Conor Friedersdorf asked yesterday morning, in the Atlantic:
What is it like to be a Muslim, or a person frequently mistaken for a Muslim, in the aftermath of an apparent terrorist attack? Americans who don’t fit that description can’t really know for sure, but three news items from the last few days show that knee-jerk prejudice is inexcusably common. If your ethnic group were treated this way, you’d be walking around paranoid and anxious.
I like Friedersdorf, and share his concern for America’s civil liberties. And he has a point here, as usual. It must be annoying as hell to be a peaceful Muslim, forever struggling under the oppressive miasma of low-level public distrust. But here’s the thing:
If I were a Muslim, and in possession of a modicum of intellectual honesty, I’d understand why I and my brethren fall under swift suspicion almost every time a bomb goes off.
I’d understand that violent fundies, claiming to do Allah’s work, had spoiled it for the majority of peaceful believers.
As a hypothetical Muslim, I’d probably be upset by what I might well perceive as prejudicial wariness from non-Muslims; and I’d think, no doubt rather often, “Screw this, I didn’t do anything.” But I’d be more upset with the coldhearted sons of bitches who hijacked my religion by bombing innocents while shouting that God is Great.
If I were a Muslim — not one who works for CAIR or the UN as a professional accuser of Islam’s critics, but one with a capacity for balanced reflection — I’d face the fact, despite my anger and pain, that people of my religious tribe did this:
• Flew airliners into Manhattan office towers.
• Blew up subway cars (and the innocent passengers in them) in London.
• Bombed a night club in Bali, killing hundreds.
• Created a huge bloodbath by setting off ten bombs aboard trains in Madrid.
• Kidnapped and beheaded the journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan.
• Laid siege to the heart of Mumbai with bombs and guns for three days, piling up the corpses.
• Murdered hundreds of children and teachers in a school in Beslan, Russia.
• Bombed the Paris metro.
• Took and executed foreign hostages at an oil refinery in Algeria.
• Attempted to detonate a car full of explosives in Times Square, New York.
• Stabbed and shot several of Salman Rushdie’s translators and publishers in Italy, Norway, and Japan.
• Set fire to a hotel in Turkey to protest Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, killing dozens.
• Firebombed a British publishing house for publishing a historical novel about Mohammad.
• Firebombed the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for putting Mohammad on its cover.
• Tried to blow up cargo planes and their crews in England and Dubai, with explosives packed in printer cartridges.
• Shot and killed people on the Fort Hood military base.
• Slaughtered the filmmaker and writer Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam.
• Made multiple attempts on the lives of Scandinavian cartoonists who’d drawn pictures of Mohammad.
Not quite done yet:
• Shot and killed innocent people in the Washington DC area with a sniper rifle.
• Tried to bring down a passenger plane with explosives hidden in the heel of a shoe.
• Tried to bring down another passenger plane with an incendiary device hidden in the bomber’s underwear.
• Shot little Jewish kids through the head in a schoolyard in Toulouse, France.
Oh — and, we learned yesterday, hours after Friedersdorf posted his piece, that Islam-loving youths
• indiscriminately killed and maimed with bombs and guns in Boston this week.
That’s all off the top of my head. The litany above covers just the last decade or two, and isn’t nearly a complete list.
People who don’t like hearing this have a tendency to go on the counter-offensive by pointing to terrorists like Tim McVeigh and Anders Breivik. But those mass-murdering swine notwithstanding, rightwing extremists of their ilk don’t represent a worldwide violent movement.
Wish I could say the same for Muslims.
In the United States alone, since 9/11, there have been more than 50 Muslim terrorist plots and attempts and attacks. What other religion comes close? What other faith has even one-tenth of this horrible record, gained in the span of just the last 20 or 25 years?
As Moral Compass readers know, I have a fair amount of contempt for the Catholic Church (in fact, I like to think I’m an equal-opportunity offender of all religions). But I’m not the slightest bit worried that cells of scheming Catholics are going to want to blow marathon spectators to smithereens, or butcher atheists and gay people, or fly Boeings into office buildings.
No other religion on earth boasts such a massive contingent of aspiring terrorists, and I can back up the assertion. In 2008, the Gallup polling firm released the result of a survey among the world’s Muslims. Over six years and across three continents, Gallup had asked 50,000 adherents of Islam whether they supported violent jihad. The vast majority of respondents — 93 percent — said no.
May we assume that percentage to be correct? It’s likely to be considerably lower, of course, as not all backers of jihad will readily reveal their true sympathies when pressed on the subject by a U.S.-dispatched stranger with a clipboard. Not many radicals who support murder if it advances their cause will say so openly. Well, maybe these guys (Londoners, no less):
Anyway, Gallup and the mainstream media played the poll results as a victory for reason and international peace. Dalia Mogahed, director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, intoned at the time that there was no “widespread support for terrorism” among Muslims. Her poll showed that only seven percent are politically radical, she enthused.
Only seven percent of 1.3 billion Muslims is 91 million.
Only 91 million Bin Laden aficionados who cackle at the murders of Jews, Christians, atheists, apostates, artists, and authors.
Only 91 million devotees of stoning adulterers and lynching gay people.
Only 91 million Allah worshippers ready to either kill satirists and apostates, or condone such slayings.
Only 91 million would-be warriors so steeped in spirituality that they cheer when bombs built and placed by their co-religionists literally rip the limbs off of clubgoers in Indonesia and train commuters in Spain.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but as long as the number of Muslim terrorism supporters is that high, and extreme violence by Muslims is as common as rain showers, fans of Allah are going to be met with more than their fair share of suspicion.
P.S. Friedersdorf refers to Muslims as “an ethnic group.” He suggests that we’re racists for letting our thoughts wander in their direction whenever an act of terrorism is reported in the media.
As has been pointed out countless times, including by YouTubers with robot voices, Muslims form neither a race nor an ethnically homogenous tribe. Just as there are black Christians, white Christians, Asian Christians, etc., so are there black Muslims, white Muslims, Asian Muslims, and so on. The point should be unmissable, but continues to whoosh right over Friedersdorf’s and others’ heads.