Thanks to recent tragedies in Paris and San Bernardino, California, there's been a lot of talk about extremist jihadism and the important differences between this extremist version of Islam and the more widely held, completely peaceful version of Islam that millions of people around the world follow. This week, there was no clearer example of this contrast than what happened during a would-be terrorist attack in Kenya. A group of Muslims protected a group of Christians from the attackers, and it's the one news story you might have missed but definitely shouldn't.
On Monday, a group of Al-Shabaab militants tried to attack a bus of travelers near the border between Kenya and Somalia. The attackers, part of a Somali group that wants to turn the country into a fundamentalist Islamic state (sound familiar?), stopped the bus and ordered the passengers to exit the bus and separate themselves by religion. It's a common tactic for Al-Shabaab operatives: They tend to divide a group between Muslims and Christians, and then shoot the Christians. Knowing this, the Muslim passengers on board began to dress the Christians in Muslim garb and hid them from the attackers. "If you want to kill us, kill us. There are no Christians here," the Muslim passengers reportedly told the Al-Shabaab members.
The militants left but warned that they would return. The brave Muslim passengers helped to avert a serious crisis — there were more than 100 passengers on board, many of them women. Unfortunately, not everyone walked away unscathed. One Christian man tried to run away, but he was shot and killed by the militants, and a driver following the bus was also killed. Still, the story serves as a poignant reminder that the ongoing conflict created by extremist Islamic groups should not position Christians against Muslims throughout the world.
The story is particularly important in light of the recent debate in the United States about allowing Muslim refugees from the Middle East into our borders. Donald Trump boldly called for a ban on all Muslim immigrants because of the security risk that they could potentially pose. (Fortunately, it didn't go over so well.) In an official statement, the Trump campaign said:
Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that only believe in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.
Trump's announcement came just a day after President Obama addressed the nation about his plan to fight ISIS and the idea of extremist jihadism. Obama encouraged Americans not to equate extremists with Muslims:
We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want… ISIL does not speak for Islam.
Although his speech focused mainly on ISIS and the United States, Obama's words can be applied to any country that is dealing with extremist-inspired terrorism. Kenya has faced attacks from Al-Shabaab since at least 2011, when Kenyan forces entered Somalia to try to shut the group down. Ultimately, it's encouraging to see people in any country coming together to present a unified, religiously diverse front in the wake of the extremist jihadism.