By Cyberquill 05/05/201018 Comments

This issue seems oddly confusing to many people, so let me clear it up:

If a Muslim individual robs a bank because he wants to buy himself a bigger flatscreen TV, he or she is a bank robber, not an “Islamist” bank robber. Unless a desire to fund violent jihad prompted the need for cash, the person’s muslimhood has nothing to do with the crime.

If, on the other hand, a Muslim individual blows himself and dozens of others to pieces while screaming Allahu Akbar, he or she is an “Islamist” terrorist, as the act was faith-based.

Jeffrey Dahmer and Adolf Hitler were Christians and homicidal—genocidal in the case of the latter—sociopaths, but not “Christian” sociopaths, as their deeds were hardly motivated by religion.

I’m a Catholic and I once got a traffic ticket, but that didn’t make me a Christian offender. I may have listened to a Stones tape and erroneously thought I was in London, but it certainly wasn’t my denomination which caused me to drive on the wrong side of the road that night.

But any nutjob who waltzes into an abortion clinic with a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other and opens fire while reciting the Lord’s Prayer is a “Christian” terrorist, as the deed was fueled by that individual’s religious views.

Crusades and Spanish Inquisition? Christian madness all day long.

Whether or not the powder munchkin who tried to blow up a van in Times Square last Saturday is an “Islamist” terrorist depends on whether (a) he is merely a failed actor who holds a grudge against the Theater District or (b) he believed himself to execute the will of Allah.

If a Buddhist plants himself in the middle of a highway in order to become one with a bus, he’s a Buddhist fanatic. If he’s just wants to kill himself because his girlfriend ran off with the mailman, different story.

So if an act was religiously motivated, appending a religious label makes sense. If it wasn’t, it doesn’t.

The simple isn’t always the best, but the best is always simple.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. (Martin Luther King Jr.)

In the end, we will judge a religion not by the violent acts committed in its name by of some of its adherents, but by the volume of condemnation bestowed upon such acts by its majority.

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  • http://www.cheriblocksabraw.com cheri

    Your last paragraph tells much of the story. Since 2001, I have not heard much world-wide Muslim condemnation of Islamic terrorist acts, have you?

    • http://www.cyberquill.com/about_us.php Cyberquill

      I’ve heard such condemnation, yes, but most of it, while unequivocal, sounded a bit academic and perfunctory rather than gut-level and heart-felt. Overall, it would seem that those Danish cartoons caused a lot more genuine outrage among the Muslim community than 9/11.

      But this may not be a fair characterization because (a) Muslims themselves are understandably scared of extremists within their own ranks, and this may keep many of them from speaking out as vigorously as they would otherwise, and (b) perhaps our media are reporting more extensively on Muslim outrage against perceived offenses to their religion than on worldwide protests against Islamic extremism, should such protests be occurring.

      For a variety of reasons, it is very difficult to gauge the actual degree of Muslim opposition to Islamic terrorism. But I would guess that if some idiot burned a Qur’an in Times Square, the global Muslim condemnation of such act would be quite a bit more deafening than the condemnation of a Muslim blowing up a van and killing hundreds of people in the name of Allah.

      Everybody’s afraid of these nutty jihadists, and it’s sad. Islamic architecture, for instance, is so beautiful, yet in Switzerland they voted to ban minarets, because everybody’s freaked out about that religion, and understandably so. It doesn’t matter that “most” Muslims are peaceful, if anytime you allow a Muslim community to live in your country, you inevitably admit a radical minority who will terrorize everybody, including their own.

      Talking about Islam is like boarding an airplane. Anytime I board a plane, the thought of potentially crashing flashes through my mind. And everytime I talk about Islam, it occurs to me that anything I say about this religion may get me killed.

      Chances are, I’m not the only person who feels this way.

  • http://andreaskluth.org/ Andreas

    Short, punchy, easy to read, powerful ending.

    Religious labels are among the most bizarre in a label-mad society.

    • http://www.cyberquill.com/about_us.php Cyberquill

      As long as they’re accurate, I don’t mind labels. Makes it a lot easier to find stuff in the supermarket, provided that what it says on the box is actually in the box.

  • http://phoggydaysphoggynights.wordpress.com Phil

    In the past 30 years, “Christians” have killed anything between *30 and 100 times more Muslims than Muslims have killed “Christians”*.

    Who, then, are the real terrorists?

    • http://www.cyberquill.com/about_us.php Cyberquill

      That’s a valid question, but my point was not whether those who commit certain acts are members of a particular religion, but to what extent their actions are religiously motivated.

      As to who are the real terrorists, that depends on how one defines the term. If you choose to define it by body count alone, of late the U.S. has probably killed and maimed more innocent civilians by mistake (“collateral damage”) than the Islamist jihadists have killed on purpose. Clearly, far more people have lost their lives as a result of the American response to 9/11 than on 9/11 itself.

      On the other hand, the U.S. are bending over backwards to avoid hitting innocent civilians, even though when you fire missiles into a city, you’re gonna hit the wrong people no matter how “surgical” those strikes are intended to be.

      The jihadist nuts, on the other hand, specifically target innocent civilians, and the more they manage to kill, the more successful their operations.

      The more innocent civilians U.S. forces kill, on the other hand, the more they’ve screwed up. I think if they could find a way to just take out the bad guys without harming anyone else, they would.

      And therein may lie the difference.

    • http://www.cheriblocksabraw.com cheri

      How about the last 10 years? I’d prefer to stay in the last decade.

      • http://www.cheriblocksabraw.com cheri

        Funny. Most of the people blowing up Muslims are Muslims. Where is the outrage? Perhaps the rage is there but the media doesn’t cover it. Once there is a collective Islamic rage at the terrorism within their countries and ours, then the Western world might truly understand…not the fake understanding that pervades most Western hearts.

        • http://www.cyberquill.com/about_us.php Cyberquill

          I’m trying to understand. That’s why I started reading the Qur’an, but I didn’t make it beyond the fourth surah. But those are the longest ones, because for some reason, the chapters in the Qur’an are ordered by length, i.e., the longest first, the shortest last. Doesn’t matter, because there’s no narrative. Mainly repetition. After a while, I felt I was reading the same page over and over. It probably needs to be read in its original Arabic to grasp the divinity of it all. I’m sure its lure resides in the beauty of its language, which gets lost in translation.

    • http://www.cyberquill.com/about_us.php Cyberquill

      The last decade was the 1990s. You may prefer to stay in this decade.

      Determining the body count is difficult enough. Drawing conclusions from it as to who are the “real” terrorists—assuming one defines terrorism by body count alone—is even harder, as one must factor in the counterfactual casualty count and subtract it from the actual one.

      In other words, if x-number civilians were killed in direct consequence of the U.S. invasion into Iraq, one must subtract from this figure the number of civilians that would have perished under the crazy Saddam regime had it been allowed to go on.

      Likewise, one must attempt to quantify how much carnage was actually prevented by the U.S. disrupting and destroying various terrorist networks, but on the other hand factor in the extent to which U.S. action has served, and continues to serve, as a recruiting tool for new generations of jihadists.

      The paradox is that these Islamist terrorists specifically target civilians and non-combatants, but at the end of the day they probably manage to kill fewer of them than Americans kill, even though Americans don’t want to kill anyone except enemy combatants. I believe the sincere and primary mission of the United States, whether performed correctly or not, is to stop violence.

      Granted, it doesn’t make much difference to the poor little girl who got her legs blown off if she was targeted or hit by mistake in an honest albeit perchance misguided attempt to end violence.

      Another way to look at it is that the U.S. use only a fraction of the firepower at their disposal. If Al Qaeda and like-minded organizations had access to the same miliary—including nuclear—arsenal, would they act equally restrained?

      I don’t know. It’s certainly an unfortunate mess and a tragedy. I’m glad I can never be president, because I wouldn’t really know what to do.

  • Richard

    Are not extremism, arrogance, immutable conviction, intolerance, deliberate provocation, heartlessness, cruelty, adamant self-righteousness, desire to control -- the list goes on -- anywhere, in any context, on any grounds, whatever the outcome the human causes of human misery, great or small?

    • http://www.cyberquill.com/about_us.php Cyberquill

      Probably so. I guess we could trace everything to the first organic molecules in the primordial soup and go home.

      Still, if a bunch of soccer hooligans set cars on fire because Manchester United lost the game, I call them soccer hooligans. And if a guy walks into a mall with a bomb strapped to himself because he thinks that way he’ll get his 72 virgins or grapes (or whatever he thinks he’ll get), I call him an Islamic jihadist, even though he and the soccer nuts may share quite similar underlying “human” dysfunctions.

      • Richard

        Yes, but the conversation had moved on from how and why people express themselves in different ways.

        I am duly disciplined, so back to the subject in hand.:-)

        By such use of demonyms (I use the term loosely -- correct me if I’m wrong), some seek to justify or spread their prejudices or demonise, others copy something they’ve heard, yet others do not think at all.

        Your discernment is unusual and certainly isn’t at large, so perhaps your distinctions do not signify much, except to a small, sensitive minority.

        So you may not be the only one concerned, but not many will lose any sleep, labels or not. Just treat them as the ordinary adjectives they are, optional qualifiers.

        • http://www.cyberquill.com/about_us.php Cyberquill

          You can call them labels, but I happen to believe that an adjective which signifies motivation is more than an optional qualifier.

          I am aware that the drawing of obvious distinctions isn’t exactly the strongest suit of many people. What can you do.

          Perhaps all doctors who use labels and different procedures tailored to specific conditions should be replaced by medicine men who simply do a little dance around the patient.

          At least that would eliminate iatrogenic complications.

          • Richard

            Words may be powerful, but that powerful?

            • http://www.cyberquill.com/about_us.php Cyberquill

              Words don’t shape reality. When used correctly, they describe it and thus serve as an aid to communication. Calling a mailbox a mailbox doesn’t make it a mailbox, and neither does calling a mailbox a helicon turn it into a tuba.

  • http://www.backroadlesstraveled.com backroadtraveler

    I am a recovering Catholic and it seems to me religion is one of the main culprits of our society. Has anything been resolved by being deeply entrenched in a religious mind set? Can’t seem to find one.

    • http://www.cyberquill.com/about.php Cyberquill

      Not sure if anything has been “resolved” by being deeply entrenched in a religious mindset, but atheism hasn’t exactly “resolved” anything, either. The latter may be more right on the money in factual terms, but I don’t see by what psychological mechanism exactly widespread despondency and hopelessness consequent upon the notion of no afterlife would make for a recipe for everlasting peace, either.

      Human nature, alas, is human nature, and as such it is prone to and adept at seeking and finding justification for cruelty and violence in whatever philosophy happens to be within convenient reach.

      Recall that some of the worst people and regimes in history weren’t driven by religion at all (Hitler, Stalin, the Khmer Rouge, Mao, etc.)

      I have a hunch that the body count throughout human history would have been roughly the same even if religion had never been invented, although it is certainly difficult to ascertain objectively—i.e., leaving personal ideology aside—how often the notion of pleasing some god was the operative force behind manifestations of violence versus how many times the fear of divine retribution has actually stopped people from wielding their swords.

      Still, anytime an act of violence occurs, we must log if religion may have been the driving force behind it. Simply to assert the a perpetrator would have blown up that truck anyway even had he been an atheist seems a bit speculative.

      On the other hand, of course, we can’t log instances in which abstention from violence was religiously motivated.

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