Language and Ethics

How does the modern understanding of particular words, for example happiness, influence the understanding of the frameworks? How does it change the outcome?

ethics-and-compliance

Just as we, and many others, may argue the idea that ethics is derived from notions of attachment toward an individual’s perception or outlook on the subject matter at hand, Edward Sapir, back in the early 1900’s essentially proposed a hypothesis that connoted, similarly, that different language implies different systems of perception and the difference between societies’ cultural behaviors is communicated by and codified in the structure of its linguistic meaning (Moore 2012:81). That is to say that the study of a specific cultures or peoples language is more than just a study of the words that they use it is a study of their existence which encompasses their morals, ethics and practices – in effect their total being.

Mindful of this connection it is then possible to set out an assertion that despite relative differences based on who we are as individuals with in various culturally collective identities, a generalized understanding of the frameworks provided in Mill (1863) would appear to hold true. A popular example provided of this is that pleasure is the absence of pain. Notably, these are structuralistically categorized across most cultures as direct binary opposites, similar to good- evil, black-white, and are the result of humanistic needs or desires to impose a sense order on aspects of nature.

As humans of this generation and successive generations, like those of past generations, we will continue to attach varying senses of oppositional worth to aspects of nature and life which surrounds us. In doing this we are emphasizing the appropriateness of our structuralist values. This we could argue has the resultant effect that; while language content may change, linguistic meaning remains constant and it is this constant linguistic meaning that stresses our structuralistic values which form the attachment to the ethical frame work defined. In this sense modern usage of particular words holds no difference to the outcome.

Reference:

Mill, J. S., 1863. “Chapter 4; What utilitarianism is”. In Utilitarianism, 1863.

Moore, J.D., 2012. Visions of Culture. Altamira Publishing. Maryland, USA.

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Mortuary Archaeology

Over the last week I looked into 3 very different burial practices that from both different ages and different countries. The first was that of a recently discovered unmarked grave site, ‘suspected’ as a vampire burial in the town of Gliwice in southern Poland. The article claims that there were 4 skeletons uncovered that had had their heads removed and placed between their legs during the burial practice. Such treatment according to Slavic folk beliefs would prevent a possible vampire from returning to the land of the living. Archaeologists believe that these bodies may also have been hung on gallows to rot before they were buried. The article references makes little reference to their age or gender but rather stipulates that at this stage more testing is required to determine this along with the ‘official’ cause of death. Other clues possibly suggesting a vampire burial included the skeleton’s lack of any personal items, such as jewelry, ceramics, belts or buckles. Despite the lack of grave goods, researchers believe that the burial took place in the early modern period likely around the 16th century and have also not ruled out the idea that the tomb may be a relic of human sacrifice. It is interesting to noted that the last recorded instance of vampire burial within Polish borders was as recent as 1914.

Another possibility is that these individuals suffered from tuberculosis which resulted in a paling of the skin and lead to a reinforced belief that they were vampires.

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The second was the mummified remains of a sacrificed woman of the Moche culture which was discovered by archaeologists at the El Brujo complex, 570 kilometers north of Lima. The article writes that for the lead archaeologist, “it came as quite a surprise to find a woman, and even more to see she was buried in the prone position with her head toward the west in the direction of the sea, and with one of her arms extended, a very abnormal position”, one that perhaps shows and indifference, likely socially orientated, toward the person or subject. Life on most accounts was expendable so much as it pleased the gods. Archaeologists also added the supposition that the woman, aged between 17 and 19 years old, died as a result of “her swallowing some toxic substance or being strangled with a cord, the usual method with young women who accompanied Moche dignitaries to the tomb” and that following her demise her body was deposited into a pre-prepared pit” with no marking. She was uncovered in an area that now lay beneath the floor of the ceremonial courtyard which was constructed toward the end of the Moche occupation of the region, between the 7th and 8th centuries AD.

The third case comes from Egypt where on January 11th 2010, reports emerged recalling the finding of a series of modest nine-foot-deep shafts that each held a dozen skeletons of pyramid builders. Although the tombs themselves were devoid of any material objects, which probably safeguarded them from tomb-raiders, the remains were found to have been buried in a fetal position — the head pointing to the West and the feet to the East according to ancient Egyptian beliefs, along with jars that once contained beer and bread meant for the workers’ afterlife. What this importantly shows is that, contrary to popular belief, the workers who constructed the pyramids were not recruited from slaves. Hawass claims that the proximity to the pyramids and the way in which they were buried in preparation for the afterlife reinforces the notion that “the builders came from poor Egyptian families from the north and the south, and were respected for their work — so much so that those who died during construction were bestowed the honor of being buried in the tombs near the sacred pyramids of their pharaohs”. “No way would they have been buried so honorably if they were slaves,” he said.

Hawass notes that evidence found at the site appears to indicate that there were approximately 10,000 laborers working on the pyramids at any one time and that these laborers ate well and regularly a diet that included meat ( in the form of 21 cattle and 23 sheep sent to them daily from farms) and worked in three months shifts. Despite this and in addition to the fact that they were not slaves, it remains undeniable that the pyramid builders led a life of hard labor, such that their skeletons frequently exhibited signs of arthritis, and/or deformation of their lower vertebrae. Okasha remarks that “their bones tell us the story of how hard they worked”.

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  1. http://beforeitsnews.com/science-and-technology/2013/07/suspected-vampire-burial-unearthed-in-poland-2618186.html
  2. http://au.news.yahoo.com/entertainment/a/-/entertainment/17993214/mummy-of-sacrificed-woman-found-in-peru/
  3. http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2010/01/12/egypt-new-find-shows-slaves-didnt-build-pyramids

When is a fake a fake?

brazilian_quartz_skull

 Humans it appears have long held a macabre fascination toward skulls. As a powerful symbolic icon within many cultures around the world, it is closely associated with death. Interestingly though, the fascination for such objects, despite the negative associations, has from the nineteenth century, only become more pronounced. A little before 1863, the first of dozens of skull sculptures, purporting to be pre-Columbian, Mesoamerica artifacts surfaced on the open market for trade or purchase. Typically these, according to Jane McLaren Walsh are “small, not taller than 1.5 inches… The earliest specimen …in the British Museum, about an inch high. Three such skulls appear in the extensive collections of artifacts housed in the collections of major museums on both sides of the Atlantic. The first exists in the British Museum in London, whose skull may have been acquired in 1865 by the British banker Henry Christy. The second in the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, from the collection of Eugène Boban, a controversial antique dealer who sold the piece to Alphonse Pinart before it was donated it to the Museum of Ethnography at Trocadéro, Paris. There is some suggestion that either the British or French skull may be a copy of the other. The third example belongs to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., who bought a small crystal skull from Augustine Fisher, who had been Emperor Maximilian’s secretary in Mexico. The Smithsonian skull, it was noted, had been carved with a modern lapidary wheel, and between the 1950s and 1973 was exhibited as an archaeological fake when it disappeared from the collection completely. Another skull was delivered anonymously to the Smithsonian during the 1990s.

 As early as the 1930s, some experts began to have doubts about the authenticity of the skulls, quite probably on the grounds that a) the skulls didn’t come from documented archaeological sites and b) that the skulls’ teeth were linear and perfect, in contrast to the teeth depicted in other Aztec art which reflected a lack of Aztec dentistry. Researchers however, didn’t have the scientific means to scientifically test, or prove their suspicions. This has changed over the past two decades and now researchers’ at all three museums have capitalized on analytical science innovations to show that these peculiar skulls are not unusual Aztec artifacts but post-Columbian fakes. Margaret Sax, a British Museum scientist examined both the British and the Smithsonian skulls under light and scanning electron microscopes. Following the discovery of traces of tooling preserved in the highly polished surfaces of the skull, she conclusively determined that both were carved with relatively modern equipment, which for obvious reasons, was unavailable to pre-Columbian Mesoamerican carvers. Furthermore Spectroscopic analysis of skulls showed that the rock crystal possessed “green, wormlike inclusions” characteristically suggestive of rock crystal materials sourced from Brazil or Madagascar crystal during the nineteenth century (Sax, 2008) The final piece of evidence uncovered through X-ray diffraction, revealed a coating silicon carbide residue, a synthetic abrasive used in stone-carving workshops only starting in the mid-20th century, affixed to the surface.

Is this fake in any way harmful? Are fakes ever interesting in their own right? These questions pose more difficulty in answering and really it depends on what you are looking for by viewing them. Though they are no longer truly harmful, not now that they are understood as fakes and are no longer attached to the archaeological or cultural record of a particular civilization, they are interesting in their own right for the craftsmanship and beauty of the item. They are also interesting in that they trace back a period of modern human history when such things were in high demand and the lengths and prices people would pay to be in possession of such an item. Is there any ‘truth’ to this fake? Sadly, the most likely answer to this is no.

References:

Walsh, JM. 2012, ‘Crystal Skulls: The real story behind the world’s most mysterious fakes’, Archaeology Magazine, The Maya Special edn., Long Island, NY

Sax, M., Walsh, JM., Freestone, IC., Rankin, AH. & Meeks, ND. 2008, “The origin of two purportedly pre-Columbian Mexican crystal skull” Journal of Archaeological Science

Conservation

At any given point of time there are literally dozens if not in the hundreds of conservation projects occurring around the globe. Of these, one of the best known sites is perhaps that of the city of Pompeii. Once a thriving, coastal city on the bay of Naples, its greatest renown came following its destruction, when during the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius it was buried among tons of volcanic ash, mud and rock. Here it remained, almost forgotten for over 1,500 years in a remarkable state of preservation. It seems ironic now to think that although this eruption completely obliterated city, it was also the cause of its longevity and indeed its survival over the centuries.

Covering approximately sixty-six hectares, Pompeii is an open-air museum of fifteen hundred buildings, comprising one million square meters of walls adorned with twenty thousand square meters of frescoes. Pompeii desperately needs repair. Not only is the area unstable geologically, but the ruins have been exposed to the weather for nearly 250 years. Like living cities, ancient Pompeii requires continuing public works and surveillance. Excavated since 1748, it has never had a concerted conservation effort commensurate with its scale. (World Monuments fund 1996:17)

Since its discovery, or rather rediscovery and excavation in 1748, marked levels of deterioration have continuously occurred, both through natural forces, such as light exposure affecting paintings and through the natural wearing of buildings by processes of weathering, erosion and water damage. Additionally human activity, unfortunately inclusive of inappropriate excavation and reconstruction methods, has taken its toll on the site. Though much of this is termed accidental, often the result of ignorance, other deterioration is as a result of deliberate acts of theft and vandalism. Each of these in their own way has contributed to the degradation of the site.

Although there are numerous conservation projects, endeavors and enterprises that either directly target or are associated with attempts to prevent further deterioration of Pompeii, – there is a great paper which outlines many of these titled “Conservation in the Shadow of Vesuvius: a Review of Best Practices”, which is in fact a summary of the proceedings and papers presented at a symposium held between November 20 to 23, 2003, by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei and the World Monuments Fund (WMF), with support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation – much of the focus on the removal of external forces affecting the site, as well as restoration of damaged artefacts and preventative measures.

In June 2009, Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, contrarily and controversially declared a moratorium on further excavations of the site (Dolan, 2009). Acting in his official capacity as superintendent, he declared that all funds present and future should be diverted into the preservation of the current excavated areas of the city, rather than to continue excavating more. The controversy surrounding this issue, which focuses on whether to adopt more stringent conservation measures or continued excavation, results greatly from the differences of opinion amongst historians and archaeologists. In arguments postulated by the Classicists, only through continued excavation can more ancient texts be found to reveal more about ancient Roman life (Dolan, 2009). Conversely conservationists, mostly archaeologists I believe, argue that many of the objects and materials that still may be uncovered, inclusive of those that have found and as yet still remain buried, such as unexcavated chamber of the Villa of the Papyri, are much safer remaining underground than they are being exposed. Furthermore they add that there is still much information that may be extrapolated from what has already been excavated without the need to put further strain on an already resource limited enterprise. Although minor excavations remain permissible no new sites have been opened for excavation.

This simple method of conservation, leaving them berried is perhaps one of the only available choices which would allow for the survival of this magnificent city. Following the continued collapse of vital areas and structures during the last several years, the prognosis appears bad, not only in the long term but also for the short. Should adequate funding, combined with the correct forms of professional and experienced conservators fail to be secured, this is one site that may in fact die for a second… or is that third… time.

 

Reference:

World Monuments fund, 1996, ‘Most Endangered Sites 1996’, World Monuments Fund, New York NY. [online] Accessed 5 July 2013, http://www.wmf.org/sites/default/files/wmf_publication/Watch_Catalog_1996.pdf

“Conservation in the Shadow of Vesuvius: a Review of Best Practices”, Symposium Summary 2003, [online] Accessed: 5 July 2013, http://www.wmf.org/sites/default/files/wmf_publication/Conservation%20in%20the%20Shadow%20of%20Vesuvius%20a%20Review%20of%20Best%20Practices.pdf

Thomas P. 2010, Pompeii Gladiator Training Centre Collapses, Sky News, [online] Accessed: 5 July 2013, http://news.sky.com/story/818070/pompeii-gladiator-training-centre-collapses

Dolan, K. 2009, ‘The lost library’ kapito, [online] Accessed: 5 July 2013, http://katipoweb.blogspot.com/2009_06_01_archive.html

Histories of ‘searching’

It would seem that the history of archaeology spans back toward the very edges of civilization itself with the earliest recorded digs being those of Nabonidus, the last native King of Babylon (reigned 555-539BC). However, in assuming a more scientific focus, “the first scientific excavation in the history of archaeology” (cited Renfrew and Bahn 2012:23) traditionally goes to Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). During Jefferson’s time there was a great deal of speculation by the people regarding the hundreds of unexplained mounds east of the Mississippi and it is his work with one of these mounds that provides him with the credit of being ‘The Father of American Archaeology’.

Jefferson’s work, in perhaps any one of three respects, is frequently cited as being ahead of its time. First, and by no means least, was that he was simply one of the first people on the American continent to excavate at all. But secondly that, the excavations he performed were carried out with such precision and care that they provided him with the means to clearly observe and detail the stratigraphy of his trench. Although common practice today it should be noted that paying attention to the stratigraphy didn’t become common practice until about the 1930’s. Thirdly, and argumentatively most importantly, Jefferson was seeking to discover answers to questions that he had posed. Jefferson, according to Renfrew and Bahn (2012:23) “adopted what today we should call a scientific approach [or method], that is, he tested his ideas about the mounds against hard evidence – by excavating one of them”.

What I would like to draw attention to as being particularly noteworthy in this is his method and his documentation of the process. While writing his ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’, completed in 1781, he penned that his approach in supervising the methodical and analytical excavation of a Native American burial mound, located on his land in Virginia, was to elected to remove a wedge from the mound, carefully removing artifacts intact, rather than adopting the commonly accepted excavation method, in which an individual or team of individuals commenced working from the top and digging down. Inside the mound he discovered in excess of a thousand skeletons in various locations of the stone, soil, and bones matrix. He proposed that it must have been a communal burial mound for generations of Piedmont Indians (Anderle, 2013), a notion that he then carried to other mounds in the area.

The fact that this mound was located on his own private land, for which the law of the day would have provided him with the right to excavate and keep all finds, meant that Jefferson wasn’t simply interested in gathering artifacts. What he desired was to learn and understand whatever he could about the people who inhabited this land, his land, before him. He pursued this through the only means at his disposal, through the things which they left behind with their burials.

In his desire to attain this, Jefferson’s archaeological dig was the first documented use the method of stratification, a fundamental principle of modern archaeological theory and practice, through which the way layers of earth and artifacts relate to one another are studied. Conceptually stratification is derived from the idea that all occurrences of sedimentation exist according to uniform principles. With subterranean archaeological finds, the contextual identification of each find, no matter how small, is a vital piece in the puzzle that enables the archaeologist to draw conclusions pertaining to both, the site, and the nature and date of its occupation. Jefferson did not callously dig down into the mound like a child in the hope of “finding something”; nor as a looter with the intent on making a profit, he carefully cut, and removed, a segment of the mound which enabled him to clearly examine the stratigraphy. “His sound approach – logical deduction from carefully excavated evidence, in many ways the basis of modern archaeology – was not taken up by his [contemporaries or his] immediate successors in North America” (Renfrew and Bahn 2012:23), who generally continued to destroy priceless archaeological material by blindly hacking at the deposited remains of ancient settlements. But when they did, the methodology employed by Jefferson during this excavation provided a standard for archaeological inquiry that would endure through the academic rigors of the following century.

 

Reference

Anderle, B. 2013, ‘Thomas Jefferson’s Bones’, Suite 101, [Online] Accessed: 20 June 2013

http://suite101.com/article/thomas-jeffersons-bones-a128183

Jefferson, T. 1781, ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’, Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library, [Online] Accessed: 20 June 2013,

http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=JefVirg.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=11&division=div1

Renfrew, C & Bahn, P. 2012, ‘Archaeology: Theoies, Methods and Practice’,6th Edn. Thames & Hudson, London, UK.

 

What is an Archaeologist?

arcIt still remains rather amazing that, for many, particularly with people of Australian and American backgrounds, the first thing that comes to mind upon hearing the term archaeology is in fact Indiana Jones. Digging a litter deeper however reveilles that many people do in fact have a rather detailed perception of both what an archaeologist is and what they do. In a paper prepared by Ramos and Duganne[i] the majority of people interviewed mentioned that digging of some form or another shaped that image. This is somewhat different from the dictionary definitions of what archaeology is “The systematic study of past human life and culture by the recovery and examination of remaining material evidence, such as graves, buildings, tools, and pottery”[ii]. In furthering this line of enquiry a number of people from several countries around the globe were approached, including Australia, America, Japan, Egypt, and Eastern Europe. Despite the similarities there were also a number of differences that immediately came to light (perhaps the most notable is the lack of Indiana Jones references from Eastern Europe and Egypt). Perhaps is all these ideas were to be rolled up and beaten together something more concise could be proposed. Here is what they had to say:

IG remarked that, they perform excavations. They research a historical site and perform excavation in search for various objects, artifacts. An archaeologist is a profession that is one of those not so widely chosen by young people nowadays. A person with a scientific mindset is more likely to choose this type of profession as their future career. If I know somebody who does this for a living, in my mind I picture them as a person who is more interested in science and discovering something new rather than being concerned with receiving more money (e.g. by doing something of commercial nature).

MS saw an archeologist as someone who looks into dead cultures and the roots of our culture. They dig and puzzle out what they find, how it was used, what it was for and they can work out the implications of these objects and how they related to the society and culture at the time. They have a fascination for the mythology and religions that were dominant in these cultures. They can tell us how our society and culture has changed and evolved.

JD regards an archaeologist as someone who has a good understanding of the literature about past events, societies and so forth. Ideally they also do specific research around a specific region and will go and visit it and dig up a site, painstakingly extracting layer upon layer of dirt to uncover forgotten items and buildings, mapping their location in a 3D space to extrapolate the age of the item and how it reflects on the story of the region to gain a more accurate history.

JT said archaeology is “Hard yakka digging around, an intelligent person with lots of zest. A quest for the truth. Lots of digging, reports n presentation. Can be male or female of all ages’ not necessary stereotype like in the movies. Works across all cultures n languages, people we can’t live without.

RB felt that they were “a person who translates, decodes and deciphers meanings from written and pictorial texts so that they can travel to specific locations and unearth objects in order to justify or change current theories about how ancient cultures and civilizations operated on a day to day basis. If you want it simplified then I guess it would be someone who spends a lot of time reading and researching so they can go and dig around in the dirt trying to find something that may or may not be there”. Interesting RB’S children had their own ideas such that an archaeologist was “a person who goes to weird places and finds cool treasure after digging in the dirt”

Mel told stated that their thoughts were that an archaeologist digs up bones and artifacts and tries to figure out what they were. It’s like a huge puzzle; you have to dig up the pieces and put it together and you’re not sure what it’s supposed to look like when you’re done. It’s probably physically demanding at times, but a very exciting mental challenge.

LS holds that their “impression is a person in a casual clothing (a bit of times from Indiana Jones movies) and with a small shovel and a brush  might wear also glasses, the look in the eyes is very concentrated, with a small excitement, what the earth will show today”

Of course there are also those that arrive at the other end of the spectrum. These, although shorter, may to many prove to be no less common in their thoughts. RT simply noted that an archaeologist was “an historian with dirty finger nails and sunburn, I could go into more detail”, it was said “but essentially it would come down to this”

ND added to this by describing them as “a person that digs up old crap from ancient rubbish dumps”.

All this before finally arriving at the most common form of image as presented by CP of “unearthing, mapping and collating of places and events in human history…while being chased by Nazis”. Once again the Indiana Jones reference resurfaces.


[i] Ramos, M & Duganne D 2000, Exploring Public Perceptions and Attitudes about Archaeology, The Society for American Archaeology, National Parks Service, Department of the Interior

[ii] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000 Houghton Mifflin Company

Islam=Terror

Terror- intense, sharp, overmastering fear
Terrorist- a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism
Terrorism- the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes

In the wake of or advancing world and the daily unjustifiable increase in violence that follows its progressive “advancment” it would seem to many that the word terrorism has become synonomous with muslims only. Islam does not equal Terrorism. Muslim does not equal Terrorist. Faith does not equal Terror.

Since 2007 terrorism is frequently defined by many, including the government bodies of the western world, as Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda as is well known is a Muslim organization, Al-Qaeda is also a terrorist organization, ergo all Muslims are terrorists?

Tragic events such as the attack on the twin towers in New York, the bombings of Bali, Madrid and London are assumed to be justified by Islam in the minds of some people. This idea has been fueled further by many media channels which defame Islam by portraying these bombers as ‘Islamists’ or ‘Jihadists’, as though they were sanctioned by Islam, or had any legitimate spokemenship on behalf of Muslims. The actions of a few fanatical individuals who happen to have Muslim names or ascribe themselves to the Muslim faith should not be a yardstick by which Islam is judged. For the same reason, that one would not do justice to Christianity if it where perceived as sanctioning the genocide of the Native Americans, the atrocities of world war II or the bombings of the IRA.

Any discussion about terrorism in this age, fiction or non-fiction, is based on the fear and concern that the current situation generates. It should be obviously to any educated person that this is simply not true – but it is, however, the path that the ignorant often follow. The prejudice and harassment of Muslims that can be observed throughout the world is both appalling and inhumane. It is disgusting that anyone could believe without reasonable doubt that Islam as an institution could is a place where “terrorists are trained.” The Muslim extremists/fundamentalists shown by the media do not represent the entire Muslim community. They are only a small part of it. Perhaps this is an inherent flaw in the personality of people perhaps the media is to blme. However casting blame from one party to another is neither going to change the way in which people think or the situation, that because of it, now exists. Stereotyping and hating a particular religious and/or ethnic group is not going fix our ignorance and conflicts. Most of the people I know who make nasty comments about Muslims don’t even know anyone who is Muslim.

Unfortunately more and more often, Islam has been associated with terrorism and violence due to the actions of a few extreme individuals who’ve taken it upon themselves to do the most heinous crimes in the name of Islam. One of the often overlooked things that Bin Laden has done is redefine the way we look at Muslims. Like it or not, it is he that has had the biggest voice in defining what we think of Muslims, and like it or not, he has a following. To not understand this view, would be to ignore the current reality.

We need to quit looking at Muslims like they’re some foreign object that needs to be carefully inspected from afar. We need to get over our ridiculous prejudices and realize that they, too, have been targeted by terrorism. We need to get the facts and get rid of the false political nonsense. I believe the Muslim faith and the Muslim people are a blessing to this culturally and religiously diverse country, and I encourage you to learn, listen, and love rather than fear, stereotype, and hate.They are mothers. They are fathers. They are brothers. They are sisters. They are teachers. They are writers. They are neighbors. They are friends. They are people.They are not some radical, power-driven, grotesque group out to sabotage the country. They are people with lives and loves and hobbies and stories…just like anyone else. There are hard-working, compassionate, reverent people who adhere to the Muslim faith, and they sure as hell aren’t terrorists.

Although it is never possible for an outsider to understand completely how another feels I can empathize with the way, I expect that, Muslims must feel. It has become politically incorrect even to the point of becoming shameful to depict, without due cause people of African-american decent as criminals, despite the fact that there are Black criminals. The generalization and assumption made that all criminals are black has long passed. To discuss crime in America, you have to discuss race, and Blacks. To do it fairly you should also cover inequality and racism and the impact that it has. The issue is similar with terrorism. To discuss terrorism completely, the Muslim religion has to be mentioned; but to be fair, the root cause of Muslim extremism needs to be covered also.

To understand Islam’s stance on terrorism, one must refer to its original sources, the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, which are explicit in their prohibition of any form of injustice including that of wanton violence, which seeks to instill fear, injury or death to civilians. Centuries before the Geneva Convention was drawn up, Muslims were bound by a code of conduct which the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, set. He forbade the killing of women, children and elderly in war. In an authentic narration the Prophet (pbuh) warned that he who kills anyone who has a covenant of peace with the Muslims will not smell the scent of Paradise. In fact, he taught that justice is not only to humans but must be shown to animals and all living things. If such is the sanctity which Islam places on the soul of an animal, how much more grave is the killing of hundreds of innocent humans? Abu Bakr the first Calipha of the Muslims reflected these prophetic teachings when he advised his general Yazid, who was confronting Roman armies,

“I advise you ten things, Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.”

The message of the Quran is clear as we have seen, that the sanctity of any human life is to be respected and any violation in that regard is paramount to the worst crime. Mercy is at the heart of the Islamic call, “We sent thee (O Muhammad) not save as a mercy for the peoples” (21:107); a totally different message to what the terrorists are sadly imparting to humanity.