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Islamophobia diminishes the US and must be resisted

Frank Woodman holds a sign in support of his Muslim neighbors as he joins Bangladeshi- and Yemeni-Americans to protest against the Islamic State group and political and religious extremism during a rally in the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, Mich., on Dec. 11, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Rebecca Cook *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ISLAMAPHOBIA-OPED, originally transmitted on Sept. 7, 2016.

(RNS) Just as our nation accepts its 10,000th Syrian refugee, calls to ban future Muslims from entering the country have reached a fevered pitch.

In recent weeks, the patriotism of an American Muslim soldier killed in Iraq has been called into question without cause; a New York-based imam and his associate were murdered in broad daylight; and a county commissioner in Georgia temporarily blocked the construction of a new mosque.

Thankfully, Americans of all political and religious backgrounds are pushing back, which is good news as we mark 15 years from the Sept. 11 attacks that led to deadly tensions between the U.S. and parts of the Muslim world.

Many Americans understand that hatred of Muslims is an assault on American ideals. We’ve spent our lives working in different spheres — one of us is an evangelical Christian pastor, the other a retired Marine general — but we’ve both seen firsthand how Islamophobia diminishes us all and weakens our country.

Of course, Muslims are the primary victims of Islamophobia, which prevents them from exercising their basic rights, including their right to religious freedom. It also threatens their lives.

Violence against Muslims spikes after high-profile incidents of terrorism, and a recent report by Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding found that an upsurge has coincided with the presidential race.

Between March 2015 and March 2016, 12 American Muslims were murdered in bias-motivated attacks.

Yet Islamophobia isn’t a “Muslim issue.” It is an issue for anyone who cares about the United States and the values that undergird it.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but lies have gained so much traction that we feel we need to to: Terrorist groups represent a minuscule fraction of Muslims worldwide who are, after all, both the primary victims and primary opponents of ISIS and al-Qaida.

According to the FBI, the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the United States are committed by non-Muslims. Terrorists speak for Muslims no more than the Ku Klux Klan speaks for Christians.

Nearly all Muslims are part of the American mainstream.

Five thousand Muslims are in the military, and thousands more serve their country in other ways: as teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers and public officials.

Muslims stand ready to combat extremism in their own communities, but the bigoted rhetoric of public officials and discriminatory policies may make them reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement. A similar dynamic takes place overseas, where American hostility toward Muslims alienates communities whose cooperation the United States needs to wage a smart and effective battle against terrorism.

Calls for a blanket ban on Muslim refugees appear to validate the clash-of-civilizations propaganda of ISIS, which uses such rhetoric to recruit followers. Conversely, openness to Muslim refugees puts the lie to ISIS propaganda and casts the United States in its proper, favorable light.

Make no mistake: Islamophobia weakens U.S. national security.

It’s also important to remember that while Christians are a majority in the U.S., they become a minority when they travel or move to many other countries. Treating Muslims with proper respect here improves America’s standing to defend the religious freedom of Christians and other religious minorities around the world.

In this sense, and in many others, hostility toward Muslims cuts against our own best interests.

These debates are understandably intense and full of emotion, but emotion should never lead us to turn our backs on the values that have made us strong as a people, and have made us a light for the world.

Millions of Americans share a passionate commitment to our founding ideals, and no ideal is more foundational than freedom of religion. It is this freedom that allows us to practice our faith free from government interference, and that has formed a society of astonishing religious pluralism.

That’s America, a place where people are free to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience.

(Bob Roberts is pastor of Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, and retired Gen. Charles C. Krulak was commandant of the Marine Corps from 1995-1999)

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

48 Comments

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  • Actually, and historically, America has always had strife over religion. . . that kinda is what has formed America. . .

  • Indirectly. We have always been the nation where you leave your sectarian animosities at the door. Where people go to flee religious based violence. Where faiths and sects which are killing each other elsewhere live next to each other peaceably. The reason for this is the first amendment. Sectarian strife typically is caused when government favors one faith over another. The first amendment proscribes such things.

  • It is human nature and an American trait to suspect an entire group over the actions of a few. Every muslim in America is a potential terrorist, every mosque a hotbed of radicalism. Our ignorance of history, geography and religion makes us prey to paranoia and xenophobia. Look at our treatment of Japanese-Americans and, to a lesser extent German-Americans in WWII. A big hindrance to acceptance of Muslims in America is the great cultural disparity especially with devout Muslims. As an atheist I believe Islamism to be a genuine concern but as we should hold, each person is held accountable for their own actions (not beliefs).

  • “According to the FBI, the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the United States are committed by non-Muslims. Terrorists speak for Muslims no more than the Ku Klux Klan speaks for Christians.”

    Exactly. The Christian next door is much more dangerous than the Muslim in her hijab.

  • Speaking as one who affirms her own Christianity, aren’t you calling incoming artillery onto your own position. I can’t speak necessarily to the Muslim in her own hijab, but acts of terrorism by Christians are pretty rare in their own account, unless you can cite statistics of which I am unaware, at which point I would have to scrutinize closely the parameters set for the definition of a Christian in those instances. I can think of no sincere believer in the teachings of Jesus who would embrace terror as a proper mechanism of the Faith. As the Master Himself declared, “By their fruits you shall know them.”

  • Our American ideals of quickly acceping those of a different religious orientation, is not a suicide pact. We do not need to embrace those who have sworn to kill us in the name of their man-made deity. It’s Islamic terrorists we must call out and resist, and so must the so-called “moderate Muslims,” who are equally in danger of dying at the hands of the radicals for being apostate.

    This old trick works with the dim-witted: these apologists bandy about the term “Islamophobia” as a way of making the Muslims in America seem like a larger group than they are, and shaming those who resist Islamic terrorist ideology. Most of us are smarter than that.

  • Only if she believes fundamentalist Christians speak for her. Nobody outside of fundamentalist Christianity ever thinks so.

    Acts of terrorism by Christians is more widespread than you are willing to admit. It would have to include 150 years of terror by the KKK.The only terrorist organization in America which held approval by state and local governments. White supremacists state their religious belief as Christian Identity. It’s a distinct sect unto itself.

  • Yet not only do we, we enshrine their right to be so. The first amendment is not freedom of speech or religious belief of those ideas which are popular, but for those which are not. Those ideas which are despised and unliked.

    You don’t have to like what is being said or believed, but it is unamerican, if not outright seditious to claim that people do not have an inherent right to hold and express such ideas.

    The idea that belief any given religion is grounds for government action against them is so far from what America stands for, that it must be confronted. As the authors of the article made abundantly clear.

  • You are quoting those stats from where? Pamela Gellar and co?

    More people through American history died at the hands of American Christian terrorist for a much longer period of time than anything done by Muslim-Americans.

    The KKK doesn’t burn a big giant “T” in their ceremonies. Its a cross. They are Christian.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/02/10/even-more-black-people-were-lynched-in-the-u-s-than-previously-thought-study-finds/?utm_term=.ccb36b95f6b4

  • Edward, the quote from the article is my source, as you can see. While it says non-Muslims, in America that means our very dominant “Christian nation’s” population, in other words, Christians.

    I do not hesitate to criticize Christian failings. That’s how the faith is best maintained and grown. We should be willing to call out failings, and christianist terrorists should be at the top of the list. Perhaps I am misunderstanding, but it sounds to as though you feel I ought to give terrorists a pass if they are Christians.

    “parameters set for the definition of a Christian” If they say they are Christians, they are. Do you have a test of some sort in mind?

    “I can think of no sincere believer in the teachings of Jesus who would embrace terror as a proper mechanism of the Faith.”
    And yet, they do.

  • Moderate Muslims have been calling out Islamic terrorists regularly, over and over and over at great risk to themselves. Their denunciations of terrorists don’t get a lot of press because it’s not as attention getting and frightening as “those scary terrorists!”

  • Your mathematical reply to the “40 times” makes sense. However, the Vox 40% looks very shaky. I wonder how they define “terrorism”? Are they counting separate incidents? Number injured or killed? And what dates are their numbers covering?

    I’m not questioning your motives Natalie, but I very much doubt your numbers. I’ve not seen anything close to that for reputable sources.

  • Also Natalie, I live in the metro with the biggest Somali population in the US, more than 20,000. Very few Somalis are not Muslim. They are not different from the Latinas, Jews, Germans, Liberians, or other residents of the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota metro area. Muslims are involved in government and civic affairs and put a great deal of effort into denouncing Islamic terrorists.

    The Muslims I am personally acquainted with are less frightening than the white Christian supremacists I see on tv. They’re certainly nothing like the Islamic terrorists I see on tv. I think personal relationships or at least near proximity make a big difference. For sure it shatters false imagery and perceptions that saturate media on all levels.

  • My comment prior to this one you are responding to has everything to do with the state. More individual terrorist acts are committed by Christians, but the 9/11 attack killing nearly 3000 skews that if the Vox numbers are based on individuals killed or injured.

    Does Vox include terrorist attacks like the slaughter in the Carolina church? The Colorado movie theater? The attacks on Planned Parenthood health centers? The Oklahoma City bombing? How Vox arrived at their statistics makes all the difference.

    My second comment is not in reference to your stats. It’s about how getting to know people makes it much more difficult to maintain prejudices and make stereotypical pronouncements about the entire group. It’s about how the Italians, Roman Catholics, Poles, Bohemians and other ethnic and religious groups became an integral part of America. We got to know each other and recognize that we are all much more alike than different.

  • Our definition of what constitutes a Christian must have different parameters in some respects. Mere identification as such is not evidence enough.. Jesus’ taught that His followers would be known by the fruit they bear. That is the best test I can think of. Nor do I hesitate to criticize Christian failings, on some of those failings you and I agree, on others we do not. At no point would I endorse terror by anyone including those who might self identify as Christians, but who clearly do not understand or appreciate what Christ has called us to be. As to being a Christian nation, our secular and atheist protagonists have quite rightly pointed out: It ain’t necessarily so. No intent to impugn your motives, I merely questioned how you framed your definition of a Christian. I have known many people who claimed to be Christian, but when I queried into their beliefs and practices and then juxtaposed those against the scriptures, I have not hesitated to declare their understanding to be faulty; not because I say so, but because the scriptures themselves testify against them.

  • The KKK in no way, shape, or form, falls into the legitimate framework of a Christian organization or outlet, its very aims are in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ. Once again, it doesn’t matter how people self identify with respect to Christianity, what matters is whether their aims and acts conform to the teachings of Christ. In some areas there is disagreement among genuine and committed believers on those tenets. But the position of the KKK is indisputably outside the frame.

  • That is strictly your opinion. Not one shared by the members of the KKK. A group which considers themselves adamantly Christian and even have their own Christian sect. Their main symbol is the Christian symbol of the cross. They consider themselves Christian and consider the Bible to be their scripture in religious belief.

    “Once again, it doesn’t matter how people self identify with respect to Christianity, what matters is whether their aims and acts conform to the teachings of Christ.”

    That is what people say when they want to declare a group are “Not True Christians” in an effort to disassociate themselves.

  • No American should tolerate intolerant Christians. Down that road lies madness…and Trumps proposed disaster in the US.

  • Exactly what I say about religiously intolerant bigots. Antigay, anti Muslim, and woman….

    But pro gun.

  • I agree with recognizing an adherent to any particular religion by acts that conform to that religion. Therefore, the same is true regarding Middle Eastern terrorists who call themselves Muslims.

    In my understanding of Christianity, there is no such thing as a Christian Terrorist, even though the terrorist may claim so.

    As I listen to voices of millions of Muslims around the world, it becomes equally clear that there is no such thing as a Muslim Terrorist.

    Very loud Christian and Muslim voices disagree with me and heap praise on their favorite terrorists. That does not make it so.

  • … empirical “tit-for-tat” arguments solves nothing in reference to the magnitude of this REAL IMMINENT dilemma on 11/8 next!!! … ‘Stats’ are for brain-dead PollBots to try and impress each other with all the intellect they never aquired!!!

    Goto: www PoliticalIslam com for the most comprehensive due diligence, with substantive intellect in an 9/11 to this day study, by a Quantum-mechanics Physicist in discipline, professor, whose excellent presentation shall make us all, genuine real learned persons in this subject-matter!!!! …

    IT IS CRUCIAL TO OUR 11/8 VOTING, FAR BEYOND THIS TRASH POLITICAL RHETORIC!!!!
    God Speed,
    YoOleMe

  • In the context of your comments, I will agree that individuals ultimately need to be assessed by virtue of their own conduct irrespective of their proclaimed ideology, if that is what you are declaring. Where you and I will continue to disagree most likely, is that in the present paradigm of human events, what the relative risk is from those who practice terror who identify in their own mind as Christian or Muslim though the terrorist acts we are witnessing and experiencing may be less about religion than anger about the perceived hegemony of the West.

  • Well, they’ve done an extremely poor job of applying it. It is not merely a matter of my opinion. Within the context of the Faith, if one applies the principle of Jesus’ teaching and that of His disciples, and contrasts those admonitions and instructions with the practices and aims of the KKK, then the KKK clearly fall outside the pale, whatever they may declare or believe.

  • That describes virtually every time people claim in public to act in accordance with Christian principles in anything other than selfless charity work and pacifism. People in every religion look for carve-outs and exceptions to rules and precepts of their faith for their own purposes. Its the nature of belief. The excuses I get for why some Christians find exceptions and caveats to “Love thy Neighbor” and “Love others as I have loved you” is an ongoing thing.

    Everyone falls short of “true ____” when it is convenient to disavow people of the same faith. But their numbers are counted when people want to claim their faith is widely accepted. Its why most people roll their eyes when they see an argument, “They weren’t genuine ______”.

  • I’ve seen that rate stated as 6%, so I’d tread lightly with those numbers.

    I know you might be tempted to say “well, that’s still 6 times more likely”, but I implore you to recognize a larger point: since 9/11, only 142 people have died of terror attacks on American soil; if 6% were perpetrated by Muslims, that’s about 9 people killed by Muslim terrorists in that span. Less than 1 a year.

    If we peg the overall US homicide rate at 5 per 100,000 (.00005%, and a generally middle-of-the road number for that period 2011-2016), then we see your chances of dying from Muslim terrorism are remarkably small:

    If we place the US population at 300,000,000, then a murder rate of 15,000/year has seen 225,000 people murdered in the 15 years since 9/11. Only 9 of them were killed by Muslim terrorists. That’s .00004% of murders.

    Your chances of being murdered by a Muslim terrorist are miniscule. Even if we use “40 times more likely”, per year your chance would be .00000001%. It’s essentially a non-issue. To bother dressing that up as a true threat to your life is disingenuous. More people die falling out of bed. 450/year in the US.

    Sources:

    http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/8718000

    http://www.vox.com/2015/11/23/9765718/domestic-terrorism-threat

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_the_United_States#Homicide

    http://emgn.com/entertainment/14-of-the-most-bizarre-ways-people-die-every-year/

  • I just spent 30 minutes at your link Natalie, but I couldn’t find your numbers. I am not good at dealing with large data bases. That requires a skill set I lack. I will take your stats under advisement and check in with people I’m acquainted with who are skilled at deciphering those things. Thank you.

  • That number is in the first source I supply you.

    Either way, my greater point is demonstrated with either 6% or 40%.

    Did you read what I wrote or just stop at 6%?

  • My confidence lies in the precept that in the end God will sort out his own, in the meantime as I engage believers and unbelievers alike I will continue to reference scripture as best I understand it, while open to correction or admonishment, primarily from the brethren.

  • “My confidence lies in the precept that in the end God will sort out his own,”

    I know this is irrelevant to the discussion, you are referencing 2 Timothy 2:19 and don’t mean anything malevolent from it.

    But I cant help it but think of your phrase in reference to a famous quote concerning the final end of the Cathars

    Caesarius of Heisterbach relates this story about the massacre,

    When they discovered, from the admissions of some of them, that there were Catholics mingled with the heretics they said to the abbot “Sir, what shall we do, for we cannot distinguish between the faithful and the heretics.” The abbot, like the others, was afraid that many, in fear of death, would pretend to be Catholics, and after their departure, would return to their heresy, and is said to have replied “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius – Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His” and so countless number in that town were slain.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caedite_eos._Novit_enim_Dominus_qui_sunt_eius.

  • A fine historical reference from which a later admonition emerged, “Kill them all, and let God sort them out.” However, let me make clear that that is precisely the wrongheaded sort of thinking that has marred the history of the church. The abbot in question I am quite certain has or will answer to God for such a callous and insipid point of view.

  • … DESPITE “Roe v. Wade” gross misinterpretation; “… the 1st Amendment right to free exercise of religion.” DOES NOT INCLUDE MURDER as a PROSELYTIZING technique!!!!

  • I acknowledge that. My prior comment was meant only as an irrelevant aside. Something your post reminded me of, apropos of nothing.

  • So what’s the Arabic word for Islamophobia? What.. there isn’t one? You mean it’s just like the core of Islam – using nonMuslims systems against them, in this case the English language?

  • Ummm… that’s because there’s only 1-2% Muslim population. Kinda of a deceitful stat you’re peddling. Wait till they become 5-10% and see how quickly their stats climb.

  • No problem. For all the good it did. She just called me a liar and from what she says, may not have made it past the first sentence of my comment.

  • G’Day “Spuddie” and please forgive my tardiness here, but I’ll greatly appreciate your “high road” treatment – in that by its Satanic-principled nature, your “low road” approach might have electronically fried my laptop here, albeit, I’m compelled to admit: … Your “Time for your meds.” succinct coordination with my 24/7, COPD Iprateropium / Albuterol, 4-hour interval inhalation medication BEARS NOTICE!!! – which reflects in turn, upon your “fetus” characterization of any, Genesis 1:26, Elohiym “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:” designated, embryonic DNA share (now, let’s see; what was
    that other passage: “By their fruits * * * …”!?!?) …

    As for my, “Don’t [I] have doctors to threaten and clinics to vandalize?” … THAT’S TOTALLY ABOVE MY PAY-GRADE!!! … to have received my WRATH would RELATIVELY be a FREE GIFT, vis-à-vis THAT, OF THE One they SHALL INDEFATIGABLY FACE in that issue!!!!!

    Ciao, Vacuum

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