Many people in the United States have an irrational fear of Islamic extremists. Such attitudes permeate our society to such an extent that people who are Muslim or are perceived to be Muslim have been discriminated against, or faced Islamophobic bigotry. This, despite the fact that the United States has only faced one domestic attack carried out by Islamic extremists-the September 11 attacks. This irrational fear extends to people of all backgrounds-white, black, men, women, homosexual, heterosexual, theist, and atheist. People have called for profiling of Muslims at airports, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Muslims do not all look the same, nor do they belong to one ethnic group. This is a telltale sign that one is showing anti-Muslim prejudice. You cannot look at a person and discern whether they are Muslim or not. Islam is one of the 3 largest religions in the world, with billions of adherents. Yes, many of those who follow Islam (Muslims) can be found in the Middle East, and many do share similar ethnic backgrounds. There are, however, Muslims in other countries who do not share the ethnic backgrounds of Middle Eastern Muslims. There are white people who are Muslims. If an airport were to engage in profiling of Muslims, what would they look for? Profiling works based on appearance, so clearly airport security would be looking for visual cues that determine if an individual is a Muslim. What cues would these be though, given that all Muslims do not look alike, nor do they all belong to the same ethnic groups? Moreover, in the zeal of some to criticize Muslims, they criticize other religious groups that they think are Muslim, such as Sikhs. Wearing a turban does not indicate ones religious beliefs and certainly does not indicate that one is a Muslim. In addition, just because a person is a Muslim does not mean they are a terrorist. Claiming that profiling is necessary to weed out terrorists does nothing more than treat countless people as if they’re guilty of being terrorists simply because they might look like what Islamic extremists look like. That’s a morally reprehensible view, and one similar to protestations from political officials in the US that all black people are in gangs or are poor folks. It is simply not true.
Another huge problem with the focus on Islam as a huge danger to the United States, is the fact that people are overlooking domestic terrorists. The Southern Poverty Law Center cataloged over 100 incidents of domestic terror plots, racist rampages, and conspiracies since the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995. All these attacks were from right wing terrorists acting as individuals or as part of a group. These are men and woman who are citizens of the United States and have committed or plotted to commit acts of terror against the citizenry or government. These examples far outstrip the one occasion of Islamic terrorism on our shores (an attack which I wholeheartedly condemn, and make no attempts here to dismiss or minimize).
Recently, the nonpartisan National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism released the findings of a study that found that sovereign citizens are a greater concern than Islamic extremists:
The 2013-14 study results show that law enforcement’s top concern is sovereign citizens. Although Islamic extremists remain a major concern for law enforcement, they are no longer their top concern. Approximately 39 percent of respondents agreed and 28 percent strongly agreed that Islamic extremists were a serious terrorist threat. In comparison, 52 percent of respondents agreed and 34 percent strongly agreed that sovereign citizens were a serious terrorist threat. This is interesting because sovereign citizens were ranked as the eighth highest group of concern among the 2006-07 sample.
These finding obviously do not mean that government agencies are ignoring Islamic extremists. Nor do the findings point to the non-existence of threats from Islamic terrorists. The findings point out that domestic terrorism is a serious problem in the United States, and given our media, this problem is overlooked. We continue to do so at our own peril.