January 1, 2003
In newspapers, on television, and over email, many are trying to downplay the religious motivations of the terrorists who struck last week. From the leadership of the Muslim world, with a few notable exceptions, have come expressions of condemnation. From the opinion pages of daily newspapers come assertions that the terrorists do not practice true Islam, that they have forced their own vicious logic on the pages of the Koran and the Hadith. From President Bush to the pastor of the church next door have come calls to protect Arabs and Muslims living in the United States from unjust reprisals.
But I have yet to see an in-depth, major media analysis of Islamic faith and belief and how these played—or didn't play—into the motives of the terrorists.
Part of the reason we have not yet seen these analyses is that our nation is generally reluctant to engage religious views in public discussion. We have all encountered that mantra about "the evil done in the name of religion." Our civic solution has been to strip religious conviction from our public discourse in order to shield ourselves from the threat of radical sectarian violence. After all, look at the Catholics and the Protestants beating each other up in Northern Ireland, at Protestants menacing little Catholic girls on their way to school. Our media jumps on such examples of religious intolerance, suggesting, à la Kevin Smith's Dogma, that having a good idea about God is acceptable, but actually believing it will only cause problems.
The same media is reluctant to report the vital role that religious conviction plays in underpinning our daily life. Many non-Christians are alarmed whenever I explain the ongoing Christian convictions behind our youth program in Pasadena. ...