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In Times of Worship and Fear

Posted January 27th, 2011 by hansene

In light of the recent attempted bombing of Pioneer Square in Portland, and the resulting burning of a mosque in Corvallis, I question how a person makes the leap from an individual’s actions to holding a whole religion responsible and thus burning a place of worship. As I reflect on the situation, the essay “The Moral Insight” by Josiah Royce comes to mind.

In Royce’s essay, he writes about how people focus only on themselves and see others as actors in the play that is their life. What this means is that we only see ourselves as real and everyone else is in our life to serve us in the perpetuation of our life story. Royce goes on to write about how we are able to empathize with these “actors” we see in our life. He observes that when we empathize, or achieve true moral insight, with someone it comes about because we see them as real as we are. We then realize that these actors feel pain, have hopes, and have experiences just like we do.

By not seeing other people as real and just as play things that exist in our perception of reality, we can distance ourselves from these groups. We are able to tell ourselves that because they aren’t real they don’t feel the same pain we would when placed in the same situation. My point is that we must be careful in the language that we use when talking about issues around Islam and terrorism.

If we only see those that commit these acts of terrorism as terrorists and insurgents and not as unique individuals, then we run the risk of punishing a group of people for a few bad apples that hold a set of unique views and values that the group as a whole don’t hold. We must be sure not to dehumanize or distance ourselves from groups we disagree with because some members hold extreme views and commit awful and horrendous acts.

In the case of Islam, we must constantly be aware that out war on terrorism is not a war against Islam, but a war against Al Qaeda, and therefore those who follow the Islam faith should be allowed to live in our country without the fear of being terrorized for their beliefs.

The comments shared by the Community Relations Facilitator program are strictly the point of view from the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of UHDS. If this article has inspired a desire to dialogue, the author, or another CRFn and/or any Resident Assistant, Resident Director or CoOp Director would be happy to participate. Please contact Victor Santana-Melgoza (, UHDS Multicultural Resource Coordinator, to assist in making arrangements.

Padraic McGraw
Community Relations Facilitator-Southside

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