Friday, March 15, 2019

A Reflection on Terrorism and Evil: Mosques attacked by terrorist in New Zealand

"Evil is an anti-life force and if we start going out to kill it, exterminate it we then become contaminated by it because we become killers." - M. Scott Peck , The Open Mind, PBS 1983

Christchurch shootings: 49 are dead, 39 injured
Places of worship have been targeted by terrorists in recent years: a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; churches in Alexandria, Egypt and  Charleston, South Carolina, and today mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. People gunned down while engaged in prayer.

Terrorism is the "calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear)."

What took place in New Zealand was an act of terrorism carried out by Brenton Tarrant, a self described terrorist. He was inspired by the evil done by other mass murderers, and embraced an ideology that viewed the other as evil. This was also the case with those who targeted other places of worship mentioned earlier.

These were evil acts and worthy of both condemnation and deeper reflection.

Christian apologist C.S. Lewis in his 1952 book Mere Christianity made the following observation: “Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good - above all, that we are better than someone else - I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. ...“For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” One could add that it would also apply to those who have replaced a religious life with a secular/ideological substitute.

American psychiatrist Morgan Scott Peck, who wrote People of the Lie: The hope for healing human evil, interviewed in this 1983 video about the book on PBS in the program The Open Mind observed that: "Evil is an anti-life force and if we start going out to kill it, exterminate it we then become contaminated by it because we become killers."

According to Peck, an evil person:
  • Is consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfection
  • Deceives others as a consequence of their own self-deception
  • Projects his or her evils and sins onto very specific targets, scapegoating others while appearing normal with everyone else ("their insensitivity toward him was selective") [10]
  • Commonly hates with the pretense of love, for the purposes of self-deception as much as deception of others
  • Abuses political (emotional) power ("the imposition of one's will upon others by overt or covert coercion") [11]
  • Maintains a high level of respectability and lies incessantly in order to do so
  • Is consistent in his or her sins. Evil persons are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency (of destructiveness)
  • Is unable to think from the viewpoint of their victim
  • Has a covert intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury
Evil people exist, but the question is how to combat them without becoming an evil person in the process? All too often those consumed by the evil done by other terrorists and mass-murderers can be led to commit such acts themselves and as M. Scott Peck would say cross the line and slide into evil.

There is a way to fight evil and that is to be able to spot it in yourself and struggle against it to be a better person and externally use nonviolence to combat it. Mohandas Gandhi issued a challenge when he said that "Nonviolence does not signify that man must not fight against the enemy, and by enemy is meant the evil which men do, not the human beings themselves." 

The aim is not to destroy the evil doer, but stop them from doing evil, while seeking where possible not to do them harm by recognizing their humanity. I say this today about Brenton Tarrant as I did about  Omar Saddiqui Mateen in 2016. 

Requiescat in pace to those murdered today in the Mosque attacks.

إنا لله و إنا إليه راجعون

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