The Universal Notebook: Peace for Paris and beyond

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A friend at church gave me a Peace for Paris pin last week. The simple image of the Eiffel Tower as a peace symbol expresses solidarity with the suffering in France in the wake of terrorist attacks and hope for peace in the world. I wear the little black and white pin on my jacket, but it doesn’t really help.

What will it take to end the war on terror? How can peace ever be achieved with people who have no compunction at all about slaughtering innocent people? Frankly, I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure the Paris attacks have many people thinking these same troubled thoughts.

The angry, immediate response to such senseless carnage is retaliation. France sent off planes to bomb ISIS camps in Raqqa, Syria, just days after the U.S. reported killing brutal butcher Jihadi John with a drone strike in the same city. The apparent organizer of the Paris terror has already been tracked down and killed.

It is tempting in our outrage to think we can destroy Islamic terrorists with superior military force, just blow them off the face of the Earth, but these are stateless extremists who can and do live anywhere and everywhere. And every Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS member killed becomes a martyr who inspires more misguided young people to take up this unholy war.

I am not opposed to going after terrorists with all the tactical ferocity we can muster. But other than punishing the perpetrators of the latest atrocities and exacting a measure of revenge, I’m not sure how much good it ultimately does. Responding to the cold-blooded killing of innocent civilians via beheadings, suicide bombings and mass shootings with the impersonal, long-distance killing of terrorists via drone-launched missile strikes just begets more violence. And I doubt Americans have the stomach for sending tens or hundreds of thousands of troops to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The endless cycle of attack and retaliation has been going on in the Middle East for so long now that no one knows who fired the first shot. We have a tendency to mark Sept. 11, 2001, as the beginning of the war on terror, but it might just as well have been Sept. 5, 1972, when eight Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and one German police officer at the Munich Olympics. Surely, the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute lies somewhere near the dark heart of the war on terror.

Violence that was once confined to the Middle East is spreading such that the threat of terrorist attack now informs everyday life globally. The sight of young men of Middle Eastern extraction and women in traditional Muslim dress makes people nervous, especially at airports. Peaceful Muslims are made to feel like criminals.

The anti-immigrant nativism being made manifest in the U.S. presidential race suggests that some Americans view all Muslims as potential terrorists. Even those of us who like to think we know better may sometimes wish Muslim communities in the U.S. were more outspoken in their condemnation of radical Islam.

But that presupposes that the terrorists really are Muslims, something truly devout Muslims deny, just as I would deny that Christian fundamentalists who perpetrate violence against abortion clinics are Christians. Responsible members of Muslim communities everywhere are on the front lines of the war on terror, helping authorities identify and track potential jihadists.

A coalition of eight leading American Muslim organizations immediately condemned the Paris attacks. Saba Ahmed, the founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, said, “Terrorists are not representative of Islam in any way whatsoever …they have hijacked our religion.”

If we are ever to end this war on terror, I suspect we are ultimately going to have to come to some understanding of the root causes of terrorism, of the forces at work on a young person such that he or she comes to the conclusion that slaughtering innocent people is not only justifiable, but ordained. In some way I cannot fathom, answering the call to jihad must give meaning to a life without it, a taste of power to the powerless.

There is no religious justification for violence, yet religious violence seems to be the norm in history and in the present day. The war on terror increasingly feels like a battle between good and evil. We view ISIS as bloodthirsty barbarians and they view us as American devils.

So what will it take to change these perceptions? What will it take to end the war on terror? Stepped up bombings? Boots on the ground? Diplomacy? Regime change? Maybe. But, at this point, I suspect it is going to take a miracle.

Pray for peace. Pray for a miracle.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

  • Kafir911

    Very reasonable article, but I’d like to share a few thoughts that I’ve probably mentioned before. I have no doubt about the “why” we’re on the verge of WWIII is because of Islamic doctrine. Mohammed is the ultimate authority on Islam in the Sira (his biography) and the Hadith (his customs & traditions). The “good” Muslims (fundamentalist s such as the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah) are emulating the prophet, since he is “a beautiful pattern of conduct and example of mankind to follow”, Qur’an 33:21 & 68:4. See the link below which compares Jesus/Christianity with Mohammed/Islam.

    The eight leading American Muslim organizations you mentioned which condemned the Paris attacks were likely Muslim Brotherhood fronts. And, yes it’s true that many Muslims are not violent but those who do not participate in jihad are considered apostates, Bukhari 53:355, Qur’an 9:123, Muslim 1:33, etc. It is also best not to confuse the early Meccan Mohammed with the latter Medinan Mohammed after the Hajj who became a warrior prophet a pedophile, a glutton, a thief and barbaric murderer.

    Now, that we’ve defined the enemy, we can eliminate the “why” and concentrate on the “how” of defeating them.

    • Ted Markow

      Now that I have a glimpse of who you are, allow me to show you who I am. Allow me, please, to use the words of Richard Rohr, a Franciscan father:

      “Almost all religion and cultures that I know of have believed
      in one way or another that sin and evil are to be punished, and
      retribution is to be demanded of the sinner in this world–and usually
      the next world too. Such retributive justice is a dualistic
      system of reward and punishment, good guys and bad guys, and makes
      perfect sense to the ego. I call it the normal economy of merit or
      “meritocracy.” This system is the best that prisons, courtrooms, wars,
      and even most of the church (which should know better) can do.

      “The revelation from Jesus’ healings…however, shows that sin and failure are, in fact, the setting and opportunity for the transformation and enlightenment of the offender. The aim is to return the person to a useful position in the community. Thus there can be healing on both sides. Such restorative justice
      is a mystery that makes sense to the soul and is entirely an “economy
      of grace.” Jesus and most of the prophets demonstrated restorative
      justice, but the term only entered our vocabulary in the last twenty
      years. All counting and keeping of ledgers ceases once you know the

      Follow whatever religion (or no religion) you are called to. However, if you see the world in such dire dualistic terms, in “us vs. them,” you are perpetuating the cycle of fear of the other, which inevitably leads to the ills Fr. Rohr wrote about.

      • Kafir911

        Dualism is the hallmark of Islamic doctrine, one set of rules for the treatment of Muslims and another for the treatment of infidels. As far as
        I know, there aren’t any Christians fighting for ISIS.

        Personally, I was raised a Catholic but am not particularly religious other than to mention it provides a good moral compass. Below is a comparison of Christianity vs.Islam. You decide for yourself which is better for mankind:

  • Giaour

    Not a bad article this time. Your paragraph that states, “The endless cycle of attack and retaliation has been going on in the Middle East for so long now that no one knows who fired the first shot. We have a tendency to mark Sept. 11, 2001, as the beginning of the war on terror, but it might just as well have been Sept. 5, 1972, when eight Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and one German police officer at the Munich Olympics. Surely, the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute lies somewhere near the dark heart of the war on terror.” seems to make sense. But it does not. The dark heart is Mohammad himself and his commands. Jihad is the violent quest to rule the world. They will not quit until they do. The only thing we can do is to drive them back periodically. The second error you make is to buy into the idea that the terrorists have hijacked Islam. They are the pure Islamists, the fundamental followers of Mohammad and his teachings, and the moderate Muslims are irrelevant, like most Germans under the Nazis. Last thing: Islam is not a religion. It is a totalitarian political, social, cultural, legal, family system with a “smidgeon of religion” to be used as a shield.

  • A. Bean, MD

    A few good points, but very off the mark on other things. The author’s comment on “fundamentalist Christians” shows a poor understanding of Christianity. Likewise, I can tell he also is remarkably ignorant about Islam.

    Ignorance is OK. Ignorance just means you don’t know something – yet. I want to help with that.

    Paris is NOT the beginning. This has been going on for a very long time. Since the 7th century, in fact.

    “Radical Muslim”? Really? No such thing.

    I am not a nominal or secular, Sunday-morning-only “Christian”. I am a devoted follower of Christ. That means that I strive to live my life, as much as is within my control, by following both the teachings and the example of the life lived by Jesus of Nazareth. Love is what Jesus was all about. A fundamentalist Christian follows the fundamentals taught by Christ. Those who bomb abortion clinics are not “fundamentalists”; they are criminals.

    There are plenty of people who call themselves Christian, but do not actually follow the teachings of Christ. Likewise, there are plenty of people who call themselves Muslim, but do not follow the teaching, and, more importantly, the example of Mohammed. Jesus taught that we are to love even our enemies “as much as it depends on us” [paraphrase].

    Mohammed taught his followers to tell the infidels (non-Muslims) to either: 1.) convert, 2.) pay the “jizya” (tax) and live a life under subjugation to Islam, or 3.) die (at their hand). Mohammed practiced what he preached. He and his followers/army slaughtered scores. Jesus never killed. Period. Hmmm, to whom shall I pledge my allegiance…?

    Those who are “moderate” Muslims are not really Muslim at all. About 10-15% of Muslims in America (notice I did not say “American Muslims” – Islam is directly contradictory to our Constitution) are true followers of Mohammed. In predominantly Muslim countries that percentage is about 25-30% or greater, according to their own polls. True followers = those who agree with violent jihadism. Contrary to the author, “Fundamentalist” Muslims are those who are following Mohammed (like ISIS and others noted by Kafir).

    By the way, even a paltry 10% of a billion Muslims on the planet is a really big number (you can do the math).

    Islam as taught by Mohammed is the only true Islam. Other versions are only watered-down made up versions. Now, don’t preach to me about the violence recorded in the Old Testament … I am comparing Jesus to Mohammed. And, yes, I have read the Qur’an, taking a scholarly approach, so I am not ignorant in this regard.

    What is the answer to the violence in the world from the followers of Mohammed? Only whole cloth reformation within Islam will work. The leaders of Muslim countries need to vocally denounce ALL violence in the name of Islam. The Imams need to do the same. The religious and governmental leaders need to “out” all of those who preach/promote/practice violence. We need to tell those same leaders that if they are silent, we shall interpret their silence as meaning that they agree with violent jihad. They are then, therefore, the enemies of the rest of the world.

    This is not about Islam vs. Christianity. This is about Islam vs. the rest of the world. Even Jesus knew when it was time to shake the dust off His feet and move on. I fear that war is at hand.

  • James Simpson

    It certainly will take a miracle for people like this to transcend their self-righteous conceit and face the practical reality of what is happening. Islam is an ideology as much as a religion. And it expresses itself the same way almost everywhere it gains a foothold. The “moderate” Muslims, to the extent that they exist, are irrelevant. Those with the lust for power will rule the day, and radical Islam fits that ambition perfectly. We should immediately cease allowing Muslims into this country. Once large enough they begin to demand their way. In France, large swaths of certain cities are closed to non-Muslims. In that scenario, terrorists have free reign to plot. Voila, Paris November 13.

    • Truth

      James, you’re laboring under false pretenses here. Sadly, you’ve been taken in by a lie.

      There are no “No-go” or “Muslim-only” zones in france, this was a complete fabrication made up by an unqualified expert who immediately retracted his statement. Continuing to post about them only perpetuates a lie.

      For a full history of the false news by fox, and it’s retraction, check:

      • James Simpson

        Ah, wrong. I don’t usually go in for just one report on these kinds of things. Being a reporter myself, I like to get things right, as you have not yet done. Snopes is at best an unreliable source. It’s founders are two leftists who always skew analyses their way. While reliable sometimes, in matters like this, they show their colors. Read the following: Why don’t you read up on the rape culture in Sweden and Norway attributed almost entirely to Muslim men, or the horrific gang rapes occurring in the UK, while the politicians and police turn their heads? At least examine the facts, even if you aren’t willing to acknowledge them.

        • Truth

          Well well, Mr. Reporter. You tell me I’m wrong but don’t make an argument directly as to why. Instead you provide one link to a questionable article and go on to engage in an Ad Hominem attack against Snopes and its founders (And later on me), then you move the goalposts of the argument by talking about the Muslim population in other countries and totally unrelated crimes, and even cast aspersions on Fox for it’s retraction but not for the original article. If this is what you think constitutes good reporting, maybe you shouldn’t be burning your bridges with Fox but applying for a job there, they seem to like journalists with inconsistent standards.

          Given the number of fallacies and poor reporting practices you display, why would I give you my name? You’ve already shown that you can’t be trusted with it.

          I’ll also point out a fact not often considered or brought to light by those ranting about “Muslim No-Go zones”. There ARE areas of France where the police won’t go and the streets aren’t always safe. There are areas like that in every culture and country. In first world countries they take the form of ghettos, and it’s where the poor, the immigrants, and the minorities end up. Those were areas that police wouldn’t go before any mass Muslim immigration or refugee situation, and it is subsequently where immigrants tend to end up. It was a police ‘no-go’ zone before they showed up.

          Think of American ghettos. It’s hard to blame the -creation- of ghettos the people living there. I’ve never read about any area that was a good and lawful area having gangs show up and take from the country by force so that they could have some space. That’s not how it happened. Gangs and ghetto culture arise from the fact that those areas weren’t being properly served. They weren’t getting adequate protections from the police or attention from public services, and people were packed in too densely. Gang culture does grow in that environment and can become a problem, quite certainly, but what’s happening with Muslim Gangs in this area isn’t some organized movement to seize land and take over the country, it’s just the same old ghettoization effect being reported on as urgent and scary because the word Muslim is involved.

          Should something be done to clean up those neighborhoods? Yes, ghettos don’t serve anyone well, and we should try to find better alternatives, regardless of who’s living within the space and what their beliefs are.

          • EABeem

            Mr. Simpson is not a reporter, he is a rightwing propagandist.

          • Truth

            I suspected as much from the quality of his writing, and the fact that he countered the ‘bias’ of by providing a link from a thinktank with a broadly known anti-muslim, pro-neocon bias. I do appreciate the clarification, thanks! I always believe in knowing your source. 🙂

    • justanotherfakename

      I’m very well versed in the Koran, having read it and other book on the time period after 9/11 to try to understand where the hate came from. I didn’t find hate in the Koran, hate is in the hearts of those who want to find it there. Hate is the result of fear manifest through violence. You would help yourself if you could try to write without insulting those you are communicating with. My favorite book on Muslim faith is ‘twenty Three Years,’ by Ali Dashti the Iranian author. He honestly wrote of the positives and negatives in the Muslim faith, and he lost his life for telling the story of Muhammad. But that story is not of hate, it is of understanding and love.

  • Kafir911

    For all politicians and media types who claim that Islam is a religion of peace or just can’t fathom why we’re on the verge of WWIII:

    • justanotherfakename

      This website is one sided, written by those driven by prejudice and hate. Religion does not kill, but nut cases kill in the name of religion.

      • Kafir911

        I normally refrain from calling people names which is a typical Leftist tactic. However, you are a stupid, ignorant, f’ing dope There are numerous sources that provide the truth. Do some damn research and get your head out of your apologist butt!

  • EABeem

    For those who might be interested, some of the views expressed below reflect the positions of Act for America. here’s a link to their website.
    Here’s a link to a website critical of Act for America.
    Make up your own minds.

  • justanotherfakename

    I’m not a religious person in any traditional sense, and honestly think that religion is irrelevant in the consideration of killing. Killers always find an excuse. I was a salesman for over thirty years, and from experience have come to the conclusion that about 10% of all people’s secular and nonsecular, are nuts. I don’t think they necessarily need to be locked up, but should not be carrying guns, or even sharp objects while walking and talking. I own guns, and want a very through background check on all gun purchases, including loophole gun shows, and don’t believe in legalized concealed weapons without a permit. I have been called every name in the book on line because of my opinion expressed on guns. I am sorry, but I have to hide my name because of identity theft, threats of retribution, and dangers to family and business from the gun nut crowd, who believe the answer to a bad guy with a gun is always a supposed good guy with a gun. A good guy having a bad day with a gun can become a killer too easy. Gun laws need to be tightened…attack me if so inclined.

  • justanotherfakename

    Good opinion piece Edgar, the truth is that killing begets more killing, biblical. I’m not religious, but neither am I anti religious. I read the Christian bible given to me by my parents fifty five years ago, and I bought and read a copy of the Koran several years ago. There is obviously a lot of very universal truth and goodness in both, and a lot that can be interpreted by those who want to find it, to encourage violence. I won’t pray for peace, but will try my best to work toward it.