Roots of violence, and our response

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America is horrified by series of extreme violent attacks against innocent civilians, including children.

On Nov. 14, a shooter killed five and wounded 10 in California.

On Nov. 12, a shooter in Florida killed at least two and injured others.

On Nov. 5, another shooter killed 26 in a rural Texas church and wounded 20 more.

There was no response from the Trump administration or Congress.

On Oct. 31, a 29-year-old radicalized Uzbekistan native killed eight and injured 12 in New York City, his actions hijacking Islam. Threats against Muslims and mosques nationwide followed, feeding the narrative of extremist groups.

President Donald Trump responded by stepping up our already extreme vetting program and calling for an immigration overhaul.

On Oct. 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on concertgoers on the Las Vegas Strip from his hotel room, killing 58 people and injuring 546. New York Times columnist Thomas Freedman wrote: “If only Stephen Paddock had been a Muslim.”

The conflicting response when violence is perpetrated by non-Muslim and Muslim became an unfortunate reoccurrence perpetuating religious hate, division and suspicion.

We, as a nation, are miserably failing to address the roots of violence, de-escalate disputes and practice peaceful conflict resolution.

“Evolutionary basis for violence functioned to further survival and adaptation. It provided safety and security for the group, protected the young, assured resources, defended territory, maintained social structure, and a dominance hierarch,” wrote Dr. David Daniels, a former clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences who co-founded the Enneagram Studies in the Narrative Tradition training school before his death last spring.

“Collective violence — war — turned maladaptive and anachronistic. It often exploded the peace it promised to bring and caused destruction, further dehumanization and despair. Those replacing violent oppressors usually become the oppressors.”

For centuries, religions have been violently used and abused for the sake of vengeance, power, control and oppression.

From 1096 to 1291, eight major, ruthless, religious wars — Crusades — took place, intended to secure control of sacred sites. They resulted in the widespread massacre of Muslims, Jews and other non-Christians, and propelled European Christians, making them major players in the fight for land in the Middle East.

World War I and colonialism devastated the world while carving regions into mandates, protectorates, colonies and spheres of influence.

The Holocaust and World War II scarred Europe and the world. The Nazis murdered 11 million — 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews. In Bosnia, Orthodox Christian Serb forces targeted Bosnian Muslims and Catholic Croatian civilians, killing 100,000 who were 80 percent Muslim.

On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 Muslim militants financed by al-Qaida hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks in the United States, killing 2,977.

Civil wars, ongoing military involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Niger with the spread of violent groups, collectively killed and displaced millions.

Since 2011, Myanmar has experienced an upsurge in extreme Buddhist nationalism, anti-Muslim hate speech and deadly communal violence. Nobel laureate and disgraced leader Aung San Suu Kyi switched from prisoner to de facto leader in 2016 and, by this past August, genocide and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya ethnic Muslims occurred. Rohingya’s villages were burned to the ground, and grotesque atrocities forced 400,000 to flee their country. The United States and the world watched it happen.

Homegrown violence, wars, threats of nuclear weapons and violent conflicts permeate our lives. We no longer can divide humanity as them and us. We must end this vicious cycle of hate, mayhem, destruction and wanton murder before it destroys us and our planet.

As the 13th-century Persian poet and Islamic scholar Rumi noted, “Every moment, a voice, out of this world, calls on our soul, to wake up and rise.”

• Shams M. Ghoneim is coordinator of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Iowa

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