Stop Saying “Islamic Terrorist”

Something tells me I can't know everything I need to know about this person because of this one blinding display of ignorance....

Something tells me I can’t know everything I need to know about this person because of this one blinding display of ignorance….

About a month ago, some co-workers and I went to the Islamic Center of Nashville. We met with a man who was part of the leadership at the Mosque, and he spoke to us about some of the issues Muslim kids in public schools have to face. He was very kind, and sort of endearingly nerdy. During his powerpoint he showed some pictures of some of the discrimination that Muslims have to deal with in their lives and on social media…. Pictures of burned down Mosques (local Mosques), hate-filled graffiti, and inflammatory Islamophobic pictures that people shared on Facebook and Twitter (like the one that I wrote about HERE detailing “How To Wink At A Muslim”). As he showed all these hurtful images, he didn’t seem upset or angry. He seemed more resigned to those sorts of images as a fact of life. It was more like, “So yeah…. that’s just a part of what we have to deal with.” He was just calmly stating a sad reality.

The only time I saw him even get a TINY bit worked up was when he spoke about the term “Islamic Terrorist” (Thinking back on it now, he probably doesn’t feel much freedom to show a lot of passion about the daily prejudices that Muslims face because he doesn’t want to come off as “angry,” even when there is plenty to be rightfully angry about…. But I’m speculating). Anyway, he showed just a bit of emotion as he talked about “these maniacs” (his words) who murder and terrorize being described as “Islamic Terrorists.” In the face of all those examples of ignorance and prejudice, the only thing that brought his frustration to the surface was the fact that every time another one of these crazy people killed somebody, it was equated to Islam. And again and again, a religion of peace was being associated with the worst sorts of violence.

This is the most powerful image I've seen about this tragedy.

This is the most powerful image I’ve seen about this tragedy.

And as sat there in that Mosque and I listened to him talk, I knew how he felt: That frustration of watching a misguided group effectively hijack a term you care deeply about. I think about it every time I hesitate before identifying myself as a Christian. A lot of what I do here is attempting to defend Christianity from the people out there who are trying to make it seem like following Jesus is all about fighting against gay marriage, tax cuts for the wealthy, and arming yourself to the teeth. So as I watch the horrors unfold as the news covers the tragic murders at France’s Charlie Hebdo, I think again of sitting there with my shoes off while listening to this kind man trying to contain his frustration with the term “Islamic Terrorist” when the term “Terrorist” would suffice.

That makes it easier to understand....

That makes it easier to understand….

When crazy people freak out and start killing people and credit their Christianity, you know what we DON’T call them? Christian Terrorists. At the end of last year, a crazy person named Larry McQuilliams fired more than 100 rounds in downtown Austin on his way to try to burn down the Mexican Consulate. He credited Christianity as the inspiration for his extremism, and in his van was a book called “Vigilantes of Christendom” and a note calling himself a “priest in the fight against anti-God people.” The Norwegian nut-job who killed 77 people (mostly kids) in 2011 described himself as a Christian. Timothy McVeigh was hugely influenced by the “Christian Identity” movement in forming the sort of belief system that would blow up a building. Just about every white supremacist credits Christianity for their hatred, and acts of violence and terrorism against gays in this country is overwhelmingly done by people identifying themselves as “Christians.”

No one in the Christian community feels the need to distinguish themselves from these lunatics, because they are so clearly opposite to everything that Jesus was about. When I saw a Muslim friend of mine for the first time after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, even though he is very aware of my understanding of this issue, he still felt the need to say, “This is not us.” Maybe we shouldn’t expect every member of the Muslim community to distance themselves any time some deranged person credits Allah for their murderous intent (Though, if you want to hear some of the reactions from Muslim leaders to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, HERE IS AN AMAZING LIST.)

The face of a hero.

The face of a hero.

Maybe instead of making the face of Islam those murderous masked men, we can focus on a different face…. The face of Ahmed Merabet. Ahmed was a policeman assigned to protect a woman who worked at Charlie Hebdo who had received death threats because of insulting comics the magazine put out about Islam and Mohammed. He was a French man, living in the birthplace of liberty, and he was a Muslim. He died, gunned down in the street by deranged killers–killers whose professed “Islam” was as foreign to him as the Westboro Baptist’s religion is foreign to me. And he died defending the rights of a magazine to insult and ridicule his faith. This is the face of a hero, it is the face of freedom, and it is the face of Islam.

I don't.

I don’t.

So what can we do? We can remind people that allowing these lunatics to inform your understanding of Islam is itself lunacy. This sort of stuff is the very definition of prejudice, and it is the beating heart of the sort of discrimination that leads to even more tragedies like what happened at Charlie Hebdo. We can tell the story of Ahmed Merabet. We can remind people that Christianity has been used every bit as effectively in the past as a justification for killing people who are different. We can post rational and loving comments on threads that are filled with hatred and fear. We can remind people (or inform them if they don’t already know) that most of the people fighting against this sort of murderous religious extremism are, in fact, MUSLIMS.

You know what? That’s a good name for it: “MURDEROUS RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM.”  It is NOT Islamic Terrorism…. It is not a matter of Christianity versus Islam. It is a difference of ideology. I am an ally in the struggle (the word “jihad” actually means “struggle”) against a radical fundamentalism that seems to be spreading…. Against a black & white, “us & them” way of thinking…. Against a dangerous certainty. I feel much more closely connected to a Muslim looking for peace in the midst of all of this violence than I do to a “Christian” who is using this tragedy as a rationale for even more killing. If you are using your religion as a justification for killing people, you are part of the problem…. Regardless of your religion. Beloved, let us love one another.

***Three things: 1) Don’t use the comments section to make your case for all the reasons Islam is not a religion of peace…. Christianity’s track record with killing people who disagree with them is every bit as disturbing. 2) I am trying to write a book. I’m sorry to make you wait longer between posts. You’ll get over it…. And 3) Don’t let the pushback from all the crazies out there make you afraid to share this post. Be brave and loving and rational. Also, thanks for reading.***

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20 Responses to Stop Saying “Islamic Terrorist”

  1. veronica says:

    Just one comment… Are you familiar with Sam Harris? Read, listen, and learn.

    • theboeskool says:

      I was introduced to him when he was on Bill Maher making a case for why Islam is not a religion on peace…. Which, coincidentally, is the very thing I asked that people NOT use the comments section for. Sam Harris has the same brain disease that ISIS has, only his arrogant certainty and fundamentalism are focused on atheism instead of on a bad understanding of religion.

      Here is Reza Aslan, responding to the things Sam Harris and Bill Maher said while tearing CNN a new one for asking the question, “Does Islam Promote Violence?”

      • arachne646 says:

        The CNN hosts didn’t listen or respond to anything Reza Azlan said, asking the same questions about Female Genital Mutilation, and the status of women in Muslim countries over and over again after Reza had answered that FGM is a serious African problem for Muslim and Christian (and other majority) countries, and that the status of women varies in Muslim countries, from the great US ally of Saudi Arabia, which has terrible human rights of all kinds, to other Muslim-majority countries which have equal gender rights enshrined in their Constitutions. Islam is a religion that is, like any other, made up of members that are human beings, and are all kinds of people.

    • troy says:

      veronica nailed it.

  2. I’m not afraid to share. I Understand completely what you are trying to convey. All black people aren’t thugs. All cops aren’t crooked. All Priests aren’t molesters and all Muslims aren’t terrorists. It’s just sad that they all are generalized because of the actions of a few.

  3. jmsabbagh says:

    September 11,is reflection of the hate and the rage of Islam fanatic Islam.Saudi Arabia Flag is embroidered with two sword the symbol of killing .If their religion is peaceful WHY DON”T THEY REPLACE THE TWO SWORDS WITH TWO DOVES??????????

    • W says:

      Perhaps the rattlesnake on the Gadsden flag needs to be replaced with a green anole lizard?

      • jmsabbagh says:

        Every Plate overflows with it’s contains.

      • anon says:

        The rattle snake was chosen as a symbol to represent the way America should be. A rattlesnake alerts anything which may be a threat that it is there and it will strike decisively if necessary. In that way the rattlesnake is a great symbol for fair, defensive strength. Compare that to the flag of Hezbollah, I think this is a more equitable comparison.
        Of course any generalization like “all Muslims are violent” is false and unproductive, however I think it is fair to ask whether any particular ideology is conducive to human well-being and have an honest, open discussion about it. I don’t think that should be so hard.

    • Pain says:

      lol are you serious? you gonna judge an entire religion with over 1 billion because of a country that has 28 Million people also their flag has 1 sword only because swords is a big part of their tradition.

  4. Joseph says:

    I posted this on FB earlier. I feel strongly about this, so I want to post it here too: Man, I love your heart for the oppressed, but I feel people with good hearts can get overly sensitive. I have a couple points to make. First, with the picture you use at the beginning of your blog, I’m not sure how this won’t become a discussion on violence in religion. Second, I don’t have a problem with with the term “Islamic Terrorist”. If there was a current (I say this because I know there is a history of violence) Christian sect killing non-Christians, I would have no problem calling them “Christian Terrorists”. Their beliefs as Christians would be to commit terror for non-Christians, just as a sect (not the majority, but in the thousands to millions) of current Muslims is committing terror against everyone else. Their extreme religious beliefs are their justification to commit terror. You can’t separate the two. The reason it stands out is there is no other large religious sect currently committing the same acts. It shouldn’t be confused that a term for the obvious (Islamic Terrorist) is causing upstanding Muslims pain. The pain comes from the acts of terror, and their religion being used as the justification. I like your stuff and your heart, but I disagree on this one.

      • I meant the “lovely” comment to go to the writer of the blog.

        A problem, as I see it with using the term “Islamic Terrorist” in the USA is that it perpetrates a stereotype that is already common in this country; in a country with few Muslim members that label of terrorist can be all we “know” about Muslim people, Placing a large group of people into the category of “dangerous” without any subtlety is also dangerous.

  5. Kathy says:

    You write a column about how Islam is a religion of peace, and then ask your readers NOT to use the comment section to refute your ideas?

  6. This has been my philosophy for decades: the entire human race can be boiled down into just two categories that matter: you are kind, or mean; you are honest, or dishonest. All else is negotiable. I admit to some new-found prejudices based on personal experiences in public, such as feeling apprehensive when I see someone in Muslim dress and suddenly wonder if they’re hiding anything sinister in all that fabric–I am not PROUD of that feeling! It dismays me! BUT, I would NEVER speak to any individual unkindly because of his/her clothing, skin color, sexual orientation, or belief system. Those who choose to hate can come from ANY country, city, religion, race, etc. Those who choose kindness–the same. I have fear when I see the news–these are not imaginary events, they are real. But I will NOT assume all Muslims are terrorists. I can’t help the feelings that come unbidden, but I can control my own actions, and I will be a caring human being because it is who I am, no matter others’ choices to the contrary. Thanks for expressing your thoughts and getting us all thinking about our own.

  7. VB says:

    Reza Aslan is an ass.

  8. Reminds me of my favorite Alexandre Dumas quote, “All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.” Amen.

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