Ron Kraybill: "Lack of precision with words and concepts and their implications makes a difficult and emotional situation worse"

On Katajun Amirpur's commentary: IS is not just a Muslim problem

Thank you, Professor, for this essay.   I'm struck with your report that one-fifth of the jihadists who've left Germany for Syria and Iraq are recent converts and I'd appreciate knowing more.  Could you perhaps provide a source?  If they are young people who grew up secular in Muslim communities and recently committed to Muslim one would understand the phenomenon differently than if they grew up with no connection to religious or ethnic identities.

I appreciate your frustration that the the non-Muslim world is so poorly informed about rejection of terrorism by Muslim leaders.   I wonder if perchance there is someone, somewhere, who maintains a website with references and/or weblinks to all known statements?   I would love to be able to include a link to this website in writings and send it to those who believe Muslims do not speak out enough.  

I think that it is important in this time to recognize that lack of precision with words and concepts and their implications makes a difficult and emotional situation worse.  As a Christian pacifist, I believe that God forbids killing, and I can put together a theological and biblical argument for that.   Yet there are many Christians who argue that God does not forbid all killing, by all people, in all circumstances, but rather limits legitimate killing to certain circumstances, and they could put together a theological and biblical argument for that.   When one person says Islam does not forbid killing and another says it does, I've not personally experienced such statements as intending to mislead, but rather as reflecting the speakers' own reading/interpretation of texts and history, or, more commonly, their unexamined assumptions.

Although I recognize the burden you feel in being constantly called upon to prove your humanity by criticizing extremists who claim your tradition, I hope that you find the strength to continue doing this anyway.   One of the findings of researchers regarding the breakup of the former Yugoslavia was that religious leaders of the religious traditions involved (Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox) often spoke out for peace and described their tradition as peaceful-loving, yet were silent in condemning extremists within their own ranks.   Researchers found that this was understood by extremists as endorsement of their murderous activities and thus contributed to the escalation of violence.  

As a trainer/lecturer in conflict resolution, I have cited that research to Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim audiences to support what I see as essential in our world:  Every community has to take the responsibility to specifically, publicly, and passionately condemn the actions of its own extremists.  

I believe you agree with me, yet you express your uneasiness.  I do not know the German situation, but my sense elsewhere is that usually people do not have an objection to clear religious identity per se but rather to expressions thereof that create barriers.   Do Christian Germans tell you that when you speak as a Muslim to other Muslims challenging extremism that they feel more distant from you than if you had said nothing?  I would guess not. 

I wonder if perhaps the unease you feel comes not from what others feel towards you but rather from the accumulated exhaustion and aloneness of being a minority targeted by constant stereotypes.   As a long-time peacebuilder I have come to see maintaining the inner strength to carry on as one of the biggest challenges to our work.  I hope that you and people who care about you take seriously the importance of making extra effort in this difficult time to experience human solidarity, care, and compassion.   Those who really care should be asking how could they assist, encourage, and support you in an important and very difficult task. 

Carry on!

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