You’ve been spiraling in your thoughts since Thursday, trying to make sense out of something senseless. You know your thoughts and views originate from your experience and your white, middle class, American culture, yet, arrogantly, you want them to be universal. You’re struggling with the attack in France and cannot fathom how anyone believes in a God who condones killing the creatures He’s made. You don’t believe, you can’t believe, these acts are based in religion. Religion seems an easy scapegoat and perhaps the issue is one of culture.
This reflection on culture has you stuck this week. Having taught many children of the Muslim faith, you know they are a peaceful, loving people. When you taught these children, both male and female participated in sports, academic bowls, band and orchestra; they were not held back in any way. Their parents were kind, loving, “everyday” people. Just writing that makes you feel uncomfortable. Of course they’re wonderful people. Just as you do not believe in what the KKK stands for, even though they profess to be a white, Christian organization, you believe Muslims feel the same way about these terrorist groups. They do not represent the ideology of the masses.
You wonder where the difference spawned between the loving, peaceful Muslims you know and these extremist groups. More importantly, you wonder about the mothers. Who raises these children to become terrorists and is that their purpose when raising them? You’ve thought of your influence on your children’s lives. You’ve raised them to look beyond color, race, gender, and sexual orientation and see a person for him/herself. You’ve raised them with compassion and tenderness, and for the most part, they have these qualities. Yet you know the outside world influences them.
You dismiss the notion these mothers want to raise their children to take the lives of other people while simultaneously taking their own. Nor as an American woman, can you accept they raise their children to revile women. You can’t grasp the concept that a mother would teach her children to view her in a disparaging light while being the one caring for their needs. How does that even work? “Here is your breakfast, and now you’re supposed to tell me I’m worth nothing?” I believe it’s the culture and not the women who send these messages.
From stories in the media like that of Malala Yousafzai and from different books you’ve read, you’ve come to understand women hold little value in a terrorist culture. Kristofer K. Robison* from Northern University Illinois theorizes countries that allow and provide for women to work outside the home, in significant numbers, have a much lower incidence of terrorist activity. If there is a lower incidence of terrorism in countries where women have rights, then is it safe to assume women in countries with a high rate of terrorism have few rights? Perhaps it’s merely association and not cause and effect, but cause and effect supports your thoughts.
It is more an issue of culture than it is of religion. This is what has you overwhelmed. How can you raise your children to love, respect, and honor people with whom they come in contact and also prepare them for hatred that exists in the world? You are reminded of the quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Yet, how easy it is to let fear enter that equation. I want my children to be prepared for what the world metes out, but I don’t want to raise them to fear. Perhaps children of extremists are raised with these beliefs, because they live in a culture where fear dominates?
Your knowledge is limited and you realize terrorism has come about for many reasons. You’re also quite aware that Islamic extremists are not the only terrorists. We’ve had terrorists on our own soil. In your mind, the ideology is much like a person caught committing a crime. Rather than take responsibility for their actions, they barter and exchange, pitting one faction against another to lessen the idea of their own culpability by making others’ actions appear worse. In the wake of that exchange, there is a vacuum that needs filling and a lack of trust for the systems in place. The moment is ripe for fear and oppression. Is this how terrorism is born? Can any mother protect her children from these forces?
When you boil it all down, we’re all just people and your heart aches for these mothers. Perhaps it is arrogant, but you want to hug them. You cannot fathom a mother being happy her child chose to kill himself and innocent people for any reason. You want to extend your hand and reach out to soothe this fear and grief. You want to expand on the idea that it’s not a sin for a woman to have a voice or be heard, and she can protect her children. Terrorism doesn’t have to exist.
Yes, my philosophy is probably both as ignorant as it is arrogant. Yet as a woman and mother in a society that lets me have a voice, I cannot imagine raising my children in a culture where I can’t have one.
Just pray for all of those involved, Elaina. Love your children and teach them to love. What other choice do you really have?