Shortly one after the other in England there were attacks on civilians, even on children by people, who called themselves Muslims. Horrible. But how to understand that these people make this link? How can they identify themselves with Islam, though the most Muslims see their religion as peaceful? I will try to give an answer as a sociologist of religion.
The Qur’an is seen as a book of Allah, that has to be accepted as it has been written. We can understand this rule as based on the Arab culture. If someone pretends he can explain the Qur’an, then is the mistrustful reaction: which advantage you are looking for?
But when I tell them that, when they read the Qur’an, they already interpret this Holy Book by their own experiences in life they agree. Experiences in life are the key to understand the subject of this article.
It is known that the Qur’an mainly exists from two parts. Partially it has been written in Medina and partially in Mecca. This means a big difference.
When prophet Mohammed lived in Medina in exile, he depended on the willingness of the people of Medina. He didn’t have the guarantee that his safety would remain. Which price he had to pay to be sure that he would have the support of the people in Medina? His position couldn’t make him peaceful. He had to be tough against potential threats, even merciless to please the people, who protect him and who have their own foes. This made the part of the Qur’an written in Medina so violent. It was for the prophet Mohammed a matter of surviving. He didn’t have the opportunity to show his spiritual side.
People nowadays, who show merciless behaviour against any potential foe, use this part of the Qur’an to justify their behaviour.
The other part of the Qur’an had been written in Mecca, where the prophet Mohammed lived among his own people after they reconciled them. In the Arab culture reconciliation or Sulha guarantees safety. No longer there was a threat against the prophet Mohammed. Now he could elaborate his spiritual aim to promote faith of peaceful living together or Ummah. The most Muslims longing for this Ummah. They reject the violence by people like Daa’esh or IS.
An anecdote is the following: a Franciscan friar lived four years in El Qubeibeh near Ramallah. Once he met the imam from El Qubeibeh. This Imam told him: if Daa’esh comes here, they will kill you. But first they will kill me. This anecdote shows how people from Daa’esh are seen. They are merciless to anyone, who not fits with them, Christian and Muslim. Actually, they kill more Muslims than Christians.
These people reduce the Holy Qur’an to the Medina part and deny what the prophet Mohammed had written in Mecca, which is much more spiritual. This part inspires the most Muslims.
The question raises: how to tackle this one-sided perception on Islam?
At one side our world has to be a guaranteed safe place for every Muslim as it has to be for every other human being. At the other side, Sulha or reconciliation has to be realized between Daa’esh and the world community based on the recognition by people of Daa’esh their wrongdoings according to Muslim rule in a way that it is clear for the rest of mankind that justice is realized. They have to take their responsibility for what they have done, recognizing that only Allah has the right to be the final Judge.
A very challenging task for the white Western world is to recognize how they by their attitude of superiority over other people for centuries was a fertile ground for feelings of unsafety to other people. This is a complicated problem. The East admires the West for its achievements but rejects at the same time its attitude.
May real peace prevail. May Mecca prevail over Medina.
Understanding what is going on in the world is not simple. Many things happen, there is a lot of information, there are many opinions, how to find your way? Is the information are all logical? I look from the area where I live, the Middle East. I do an attempt and mention factors which play a role in the present situation.
1. Religion and persecution
There is an image that Islam is threatening the world, this image is represented in the so called ISIS, Al Shabaab or Boko Haram. However, it simplified to divide our world in to be in favour of Islam or against it. This is not the point. I will explain this.
It is correct to say like Pope Francis and patriarch Kirill from the Russian-Orthodox Church did that Christians are threatened to be expelled from Middle East and Northern African factually by people who call themselves Muslims.[i]
The international organization ‘Open Doors’ signals also persecution of Christians in India by fanatic Hindus[ii] and Myanmar or Burma and fanatic Buddhists, who see Christians as a threat to Burmese-Buddhist heritage[iii]. Conclusion is that Christians are targeted by other religions. Moreover, in Malaysia it is forbidden for Christians to use the word Allah in the Bible for God, which is normal in Palestine, as the wor(l)d “Allah” is the literal translation of God in Arabic.[iv] The question is why?
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam signals persecution of Muslims in India and Myanmar too. Extremists on Buddhists and on Hindus side are forming a grand alliance against Muslims in South Asia[v]. For instance there is the persecution of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar. Also here is the question why?
In Malaysia Jews are persecuted. They are a very tiny minority there.[vi] Conclusion: also other religions are targeted by fanatics from different religions.
So we need to ask ourselves this question again: what is going on in our world?
I take you to another part of our world and step by step I will show you how our world looks like.
The American journalist Nick Turse researched the effect of American policy to control terrorism in Africa between 2002 and 2012. The result he discovered was the opposite of he’s assumption: Terrorism is growing.
He discovered that in some areas there are terror groups with an Islamic background, but there were also areas, where terror groups are not descended from have an Islamic background.[vii] Conclusion: terrorism is not specifically related to Islam.
3. Background terrorism
How to understand this? The Dutch terror expert Peter Knoope said in an interview in Dutch language that the West do-es-n’t realize how much hate there is against the West, he says that more than 5 billion people are against the West. ISIS has an attractive power in China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, in the central-Asian republic-s- unto Russia, the Middle East and North and West Africa. A flyer in the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, says that China ,which is not a Muslim country, is happy that the hundred years of the humiliation of the European barbaric dominance is finally finished. Anger has been stored in people outside the West by centuries lasting humiliation by the West.[viii] This leads to the question, whether terrorism is fed by humiliation by the West?
Humiliation is not the only background for terrorism. Once I spoke with two young Palestinians, 19 and 20 years old. Joking they asked me to provide them a wife. Then it figured out that they didn’t succeed their general secondary exams and they have no job and therefore they didn’t have money, by which they can’t marry. However, their dream was to study and have a decent life. But since they are not achieving that, they might be more vulnerable to become terrorists. Conclusion: terrorism has been rooted in a lack of perspective for a dignified future. People want to build up their future by themselves. They like to be proud on what they have managed.
4. Why young people choose ISIS?
The next question is: why do young Western people, beside young Muslims people living in the West, choose ISIS? Teenagers are very sensitive to justice. In their perception ISIS is a symbol of resistance against injustice committed by western colonialism. This colonialism appears now in the form of neo-colonialism telling the people how the future will be thanks to the West. But for more than five billion people it refers to what happened to them in the past (Knoope[ix]). Also they see that less people collect or steal more and more money only for themselves.(bonuses)
Young people are rebellious against this injustice. A son of a Greek Orthodox family and a daughter of a Catholic family joined ISIS in Syria. I think that they felt injustice is the background for these conversions.
According to the Dutch intelligence AIVD, people, who go to Syria, know about the atrocities committed by ISIS thanks to the information by internet. Nevertheless they go. But some people return after seeing these atrocities like the young woman Asha from a Catholic family. She became Muslim before she went to Syria. Other people are afraid to run away.
Here we see a gap between knowledge and feelings. Confrontation with reality can change their mind, but then it is difficult to escape this situation. Probably, as teenagers, their feelings for fighting against injustice are stronger than the information they receive online, so they join these fractions.
I compare this with smoking. People know that smoking is bad, but they do it anyway.
Sensitivity for injustice is a part of the development of their identity. They dream of an ideal world, for which they want to fight and to die.
5. Violence nowadays
What cause-s- this violence motivated by terrorism to erupt these days? I think to understand this, we have to start with the Iranian revolution. Iran had its own democratic development until 1953. The US didn’t accept the independency of Iran, kicked out the Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in favour of strengthening the monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the United Kingdom (under the name "Operation Boot") and the United States (under the name tpajax Project)[x]
Iran was set back to a colony and the new ruler, the Shah, pushed the people to live in a western-like lifestyles, neglecting their own historical background and culture. The Iranian revolution made people aware that they have their own distinctive and significant roots and a very unique identity, different from the ruling West. A distinction between being a Muslim and others started to grow. Muslims become more and more that they are Muslim.
6. Identity and building own future based on religion
Here come together: youth, who wants to build up their own identity as basis of their identity, and humiliated people, who lost their identity and their capacity to build up their own future.
ISIS pretends to be based on the Islam. It uses especially Sura 9 to justify its atrocities. Reading carefully Sura 9, it is directed against wealthy Arabs who are hypocrite.
It doesn’t speak about atrocities, only about punishment. Young people dislike hypocrisy very much. It makes them angry, which is partially an explanation for the committed atrocities. People and youth compare these Arabs with the West nowadays, who are in their opinion wealthy and hypocrite without care for poor people. But Islam forbid to kill people.[xi]
Interesting is verse 111 of this Sura, where Torah, Gospel and Qur’an are put in one line. This means anyhow respect for Jews and Christians, who follow their Book.[xii]
Back to young people: they are both sensitive to injustice and despise hypocrisy which is part of the natural development of their identities. This makes them vulnerable to misleading calls the promise to achieve justice and end hypocrisy. They are afraid to make mistakes. A man from a middle class family in Saudi Arabia told this in an interview to the Dutch TV. When he was sixteen(!), he run to Bosnia Herzegovina to support his fellow believers. After more than a year he went to Al Qaida in Afghanistan, became responsible for the education of young fighters, who joined Al Qaida and heard from them that they feel them sinful. But they are also vulnerable, because they try to figure out who they are: what is their identity. They try to protect themselves by an armor to prevent that their feelings are hurt. Their conviction functions as armor. In this way religion plays for them an enormous role looking for confirmation that they are good people. They are longing for this.
7. The role of history
In is interview about terrorism Knoope speaks from generational solidarity or solidarity between grandparents, parents and children and so on.[xiii] He refers to humiliation of many peoples in the past. In fact he uses a notion that was developed by the Hungarian psychiatrist Iván Böszörményi-Nagy-, as he- speaks of invisible loyalties. He used this notion to deal with problems inside families.
But this notion can also be used for the imbalance between the West and the rest of the world. Under the notion of loyalty there lies the balance of justice or lacks it. It can lead to constructive and destructive entitlement based on committed justice or committed injustice. The last is now going on in our world. We need to know this in order to understand, why movements like ISIS get so much support. People from outside the Western feel them entitled to take revenge, but most of them don’t want to use violence. By this they are in a dilemma. They don’t want to support killings, but they understand why it happens. It is their own history.
8. Religion as justification
Being more and more aware that they belong to a certain religion; -,- people elsewhere mark it as a part of their identity. So, they search for understanding and backing for their position in their religion. Growing fanatism is a result and is an explanation of what is written above about India and Myanmar as examples about the persecution from Christians and Muslims.
Religion is also used to recruit suicide-bombers. It is a promise to flee away from the misery here on earth and reach eternal happiness. The target group has a low level of education and a low self-esteem.
So find three main factors by which ISIS get support: feelings of revenge in the so-called Orient[xiv], longing for justice by young people and search for identity.
Once, when I was sitting in a train in the Netherlands, I got contact with a young man from Algeria. He told me that he was opposed to democracy, because – according to him – democracy means that norms and values are a matter of 50% plus 1. Pushing back religion into the private yard, it is a serious question, on which norms and values have been based. Is there a solution?
I try: our world has to be based on mutual respect for every human being, who has the right to develop his/her talents serving our society. This is a –right and a- plight.
Everyone has the right to have influence on his/her environment regarding housing and work. Norms and values have to ensure these rights. We have to implement them as our duty.
10. What can we do for our future?
First of all: do we understand what has been written about the present situation? So we have to avoid being paralyzed by bad news coming from everywhere..
So, we need to look what we can do to build up a dignified future for each of us. I think that it is important to join us and find more allies who will work for the same. The use of social media would be used as a helpful instrument for this.
Also we have to learn how to use our anger, maintaining our self-respect. We have to make an appeal to people in the Western world to follow us without blaming them. We have to be clear that peace is finally only possible, if everyone can have a dignified life, connected with each other and respecting richness of the many cultures there are. Here I refer to the papal encyclical from Pope John XXIII in 1963 that that no-one is by nature superior to anyone else[xv]. (We have to be clear that peace is finally only possible, if everyone can live a dignified life, connected with each other and respecting richness of the many cultures there are. – double -) We need to build up trust based on attachment as fundament for healthy life on our world without fear.[xvi] We have to be clear that history of colonialism has caused pain among many people from many cultures without emphasizing that the present Western people are personally responsible for this. If they recognize what happened in the past, then we can look together for restoring justice now. Then we can live in peace together. Also our rulers have to be honest in this regard, stepping down from the position of a puppet-on-a-string for the real rulers in the West like they have to step down from a position (of a position) of being superior because of technological advantage.
Louis Bohte ofm
[iv] See: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/23/malaysia-highest-court-allah-bible-ban
[v] See: http://www.milligazette.com/news/11151-unholy-alliance-of-extremist-buddhists-and-hindus-against-muslims
[vii] See http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175714/nick_turse_blowback_central
[viii] See http://www.knack.be/nieuws/wereld/terrorisme-expert-knoope-een-groot-deel-van-de-wereld-haat-ons/article-normal-624191.html
[ix] See footnote vi
[xi] Sura 5,32 We decreed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul, not in retaliation for a soul or corruption in the land, is like one who has killed the whole of mankind; and whoever saves a life is like one who saves the lives of all mankind.
[xii] Allah has bought from the believers their lives and their wealth in return for Paradise; they fight in the Way of Allah, kill and get killed. That is a true promise from him in the Torah, the Gospel and the Qur’an; and who fulfils his promise better than Allah? Rejoice then at the bargain you have made with Him, for that is the great triumph.
[xiii] See footnote vi
[xiv] See book of Edward Said Orientalism
[xv] See http://www.papalencyclicals.net/John23/j23pacem.htm, nr. 89
[xvi] See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAAmSqv2GV8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdCBip-8pC8#t=179.464498
Since Donald Trump has been chosen as the successor of Barack Obama we have to face a big change in our world. It is a challenge to deal with this change.
Let us start with an analysis of people, who are surrounding Trump, because he can’t make this shift by his own. He needs other people. What is their thinking? But also we have to be aware that the way of thinking is often determined by experience in life, especially when they were underaged. For the most we don’t know this, but psychologist Alice Miller made a lot of research about this issue. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Miller_(psychologist)
People, who have undergone a trauma, need help to overcome this trauma, otherwise the trauma will determine their life and by this lives of other people. They can become dangerous for other people, if they manage to get a position of power. They can work for getting power in order to take revenge for the suffering they have undergone as a minor.
So, what's going on in the US? I discovered for me new concepts such as paleo conservatism or alternative conservatism. This represents old conservatism. With Google you can read more about it. Trump is a representative of this movement.
There are two people that we need to keep in mind: Stephen Bannon from Breitbart News and the son-in-law of Trump, Jared Kushner, who, incidentally, cannot hold any official post, because he is a relative of the president. There's a law against this in the US as in many other countries. But who knows Trump circumvent this law.
It struck me that the new US administration religion will play an important role, both Jewish and Christian, especially Catholicism. Stephen Bannon has relationships into high circles of the Vatican. See https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/this-is-how-steve-bannon-sees-the-entire-world?utm_term=.nfqeo05vq#.hpVJQZy5m
In this link from 2014 you can read how Stephen Bannon thinks. For me the question is, which emotions are hidden below the surface, based on experiences in his life. Such a question is difficult to answer, but it is important to provide at stake. His actions are based on this. Ideology can disguise undergone traumas.
Another factor is the appeal that this movement of Christians do on the Bible. They refer to 2 Corinthians 3.17 in the Christian Bible: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." But what does the Spirit of the Lord mean? And what does liberty mean in this text? Such a text can be abused for an ideology that conceals something else, as I have just written.
I read again the book by Erich Fromm "Escape from Freedom" It's a fascinating book, written by a man from orthodox Jewish background, who has studied Christian theology. The book was published in 1941. He was born in Frankfurt Main in 1900. So he saw the rise of Hitler very closely from the beginning.
In this book he describes the development of European society from the Middle Ages to the present day. In the Middle Ages everyone was tied to a fixed place in society, but he was assured from a safe place.
In the Renaissance, people became free from these bands. But then they discovered that they were alone and powerless. This makes him scared and alone. He starts to seek support from a strong man. We saw this in the thirties of the last century and we do now see it again.
Finally, I am afraid of the new vice-president Mike Pence. From the first moment that I saw him: I wondered, who is this man? His face shows no emotions. I wonder therefore what trauma he underwent in his youth, which he masks. See about him the following link: https://theintercept.com/2016/11/15/mike-pence-will-be-the-most-powerful-christian-supremacist-in-us-history/
A downside of the current developments, is that in the weekend after the election of Trump a new organization in the US saw the light, in which Jews and Muslims work together. For this, a Jew had sacrificed his holy day of rest, the Sabbath. See http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/217928/i-spent-the-shabbat-after-trumps-election-with-muslim-leaders-from-across-america;
How can we deal with this new situation in our world? We can complain or be angry. This is in the beginning understandable. But then we have to make steps forward. First we can mourn in order to deal with bad feelings about the result of these elections. Remaining in this position will not make us happy.
It seems to me more helpful, if we look to our own power. What can we do to improve our life in spite of problems we are facing? We have to trust ourselves that we are good people, though we have also our shadow side. Blaming ourselves is not helpful neither to blame other people. We are responsible for what we do, omit and commit. This is factual our task as an adult for the sake of the young generation. It is also not helpful to be shy. By exercising our talents we develop ourselves and feel trust.
We have to look for allies and develop trustful ties step by step. Together we can develop ideas in favour of our local community including everyone as far it is possible. This is not easy, but in my view necessary. Especially that people feel to be included is important. Don’t make you dependent on big leaders.
I wish you good luck and all the best.
In my Christian tradition there is an interesting story about Jesus/Issa (John 8,2-11). Men brought a woman to him, who had been caught that she committed adultery. They said that according to the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 22,13-28) like in the Hadith, not in the Quran, (see: https://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/adultery-stoning.aspx) the woman had to be stoned. They tried to trap Jesus/Issa. But he understood their plan. He said in a polite way: who of you never committed adultery, throw the first stone. Then all the men left the scene, the eldest first. They all had committed adultery.
Then Jesus/Issa said: also I don’t condemn you, but don’t do it again.
In a nutshell you see the problem. First, for adultery you need two persons. Where was the male partner? Then Jesus/Issa prove that all the men, who came to him, had also committed adultery.
Here we see the real problem: some men like to blame women, but don’t look to themselves, they tried to hide their own bad behavior behind a woman. They are hypocrite. They deny how they in reality deal with women.
Sexuality is a tricky subject. Everyone knows about it, but who dares to talk about it in a decent way? It affects everyone and too many people are subjected to abuse. It is necessary to write about it in a decent way.
A decent way of dealing with each other sexually is generally understood that it occurs between an adult man and an adult woman with mutual consent and with tenderness after they married in a respectful way. This is seen as normal. But we are not all the same. There are differences.
We know that there are men who feel themselves attracted to men and women to women. It sounds as if these men want to have sex with any other man or boy like a heterosexual man wants to have sex with any other woman or girl.
Though I can understand this fear, it is not true. But it shows the big role that sex plays in society nowadays, also by pornography, even with children.
The reactions show a big sensitivity. The sensitivity is logic. It is about respect for everyone’s personal and physical integrity. No one want to be attacked and abused.
Here there is a struggle between longing for intimacy and maintaining personal integrity. Sexuality is all about feelings and emotions, which is not easy to control. This problem of control is not an excuse for any misbehaviour. To be an adult means among other things to have the power to control yourself in relation to other people. It is to take responsibility for what you do. You can’t deny feelings, but you can steer them as long it is not opposite to who you are.
There is another group of people, which is for some people difficult to understand: transsexuals. These are people, who are born superficially as a boy, but feel themselves a girl and who are born as a girl, but feel themselves as a boy. I got the chance to deal with these people, born as a boy, but feeling to be a girl. They have the feeling to be born in the wrong body. I respected them.
There is also a group of people with male and female genital characteristics, hermaphrodites. See Wikipedia.
These minorities groups can have a harsh time, when they become a teenager and discover to be different. They can feel isolated and excluded. The consequences can be difficult for them.
We have to respect these groups of people as they present themselves like we have to respect every human being. It is like pope Francis had written in his encyclical Laudato si nr. 81: every human being is a subject, not an object.
There is also a group of adults, who feel them sexually attract to minors and we call them paedophiles. About them there has been written nothing in our Bible in contrast to homosexuals. How to understand this?
I think it can be explained in the following way: in many cultures are teenagers, who can be sexually active, are seen as adults. Then it can be understood why Sodom and Gomorra provokes such emotional reactions. Also Paul wrote about this in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans. Factually, it is about paedophiles.
We live in a time that too many people are treated as an object for personal lust, who are for sale. Finally, these people remain lonesome and unhappy: perpetrator and victim. Both have a secret, they can’t talk about.
The perpetration can make abusing people violent, filled with shame and lacking trust. They fear that their secret will be discovered.
Who has been abused, can store anger against the perpetrator for a long time and then it explodes. On 24 September 2016 a 49 year old woman killed her 98 year old neighbour, because he abused her sexually, when she was 7 years old. The killing happened in Trooz near Liège, Belgium.
Above I wrote: A decent way of dealing with each other is generally understood that it occurs between an adult man and an adult woman with mutual consent. Mutual consent is a difficult point. What does it mean? Sometimes it is used as a justification for what happened. First of all: is the position of both partners equal? Secondly: do both sides oversee the impact of making love? Is their mind clear, not disturbed by alcohol and/or drugs? Is –especially a woman – not afraid of violence and agrees for this reason? Do teenagers agree, because it is the norm in the peer group?
Another point is sexual education. Do young teenagers get information about what happens with themselves on the way to adulthood with all aspects? It is all about preparation for adulthood, inclusive emotional aspects.
But there is another aspect. Do young teenagers live in a safe situation, where they feel comfort? Or is their situation inconvenient and insecure. In such circumstances they are vulnerable and are looking for support. Their position can be abused by people who see this. They give presents and compliments only to get a girl in their web. The girl don’t know how to alarm in order to be freed. She blames herself. But the other, who doesn’t respect her, is to blame.
How to understand such a development?
Furthermore about the very sensitive age of the early teenage time and even before, when children become aware of the development of their body and its sexual possibilities. To get some understanding of what can happen, I introduce the notion of attachment. Every human being shows attachment, when he or she is 70 days old. The way she or he looks at especially to the mother differs from before. Before the baby looks around like an exploration of the world around him or her.
Being aware of her or his sexuality opens the way for another form of attachment, the sexual one.
There are three forms of attachment, a child develops: secure, anxious and avoidant attachment. A happy child has secure attachment. A child with secure attachment has the opportunity to develop also a healthy sexuality.
The other two forms can develop a problematic sexuality. A boy runs the risk to want to prove to be a man, for which a girl or a woman pays the price. But also the boy can be vulnerable for being abused. For him it is even more difficult to talk about.
A girl can search for an alternative attachment instead of the experienced negative situation at home. She runs the risk to fall in the hands of men or boys, who wants to abuse her vulnerability. She doesn’t oversee the consequences.
To avoid these problems it is of immense importance that children feel at home secure in their own situation from the beginning of their life. See the notion above about attachment, when they are 70 days old.
For every teenager it is a challenge to integrate his or her sexuality in his or her
personality based on self-respect and dignity. It is a matter of trial and error.
A recent problem for young teenagers is the so-called cybersex. There are older man, who present themselves as a teenage boy in a chatroom. They ask young teenage girls to do all kind of sexual acts. Every time they ask more, threatening that the previous acts will put on internet. In the Netherlands there are already many men put in jail for this kind of crime.
A young teenager finds it important how her/his body looks like. It seems to me important that young people are encouraged to look at the strong sides of their character before to attend them – with love – on their shadow sides as everyone has. This what matters.
Finally: once an addicted street prostitute told me in the middle of the night that she was still dreaming to marry as a virgin. Imagine what had happened in her life against her will, against the woman she is.
Give your comment.
Nowadays we see an unpredictable fight by individual Palestinians stabbing random Jews. How to understand this? People will say that this is because of the occupation. This is a simple explanation, but remains the question, why – especially young – people want to take this risk to die.
I studied sociology of religion finishing it with an essay titles: attempt to commit suicide. The search for meaning in life.
I think that search for meaning in life is a key to understand the present violence. Every human being is searching for meaning in his or her life.
There are several factors, which play a role, when some makes an attempt to finish his or her life.
1. An attempt gives a message: I don’t want and I can’t go on with my life in this way.
2. There is a lack of outlook for a meaningful future.
3. Bad experiences in life combined with point 2.
Is it possible to overcome these problems?
In the perception of some people, you will become a martyr, if you are killed by the bullet of an Israeli soldier. Such a death means that you will be remembered by your family and by your community as a martyr. You see sense for your life after your death.
For some Israeli’s it was a shock that on 20 May a Palestinian truck driver rammed into two police women.
The present deputy minister of foreign affairs Tzipi Hotovely said in her inaugural speech last May (21?): “We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognise Israel’s right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere”. (cursive by me)
On 31 July settlers set a Palestinian house in fire near Nablus, killing the parents and their toddler. The perpetrators are still free.
At the end of September, when the Jewish feast of Sukkot began, the Israeli government allowed a group of Jewish fundamentalists called Atteret HaKohanim (who explicitly believe that it is time to tear down the Al Aqsa Mosque, rebuild the ancient Temple, and begin animal sacrifices once again) were allowed by the Israeli government to go to the Temple Mount.
Probably as a revenge for the killing of the couple and their toddler on 1 October a couple of settlers have been killed in their car by shooting, while their four children remained unharmed.
In my perception real peace means that every Israeli can travel freely through Palestine and every Palestinian can freely travel through Israel. Real peace opens the door for meaningful life for Israelis and Palestinians.
Louis Bohte ofm
The horrible crime against producers of the satiric weekly Charlie Hebdo and the hostage in a Jewish grocery have many consequences. It is not easy to mention these consequences, but questions can be raised. What is the background of the people, who committed this crime? What are the goals of them? Who will take profit from it? What stimulated them to commit these crimes?
These criminals see themselves as excluded from the French society, in which they live. This is a huge problem. Even if they see themselves as Muslims, Muslims will not recognize them as Muslims, because their crime is against Islam. But many people will identify the perpetrators with Islam with violent consequences. For the upcoming time it is hard to stop this violence. (The wars in the Koran is just about self-defence by Mohammed.) But we have to think further.
I start from an experience some years ago. I was walking from Beit Jala to Bethlehem, when two young men came to me, 19 and 20 years old. They asked me to provide them a wife. I thought it was a joke. But then it figured out that they failed for their Tawjihi exam, the final exam of secondary school. They didn’t have a job, which means no money and no chance to marry. They wanted to study. Otherwise they will become a terrorist. I offered them to give lessons English, but they didn’t react on it. Maybe they feel themselves to be a looser.
Here I heard some background from people, who can become a terrorist, but not necessary. They feel that they are not a part of the society and don’t see any future for them. It is all about to offer young people an outlook on a meaningful future.
We talk about globalization. An aspect of globalization is trade in hands of the haves, but the gap with the have not’s is growing. This can make poor people angry and violent, but not necessary.
I hear sometimes from people from outside the West that they still experience an attitude of superiority by people from the West. This is a part of a worldwide problem of division between haves and have not’s.
We live in a disintegrated world. In such a world it is difficult to see nuances and to oversee the fragments. Let us try.
What get attention is violence. Perpetrators of violence are often identified as belonging to a bigger group, who you have to fear like Jews in the past. Look out for propaganda by media!
In this case fear for Muslims can grow. This leads to more tensions between Muslims and other people, especially in Europe. Forgotten is that the influx of Muslims in Europe started in the sixties as labours for doing dirty jobs, while there was a lack of labours. I remember an article with the title: we looked for labours, but there came human people. This was in the seventies.
Further Muslims are nowadays seen in Europe as that they only came to have profit from the well-fare state. England has the problem that it had Had many colonies in the past, from where people came to England.
Another problem is the influx of (Muslim) refugees in Europe caused by wars elsewhere, but in which Western countries had been involved, directly like in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria (remember the friends of Syria) or by the interests of companies, eager to control areas by armed forces, where raw materials are found like in Africa.
How to overcome this tensions? Here is a task for people who have contacts with the other side. But this is just one step. We have also to think about what cartoons mean. In my opinion you can compare a cartoon with a funhouse mirror. It lets you laugh about yourself. A cartoon is enlargement of a characteristic or trait. You can laugh about this.
But there raises a problem if a cartoon expresses superiority from one above the other and humiliate the other. This is an abuse of the so-called freedom of speech. Freedom of speech supposes always respect for the other as how adults treat each other as human beings.
The main point is in my eyes our basic attitude. Here I will refer to a song from the Moody Blues with their magnificent Album Question of Balance, released in August 1970. It is a part of the last song ‘The Balance’:
And he thought of those he angered/For he was not a violent man
And he thought of those he hurt/For he was not a cruel man
And he thought of those he frightened/For he was not an evil man
And he understood.../He understood himself
Upon this he saw/That when he was of anger/Or knew hurt/Or felt fear
It was because he was not understanding/And he learned/ ~~Compassion~~
And with his eye of compassion/He saw his enemies like unto himself
And he learned/ ~~Love~~
The basic attitude here is showed is compassion. We have to develop this attitude towards people, with whom we have to deal. It makes us vulnerable. I realize this. Therefore it is necessary to develop support to each other to make this world more viable by our peaceful behavior.
A problem is lack of trust among each other. I can’t solve this problem from outside. It has to be developed by yourself, step by step. But I will give support as far it is possible. Let me know
PS We reject physical violence. But what about verbal violence?
Louis Bohte ofm
See link http://anonhq.com/charlie-hebdo-fired-anti-semitic-cartoonist-ridiculing-judaism-2009/
It is about double standard in the West.
Since the summer of 2014 ISIS is a known notion: for some people attractive, for others repulsive. But a challenging question is: What makes ISIS so attractive, especially for young people from the so-called ‘West’? Why do young people run away from their home countries, some become first Muslim? What is in their eyes in their home country wrong?
An observation is that our world is disintegrating. There is no longer a binding common ideal for young people. It is all about money: you need money for your study, for buying a house and for living. Young people see that such a life is absorbed by money, there is for them nothing attractive. Young people miss inspiration. They can make fun with parties and so on, but for some of them this is not enough, not attractive.
What can young people do in order to change our world in a more attractive one? On personal level they can go to a so-called third world country and work for poor people, especially for children to offer them an opportunity for education and better health care. Many young people follow this route, but without so much publicity..
But a big problem remains. Destructive power is in hands of people with a lot of money and they decide what will happen in our world. Also killing civilians happens daily and other atrocities as a consequence of destructive power.
Another problem is that religion seems no longer to play a role in public life. Religions in the West fail to inspire young people.
What happens is that some young people search for meaning in their life and look to an oppressed, but clear religion like Islam. They discover that Islam is an inspiring religion for them. Also they look how to resist violence from dominating actors like the West. Combined looks ISIS attractive as an ideal to live and fight for.
But there is more going on. Looking at history they discover how colonial past of the West created big problems, especially in the Middle East. The British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in a 2002 interview with The New Statesman, observed "A lot of the problems we are having to deal with now, I have to deal with now, are a consequence of our colonial past. ... The Balfour Declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis—again, an interesting history for us but not an entirely honourable one." Young people realize this. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sykes%E2%80%93Picot_Agreement
A picture of how Brittan and France divided the Middle East in 1916 is the following map:
ISIS wants to reshape the Middle East. This is its political component.
The religious component is to introduce the original Wahhabi Islam from the 18 century, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wahhabism. It includes beheading of people they think that they deserve it.
In Western eyes this is awful, which is right. But when we look at the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and so on, we see that many civilians have been killed. In the West this is called collateral damage, an euphemism for killing of civilians.
Also drones are used to kill certain people without any form of trial. Is this Western civilization?
Another serious problem are the suicide bombings. Especially young people are abused to spread fear among ordinary civilians, but in fact it functions like death squads as were in for instance in El Salvador in the eighties, malformed by the School of Americas. See http://www.whale.to/b/kirsch.html; later it was renamed in the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). See http://www.soaw.org/about-the-soawhinsec/what-is-the-soawhinsec
How to solve these gigantic problems?
A possible way is to organize young people, who are fed up by all kind of violence, injustice and forms of terror, terrifying ordinary people. We can use the social media, but in a coordinated way. Arab Generation of Peace is a possible centre.
To run away from the problems is not a solution. Fighting alone against nowadays monsters doesn’t make sense. We have to organize ourselves. Together we can find a solution.
Louis Bohte ofm
The world changed drastically after the attacks on the Twin Towers on the eleventh of September 2001. Soon came in the publicity that four planes were hijacked by 19 young men, the most from Saudi Arabia. Al Qaida should have been the organization behind the attacks, led by Osama bin Laden.
Many people in the West believed the story as told in the mainstream media, but step by step doubts rose. It is time to collect facts, which show that the story is different.
First: there collapsed also a third building at 5.21 pm. It was building 7 of WTC.
To see the collapse in seconds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuJ5-tr0C1M
Conclusion: for the collapse as it happened there have been used explosives for the rapid collapse.
For further technical information, see: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-mysterious-collapse-of-wtc-seven/15201
Second: within a few hours it was announced who committed this crime: Arabs. One name was told: Mohammed Atta, inclusive a picture of him. How is it possible to have this information so fast? Especially the name of one with picture was remarkable, while nothing could be recovered from the rubble after the second plane crashing in the second of the Twin Towers. Later on it figured out that was shown excited children, because they got sweets while a camera team was there in Gaza, this happened before the attacks.
Fourth: some years later a journalist asked Bush about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. His answer was that it was not important. In fact this was true, because he didn’t plan this horrible crime.
Fifth: after the attacks, the BBC figured out that seven of the nineteen hijackers were still alive.
Sixth: before the collapse of the Twin Towers, firemen asked for the help of two teams. This means that it was not real hot.
Seventh: an experienced pilot can’t manage to steer a plane into a specific building on the ground from more than 10 km high. It means that in fact the planes were taken over by remote control, a technique developed in the seventies because of the many hijacks, especially directed to Cuba.
Eigth: remains of the crashed plane were found over a distance of 13 km, which means that it exploded in the air.
Ninth: on the list of passengers of the four planes, there were no Arab names.
Tenth: the cameras of the four airports didn’t show the hijackers.
See for more details http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWOye_smWyY
This is in the German language, lasts 80 minutes. The speaker is the former German politician Von Bulow.
There is also other, indirect evidence. During the days before the attacks there was for instance speculation on the stock market, that two airliners should lose a part of its value: American Airlines and United Airlines. Both companies lost two planes by the attacks. You can read it in an article by a German investigation journalist Lars Schall. See: http://www.larsschall.com/2012/03/20/insider-trading-911-the-facts-laid-bare/
All in all, the question raises: who has profit from this terroristic disaster? It looks as if some people, well organized, wanted to have a new enemy instead of the collapsed Soviet Union for their own benefit.
The recent attempt to kill the 14 year old girl Malala Yusafzai by two members of the Taliban in Pakistan needs a further analysis of the background of this crime.
- What is the background of Malala?
- What is the background of the Taliban?
- What was the reason that the Taliban wants to kill her?
- How to stop this violence?
Malala Yusafzai is a Pashtun girl, who lives in the Swat valley, Pakistan. In 2009 the Taliban was ruling the Swat valley and forbid girls to get education and closed the schools using cruel violence.
To get an impression of the reality in the Swat valley in 2009 look at the following movie (9 minutes): http://youtu.be/Ekn7cbWPgfI.
This movie shows Malala as an 11 year old girl in the beginning of 2009, who tries to fight against the rule of the Taliban who wanted to stop the education of girls. It shows also how her father is supporting her.
Reading Wikipedia about her you can discover that her father is a poet and head of private schools. He is well-educated and he wants the same for his daughter.
Does the Taliban that their daughters become well-educated? Obviously they don’t like this idea.
So, what a kind of people are these men? Are they educated? It seems they aren’t. But they realize that by education you can get a more important position in society. They can be overruled by women as they were overruled by the West (England) in the past. They are afraid to be a loser and lack hope on a better future for themselves. This possibility hits their self-esteem. They have a kind of pride that overrules their self-respect. Self-respect has been based on awareness of own talents, respected by other people. Their kind of pride is a hidden fear not to be respected.
Two points play here a role:
1. Everyone has the right on education to develop his/her talents, serving the community. This right has to be implemented anyhow. Was this right implemented in the past?
2. Where competition plays an important role, there is only one winner in a specific field. The others are losers, who have to fight back. The stress on winners is a hidden form of violence and will block cooperation between people. This can explain why the Taliban acts so violently. They don’t want to be a loser, losing their self esteem.
A small story makes this clear. There was a test among children from an Indian tribe in America.
They must make a sum on a board. Who finished, must turn around. But every time everyone turned at the same time. The reason was that the tribe could only live and survive, if everyone cooperated. Everyone is needed. It meant that everyone waited, until the last finished the sum. The West fails this attitude. This makes understandable why the Taliban is so opposed to what they see as Western influence. They use the Islam as an alibi for the violence, but this is opposed to it. Read Sûra 60,7: It may be that Allah will establish friendship between you and those of them who were your enemies. This excludes anyhow violence towards anyone else.
Observing the behaviour of the Taliban I wonder if they ever made the Hajj to Mecca, where Muslims experience that everyone is equal for Allah. They cover their face as if they like to wear a Burka. They are afraid of being recognized
They use a machinegun as if they don’t trust on Allah. The Taliban show a behaviour, which doesn’t fit with Islam.
Islam has to inspire politicians to be righteous like Ibrahim and is not an alibi for a destructive policy.
How to find a way out? For the long run it seems to me important that local people become more aware of their own culture and its values in order to develop their self-respect and self-consciousness. Then they learn to appreciate education based on their own values, which are respectful. They can learn their history, culture and historic values and those of their neighbouring people like Pashtun, Pathans and Balochi. They can learn what Islam really means and the meaning for their culture. They can experience and learn to appreciate that for Allah men and women are equal.
For Allah Muslims and Christians are sisters and brothers
In the developing situation in the Arab world it seems that the position of Christians is more and more at a stake. I suppose that some people see Christians as a part of the West and they see the West as economical occupier as it did in the past by colonization of the Arab world. This mutual tension creates mistrust and kicked Christians out of the Arab world, though they are Arabs too.
The next step is that politicians in the West see Muslims as a threat for them. This affects the position of Muslims in the West. This is a negative spiral, which affects also the meaning of Islam as a peaceful religion.
What also is happening is that there are tensions between groups of Muslims. They see other groups in the Islam as an enemy, especially between Sunni and Shia Muslims. We see this is Iraq and Indonesia for instance. Violence grows and everyone becomes a looser.
How to overcome this negativity? Islam means Peace. How to maintain peace, if you feel suppressed or threatened by some people? How to maintain your dignity? It is a temptation to call for a jihad, the fight against an enemy. It looks like a justification for my anger in myself.
But then I ask you: when do you start the big Jihad: the fight against the enemy in yourself? For this, you have to know yourself.
I have some experience. I organized ten times a vigil in front of ITEC arms fair in Europe. From the beginning I realized that it is easy to become angry with the people who sell weapons. But for me Mahatma Gandhi is an example for how to deal with aggression. I fasted during the ITEC arms fair in order to deal with aggression in myself. I experienced that this was helpful and the visitors realized why we were standing in front of the arms fair without attacking them personally. Some of them got inconvenient feelings and showed them. It was just a drop in an ocean of a destructive fair. But it pushed people to think about what they were doing.
Very important in Islam is the Ramadan. It is a possibility to deal with the enemy in my. In a certain way it is already a challenge to stop smoking during daytime, not drinking water during the hot summer days: you have to deal with yourself, how to maintain peace with yourself. How to avoid bothering your relatives because of Ramadan?
The big Jihad is much more difficult than the small jihad, but also more important to remove bad things in myself.
Moreover, when you read from the Qur’an shura 60 verses 7, you see how strong Islam directs to peace: It may be that Allah will establish friendship between you and those of them who were your enemies. Allah is All-Powerful. And Allah is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful.
I became friend with one American, who had a consultancy and attended the ITEC arms fair. Colleagues asked him if he went over to the other side.
Following this path, you can maintain your dignity. Peace upon you. Then we can realize that we, Muslims and Christians, are sister and brothers.
The Arab uprising shows especially in Egypt that women are in a vulnerable position. Sometimes they are reduced into a sexual object to satisfy sexual feelings and lust. The terrible inquiry if a woman is still a virgin in Egyptian prisons shows this. A change is necessary. Also the horrible position of especially widows in Iraq is just the same or even worse.
There are men who can’t control themselves, when they are confronted with active women or women in need. The problem is not that women are active or in need, but that men don’t know how to deal with their own feelings. These men blame women for their own problem. It is an old problem in the culture. I refer to the Christian tradition, in which has been written that men brought a woman to Jesus, who was caught in adultery. According to the law of Rashul Moses, such persons have to be stoned. A strange situation: if I am well informed, you need for adultery at least two persons. Jesus caught the men and said: who of you never committed adultery, throw the first stone. All the men disappeared, the oldest first. Jesus didn’t condemn her too, but said simply: Also I don’t condemn you, but don’t do it again.
Such an act by men is blaming women for their own shortcomings.
Also the Qur’an is sensitive for this issue. Only by four witnesses for someone who committed adultery, these people can be condemned. It seems to me hard to find four witnesses for such a thing. But easily in the Arab culture people believe a bad rumor. That is more a problem.
Another point is that woman has to cover her hair with a veil. Why? Read the Qur’an about this and especially the context. By reading the context you will see that the Prophet already knew very well what the problem is. Covering the hair means an admonition to women: don’t make it more difficult for men and cover your hair (not the face!)
It is time that men become honest and start a big Jihad against their own shortcomings.
Look at the way prophet Mohammed dealt with women: he showed respect to them. He knew the vulnerable position of widows. Therefore he allowed men to marry more women, but no more than four. Also he knew that some men need more than one woman for his sexual need. This was another reason to allow men to marry more than one woman. But the maximum of four women show also that there is limit. More women is not in favor of women. And also the first wife has to agree with the marriage of the second wife and so on.
Another example of respect for women in the Islam is that men carry their aged mother, if they can’t go by feet around the Qaaba. You can see this on a movie on YouTube.
Conclusion: if we respect women according to the Muslim tradition, we have to stop the violence against women. Every woman could be your mother.
Louis Bohte ofm
A new year has begun. I wish everyone a hopeful 2012.
Since the uprising started in December 2010 in Tunisia, many things happened. The hope on a peaceful change in Arab countries shifted into growing violence against ordinary people. What can be done?
I think it is time to build up structures of trust. We have to realize that there are people who have to lose a lot of by the wished change you want. I look at the army leaders in Egypt, Assad in Syria, Saleh in Yemen. They use all kind of tricks to maintain their position.
Another problem is that leaders in the West are afraid of upcoming of Islam oriented groups. This makes the situation more complicated. As a Christian I am not afraid for Muslim groups. We all go back to Ibrahim, who was a righteous man. We all have to be righteous. Violence against people is the opposite of being righteous. We have to learn more about the roots of Islam. That is in my opinion the best way to deal with everyone.
Meanwhile we have to deal with ongoing violence. I am not a military strategist. So I can’t give advice. It seems to me realistic to expect more people killed. The only thing what can be done is at one side support the families who lost a relative, especially who lost a child like Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb in Syria.
At the other side: try to reach families who have a relative in the army to convince the soldiers to continue violence against civilians from whatever tribe. Therefore it is necessary to realize shelters for deserters. Absorbing deserters makes army empty.
Another job that has to be done is to study the Qur’an and Hadith to humanize society and to become strong towards the Western world in terms of spirituality or making life meaningful.
Louis Bohte ofm
How to understand the present situation of lack of income to pay the costs for food and the lack of employment? According to my opinion, the main problem is the lack of morality among people who have power. This regards not only the present rulers in Arab countries. They have to go, but it doesn’t solve the problem.
The lack of morality began to be visible on the 21st of August 1968. The Soviet Union killed communism with a human face, as the Prague spring was called, on that day. From that day on it was waiting until the wall should fall down.
When the wall felt in fall 1989, it was waiting until the free market system should fall. The lack of morality of the free market system became visible, when the bosses of banks and big companies started the get bonuses for millions of dollars, based on blackmail: if you don’t give me extra bonuses, I will go to another company, which is willing to pay me good bonuses. They show that water streams upwards and money upwards.
Then we got the financial crisis which became visible in September 2008. No longer, the banks trusted each other. Billions of dollars were used to restore the trust. But who pay these billions of dollars? The loss of jobs made visible that ordinary people pay the price.
But this is not all. The lack of morality went further.
The ‘holy’ free market made it for people, who are addicted to collect money as much as possible, started to speculate in rising food prices. This was possible by the almost zero percent interest of the yen. Borrow millions of yens for almost nothing of costs, convert the yens in another currency, where you get some interest and after one year you have a profit by the difference in interest.
The speculation in food pushes the food prices upwards and ordinary people pay the profit for the speculators.
The bosses with their bonuses expect profit from their millions of dollars. This is a way to get their profit. They see it as their natural right to have profit from their money.
In this way, communism and free market system show their moral bankrupt.
Which way we have to discover in order to realize a righteous world, a righteous society? This is the main question. The three monotheistic traditions have in common two righteous men: Ibrahim/Abraham and Melchizedek, a Jew and a non-Jew. They are an example for every human being.
So, the first question is: how to realize that just righteous people are in charge?
The second question is: how to get back the stolen money by speculation and the so-called bonuses?
The core issue is to restore moral authority. We are not perfect people, but we need a general board existing from righteous women and men headed by a person like Aung San Suu Kyi. Such a board needs to have the authority to change the world system in order to prevent further abuse of power, to get back the stolen money and to realize that ordinary people get the basics rights of employment, food and drinkable water, medical care and housing.
Louis Bohte, Bethlehem