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Monday, July 27, 2015

Americans: Hating Islam or Islamic Terrorists?

We best love those things close to our hearts -- family, friends, freedoms, ideals. We are quick to come to their defense when we feel someone else threatens to harm our precious gifts. And, when we must, we adamantly defend them with life and limb and willingly risk our own lives to keep them secure.

Yet ...

When we realize others from all around the world differ with our particular standards, we lack patience and understanding. We automatically consider our beloved traditional American interests and practices to be the only "correct" ones in the face of opposition. Although there are people in other countries who do practice inhumane customs and practices, we often assume all those in such nations are evil and deserve not only our disdain but also our armed aggression.

The voice of reason should allow us to examine different viewpoints. The Muslim belief system is particularly worthy of our study. We detest Islamic terrorists, yet so many in the United States seem to harbor hatred for all Muslims. Quite frankly, it is a hatred stirred by a bandwagon mentality.

Islamic terrorism is defined as "terrorist acts committed by Muslim groups or individuals who profess Islamic or Islamist motivations or goals. Islamic terrorists have relied on particular interpretations of the tenets of the Quran and the Hadith, citing these scriptures to justify violent tactics including mass murder, genocide, child-molestation and slavery."

(Greg Botelho. "ISIS: Enslaving, having sex with 'unbelieving' women, girls is OK."
CNN. December 12, 2014.)

Is this the nature of all who believe in Islam? The Princeton University Middle Eastern scholar Bernard Lewis, states that Islamic jurisprudence does not allow terrorism. In 2001, Professor Lewis noted:

"At no time did the (Muslim) jurist approve of terrorism. Nor indeed is there any evidence of the use of terrorism (in Islamic tradition). Muslims are commanded not to kill women, children, or the aged, and not to torture or otherwise ill-treat prisoners.

"The rules and regulations concerning prisoners of war in Islam to give fair warning of the opening of hostilities, and to honor agreements. Similarly, the laws of Jihad categorically preclude wanton and indiscriminate slaughter. The warriors in the holy war are urged not to harm non-combatants, women and children, "unless they attack you first."

"A point on which they insist is the need for a clear declaration of war before beginning hostilities, and for proper warning before resuming hostilities after a truce. What the classical jurists of Islam never remotely considered is the kind of unprovoked, unannounced mass slaughter of uninvolved civil populations that we saw in New York (9/11). For this there is no precedent and no authority in Islam."

(Bernard Lewis. Islam: The Religion and the People. 2009.)

The Sunnis, who account for over 80% of Muslims, have over centuries fragmented into three clear strands - the Political, Missionary and Jihad movements who possess individual characteristics and vary in global view. Many researchers contend that it is only the Jihadists, however, that pursue and promote an armed Islamic struggle, which led by the mujahideen can occur in an internal, irredentist or global capacity.

(International Crisis Group. Understanding Islamism: Middle East/North Africa Report.
No 37, March 2005.)

Contrary to a common image held by many Americans, many Muslims have spoken out against 9/11 and against terrorist attacks in general. Most often, they are ignored by newspapers, television news, and other media outlets. Actually, there are lots of fatwas (legal opinions or learned interpretations) and other statements issued which condemn attacks on innocent civilians.

(Charles Kurzman. "Islamic Statements Against Terrorism." March 15, 2012.) 

You can click here to read many of these statements:

We particularly detest those in America whom we suspect are terrorists. And, granted, there are Muslim extremists in America, terrorist Jihadists dedicated to waging war against civilians. They are here to wage a war of death and destruction with their warped beliefs. To combat these terrorists, we must increase our abilities to expose these criminals and to impose harsh measures upon their capture. We must also do everything in our power to protect our own populate with proactive security and enforcement.

Still ...

As lovers of democracy, liberty, and freedom, we must not judge all Muslims as bloodthirsty terrorists. To do so would be to betray our own tenants of justice and equality. In fact, I believe we must make great efforts to understand all minority populations as part of the fabric of our great nation. I believe, upon close inspection and person-to-person contact, we will find other persuasions to be much like ourselves.

In fact, research has found that U.S. Muslims sometimes more closely resemble other Americans than they do Muslims around the world. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, about half of U.S. Muslims say that all (7%) or most (41%) of their close friends are followers of Islam, and half say that some (36%) or hardly any (14%) of their close friends are Muslim.

("Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism". Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. August 30, 2011.)

The study showed that 64% of Muslim Americans thought that there was not much or no support among them for extremism, while 6% thought there was a great deal, and 15% thought there was a fair amount.

Here is what the Pew study revealed about Muslim belief in violence:

"More than eight-in-ten American Muslims say suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets are never justified (81%) or rarely justified (5%) to defend Islam from its enemies.

"Worldwide, most Muslims also reject this type of violence, with a median of 72% saying such attacks are never justified and 10% saying they are rarely justified. Just 1% of U.S. Muslims and a median of 3% of Muslims worldwide say suicide bombings and other violence against civilian targets are often justified, while 7% of U.S. Muslims and a global median of 8% of Muslims say such attacks are sometimes justified to defend Islam."

For many, all it takes is one terrorist act of an extremist Muslim to make them condemn all Muslims and their true beliefs. After such atrocities, a logical person has to question if there is a necessary and distinct causal connection between belief and violent behavior. And even if he can establish the cause of a terrorist action is connected to Muslim belief systems, he must also examine whether those beliefs have been grossly distorted merely to justify internal hatred and revenge. To immediately conclude that the actions of Islamic extremists are either necessarily or exclusively the result of their belief in Islam is so unfair.

Some Americans go so far as to believe they must destroy all Muslims. Aren't they, themselves, extremist homeland terrorists if they feel they are justified in killing a believer before his or her beliefs turn into action simple because they think they inevitably will? In his bestselling book The End of Faith, anti-theist activist Sam Harris says ...

"The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live.

"Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense."

I do not want to live in a nation or in a world that condemns beliefs and employs this condemnation for the sake of destroying innocent human beings. Harris's words echo the sentiments of many so rigid in their views that any perceived threat causes them to stereotype foreign concepts and people who are, quite honestly, just different from them. In doing so, they lose all ability to reason with an open mind and an open heart.

It sickens me to see outright intolerance and hatred from anyone, but seeing it on a daily basis from Americans, who by their own birthright should know better, is extremely disturbing. Once in my lifetime the "Boogie Man" was Communism in all its boasting of "We will bury you." Now, much of the American populace consider Islam to be the monster ... in my view erroneously so. Islamic terrorists are the evil entity and ... most definitely ... so are we when we take the old adage to heart of "Kill them all, and sort them out later."

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