There was a time when assassins were assumed to have had a political motive for their actions and in the last century that pantheon of criminals, from Gavrilo Princip to Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan were attributed the motives that we assumed included some degree of hunger for fame or significance. Little thought was given to the psychology among those individuals that set them on the path that lead them to the murders they committed. Frankly, the consequences were too significant for entire nations or continents for anyone to do a forensic psychological investigation, if this science was professionally practiced.
Mark David Chapman's murder of John Lennon raised the question of whether or not it was actually an assassination or "merely" a murder. Indeed the victim was a famous man, but the consequences did not clearly alter the course of history the way other assassins did. The other significant thing that accompanied the Lennon murder was Chapman's possession of The Catcher in the Rye. That, the book was to blame for the murder according to some grossly uninformed, meaning-seeking sources and nearly four months later John Hinckley's obsession with Taxi Driver and Jodie Foster was cited as contributing to the attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Taxi Driver seemed to survive its moment of infamy better than Catcher, which may has been cited several times for possible links to crimes among its readers.
In the years that have passed there have been other members of society who have dissociated themselves from society or family and in turn committed crimes that have appalled, shocked and dismayed us. In the aftermath of the school shootings at Columbine in 1998 people tried to pin the connection to video games and The Matrix. In 1990, Judas Priest was sued for the influence their music had on teens who had committed suicide. Time and time again people trying to find cause for such crimes stop at the most superficial answer and settle for it rather than pursuing the question more deeply and looking at a pattern that is consistent throughout a larger series of crimes or patterns of behaviour among those commit them.
Such a suggestion would never prompt those who attribute crimes directly to one's faith to pause and look more deeply for the dissociation that prompted them to commit their acts. The possibility is that, among those criminals who only have a superficial interest in a particular faith and clearly follow a pattern of behaviour that is in clear conflict with the tenets of a faith. Before criminals chose to associate themselves with a particular genre, novel, movie, line of employment or religion, they dissociated from the family or circle of support that ensured they remained conscious of and connected to the entire society. Before they sought to kill or main soldiers, diners, commuters, shoppers, jocks, school kids, the disabled, members of a race, faith or tax bracket that they considered a threat, there was an incident or a pattern that detached them from the rest of society. That happened first. The murders or terrorist acts committed in Ottawa and Quebec in 2014 were by people who only had a tenuous connection with ISIS or ISIL and acted in a way that directly conflicted with the faith they wanted to cloak their actions in. They remained dissociative despite the opportunities to practice a faith that allowed and encouraged them to become part of a welcoming community.
Amidst all of the crimes that have marked 2016 and provoked arguments about, religion, race, weapons and whatever else people choose to argue over in the absence of clear, well-regulated debate occurred a crime that must be taken into account and included in the discussion as we try to determine what it is that causes these individuals to wreak the pain and misery that they do. Earlier today, a 26-year-old man in the suburbs of the massive Tokyo-Yokohama megalopolis returned to his former place of employment and killed 19 of the residents (or patients) in a facility for the disabled and injured another 20. He had aspirations of becoming a teacher, being one of those individuals that we as a society rely on to be the glue that helps hold society together but, as the Associated Press put it, "somewhere along the way, things went terribly awry." What attributed to this young man's slide toward the state of mind that prompted these murders is yet to be investigated. In the absence of a faith or explicit otherness that can be attributed to him by the Japanese media, they will have to grapple with the dissociation that gradually occurred in this young man rather than attribute it to one of the superficial causes that the Western media and the uninformed social media peanut gallery will attribute it to.
The investment of these criminals' energy in The Matrix, Catcher, Ozzy Osbourne, Taxi Driver, the Communist Party is ultimately incidental and the same can and must be said of religious faiths as well. All faiths have flaws and I am not going to defend the flaws of one over any other in this post. Catholics and Protestants in Ireland have had their roles in crimes beyond their borders but these are overlooked as other faiths are smeared. There are, however, devout Muslims who are nothing short of petrified by the pattern of crimes which are superficially associated with their religion. The first reason for this fear is, of course, the assumption among Westerners that they and their religion are a threat to peace and order throughout the world. The greater concern that many of them have, is the threat this pattern of crime may have on their children, their confidence in the faith they are raised in and its standing in the community. Parents, all of us, want to ensure that our children are raised to be empathetic and feel a sense of community and connectedness that will make us love, serve and support one another. That is the aspiration of most, if not all parents. The faith that we practice and pass on to our children is part of that sense of connection that we want to form among our children to ensure that they do not dissociate and cause such harm to themselves or to others. As the practice of faith becomes a more dangerous enterprise, as the commitment to this particular pillar of community gets called into doubt, these parents must raise their children exceptionally cautious and self-conscious about the purpose of their faith being questioned and denigrated with such exceptional and unbridled malice.