Unite and conquerLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Unite and Conquer

I’ve been thinking a lot about the attack in Bangladesh lately. What really bothers me is how the terrorists separated the Muslims from the non-Muslims and then proceeded to torture and kill the non-Muslims. This is a common strategy of any extremist; divide the world. Whether it’s white or non-white, Christian or non-Christian, gay or straight or Muslim non-Muslim, it works to the extremists agenda to divide people. “Exposure to terrorist violence affect(s) … attitudes by inducing intolerance, eroding support of civil liberties, and promoting exclusionist attitudes towards minorities.” (politicalviolenceataglance.org)

We are seeing this in the politics in Great Britain and the US right now. Both countries have a loud, boisterous party that is calling to exclude minorities and seems to be trending towards more intolerance for those who are different from the majority.

In that sense ISIS is getting what they want. They are changing world politics. They are stimulating a large part of our populations to focus their anger, fear and frustration on the “other”.

coexist_imageThe answer to this is not separation, but inclusion. We are all in this together. It won’t help us to start fighting amongst ourselves, and by ourselves I mean all other humans that simply want to live peaceful, safe lives. I wonder if the Muslims in the café in Bangladesh had refused to recite the Koran or identify as Muslims if it would have helped? If the threat to the extremists would have been, you may be killing Muslims. Although religious extremists kill more Muslims than non-Muslims routinely, they want to be seen as “Muslim” extremists. They want to encourage the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims. Perhaps that might have stopped or at least cut down on the killings.

But I don’t blame Muslims for not wanting to take that risk. Their lives are at stake as well. I’m guessing the first Muslim to say to everyone, we won’t identify who is Muslim and who isn’t, probably would have been killed as an example.

The other strategy would be for all of us that aren’t Muslim, to learn what it takes to trick extremists into believing we are. I’m sure our fellow humans that are Muslim would be happy to teach us about Islam. I’m not saying you need to convert, but enough that if you were asked to recite the Koran to prove you are a Muslim, you could. This would have the added benefit of uniting all of us. It would be a good thing to understand more of what Islam means to some people.

I understand for some people the authenticity of their faith would make it difficult to tell a terrorist you are Muslim when you aren’t. But think of this as a strategy to stop terrorism. If they can’t divide us, they can’t have power over us. If they can’t divide us, we can decrease the fear we feel. And by coming to know our fellow humans more, we will want to contribute to them in a way that prevents terrorism.

“Now, with regard to the people who have done things we call “terrorism,” I’m confident they have been expressing their pain in many different ways for thirty years or more. Instead of our empathically receiving it when they expressed it in much gentler ways — they were trying to tell us how hurt they felt that some of their most sacred needs were not being respected by the way we were trying to meet our economic and military needs — they got progressively more agitated. Finally, they got so agitated that it took horrible form.” Marshall Rosenberg

Top photo is a YouTube screenshot


About the author

Heather Schlessman

Heather Schlessman, PhD is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who has spent her career either working with or teaching about families. She is also a mother who, like so many other parents, spent years muddling her way raising 3 wonderfully different children, one who happens to be experiencing a disability. Fortunately she has a life partner who muddled along with her. Spending most of her time trying to be perfect, as that would be the safest way to live, she became aware of a desire to be able to see people in a more compassionate way. Little did she know that the person she needed the most compassion for was herself. There is a saying that when you are ready to learn a teacher will appear, and so it was for Dr. Schlessman. She was introduced to the work of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of Nonviolent Communication, and her world completely changed. She learned a way to have an intimate connection with herself and others, a way to truly contribute. Her passion now is to help others find their way to a more compassionate life. You can find more of Dr. Schlessman’s empathic expressions along with her husband’s, Rev. Mark Schlessman on their website. Contact the author.
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