Extremists around the globe use violence as a political weapon of fear against those that don’t embrace their ideology. In the United States, the biggest terrorist threat is domestic white supremacists and far-right terror groups. Abroad, ultra-conservative interpretations of various ideologies cause many threats to the safety of innocent people.
In Pakistan, extremists claiming to be Muslim attempted to suicide bomb a church today. Attacks on Christians by extremist groups typically grow around Christmas time. When a minority group is persecuted, holidays and other events that temporarily raise the profile and visibility of a group often result in additional attacks.
Pakistani Christians are the minority in their country – Pakistan only claims about two million Christians in a population of 200 million. That means that only about one percent of Pakistanis are Christians – which is approximately the same percentage of Americans who are Muslim.
One of the attackers was shot dead by police forces outside of the church, and the other detonated himself early after being wounded by police forces. Reuters reports,
‘Police guards stationed at the church entrance and on its roof killed one of the bombers but the second attacker detonated his explosives-filled vest outside its prayer hall just after Sunday services began in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province, said Sarfraz Bugti, the provincial home minister.
‘Baluchistan police chief Moazzam Jah said there were nearly 400 worshippers in the church for the pre-Christmas service. The death toll could have been much higher if the gunmen had forced their way into the sanctuary, he said.
‘Jah said the venue – Bethel Memorial Methodist Church – was on high alert as Christian places of worship are often targeted by Islamist extremists over the Christmas season.
‘“We killed one of them, and the other one exploded himself after police wounded him,” he said.’
The Islamic State is claiming responsibility for the attack, but authorities have not yet determined if that claim is accurate. ISIS frequently claims incidences of violence as its own even when that is not the case, as it helps with their propaganda effort and branding.
Many in the United States and elsewhere will use this terror attack, which came from a place of hate and xenophobia, in an effort to justify their own hate and intolerance. Bigots in the United States will use it as an example of “Islamic terror” while ignoring the hate crimes carried out against Muslims within our own borders. Since 2000, there have been dozens of attacks against Muslims on United States soil for no reason other than their religion.
Muslims have been attacked, beaten, murdered, raped, burned, and had pig’s blood thrown onto and in their churches. They have had mosques lit on fire, and been blamed for crimes they did not commit. As it turns out, hatred of “the other” is not a disease only carried by far-right extremist Muslims. Far-right extremists of all religious persuasions carry out violence in the name of whatever god they profess to believe in. As with most religions, the vast majority of Muslims are not extremists. If the Westboro church and/or KKK is not representative of Christianity, terror groups are not representative of Islam.
In other words, this attack was caused by hatred. Not Islam. Hatred is the common factor in terrorist attacks, whereas most Muslims, as with most people, generally go their entire lives without blowing themselves up or shooting up a church.
Twitter immediately demonstrated general reactions to the news:
Of course, Islamic nations do fight against Islamic terrorism. In fact, Muslims are the victims of most extremist attacks. Many Islamic nations have fought civil wars against extremists.
It’s difficult to defeat extremist ideologies when an endless sea of broken people await recruitment. The massive destabilization caused in the region by war after war and toppled government after toppled government has created a ripe breeding ground for terrorists. Bombs, bullets, and walls are not the answer. Maybe it’s time to nation-build and to stop dropping bombs.