Why the Liberal cause benefits from speaking truth about religious violence
In response to terrorist attacks from Islamic groups, it has become de rigueur for concerned netizens to respond with statements such as “ISIS has nothing to with Islam” and “Islam is a religion of peace.” While the majority of Muslims are peaceful, people hash-tagging that “Muslims are not terrorists” denies reality and creates a false dichotomy: Either Muslims are terrorists or they are not. This is counterproductive to those who rightly don’t want all Muslims demonized for the actions of a minority.
People, regardless of Facebook proclamations, see that some Muslims are supporting and engaging in terrorism. And these Muslim terrorists are motivated by the Koran, a seventh century book that contains beautiful statements about peace but also has prolific writing about killing infidels, the tortures of hell they will receive and jihad. Muslims in Muslim countries know this. The Lebanese, who have suffered decades of strife between Shia and Sunni, know this. Islam was founded on and expanded on by holy wars led by Mohammad and his successors. Is Saudi Arabia, a living ISIS state and the largest funder of Islamic extremism in the world, not Muslim? Of course it is. Like Christianity and other religions, Islam is open to multiple interpretations. Would those who say “Terrorists are not Muslims” and “Real Islam is not violent” deny that Saudi Arabia is a Muslim kingdom? To do this, one must also deny all atrocities at the hands of Christianity – the Crusades, the Inquisition, the death and destruction that Christianity spread over the Americas, the kidnapping of native children and their forced Christian indoctrination, slavery…the list is long. You would also have to deny the atrocities against Palestinians by Jewish fundamentalists who cling to the Hebrew Bible and its numerous passages that mandate the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The best thing to do is not use doublespeak and be honest. Call them Islamic extremists. Say terrorist acts by Islamic fundamentalists. Just like we do for Christians without issue. Doing otherwise sets up a simplistic either/or construct that is easily exploited by Right and those who push war and see all Muslims as a problem.
The US certainly bears significant responsibility for these problems with its invasion of and destruction of the Iraqi state, flooding the Middle East with weapons, and its funding of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states who oppress their own populations and spread extremist Islam. Certainly the US should be held accountable and pressure should be applied for the US to change its policies. But to accurately deal with religious extremism we need to be honest about all its sources, not just the foreign policy component.