Interfaith Success Begins with Facing Intra-faith Insecurity

Beliefnet interfaith expert Andrew Bowen lends his thoughts to the recent faith-driven violence.

BY: Andrew Bowen


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This reaction among Muslims is only the latest in a long history of sensitivity deeply seeded within the general religious ethos. One must only brush the surface of religious history to find the intense iconoclasm during the bitter years of the early Protestant Reformation, the distrust and expulsion of Buddhists in Northern India, or the Israelite extermination of the competing theological communities in Canaan. All of these examples and others point more often than not toward a simple yet pervasive carcinogen to human character:


At the height of my bullying experience as a child, my father offered a simple solution. He asked, “Andrew, do you believe what these kids say about you? Are you what they say you are?”

“No,” I replied with hesitation.

“Then what difference does it make what they call you? If you are confident in whom you are, then their words have no power. Bullies only pick on people who allow themselves to be victims.”

I applied this wisdom and soon, the bullies moved on to greener pastures.

What we must understand is that while creating offensive material usually represents a lack of respect, individuals on the receiving end of that equation are under the same moral expectation to act civilly and with restraint. There is nothing wrong with taking offense, but that does not warrant taking a life.

The individuals who continually take advantage of the strictures Muslims place on themselves concerning depictions of holy figures will always exist so long as there are Muslims who act disproportionately to the affront. This is the work of a court jester, one who uses art and comedy as a mirror against society. The artist asks, “How secure are you in your faith that you must murder in order to sustain its so-called honor? Does not your faith speak for itself? Does it demand violence, threats, and bloodshed?”

This is a time for restraint and prudence on both sides of this all-too human issue. Bullies persist only as long as we offer them asylum in the space of our insecurities. It’s time we exhibit a greater form of humanity—a mature humanity—and understand that responsibility is freedom tempered.

Andrew Bowen, who completed a year-long immersion in 12 faith systems from around the world, now writes and speaks about interfaith issues and blogs at

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