In the wake of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, many are reinvigorating their argument that Islam poses an inherent threat to civil society. Although hatred like this is typically associated with baseless anti-intellectualism, it always comes with a dust cloud of confused logic to obscure basic moral questions; even fascist Germans supplemented their hatred of Jews with intellectual assertions about Jewish “deception” and “subversion.”
Today’s dust cloud comes from New Atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins who have long attempted an intellectual take on an old trend: politically-convenient hatred towards a powerless minority. Terrorism, for Harris and Dawkins, is uniquley fervent within Islam, due to Islam.
To go with their supposed correlation between Islam and terrorism–made possible by verbal gymnastics surrounding the applicability of the word, “terrorism”–the tell-tale New Atheist uses hand-wavy arguments to allegedly supply us with the causal link. When Sam Harris quotes Islamic scripture, said to predispose Muslims towards intolerant violence, he traces the footsteps of Darwin when he wrote that, “the chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shown by man’s attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman…” Many terrorists indicate little religious scholarship; there’s evidence that some even purchased “Islam for Dummies” before committing acts of terror.
When it comes to what motivates terror, instead of blindly trusting ISIS, a group that uses a perversion of religion as a recuriting tool in the same way that the Republican Party uses perverted Christianity, we should trust Muslims, a major part of the world’s population, civil society, and lest we forget, America. Muslims know that extremism is not born out of proximity to organized faith. To quote from a recent CNN interview with French Muslim civil rights activist Yasser Louati (pictured above): “Radicalization does not take place in mosques. It takes place either on the internet or on the streets, away from organized communities.” As we witness the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the failing physical, social, and economic infrastructure, we’re also witnessing the corresponding rise of ISIS.
The feeling that Islam is somehow inherently dangerous is nothing more than the reemergence of hate. It’s the kind of hate we read, as children, in our history textbooks. We all read about the extreme hatred towards Jews during Nazi-era Germany. Closer to home, we read about the hatred towards Japanese during WWII, including the state-sponsored arrangment of concentration camps for Japanese Americans. We read about the hatred and violence towards German Americans during WWI. More recently, elements within our society told us to hate what were supposed to be obvious threats to our livelihood: “communists,” both abroad and at home.
We all like to think that, if we were alive during those eras, we would have been different; we would have seen through the deception and retained our committment to enlightened values. We can test this assumption. With a little bit of logic and instrospection, we can test it through the events of today. Will we sit idle, content in our relatively unaffected positions within society? Or will we see through the deception, and solidify our committment to enlightened values? If we don’t act, we’re no better than those that came before us that allowed humanity to sink to the deepest levels of moral depravity.