About Me

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I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Religion of Peace?

Yesterday in Jerusalem, an Islamic suicide terrorist walked into the library of the Mercaz Harav seminary, which was full of young Jewish men holding a celebratory feast in anticipation of the upcoming Jewish holiday of Purim, and proceeded to spray the room with bullets. As students ran to take cover behind tables and bookshelves, the gunman hunted them down, killing each student with a shot to the head at close range. Before the terrorist was brought down by a reserve paratrooper living next to the seminary, eight Israelis lay dead and another eight were seriously wounded. For those of you familiar with the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, nine years ago, the similarities are eerie: this, indeed, was Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in Jerusalem.

I applaud Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for quickly condemning the massacre, and I know that many, many Muslims, including some whom I count my friends, are grieved at the continued, senseless loss of life. Yet, I am both astonished and horrified to note that President Abbas’ reaction was not shared by the inhabitants of Gaza, where news of the seminary killing was greeted with celebratory gunfire, cars honking their horns, and people passing out candy in the streets.

Islam, I am told, is supposed to be a religion of peace; indeed, the very root meaning of the word “Islam” is “peace”. I have met many devout Muslims in the United States and here in Europe who have expressed to me their abject horror and frustration that their faith has been hijacked by extremists to promulgate such vile, bloody, and inhuman acts as yesterday’s massacre.

Yet, these truly peace-loving Muslims whom I have met must, I fear, be counted themselves a minority among their religious brethren, for this is neither the first time, nor shall it be, I fear, the last when the tragic, truly evil murder of innocent human beings has been met in Muslim communities around the world with joy and celebration. No man’s death is occasion to celebrate, for every death is an evil, to be mourned either for the senseless loss of an innocent life or for that the death of a guilty man was made necessary in the first place.

I am forced, therefore, to ask this: can Islam today truly claim to be a religion of peace when so many of its followers rejoice at such evil? I wish it were not so; I wish with all my heart that every Muslim on this earth embraced the peaceful tenets of his or her religion and shunned any pretense to unholy violence in the name of God. Let us all, therefore, pray to God that He might effect a change in the hearts of men; that He might blot out with His Holy Light that restless shadow that overcasts their hearts and encourages them to revel in the evils of destruction; that he might bring peace to our time so that we might all greet one another in peace in His Holy Name, recognizing His image in each other, and embracing humanity according to the precepts of His Love.

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