing to defend humanity, even if this might put their own life at risk. Nelson Mandela is one of the world famous heroes since he was driven by such a peaceful and reconciling attitude and thereby he was able to end apartheid in South Africa. The two heroes of Portland acted in that same peaceful, reconciling attitude. And we can find many more heroes in our world today – on both sides. I wish there would be even more of them..

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