Praying for terrorists is like praying for an alcohol-addicted head of a dysfunctional household. Terrorists are under demonic affliction and deception, while Muslim civilization shelters them like a codependent family. Publicly, a family suffering with an alcoholic head of household insists it has no systemic problems. Most outsiders politely look the other way. Unless the family admits its dysfunction and gets help for its codependence, the abuse cycle continues indefinitely. The whole community suffers when it enables a family in denial. Steps required to heal a household and community from the ravages of alcoholism are similar to steps that can reduce violence done in the name of Islam. As healing for a dysfunctional family often begins with prayer for its most abusive member, terminating terrorism as a tool for "defending" Islam may begin with praying for terrorists.
When under the influence of alcohol, the abuser of his wife and children thinks he is doing right things to manage his household. Likewise, when under the influence of certain doctrines, suicide bombers think they are taking proper steps to defend Islam.
An alcoholic’s drunken tirades terrorize a family into appeasement and cooperation. An alcoholic’s drunken driving threatens a whole community. Similarly, inflammatory rhetoric from a terrorist or a sympathizing cleric intimidates peaceful Muslims into passivity and compliance. Actions resulting from this rhetoric threaten the world.
Although alcoholics squander money on liquor and can’t keep steady jobs, they deny that there are any problems and avoid responsibility for their behavior and consequences. In the same way, although terrorists can’t create prosperity while they squander resources on tools for terror, they deny their own responsibility for violent and uncivilized circumstances in their immediate surroundings.
Often, when outsiders try to help an alcoholic, the whole family joins the addict in denying that there is any problem. Similarly, when non-Muslims highlight the phenomenon of Muslim terrorism, Muslims around the world deny that terrorism can be Muslim, and censor any linkage between violence and Islam.
Some in a community with alcoholics blame the alcohol itself for creating dependencies, and favor prohibition. Others blame alcoholics themselves for lacking discipline and self-control with a refreshment that is renowned for comfort and relaxation. In a similar way, some non-Muslims blame Islam itself for violence done in its name. They say that peace and Islam cannot coexist. Others, however, say the perpetrators of violence have hijacked what is in essence a religion of peace.
Alcohol addiction is rarely just an individual problem. It usually exists as one element in an enabling dysfunctional family system, although few in the community may see it that way. Similarly, individual and mob violence in the name of Islam is actually one element in a wider dysfunctional social system, though few policy makers or observers see it.
This dysfunctional system common to both alcoholism and violence in the name of Islam features three components: 1) the alcoholic, who is parallel to the perpetrators of violence, 2) the family, that is parallel to the global Muslim community, and 3) the community, that is parallel to the global non-Muslim community.
1. The Alcoholic and the Perpetrators of Violence
For alcoholics, feelings of inferiority, shame, and frustration drive them to “self-medicate” with alcohol. Family and social problems caused by alcohol dependency increase negative feelings, heighten the desire for alcohol, lead to blaming others, and culminate in full-scale commitment to denial. Similarly, shame, inferiority, and frustration cause terrorists to “act out” to achieve notoriety and control. Terrorists like Osama bin Laden, and mobs like those protesting Danish cartoons of Mohammed, confess with their own mouths that they feel insulted and attacked, and that they resort to violence to defend Islam from encroachment and humiliation. However, this antisocial behavior only adds to their isolation. Isolation then facilitates misinterpreting causes and effects. The resulting misunderstanding enables them to avoid responsibility for perceived disrespect and humiliation. Blaming others makes it easier to continue the violence in an ongoing struggle for importance and control.
2. The Family and the Global Muslim Community
In their search for purpose resulting from their own inferiority, shame, and frustration, family members of alcoholics simultaneously excuse, enable, and provoke the alcoholic. Embarrassed by violent mobs and destructive terrorists, and haunted by a sense of inferiority to dominant non-Muslim cultures, the peace-loving majority of the world’s Muslims similarly excuse, enable, and provoke the very ones perpetrating violence in the name of Islam.
Family members of alcoholics typically excuse the alcoholic by blaming the addiction on their own inadequacies and on environmental injustices (i.e. “if I were a better wife or the boss were more fair, then my husband wouldn’t have to drink”). Similarly, the global Muslim community often excuses violence done in the name of Islam both by blaming elements within (i.e. ignorance and poverty) and by blaming elements without (i.e. oppression from America and Israel).
Family members typically enable the alcoholic by rescuing their loved one from social and economic consequences resulting from addiction. By accepting excuses and protecting from consequences, the family joins the alcoholic in denial. Similarly, excuses for violence usually given by the global Muslim community enable mobs and terrorists to avoid responsibility and rescue them from humiliation for antisocial violence. With social consequences alleviated, the peace-loving majority can deny any problems and any connections to the mobs and terrorists.
Family members come to resent having to constantly rescue the alcoholic from unintended consequences. This resentment typically results in hostile expressions of bitterness and criticism that further provoke self-medication and alcohol dependency. Similarly, an internal feud develops within the family of Islam between the ones resorting to violence and the ones distancing themselves from the perpetrators. Each group accuses the other of being “bad Muslims.” When they criticize the violent ones, members of the peaceful majority become targets for violence. They suffer grievous injuries and live in fear. Reluctant to hold the violence endorsing parties accountable, they embrace concessions for pacification and appeasement. Successful intimidation whets mob and terrorist appetites for more influence and provokes more violence.
3. The Community and the non-Muslim World
Due to alcoholism, people in the community, like the father’s coworkers and the children’s sports teams also suffer. The children may miss important games and practices if coaches don’t pick them up themselves. Employers lose productivity if they don’t work their other employees harder to cover for inefficiency and hangovers. But coaches and employers usually make these sacrifices in order to protect the wife and children from the consequences of the choices of their alcoholic husband and father. Similarly, due to violence in the name of Islam, the global non-Muslim community suffers directly and indirectly from the feud among Muslims. Global travel and interdependent economies expose every community on earth to the risks and consequences of terrorism and mob violence in the name of Islam. One highly vocal conservative minority blames Islam itself. They call Islam inherently evil and call Mohammed a pedophile. In doing so, they fan flames of reciprocal hostility. The vast majority of non-Muslims, however, boldly call Islam peaceful in the face of the violence done in its name. They embrace the excuses offered by the peace-loving majority, without demanding an accounting for mob and terrorist violent behaviors. They sacrifice their own flesh and blood in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to protect and shelter the equivalent of the “innocent” wife and children from the equivalent of the “guilty” non-representative family member.
All of these are victims of their own unseen contributions to perpetuating a dysfunctional system. Social workers note that alcoholics will not change as long as others protect them by absorbing the consequences of their alcoholism. Like alcoholics, the terrorists and violent mobs will not change as long as they are accommodated, excused, and sheltered from blame by a majority of other Muslims and by non-Muslims.
Members of an alcoholic’s family and community easily slip into reactive roles that minimize consequences for the alcoholic and others. The alcoholic actually expects these reactions and protection. Similarly in response to violence in the name of Islam, members of the global Muslim and non-Muslim communities take on reactive roles that contain the damage wreaked by mobs and terrorists. In these roles, they behave predictably according to the expectations of the mobs and terrorists.
Subconsciously, alcoholics know the truth they so strongly deny. Their failure becomes unbearable to the point they cannot tolerate any advice or criticism. Alcoholics soothe their pain and create crisis after crisis to which all around gloriously react, thus reinforcing their self-absorbtion and vindicating their perceived status as victims. Similarly, Muslims sense an inferiority that they strongly deny. Their social inadequacies become unbearable to the point that they spurn advice and censor all criticism. Mob violence and terrorism vicariously vent their frustration and create crisis after crisis to which the rest of the world must respond. These glorious reactions soothe anxiety over the weakness of their community while vindicating their perception of themselves as victims who are free of personal responsibility.
Ending violence in the name of Islam is therefore like ending alcoholism in a dysfunctional family. Blaming alcohol as the source of alcoholism or blaming alcoholics for their lack of self-control ends alcoholism no better than blaming Islam for violence or blaming mobs and terrorists for hijacking Islam stops violence in the name of Islam.
Freedom from alcoholism requires change in at least two of the three parts of the dysfunctional system. Change in two of the three parts can effect change in the other, but if one part tries changing alone, it will be returned to dysfunctional equilibrium by overpowering resistance from the other two. By themselves, without supporting changes in either their family or community, alcoholics can rarely change. By itself without cooperation from the family, the community cannot alter the alcoholic, and by itself without help from the community the family cannot get the alcoholic to change. However, working together, the family and the community can create enough pain and discomfort for alcoholics that they will cave to pressure and begin to change also.
Similarly, terminating widespread violence in the name of Islam requires cooperation between at least two of three components of the dysfunctional global system. Assuming that the perpetrators of terrorism and mob violence are perfectly happy with the chaos they are causing so that they do not want to change, curtailing terrorism and mob violence perpetrated in the name of Islam will take cooperation between both non-Muslims and peace-loving Muslims. And it will take change in at least three ways. These are the same three changes that are necessary in the family and communal environment of an alcoholic for freedom from alcohol dependency. These changes involve 1) admission, 2) roles, and 3) accountability.
First, the two system components must admit that they are a part of the problem in the dysfunctional system that is contributing to either the alcoholism or violence. Second, they must change the roles that they are playing within the system that is enabling the violence or alcoholism. Third, they must embrace responsibility and hold each other accountable to following through on their changes.
In the context of alcoholism, the family and community admit that they have each been enabling the alcoholism by excusing it and by protecting the alcoholic and each other from natural consequences. In the context of mobs and terrorism, both the peace-loving Muslims and the non-Muslim world community must admit the perpetrators are dysfunctional, and they must admit their respective contributions to excusing and enabling the violence.
In the context of alcoholism, the community and family must tolerate no excuse for addiction, and they must stop rescuing the alcoholic and each other from consequences that result from tolerating or excusing addiction. In the context of mobs and terrorism, both peace-loving Muslims and non-Muslim communities must not entertain any excuse for violence done in the name of Islam. Participants in mobs that bring violence to national capitals must face consequences. Groups that train and equip suicide bombers must be universally condemned, and anyone sympathizing with them should be condemned as well.
With respect to alcoholism, family and friends set goals together, evaluate how they are doing, and then affirm or scold one another depending upon how they are doing. Concerning accountability with respect to ending violence in the name of Islam, anyone who continues the old enabling and excusing patterns needs both scolding and strong diplomatic and economic consequences.
Every twelve-step addiction-breaking program like what people follow in Alcoholics Anonymous features submission to a "higher power." Prayer is the connection to that "higher power." With respect to violence in the name of Islam, praying for divine intervention is the best place to begin.
Just as alcoholism destroys women and children, whole families and societies, so violence in the name of Islam has potential to destroy the world. Just as alcoholism thrives through a dysfunctional family system, so violence in the name of Islam thrives through a dysfunctional global system. Just as nothing is gained in treating alcoholism by demonizing alcohol or demonizing the alcoholic, so nothing is gained against violence in the name of Islam by either demonizing Islam or demonizing those who are perpetrating violence in its name. Just as treating alcoholism requires changes to components of the system, so reducing violence in the name of Islam requires similar changes to similar components. Just as liberty from alcoholism rarely comes without reference to a "higher power," bankrupting violence done in the name of Islam will not come without divine intervention that comes when God's people pray.
Violence in the name of Islam is one component in a three-component system. Changes in two components will provoke change in the third. Both Muslim and non-Muslim communities must cooperate and implement changes that will reduce the threat to world stability from violence done in the name of Islam, and we must pray for terrorists who are at the center of addiction to demonic deception.
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