Consider the tragedy in Aurora. James Holmes, as far as we know, acted alone and of his own accord. He was not instructed to kill by a higher power or by a religious leader. He seems to have been acting out a scene in a Batman movie with himself playing the Joker. We will likely never know the reason why, armed to the teeth, he opened fire in a theatre and killed a dozen innocent people and wounded 58 more. Besides, what reason could he give that would make us stop and say, “Oh, so that’s why he killed twelve innocent people. Now I get it.”
There has been a lot of blog chatter about the tragedy, much of it concerning gun control in the United States. And surely we should pause to worry about such ready access to semi-automatic weapons and the ease with which one can stockpile both weapons and ammo. It’s easier, in some states, to buy a gun than it is to vote. And while guns don’t kill people, they make killing a lot easier; and they make mass killings easier, too. Time to revisit the constitution and think hard about whether our founding fathers had in mind today’s private arsenals and weapons stashes when they proscribe our right to bear arms.
But I don’t want to fall into that quagmire (although I may be knee-deep in quag already). I want to look at it from a different perspective.
In the wake of the tragedy in Aurora, the poster above is wending its way around the worldwide web. Maybe you’ve seen it (by “you” I mean “middle-class, Christian or Christian-influenced American”). But if that is the you I’m talking about, you very likely haven’t. The poster is on Facebook pages and sites not likely frequented by you. So maybe you haven’t seen it.
Reactions have been predictable.
There is the dictionary response: Terrorism is, by definition, the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. But Holmes killed for no reason or at least no political reason. So, by definition, he is not a terrorist.
And the legal response: Without a political motive, it is not terrorism. He’s a criminal but not a terrorist.
But then there is this response—walking into a room full of innocent people in full body armor, wearing a gas mask, carrying semi-automatic weapons, and opening fire terrorizes people. Hard to argue with that one.
Suppose we concede the dictionary and legal responses—Holmes was a criminal but not a terrorist.
But this misses the point. The intent of the poster is not to assert that Holmes was a terrorist. The intent of the poster is to get us to see our prejudices: if Holmes had been a Muslim or Arab, we would have instantly assumed that his acts constituted terrorism. We would have, very simply, pre-judged.
Holmes’s religious beliefs, on the other hand, have been little more than an afterthought. Probably because none of us (middle-class, Christian or Christian-influenced American) believes that Christianity, properly understood, encourages or condones opening fire on innocent people. No human being has the right to make such god-like choices concerning human destiny.
So why do we believe that Islam teaches that human beings have such god-like powers over human destiny.
Islam is fiercely monotheistic–there is just one God. So no human being can arrogate to him or herself god-like properties. Humans are creatures, not creators (or destroyers). Thus, taking the life of an innocent person is blasphemy. Therefore, any person who takes the life of an innocent person is a blasphemer, not a devoted follower of the one true God.
One might think it wrong at this point to make such a political and social point in the face of the tragedy that is Aurora. But Aurora forces us to look at ourselves and our society—at our gun laws, at our stubborn assertions of freedoms and rights (and at what cost), and at our prejudices. It challenges us all to look into the mirror and to see that we are not God.