I live in Indonesia, a nation with the largest Muslim population in the globe. When I was a child, no older than maybe eight, I saw and heard of churches set ablaze by the followers of Islam. I was told stories by Christian priests of Islamists murdering those who do not follow the teachings of Allah. Basically, my childhood was filled with tales of horror of the Muslims’ cruelties, and why it would be best for me to always stay within the herd of Christians I then belonged to. Yet today I find myself disagreeing with the assessment of the people in my past; I do not believe that Islam magically turns a person into a violent extremist. I understand the religion to have a similar value with any other ideology, that which both encourages and discourages acts of good and evil.
I write this post as a response to the recent, now infamous filth that poured out of Donald Trump’s mouth. His proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States of America bordered on racism, xenophobia and many other forms of hate based on stereotyping. It is an enormous act of ignorance to label an entire population comprised of diverse peoples—with contrasting upbringings, experiences, moral compasses, et cetera—into a singular lump; that of being a threat to the security of the U.S.
We must remember that human beings are, in general, inconsistent creatures. In the context of religious adherence, we would find a broad spectrum of believers: from the somewhat apathetic, the liberal, the conservative, the devout, to the zealous. Explaining why such a phenomenon exists would take too much your time, as I believe that each of you have at some point in your lives seen this nearly endless gamut with your own eyes. As there are Christian who pray on a daily basis, go to Church each and every Sunday, there are also those of the same faith who prefer to indulge themselves on more worldly pleasure, whilst rarely taking part in Christian rituals. This same principle applies to all creeds, especially Muslims for this particular discussion.
Furthermore if I may slightly detract from the beaten path, historically speaking, the followers of Yahweh have not always been as peaceful as they are thought to be today. Atrocities such as the Crusades where Catholics slaughtered those of differing faiths, the religiously-fueled Thirty Years War of Europe, the burning of innocent women in witch hunts, and much more were conducted under the banner of Christ. Neither Christians nor Catholics can proclaim that they are freer of guilt than Muslims, today that may ring true, but looking at their actions in the past it is hard to argue that they were a force for peace.
And there is danger often ignored in misjudging religions popular in the West as peaceful, all the while labeling all Muslims as potential terrorists. That is, by constructing and strengthening negative prejudices about Islam, terrorist groups who advertise themselves as the “true Muslims” are being continuously handed an invaluable asset which indirectly supports their destructive causes: Islamophobia.
Islamophobia is by no means a new occurrence, especially in the Western world. It is the fear that all Muslims inherently wish to sow destruction and chaos wherever there lives anyone who does not practice the Islamic faith. From a certain perspective, this perturbation is quite justified. The rise of Islamist terror organizations the likes of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic State lend some credence to those who sincerely believe that Islam is without a doubt foul. But again, this is untrue for the reasons I’ve previously written—the diverse kinds of believers, the sins of Christians and Catholics—and it is simultaneously beneficial to terrorists by providing them with enlarging pools of manipulable people; i.e. men, women, even teenagers who feel alienated and ostracized by the community they’re presently living amongst.
ISIS in particular thrives on the feelings of alienation suffered by Muslims. It is actually possible that the more alienated Muslims are, the likelier it is for them to support groups which seem to be supportive and accepting of them (Jones, 2015). Common sense alone would drive us to help and even follow people who say that they understand our pain, that they are willing to drive that pain away at all costs, not for their sake but for ourselves. This is likely why some Muslim minorities living in Europe, the U.S., and other corners of the world where Islam is not the majority religion are driven to spread ISIS’ reign of terror; whether by outright joining them in the Middle East or orchestrating their own terroristic exploits. E.g. Paris, South California, and many more.
What else could a person do when driven to a corner by everyone near him? Either he would run to whatever safe haven is available, or begin fighting back.
I cannot, from any perspective, endorse whatever anti-Islam stratagems previously or will one day be proposed. For one, I live in a state chockfull of Muslims. Yet all my Islamic friends, family members, lecturers, even acquaintances are indifferent, tolerant, accepting, and at times encouraging of my Atheism. Yes there are still some groups of individuals that firmly hold on to the idea that non-Muslims are infidels that must be erased from the face of the earth. However, these misguided individuals are few and far between, holding what little power they have in the relatively obscure localities of Indonesia. But my disapproval comes most of all from the self-defeating idea of alienating Muslims as much as possible, which essentially results in more fuel for the expansion of terrorist propaganda. And by extension, an increase in the number of Muslims vulnerable to said harmful messages.
The more we as a society encourage hatred against Muslims, the more Islamists will power in the form of independent loyalists, living in a myriad of areas across the globe. This would allow ISIS and kin to expand their brand of terror, subtly encourage Islamophobia to grow their following, widen their pool of potential foreign recruits, etc. without a foreseeable limit. Muslims, specifically those living in the West, are backed against a corner and they are sometimes forced to strike back, and seek safety among extremists who they would never have supported beforehand. For this reason alone, we should consciously suppress all forms of hate against the religion of Islam and its subjects. The words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Hate begets hate,” applies in this situation more than anything currently going on in the world.
I beg of any persons living in the West, perhaps you yourself dead Reader, to dam the flow of hatred for Muslims. We will never win the war against terrorists by transforming ourselves into bigots, by bolstering paranoia, by indiscriminately loathing a group of people because they stand under a banner that can be interpreted in infinite ways, from approving of violence to frowning upon it—likewise with any other religious or ideological flags.
As for people like Trump, I sincerely hope that any who listens to his tirades would stop subscribing to his rhetoric; on the grounds of reason and decency. His suggested approaches would not only fail to alleviate the terrorist threat, it would also allow for the cancer of zealotry to swell. Without us being able to know how large it would one day be, and how quickly it would spread.
Muslims are as human as any who are religious. Most of them believe in righteousness, in warring against the evils of the world. True, some are misguided in their approaches, but those who spite all Muslims without acknowledging that they are of the same species—with likewise morals, virtues, flaws, ideas of justice and cruelty—ignore all the evidence regarding human diversity, adaptability, basically the things responsible for the progress we have made as a species. A process which has pushed us to be more peaceful, accepting of one another despite numerous differences, and encouraging of an existence that values all sorts of human lives (Pinker, 2010). It is this belief that led me to stand in defense of a group I am clearly not a part of (Atheism pretty much annihilates that possibility).
Owen, J. 2015. Islamophobia plays right into the hands of Isis. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://
Pinker, S. 2010. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York City: Viking Press.