Saturday, January 10, 2015

Inclusion rather than exclusion for Muslim immigrants

Paris demonstrations because of the murder of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists.

With the tragic deaths of cartoonists and editors at Charlie Hebdo, Paris' satirical cartoon magazine, and the deaths of hostages at the Kosher market in Paris both by Islamic religious extremists, it is apparent that a change is required in how we treat and integrate Muslims into our societies.

With every event there is a cause and we must examine what causes these Muslims to connect with religious extremism and as a result cause murder and mayhem like what has happened in Paris this week.

Why do young Muslim men and women in France, the UK, the United States and other western nations turn to the twisted beliefs of imams of radical Islamic teachings and kill and maim in the name of Allah (God) and his prophet, Mohammed?

Why are these young people attracted to terror groups, Al Qaeda and ISIS, rather than to moderate Islamic groups here in western nations?

Why do these Muslim young people want to kill and destroy rather than to build in society? This situation has become just as much a cultural conflict as a religious one.

Part of the answer is young Muslim people are disenfranchised and are not part of the main stream society in western nations.  The Kouachi brothers who killed at Charlie Hebdo in the name of Islam, turned to religious extremism because in living in their poor Muslim enclave in a suburb of Paris they were not really full members of French society.  They were excluded rather than included in French society.

What is sad is that the Kouachi brothers are second generation Algerians, born and living in France all their lives. They are French nationals, yet they identify more with being Algerian rather than with being French.

France has a stagnant economy and high unemployment which hits the poor suburbs of Paris the most, and this is where the Muslim immigrants live in poverty.  They do not enjoy the lifestyle of the middle and upper classes of Parisians who live well in the city of Paris. They are on the outside looking in, and these young Muslims become resentful.

This is true of Muslim neighborhoods in other western nations as well as the U.S.  Those Muslims that live on the fringes of society are the ones easily targeted and tapped by terror groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS as the glory of fighting and dying for Allah becomes their way of obtaining a dignified and glorified identity, something that has been missing all their lives as they live on the fringes of great societies.

Therefore, western nations are part of the problem.  While there is no excuse for murder and terrorist plots ever, western nations must begin to look within and determine what could they be doing to give cause for these Muslims to turn radical.

While no one should ever be murdered for drawing cartoons as was the radical Muslims' goal of attempting to silence freedom of speech / press, we must look at the root of why Muslim young people become radicalized to believe this is the only way to achieve dignity for themselves and their religion.

It all begins with education - teaching tolerance and understanding - and including those that are different from us rather than excluding them.  We cannot allow young Muslim people to languish on the fringes of our societies.  We must find a way of including them in mainstream society so that there is no need for them to turn to radical terror groups for their identities.

So far, in our fight against radical Islam and terror groups, western nations are playing a game of tit-for-tat.  Each side in this war of terror seeks revenge for each terror action. Western nations kill in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as they try to bring democracy to these nations,  and then Al Qaeda and ISIS seek revenge for these killings by causing terror attacks in western nations and lopping off the heads of western hostages.  Then we (the western nations) take revenge on the beheadings by killing more radical Muslims and the cycle just continues.  Killing, retaliation, killing, retaliation, more killing and more retaliation. 

Prisons such as Abu Gharib and Guantanamo Bay, where it has been proved that torture was used against prisoners, and against some prisoners eventually found to be innocent, this has proved to be the reason and cause also for terror attacks to western nations.

At this rate, we are in this fight for the next one hundred years.  Tit-for-tat killings just prolongs the murder and mayhem on both sides.  Where is this getting us?  Each side fights to the death in this war on terror.  

Somehow cooler heads must prevail and we (Western nations) must find a way to integrate Muslims into our societies in positive ways.  

It is easy to say that if Muslims don't like western society then they can just go back to the Middle East, but that is not being realistic.  If we include them in our western society in positive and vibrant ways and respect their religious beliefs there will be less reason for Muslim young people to turn to terrorism.

In American inner cities, we educate the poor and provide programs to help them to rise out of the ghettos and enter our mainstream society.  It is time we did the same for the Muslim immigrants who come here also.

We provide alternatives for the poor in our inner cities so that they don't have to turn to gangs for their identities.  We must do the same for Muslims.

It is only through education and tolerance that we (Western nations) can affect the lives of Muslims with their Islamic beliefs and integrate them into our societies.

While I strongly stand in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo and the right of free speech / press, I also must look at what causes such terror acts to begin with.  If the Kouachi brothers had been part of the well employed and part of a thriving French society they would have had no reason to have been recruited by Al Qaeda in a search for their identities.