I’m not sure if we learned about the Quran in advanced Sunday School classes when I was 14. The classes were prerequisites to church membership.
Likewise, I don’t think there was much mention of the Quran when I took a college humanities elective in the Old Testament. So, if I had to recite prayers from the Muslim holy book in order to save my life, my life surely would have ended last week in Kenya’s Garissa University College along with the others.
Many students at Garissa, most of them Christians, also failed to know the prayers. They died. Slaughtered.
We will learn of the story of all 148 dead students eventually, such as the student whose mother was talking to him by phone when the killers took the phone and told her to say goodbye to her child. She heard the gun that took his life.
The horror of the event makes us question how to stop such madness and brutality.
Angry religious differences is what we assume is the cause, because we’re told the targets were in fact the Christian students, and the murderers were Muslim terrorists.
I assert that there’s more than religion that provokes such anger.
Hitler used religion to disguise his anger. His victims responded much like victims react today. They protested passively because they were ill-prepared to resist the military forces that pulled them from homes, schools, businesses and places of worship.
Four men armed with automatic weapons and strapped with bombs walked into a crowded campus building and chose their victims. What could the victims do? If lucky to be far enough away from the terrorists, they fled in desperation?
I thought about circumstances like the students faced when I hustled down the escalator to the D.C. subway after work the day of the massacre. I realized that all the commuters and I were just as vulnerable as those students.
Occasionally, armed police walk the platforms. It’s comforting, but when I see them, they strike me as ill-equipped to protect us from AK-47s and grenades. If you think it’s impossible to arm a small band of terrorists in places like subway platforms, you’re wrong.
So what do we do?
Obviously, we must be vigilant without becoming paranoid. We must assume that new attempts will be made in the United States and Europe, so we must be the eyes and ears of caution.
We have lots of work to do in America to protect ourselves from terrorism. I believe our intelligence services are doing a good job, but they’re run by people and people make mistakes.
My hope is twofold. I want there to be more aggressive responses to tragedies like the one in Kenya. We need the State Department and White House to offer more than predictable condolences and platitudes. If we want the people of Kenya to know our heartfelt sorrow, then offer a course of action that will stop the spread of ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
The second action is one I stated before. Louder voices from within the American Muslim community need to condemn terrorism committed in the name of Allah. Use the Quran to show the true self of Muhammad the Prophet. Don’t let the situation escalate to a religious war when it’s an economic and political fight.
During Easter and Passover, what better time to open an educational dialogue that helps Christians and Jews in the United States and elsewhere understand that the Muslim faith is not anchored in anger.