Last week’s mosque attacks in New Zealand have left me shaken. I don’t normally use this space to talk about terrorist attacks, especially those that occur thousands of miles from home. But there is something about this one that seems different, even in these crazy times.
There were so many aspects to this tragedy that made it especially horrific. The manifesto. The live-streaming over social media. The fact that it was timed right at the height of Friday prayers. There is never a good time for a terrorist attack, but targeting an attack to a time in which people are praying strikes me as doubly odious.
I have read about the Muslim concept of islah, literally “reform”—the religious moral imperative to take responsibility for all of humankind. It’s not the same as the Jewish tikkun olam—literally, “repairing the world”— but it’s not too dissimilar, I think. Islah, if I understand it correctly, conveys the sense that the world is an imperfect place and that its inhabitants are hurting, and that we humans have the responsibility to try to make it better.
I am not Muslim myself, and I’m certainly no theologian. But it’s pretty clear right now that our world is in need of some serious islah.
I don’t have any bold proposals to offer today. But let me start with this: if you are Muslim, you have my deepest condolences. Even if you aren’t related in any way to any of the victims, this was an attack on your community, and I—and my BLH colleagues—condemn it, as every civilized human must.
Beyond that, if you’re not Muslim but there are Muslims living in your neighborhood, offer them your sympathies. I don’t know how we’re going to reform this world, but just talking to each other seems like a decent place to start.