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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jihadism and Islam: Debating Databases and Free Exercise of Religion

"Jihadism is a variant of Islamism. It is the effort to impose Islamist goals—however defined—by force. Jihadists have found or invented theological justifications to attack their enemies, mostly fellow Muslims, for their impiety or disloyalty to the jihadist cause, leading to the rise of jihadist terrorist and insurgent groups and, occasionally, jihadist governments (including the Taliban and the Iranian regime) and quasi-governmental entities (like the Islamic State and some organizations within Pakistan and Saudi Arabia).

"Jihadist movements are quite obviously threats to the national security of states they seek to overthrow, many of whom are U.S. allies; they are also threats to their neighbors because of the expansionist drive inherent in jihadist ideology. Jihadist ideology ultimately seeks the dominance of its brand of Islam over the world."

--Paul D. Miller, PhD in International Relations, Associate Director of the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austinm research fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, veteran of the war in Afghanistan

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, was asked by reporters if he favored implementing a database for tracking Muslims in America. He said, "It would be good management," and later tweeted "We must defeat Islamic terrorism & have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America."

And, since the Paris attacks, Trump has risen in the polls -- something that could prove that a considerable number of Americans are tired of the other candidates tiptoeing around the issue and caring more about not offending people than watching out for the safety of United States citizens.

It's not just anti-Islamic rhetoric from Trump. Ben Carson has echoed Trump's calls for a database. Marco Rubio has stated Muslim gatherings should be monitored. In addition, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush have suggested Christian refugees should be given priority into the United States. Former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh even tweeted: "This is what Islam does. Wake up world!"

Still ...

Many Americans believe capitalizing on fear and the considerable ignorance about the Muslim faith in the United States is driving a stampede of unnecessary, prejudicial proposals such as shutting down mosques and forcing all Muslims to carry a special ID card.

Of course, even a few terrorists in the United States could initiate acts that cause massive death and destruction. But, in fact, they've been rare. An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims.

In actuality, 42 percent of terror attacks were carried out by Latino-related groups, followed by 24 percent perpetrated by extreme left-wing actors.And as a 2014 study by University of North Carolina found, since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-linked terrorism has claimed the lives of 37 Americans. In that same time period, more than 190,000 Americans were murdered.

(Dean Obeidallah. "Are All Terrorists Muslims? It’s Not Even Close."
The Daily Beast. January 14, 2015.)

A 2011 Pew Research Center poll found that compared to the general U.S. public, Muslims are more satisfied with the direction of the country and with their own lives. The vast majority of them reject terrorism as a means of achieving political ends.

Gallup defined Islamophobia as "exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political, and civic life." It has existed in premise before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but it has increased in frequency and notoriety during the past decade.

In the U.S., about one-half of nationally representative samples of Mormons, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, and Jews agree that in general, most Americans are prejudiced toward Muslim Americans. Even among Americans who report no personal prejudice toward Muslims, one-third say they have an unfavorable opinion about Islam (36%).

Fifty percent of those who report a great deal of prejudice toward Muslims say they are Republicans, compared with 17% of those who identify as Democrats and 7% as independents. Those who report no prejudice toward Muslims are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans, 39% to 23%, respectively.

Those who report a great deal of prejudice toward Muslims are more likely than those who report none or smaller levels of prejudice to have completed only a high school-level education.Research shows that the U.S. identified more than 160 Muslim-American terrorist suspects and perpetrators in the decade since 9/11, just a percentage of the thousands of acts of violence that occur in the United States each year. It is from this overall collection of violence that "an efficient system of government prosecution and media coverage brings Muslim-American terrorism suspects to national attention, creating the impression - perhaps unintentionally - that Muslim-American terrorism is more prevalent than it really is."
("Islamophobia: Understanding Anti-Muslim Sentiment in the West." Gallup Muslim-West Perceptions Index.

Essential Understandings: Paul David Miller

I recently read an article title "Is Islam a Terrorist Religion?" by Paul Miller that struck me as a very fair and enlightening piece concerning the relationship of the followers of Islam and jihadism. Please read the entire article, but also allow me to point out strong pieces of it today in my post.

 Miller believes "it is false that jihadism has nothing to do with Islam; but that does not mean that Islam is nothing but jihadism." He says Jihadists use Islamic rhetoric, symbols, and concepts in the construction of their ideology. Miller claims "the falsity of jihadist theology has absolutely no bearing on its existence as a hostile religious ideology fervently believed in by thousands of well-armed people who wish to harm the United States." Its theological status does not change the threat it poses, nor, necessarily, its ability to find more recruits from within the Islamic world.

As religion -- be it Islam or Christian -- powerfully intermixes with politics, its adherents grapple with the question of what politics flows most naturally from their faith. Much as the American founders claimed that civic republicanism was a natural consequence of Protestantism, many Muslim leaders believe in "Islamism" -- the transmutation of Islam into a political ideology.

Miller confirms that the Islamic State (ISIS’s) is “Islamic” He says ...

"The secularist view—that jihadism is the product of frustrated rational actors lashing out at their disempowerment in corrupt, poor, repressive societies left behind by globalizing modernity—is true but incomplete, the shallow understanding of secular modernity unable to come to grips with the enduring power of religious identities."

(Paul David Miller. "Is Islam a Terrorist Religion?" The Federalist.)

How can Americans judge all Muslims by one standard? Islam is a "living" religion - the meaning of Islamic theology and Koranic passages change across time and culture as it is interpreted and lived by different people in different times and places -- 1.6 billion of them. Miller suggests Americans should broaden their understanding of the Islamic theology to better understand just what faction of Islam is the enemy. He explains ...

"There is no single thing called 'Islam' captured once and for all time in the Koran. This is where we might start looking for an interdisciplinary explanation for this broad phenomenon, one that integrates both theological study with anthropology and history and political science. There is so much variance across the Islamic world that we should look at the different cultures, histories, politics, and geographies of the Islamic world to begin to explain things."

The Miller Analogy

Although religious matters and ideas have consequences, Miller believes if we stopped there, we might be tempted to start fearing our Muslim neighbors as a fifth column (a group within a country at war who are sympathetic to or working for its enemies) just waiting to strike when the moment is right.

Here is where Miller says we need to take counsel from the other side of the debate:

"There are 1.6 billion professing Muslims in the world. If we count up every member of every jihadist group in the world, including al-Qaida, the Islamic State, the Taliban, Boko Haram, al-Shabab, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Hamas, Hezbollah, Lashkar-i Taiba, and scores of other groups you’ve never heard of, how many would there be? Let’s assume that we could count one million active jihadists in the world, almost certainly an exaggeration of their true numbers.

"That would account for 0.06 percent of all Muslims worldwide.

"Assume ten million active jihadists worldwide, a wild exaggeration of their true numbers. That is 0.63 percent of all Muslims worldwide.

"Assume that there are one hundred million Muslims worldwide who would count themselves as believers, supporters, fellow-travelers, fundraisers, or sympathizers with jihadism, people who would actively give their time, money, and effort to supporting active jihadists. That still leaves 94 percent of the world’s Muslims who neither participate in nor even sympathize with terrorism.

"According to a 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center, “Muslims around the world strongly reject violence in the name of Islam,” including overwhelming majorities that reject suicide-bombing, a good proxy measure for support for terrorism. By any reasonable measure, Muslims are not terrorists.
The percentage of Muslims who are terrorists is barely higher than the percentage of Quakers who are terrorists.

"Let’s say you went shopping in a very large mall in a cosmopolitan city filled with people from all over. You wanted to know if it was safe. If I told you that 99.5 percent of all shoppers in the mall had no criminal record whatsoever, you should, rationally speaking, feel safe. If, instead, you looked at the mall and declared it to be full of criminals, you would be wrong.

"I loathe political correctness for its arrogance, illiberality, and intellectual oppression. So when I say that Muslims are not terrorists, I say that simply on the numbers, as a quantifiable fact. The percentage of Muslims who are terrorists (let’s say it is 0.5 percent) is barely higher than the percentage of Quakers who are terrorists (which I assume is zero)."

(Click here for the entire Federalist article:

Life and Religion In America

The right to religious freedom is enshrined in the Constitution and protected as a fundamental human right in our democracy. The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Freedom of religion is very encompassing. It "includes the rights of worship, observance, practice, expression, and teaching, broadly construed," the 2014 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report explains. "These include: wearing religious dress or symbols; observing dietary restrictions; participating in rituals associated with certain stages of life; possessing property rights regarding meeting places; and maintaining the freedom to manage religious institutions, possess, publish, and distribute liturgical and educational materials, and raise one's children in the religious teachings and practice of one's choice."

I believe a distinction must be made -- we must understand that Muslims do not become enemies in our midst by merely exercising their right to follow their religion unless they seek to institute Islamic totalitarianism. I believe that a minority religion is fully protected in our democracy, and I think people here should be free to pray to Allah and praise the Koran. But, if any Muslims act to abet the users of force and terror in any way, they then become jihadist terrorists -- undeniable foes of our great nation.

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