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by Peter Moskos

August 24, 2010

Islamophobia?

I'm pro-Muslim. I sound funny just saying that. I'm not too keen on religion or zealots in general. But why would I be anti-Muslim any more than anti-Jew or anti-Christian? I have good friends who are Muslims. I have students who are Muslims. I have neighbors who are Muslim. I've traveled to Muslim countries. Muslims all nice people. Well, not all of them, but you know what I mean. People are not bad because of their religion. It simply doesn't make sense to hate people because of their religion. I'm not going to debate that issue.

But...

Am I an Islamophobe? [cue scary music]

Time magazine has an article about Islamophobia [reprise scary music]. One of the questions Time asks is "Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers." That's supposed to show Islamophobia. Forty-six percent of people responded in the affirmative.

But...

I would respond in the affirmative. I mean, I haven't done a study and certainly not historically (the Christians have a pretty bad track record from, say 1000 AD to well into the 20th century!). But today, if you were to look at people killed in acts of religious-inspired violence, most of those doing the killing believe they're acting in the name of Islam (Most of the victims are Muslim too, I would add).

What if parts of Islam are more likely to encourage violence against others? And I'm not saying that most Muslims agree with these zealots.

It's like asking if you believe that African-Americans are more likely than whites to commit acts of violence in America. Well... if you say yes are you a racist? It's un-P.C. to talk about it, but blacks are more likely than whites to commit violent crime in America. And yes, the academic in me wants to mention class, poverty, education, and other factors that explain much more than race, but yes, there is a crude-correlation between race and violent crime. We can be liberal and tolerant and not deny reality, right? To know that doesn't make me racist, I hope.

So why would thinking that Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence be a sign of Islamophobia? What if it's true?

Shouldn't we be working harder to end violence rather than pretend it doesn't exist?

6 comments:

Dana King said...

Excellent point. To strain an analogy, how many people have died needlessly over the years because they had a disease they were loath to discuss in polite company? (Breast cancer, rectal cancer, or something else that deals with any body part people would rather not discuss at the dinner table.) Sensitivity may prevent someone from addressing a problem, but it won't keep the problem from killing you.

Adrian said...

To continue the black & violence example, you have to think about 2 separate questions:

"Are blacks in America more likely to perpetrate and be victims of violence than whites?"

versus:

"Does being black make someone more likely to perpetrate violence or be a victim of violence?"

Yes to the first, no to the second. My answer is the same when you switch it with Islam.

If some dude in Egypt or Saudi Arabia is angry and violent, there's a good chance he'll turn to Islam. In the US, he'll go the thug life route. In Holland, he'll vote for Geert Wilders. But there are way too many confounding variables to say that Islam is more likely to push people to violence than other religions.

Adrian said...

To clarify, by "turn to Islam" I mean he'd turn to the Al Qaeda type Islam that would provide an outlet for anger and violence.

PCM said...

Adrian, that's a great way to note the distinction. Thanks. It was the point I was trying to make.

But I don't know if I'd compare thug life in the US to terrorist life elsewhere. Perhaps the best predictor of being a thug in the US is simply the rotten luck of being born into a certain geographic area filled with thugs.

Seems to me that Islamic terrorism has more in common with right-wing militia groups: angry at a corrupt government, a great sense of grievance and lost glory, a feeling of being oppressed, hatred of a class of people who are soft and decadent, and a belief that religion justifies violent struggle.

Being born poor isn't a good predictor of become a terrorist. Quite the opposite. Seems that Muslim terrorists come from seemingly good families and educations. And then for some reason some take a turn to the dark side.

They may be motivated by other people's poverty or US foreign policy, but their struggle seems to have little to do with personal deprivation (certainly the Saudi's have money--US money, I can't help but notice). Terrorists don't come from the slums of Cairo (which tend to filled with Christians, anyway).

[And a minor kind of semantic note: the dude in Egypt or Saudi Arabia wouldn't have to "turn" to Islam because he's already Muslim. But I know what you mean. He might turn to some radical part if it.]

PCM said...

Got it. I typed that last paragraph before I read your second comment.

Jeff said...

I think a misunderstanding with Islam is that there are different flavors.

If the catholics blew up the world trade center would people be against the baptists building a mosque/church near ground zero?

So you have various strains of muslims who believe various things.
Some are peaceful, and some want to kill us.

So are Muslims in general more likely to be terrorists than Christians? Dunno, I recall several decades of protestants killing catholics and visa versa.
Does that make me christianphobic?