Why saying ‘I know a Christian’ only furthers extremist rhetoric

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

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The blasts that hit churches in Tanta and Alexandria earlier this month left a trail of death and destruction and led to some painful scenes. Children breathed their last in the presence of their parents. A couple held each other with bleeding hands and a policewoman on duty was killed in a matter of seconds. Her family has now lost her forever.

Terrorism not only inflicts horrible pain on victims’ families but also on the society it targets. Most horrible moments are those that take away innocent lives as a result of evil acts of the most morally wicked.

The reason behind all this – despite attempts to confuse it – is extremism. Terrorists are born as a result of extremism. Unless this root cause is eliminated, and those promoting it dragged to courts, these demons hiding under the cover of piety will continue to sneak into mosques, churches, markets and airports and turn the happiest moments into the most miserable.

Unfortunately, despite all the statements condemning acts of terrorism, we easily fall into the traps laid down by ISIS. Most of the time, we don’t even realize this. One of these traps is a statement we often make in response to terror attacks. We sometimes casually say: “But I have a Christian friend who is very moral and polite.”

If we maintain a solid conviction that Muslims and Christians are the same, then there is no need to argue that “I know some Christians who are kind” as this simply goes without saying

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

Although the response seems to reflect a defensive approach, it is actually rather ambiguous. It confirms the validity of extremist ideas, which deprive certain religions or sects of integrity.

Such a statement suggests that these good individuals are exceptions. If we maintain a solid conviction that Muslims and Christians are the same, then there is no need to argue that “I know some Christians who are kind” as this simply goes without saying.

Extremist rhetoric

Such a discourse also confirms that we remain stuck in the orbit of extremist rhetoric even if we criticize it. This rhetoric is based on looking at others through religious and sectarian eyes rather than as fellow humans.

We say this person is a Christian or a Jew or a Sunni or a Shiite is kind and gentle when in fact the real identity that unites us with him is that of humanity. This is his basic identity and we feel sad when he dies because he is first and foremost a human. The extremist rhetoric only sees the religious identity in others.

This highlights isolation and psychological and emotional fault lines within societies, which needs unity and solidarity in the most difficult times. One might say I know a kind and ethical Christian. Is there an iota of doubt about that? Even when a person dies in a terrorist attack, we categorize him as a Muslim, Christian or Jew. Truth remains though that a human lost his life.

We do not hear phrases such as “I know a Christian” in cultures that have overgrown narrowmindedness and base their thoughts on human values. When the truck attack happened in Sweden earlier this month, we were not informed about the victims’ religious beliefs because those killed were humans after all.

There are no religious or sectarian or blue bloods among us. Extremists drag us into their rhetoric and we don’t even realize it. In fact, we end up furthering their ideas. Even when we believe we are condemning their crimes we are rather strengthening and propagating them.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.