Have we been precise in our punishment?

Five years ago in Wineskins, Muslim leader Ilyas Muhammad called for us to support precise punishment by our nation, requested President Bush to be ‘precise’ in carrying out punishment. God’s law of restitution (Leviticus 24:17-22), better known as ‘life for life’ or ‘eye for an eye’ seems concerned with precision in punishment: don’t allow the power brokers to go beyond the act committed and mix an extra measure of revenge with just punishment.

The question for us is, have we been precise in our hearts and actions, or have we grown, in the past five years, more racist? Are you afraid of Muslims? Arabs? Anyone with appearance of an Arab? Traveling in airports and being vigilant might also train us to be racist, to look out for certain people who look a certain way and suppose them to be more likely to be terrorists.

I remember my Iranian neighbor, after 9/11, saying, "We cried the whole day." She said these heinous acts were done by a group of evil people, not any one nation or religious group. Nana appreciated me stopping by, and she offered to cook Iranian food for our family, an offer that I gladly accepted.

In 1979, when terrorists held American embassy hostages in Iran, America’s enemy was an Iranian Muslim cleric named Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. My school posted signs marking each of the 444 days the hostages were in captivity. I had an Iranian neighbor then as well. Laleh Khimyahi claimed Iran as her homeland, and she was jokingly chided by classmates and myself to “let our people go!” as if she could do something about it. We didn’t realize then how insensitive we were being toward Laleh. In the same year, the Russians invaded Afghanistan, and the U.S. ran an intelligence operation to help a small band of militant Muslims, led by Osama bin Laden, to break the Russians’ resolve. Osama bin Laden helped communism fall but is now the most hunted man in the world.

I wrote this in the first Wineskins after 9/11, and the war in Iraq had not yet started, so these comments apply to Afghanistan but also apply to Iraq:

Our presidents acted with great restraint not to start all-out wars against Iran and Russia during this period. President Carter, for instance, attempted to rescue the embassy hostages with precision. Our current president’s father also acted with precision, electing to stop the Gulf War after Kuwait was free, rather than continue to go after Sudam Hussein as many wanted him to do. Twenty-two years later, Iran and Russia are better friends with the U.S. What will be our relationship with Afghanistan and the Taliban government in twenty years?

I believe with all my heart that the wicked doers of this unspeakable mass murder should be punished. But will our country be precise in punishment? Will we be precise in our punishment or will we add hatred toward Arabs or Muslims to our justifiable righteous indignation? We don’t have to torch an Arab’s car or mosque to be guilty of seeking revenge on our neighbors; our revenge might be closing down ourselves to people because they resemble the profile of the terrorists or becoming afraid to step out boldly and speak to our neighbors at this crucial time, sharing hope and comfort and moorings that Jesus Christ offers when we live under his rule.

Have we been precise in our judgment?

War and peaceGreg Taylor