The lesson of Virginia Tech

April 17, 2007

As I write this, the motives of the shooter are still unknown. Yet one thing is perfectly clear: there was something in his mind that justified the massacre for him.

And half the world away, in Iraq and Afghanistan – and one hopes nowhere else – there are other people, who at this moment are busy meticulously planning murder of their own countrymen, as well as Americans and others in the coalition. And just as with Virginia Tech shooter, they are calm and collected and resolved – because they also have in their minds a good justification for the murder they are planning.

Remove the justification from their minds – and they will no longer want to murder. To judge by the initial reports, it may have been jealousy that triggered the murder spree at Virginia Tech. This motive will be much discussed on the radio, and TV, and in the newspapers and internet sites. Americans will try to get a clear picture of what went on in the shooter’s mind in an attempt to learn the lessons that may help prevent such tragedies in the future.

Yet in the case of Iraq, we are far less eager to find out which ideas in the minds of the “mujahadeen” cause their suicidally homicidal behavior, and we are utterly unwilling to engage in the exchange that would help remove those ideas from their minds.

The reason for the difference? Jealousy is not a taboo subject, and when it poisons the mind with tragic results, we have no problem discussing it. But replace the word “jealousy” with the word “Islam?” How dare you!

We do need to dare. The lesson of Virginia Tech massacre is quite simply this: ideas running in the mind matter – in fact, they can turn a decent person into a monster. And just as we do not hesitate to study bad effects of jealousy, we should try hard to discover what is it that poisons the minds of the murderous “holy worriers of Islam.” Even if we have to place under suspicion, and subject to critical scrutiny their “Holy True Faith.”

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