When we think about murder our society has conditioned us to point a finger and blame another person. Of course, this is easier because it takes the pain away and we feel that we found an answer. You did this to me.
Until… it happens again and again and again. With no justice in sight. What we find is that blame solely masks the underlying issues that are too scary to address. Then, the real question becomes what are we afraid to address?
This is what I want to talk about with the most recent articles discussing a serial killer targeting muslims, who turned out to be muslim.
In just a few sentences: 4 Shi’a Muslims were murdered by a Sunni Muslim because he was mad at his daughter for marrying a Shi’a man. Although this case is still under investigation, the police are following this specific lead. Even though we’re not certain about the specifics of the case and whether this was really the motive behind the murders of the men. I do feel that this is an important topic to go over.
If you’re unfamiliar with the practices of Islam, it is similar to other religions, where there are different sectors that claim to be the right sector. Sunni’s think they’re right because it feels right and Shia’s think they’re right because it feels right. Mixed in with these feelings are rituals that are different which each group attempts to tell the other YOU’RE WRONG BOO GO HOME.
In reality, religious practice is intimate for each individual and it’s important to understand that your practice is not right for everyone. It is no hidden fact that within religious practices, any of them, we feel that we’ve found that answer, the only answer. The answer of connection... of purpose. We get so consumed believing that is the only way of doing life. Once challenged it ignites anger. Now as a future psychotherapist, I am aware that there are so many thoughts packaged into the feelings of anger, but what does this specific anger suggest? The anger to end the lives of others because they do not fit into someone's mold?
The inflexibility that people have towards accepting the right to a difference of opinion. Or in other words people don’t like to feel wrong. I myself do not identify with a sect of Islam, but identify as a Muslim. I believe that the word of a Supreme Being is not placed with solely one practice. People find their path in multiple ways to meet the same goal: their idea of peace. This is even said in the Quran:
"Let there be no compulsion in religion, for the truth stands out clearly from falsehood" (2:256)
With that in my mind the only question that comes to play is: who are we to play God? By thinking I know what’s best for you, we instead lack the acceptance of others. We justify the inability to tolerate differences which has lead us down the path to justify actions such as murder. This, in my opinion, goes against the very word of God. In the Quran it states:
"And one of his signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your languages and colors. Surely in this are signs for those of "sound" knowledge" (30:22)
This is where the true power of fear gives us a choice, do we choose to continue to live in a world where we are angry because we do not have others that share the same views?
Do we allow it to drive dangerous motives because it challenges your very existence?
Can’t we just be happy knowing that another person has found something that brings them closer to their creator? Why do we have to be right? Can we say that certain religious practices have actually become a checklist and that we as people have lost true connection?
I don't know, but what I do know is everyday I get to choose to look at every devastating piece of information as an opportunity to learn about the differences that make us appreciate creation. I get to choose to love the beauty within differences. I choose this because I want to love the diversity that leads us to our creator that makes us connected. I do this to challenge myself to push past fear and to do it because the world deserves people that can accept others for who they are and guide if asked. Again if asked.
But we all need to start somewhere to address this fear. So I wouldn't be me if I didn't leave you with some tools to guide this practice:
Reflect on your own prejudices: ask yourself where do they come from? Have I personally been effected by this? What did this do to me? Does this bring me peace or anger?
Educate yourself: find people that share opposite perspectives to challenge what you already know so that you can see the other side. Seeing the other sides can strengthen our views and it can question our views, but all of this is normal in growth. Also, don't listen to someone's story to formulate an argument that invalidates their experience. Their journey is not your journey.
Practice Mindfulness: When you start to become aware of your prejudices begin to actively re-direct your thoughts. "Oh that was prejudice because... I want to change this because..."
Re-enforce Humility: we don't know everything, if we did we would be the creator. We need to ask ourselves what can this practice teach me? So say it over and over again “I am open to learn the things that challenge my views”.
So all in all I hope that as time unravels the complexity of this case that we as a community can find healing in loving and forgiving ourselves and others. Beginning with sparking a conversation with someone who is different.