Elsewhere on this site, I express my respect for the diversity of religious traditions oin the world, and how I feel that the biggest differences in the major religions are cultural rather than theological. In light of recent events, I have been so struck with the ignorance about Islam (not surprised at the ignorance, just brought to a state of anger and frustration at the speed and ease in which many can immeditely lay blame squarely at the feet of a religion whose theological leader as and clerics view this atrocity as a blasphemous, evil act. It is blasphemous because they claim the sanction of God's direction and approval for their acts of terror; their blatant disregard for thousands of lives in pursuit of what they consider to be just recompense for previous igdignities suffered.
I have no doubt that there is cause for anger, and for us to heed what our country's foreign prescence and actions may have contributed or instigated in the lives of many who also happen to be Muslim. But there are countless more Muslims, who, while they may identify with certain resentful feelings toward the West and America in particular, they feel even more resentment at the idea that their faith sanctions any such extreme and violent reactions.
I hate the prescence of circumstances in the world where the sense of injustice and the experience of oppression causes such psychotic breaks, where people latch on to such fanatical apocalyptic hope and allow themselves to be ultimately deceived. God knows, these guys are not the first ones to claim the leadership of God for their perceived mission. Such blasphemous work has been done throughout Judea-Christian history, including much of it as recorded in the Christian scriptures.
I feel the hesitancy expressed to me by a clergy friend of mine, who worries that any criticism he may want to level (at some of the reactions of the military over the past few days) might be associated with some form of tacit support of the terrorism. But I also know that we cannot fully condemn the evil done if we are to begin to find ourselves complicit in the act of sacraficing innocent civilians to our campaign against terrorism. And how seriously can the Afghan muslims and neighboring Muslim states take the words "This is not a war against the Afghan people or against Islam", if civilian casulaties continue to mount, and "accidents" continue to happen?
I recently heard a co-worker assert that these acts were not without "Koran" justification. He asked me if I had ever read the Koran. I have heard only select quotations (kind of like how Ben Laden seems to only know select passages). This co-worker asserted "It's in there". I retorted, the OLd Testament has the same kind of stuff. He retorted that Christians have the "New Covenant", and I retorted that Muslims have "over-riding" principles of love and compassion as well , like "If you kill one soul, you kill the whole of humanity, and if you save one soul, you save all of humanity". He couldn't grasp the principle. He was unwilling to grant to Islam the things we automatically are prepared to do for our native faith: to view certain "questionable inpirations" as "under a higher principle", that put forth by Jesus. I often describe it as "theological evolution"; that in our Christian scriptures we have a story of the people of God, which is the story of their "history with God", which includes a growth process from the beginnings with Abraham discovering God as a monotheistic God (in stark contrast to the "faiths" of the Middle East region of their day), to the life of Jesus and his teachings, to the meeting of East and West in the days of Greco-Roman culture and the "missions to the Gentile world".
I don't claim to have much of an understanding of Islam, but I can easily understand how such a theological analysis needs to be applied to the Islamic traditions. Just as there are Christian theologies that spawn extremist, apocalyptic movements, which "suffered" under an extremely "selective" set of principles derived from what is usually a very literalistic interpreation of those "selected" proof texts, there are also a wide variety of such movements within Islam. Add to that a larger occurrence of politically and economically oppressive circumstances, and the prescence of "American interests" and some probable exploitation of regions of people in the name of oil or other interests, and you have conditions ripe for extremist rage against Americans.
After many days of initial grief and fear, I have slowly begun to turn my attention to how and why such a thing has happened; how it ever came to this. To say we had a hand in causing the conditions under which this kind of extremism was allowed to flourish and even "harbored" is not to in any way diminish the horror or evil of what was done. It is rather a "wake up" call for us to get a clue about what "imperialism" means to those against whom its tentacles extend. I can't pretend to explain the whys, but neither am I dismissing of the "less than moral" consequences of some of the actions of the U.S. government.