I’d like to see you weigh in on the Muslims are evil and scary vs. Muslims are no worse than Christians and demonizing them only helps Christians battle that occasionally flares up in the skeptical blogosphere.
Is Islam a religion of peace or of leaving people in pieces via acts of terrorism?
This question seems to be everywhere now. Between the neocon stance of “Deport all of the Muslims!” (or worse) and the committed relativists’ cries for unwavering “tolerance,” what’s a skeptic to think?
The fear of Islam in the West generally means the fear of terrorism and of the implementation of Sharia (whose penal code includes the recommendation of limb amputation for theft).
The fear of terrorism is mostly directed at non-Western Muslims. Many non-Western Muslims have no great love for the United States. Asian Muslims can point to the fact that the U.S. supports corrupt military dictatorships in Pakistan, armed and trained the very Taliban that ended up terrorizing Afganistan, and utterly ignores (along with the rest of the world, admittedly) the ethnic cleansing of Chinese Muslims. Arab Muslims can cite Iraq as well as the strong American support, at the very least economic, of Israel. In fact, most Muslims, regardless of nationality, anger at the thought of the American role in the Arab-Israeli conflict. An extreme dislike, or even hatred, of American actions doesn’t necessarily translate to terrorism, of course — and doesn’t, for the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims.
The fear of “home-grown terrorism” in the United States is a mostly unjustified one, as shown by a RAND Corporation study. In fact, the study also points out that the overwhelming majority of acts of terrorism on American soil are not committed by Muslims at all.
Individual Americans are not the only ones to generalize about Muslims. Studies that show that American Muslims are not very likely to support terrorism did not stop the FBI from targeting the mosque in my hometown. They planted a mole who posed as a convert who then attempted to incite the Muslims there to violence. The mosque members’ immediate reaction was to get a restraining order and then call the man’s very employer to report a terrorist threat.
Two years before the incident, the FBI had promised the mosque that there would be no secret monitoring; the debacle shook the trust of a community that was, from the get-go, completely open to working with the FBI, losing active allies in the fight against terror. In addition, converts to Islam are now met with suspicion by the mosque community.
The clincher? The mosque is often sneered at by more conservative Southern California Muslims for being “too modernist.”
Please note that I use the term “West” to mean the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and any nation in Western Europe, and the term “Westerner” to mean anyone who lives in and identifies with those countries. I understand that using the terms in this way is problematic, but there exists no other commonly-understood term of which I am aware that would be an appropriate substitute.