By Maya Gilbert
I am writing to express my concern regarding religiously motivated crimes and the harm they have caused. Religion has developed a negative connotation, as people are using it to justify their hateful acts. The increasing prevalence of hatred and killings surrounding religion have swarmed the media, yet action is not being taken against these hate crimes.
People may believe in a religion as a means to feel safe and secure; acts of terrorism contradict those core beliefs. The need for one religion to dominate can be taken so far as to attempt to “eliminate” other religions, even though many view God as one who loves all. In some instances, attacks can be made on a religion as an act of hate, stemming from areas other than religious dominance. When a religious crime is committed, people immediately assume that anyone following or associated with that religion also wants to cause harm.
Currently, there are two serious problems facing our religious communities. The first problem is that religious hate crimes are being committed worldwide, and the second is that people do not know how to differentiate between religious extremists and the average religious follower. In an excerpt from “Doesn’t Religion Cause Most of the Conflict in the World?” the authors relates the root of conflict throughout history to terrorism today: “Religion has been a major feature in some historical conflicts and the most recent wave of modern terrorism.”
Recently there has been an abundance of violence in places of worship. These attacks have been orchestrated not only by religious extremists but also by hateful individuals who aim to harm those whose views differ from their own. No human being should be attacked, let alone in a place of refuge. The recent April 27 shooting in a San Diego synagogue, Chabad of Poway, sheds light on this issue. Lori Kaye, a 60-year-old member of the congregation took a bullet to protect the synagogue’s rabbi from the shooter. This act of hatred spread awareness throughout the community, displaying the reality of religious-based attacks. San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Leonard Trinh shared insight from the shooting, encouraging followers to grow from this experience. Trinh stated, “While Saturday’s shooting devastated the heart of San Diego County, it has galvanized our spirit to stand against hate and to hold those who hate accountable.” As horrific as this violent incident was, it brought people together as seen by the welcoming of the parishioners to the neighboring church.
Given this information, I believe that there are certain solutions that can be considered. The acts of religiously motivated crimes will not be solved easily, but, one of the ways we can attempt to prevent the initiation of these crimes is by eliminating stereotypes. In an article titled, “Don’t Let Stereotypes Warp Your Judgement,” the author discusses the idea of labeling by saying, “Worse yet, stereotypes get in the way of our judgment, even when we do observe the world.” People who form preconceptions of a certain religion or religious group immediately assume that everyone sharing those beliefs has bad intentions. The author continues discussing the notion that not everyone falls under one label: “And, of course, if he meets someone true to type, he stands triumphantly vindicated. ‘They’re all like that.’” My goal is to spread awareness of the misconception that “all” people practicing religion do not have bad intentions, even if a member of their community is a religious extremist and is involved in crimes. Another quote from Heilbroner reads, “We can become aware of the standardized pictures in our heads, in other people’s heads, in the world around us.” If we, as a society, can learn to mitigate preconceived notions regarding religion, we can then hope the frequency of religious terrorism will decrease.