Having lived among Muslims in Muslim neighborhoods in a Muslim majority country for over five years now, I am constantly confused and disappointed by the denigration of Muslims in the West. This generally comes from two groups: those who have never met a Muslim, and those who have met them in a war zone. While the latter group does know something about Muslims that is valid, what they know is how Muslims act when they are being shot at, frightened, gassed, bombed, beaten, starved, tortured, and killed. This is not a political statement, simply a description of a war zone.
In my experience, most commentators are simply passing along what they have heard from other commentators. Even those who have a background in the Middle East often come from areas where they lived in seclusion from Muslims. Years ago I asked one lady who grew up in Lebanon about a Muslim custom and she said "I don't know, I was never in the home of a Muslim." Being from the Middle East didn't give her any particular knowledge of Muslims because she actively avoided contact with them. If you really want to know what Muslims are up to, I suggest that you meet a Muslim.
A friend recently asked my opinion of an anti-Muslim video, and when I watched the video it was immediately obvious that the person who made it had no personal knowledge of Muslims or their culture and religion. It was recycled video clips. I won't link it here because that would promote it, but the upshot was that fear of Islam is rational. Because the (stated) aim of the video was to promote fear, it was long on emotion and short on fact. The video presented four distinct themes, which I will comment on here.
Myth #1 - All terrorism is Muslim terrorism.
Since the video was made from a US perspective, we can look at terrorist acts in the US to see if this is true. The FBI has published a list of domestic terror attacks in the last few decades in the US. What is clear from this list and other sources is that the danger of Muslim attacks in the US has been greatly exaggerated by those who sell fear, or those whose agenda is to, as one professional fearmonger put it, "to scare the bejeezus outta ya!"
|Terrorism by groups 1980-2005|
Since this data was compiled in 2005, the FBI's greatest concern has been the resurgence of right-wing hate groups and militias.
Myth #2 - Only Muslims can't live with others in peace.
This myth simply ignores the many cases of religious strife around the world between other groups. The maker of the video is probably hoping that no one will bother doing a few quick google searches. In the case of Christians, they are being attacked by Hindus, being attacked and killed by Buddhists in several places, and they are being killed by atheists. Even animists persecute Christians.
The video maker in this case is either very ignorant (most likely) or willing to tell a bald-faced lie.
|There are no Muslims in this photo.|
Myth # 3 Only Muslims are unhappy with their countries.
Ironically, the maker of this video is likely to be among those who complain the loudest about illegal Mexican immigration to the US. Those Mexican people (Christians) are unhappy with their country (Christian) and want to come to the US. In fact if we look at the top ten immigrant groups in the US, none of them are from Muslim countries. The maker of the video obviously made no effort to learn the actual facts before jumping to conclusions.
- Place of birth for the foreign-born population in the United States
|Top ten countries||2013||2010||2000||1990|
Myth #4 - Only Muslims Have Terror Organizations.
The video listed many terror organizations operating in the Muslim world. Some were duplicates, rather like listing "KKK" and "The Klan" as distinct groups. Others are long disbanded, and some are simply a rebranding of the same group. But there are many terror organizations active in the Muslim world, so surely that makes them especially evil and violent, right?
While there is no official national catalogue of terrorist groups operating in the US, the Southern Poverty Law Center does keep an extensive list of hate groups, some of which are not very hateful at all, and others of which are terrorist by nature -everything from Klansmen, Black Panthers, White Nationalists, Ecoterrorists, Nazis -the list is long. The State Department keeps a list of terror organizations, both active and "delisted." On both lists are groups from around the world -South Americans, Irish, Japanese, Cambodians, Indians -there are plenty of groups on the lists which are not Muslims.
|Terror cells often look more like this.|
There is a conversation to be had about radical Islamist violence. There are hard questions to be asked about Wahabi Islam and the export of violent, radical ideology. There are questions about rampant arms sales and the arming of dangerous groups for political purposes.
Promoting fear of Muslims does not do anything to advance this dialogue. In fact, it shuts it down. Reasonable Muslims are not going to respond with engagement if they are lumped in with extremists by the ignorant.