Since Sept. 11, we've been searching Islam for answers. Unfortunately, Islam doesn't have the answers any more than Christianity does for the Northern Ireland violence. Two billion Muslims and Christians don't go about killing innocent people, so obviously their religion doesn't instruct them to.
People engage in violence over a grievance. That, not faith, is the common thread that runs through all violence. Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh and Osama bin Laden are identical in that manner, but not in their faith. Bin Laden may portray his cause as religious, but it is purely political.
Wherever "Muslims" are engaged in armed struggle, they have grievances not unlike those of other people struggling for their rights. But while a cause may be justified -- for what people haven't struggled for rights? -- some of the means are condemnable. All too often, the IRA, Basque ETA, Tamil Tigers, as well as nation states, have targeted innocent civilians while achieving their national aspirations or denying others theirs. That is unjustifiable.
As for the reason why there's more Muslim-initiated violence in the world than from other sources, it's simply that there are more Muslim peoples undergoing growing pains and struggles for their rights and freedom.
Yet it seems like only yesterday Europe's growing pains cost the world hundreds of millions of human lives. Christians fought and killed fellow Christians, almost exterminated European Jews, and colonized or destroyed many peoples and cultures around the world. The stages of European growing pains lasted over centuries of upheaval, death and destruction. But was this all due to the teachings of the Bible? Certainly not.
Hence, we do not call it "Christian" violence; we see it for what it was and is, the West's growing pains. And it continues to this day with many of its victims being innocent Muslims, thus triggering violence against innocents of the enemy -- two wrongs that do not make a right. But religious teachings are not responsible for either side's violence.
The reason we search Islam for answers is fear of the unknown -- unknown to us, that is. When "Muslim" extremists kill people in Muslim nations, Muslims do not wonder if Islam produced such people, any more than Christians wonder if Christianity produced the terrorists in Northern Ireland. When anti-abortion terrorists quote the Bible to justify their crimes, Christians still do not blame their faith.
Evidently, when the terrorists' religion is the same as ours, we see the problem as residing in the terrorists, not in the faith they share with us. But when they are of a different faith, we see the problem in their faith. This is simply wrong reasoning.
Another question is that of suicide bombings and the promise of paradise. Where the rallying call is concerned, if it isn't religion -- God and country, king and contry, or perhaps the promise of paradise -- then it's something else, but what? We can study that forever and it still won't explain why the United States and not (for example) Japan that was attacked on Sept. 11.
Moreover, to the man who kills his family then himself; or the employee who kills his co-workers then takes his own life, the promise of heaven or hell is irrelevant. Those who choose random violence care nothing about their God or religion, paradise or hell. Anger and hate fuel much stronger emotional drives than misinterpreted promises of paradise. The Koran unequivocally prohibits attacking noncombatants: those attackers are already in hell.
We need, therefore, to investigate long, festering grievances, not organized religions. Grievances are the focus of Northern Ireland's tenuous peace efforts, not the specifics of Catholicism and Protestantism.
The Sept. 11 tragedy offers us the urgent opportunity to learn more about each other, whatever our race or faith. That might help further the peace and harmony we already enjoy in Canada.