Love in response to Terror

The last time I was before you we discussed 3 different ideas meant to galvanize us towards productive, collective action. I recall that evening, because on my ride home from here I cried tears of joy. Today, our tears are of a different sort. Loved ones were killed in a cold blooded act of terror. Islamaphobic local media request a ban on Muslims and for Muslim congressmen to step down.

Today, I invite you, to ponder three new ideas, that are often conflated as one: Islam, Terrorism, and Jihad. It’s a common misconception that Islamic terrorist wage jihad. But, as I have learned, this could not be farther from the truth. Islam is a religion, whose practitioners, much like Christians, believe in one God, pledge allegiance to one messiah, and submit their lives and their means to the will of that God. Muslims are people, who, like you, want a stable prosperous home; healthy, happy children; and wholesome, safe communities. Muslims are not terrorist, because Terrorism is not Islam.

Terrorism, is actions intended to instill fear, incite violence, or destroy property and life for political purpose. Terrorist use weapons, torture, and other means to confine our freedom and to steal our joy. Terrorism, however, has no face. If I were to mention a plane which, once hijacked, was crashed into a government building, who here could decipher whether I meant ones crashed into the trade towers by Arab extremists or one crashed into the IRS building in Austin by a non-Muslim citizen in 2010. If I were to select at random a mass shooting which pierced the lungs and limbs of young school children this decade, might I happen upon those few committed by Muslim extremist or one of the dozens committed by our non Muslim neighbors which local media neglected to label acts of terror. what we've experienced recently are no doubt acts of terrorism, yet, just as certainly, they are not an acts of Islam.

I have seen acts of Islam though. Acts of Islam are the millions donated to hospitals, orphanages, and food banks in college station, Texas in the past 12 months. Acts of Islam are the volunteers who helped rebuild homes in Houston after hurricane Harvey. Acts of Islam are those who donated blood, clothing, and toiletries to refugees and veterans in Dallas; acts of Islam are two high school sweet hearts falling in love. Righteous, courageous, compassionate service is Islam. Kindness, empathy, and ingenuity are Islam. Violence, Murder, and genocide is terrorism. The two could not be farther apart.

Nevertheless, some still ask, well, what about Jihad? Doesn’t Muhammad and the Quran encourage Muslims to kill all infidels and to die in battle for a fast track to heaven? I saved this thought for last, because Jihad, contrary to what you’ve been told, is exactly the point. Jihad is often misinterpreted in the west to mean “holy war” whereas many in the East interpret it more broadly as “struggle.” Whether this is an outward struggle, against infidels, or an inward struggle against temptations and ego is up for debate. I know jihad as an inward quest to conquer the self and a collective effort to purge our communities of the sins which distance us from God.

My vision for our state is to be a place where people from all walks of life feel supported and destined to thrive; where prejudice is unwelcome, because all people are welcome. This week was a somber reminder that we are not there yet. Social stratification, racial and ethnic bias, and recession continue to occupy the acreage where community, love, and surplus ought to be. To get there, will require Not only the hands and hearts of wealthy Whites and Christians but also the talents and genius of the poor, middle-class, Arabs, Jews, atheists, LGTBQ, minorities, immigrants, and women. Only if all these hands come together might we have the capacity to lift the least among us. If divided, However, we will fail.

Which brings me back to Jihad. That inward quest to conquer the self and collective effort to purge our communities of the sins which distance us from God, is what we need in the wake of painful, pitiful acts of terror. Jihad, not against our brothers; but instead, against our prejudice, sexism, hate, crime, poverty, and bigotry of all sorts, is our only hope. Once we purge These evils from our society and likewise endeavor to distance ourselves from our own inner vice, then, and only then might we all be one step closer to democracy, equality, love and peace; One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice and for all.