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Muslim does not equal Terrorist

[ by Charles Cameron — witting or unwitting, there’s a blatant inability to make this simple distinction ]
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The sane alternative:


Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba and His Holiness the Dalai
Lama are two role models for our century.

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There’s an interesting conflation of Islam and Terrorism in a post titled 2 Faces of Islam: Why All Muslims Benefit from Terrorism from Freedom Outpost:

While many Muslims are just as horrified by terrorism as the rest of us are, all Muslims nevertheless benefit from Islam. This is because both peaceful and violent Muslims tend to share two important goals: (1) the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam, and (2) the silencing of critics of Islam. Since terrorism helps achieve these goals, all Muslims benefit from Islam.

This would make sense — I’m not saying I’d agree with it, merely that it would have a logical form to it that wouldn’t make me go cross-eyed — if it read [note: this paragraph edited in light of comment below]:

While many Muslims are just as horrified by terrorism as the rest of us are, all Muslims nevertheless benefit from terrorism. This is because both peaceful and violent Muslims tend to share two important goals: (1) the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam, and (2) the silencing of critics of Islam. Since terrorism helps achieve these goals, all Muslims benefit from terrorism.

But no: under a caption that tells us 2 Faces of Islam: Why All Muslims Benefit from Terrorism, it twice states all Muslims nevertheless benefit from Islam.

The conflation is evident, Islam and Terrorism are interchangeable in the writer’s mind, and that interoperability is liable to find an echo in — or seep diasastrously into — the reader’s mind, too.

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The actual relation between Islam and contemporary Islamist terrorism is neither “Islam is a religion of no terrorism (aka peace)” nor “Islam is a religion of terrorism (aka war)”. To get at a couple of the major nuances here, the Meccan Cantos and the Medinan cantos of the Quran suggest very different readings of what the religion was originally all about, and how it adapted to violent hostility; and in terms of contemporary Islam, not all Muslims are Salafist, and not all Salafists are jihadist fighters, but some of them most definitely and ruthlessly are.

In addition, Islam needs to be considered both scripturally — the usual western critique — and culturally, by which I mean how Islamic belief plays out in cultural practice across time and space — a far subtler matter. SH Nasr‘s The Study Quran is a prime guide to the former, and Shahab Ahmed‘s What Is Islam?
The Importance of Being Islamic the towering work to digest in understanding the latter.

A useful corrective to the “Islam is a religion of war” perspective can be found in the lives and works of two proniment Muslim proponents and practitioners of nonviolence, Sheikh Amadou Bamba, founder of the Muridiyya or Mourides, and Badshah Khan, Gandhi‘s Muslim friend.

For context around the Mourides, and in constrast with the Wahhabis of the Levanty, see Why are there so few Islamists in West Africa? A dialogue between Shadi Hamid and Andrew Lebovich.

The inability to distinguish Muslim from Terrorist, and the violence that follows it, can truly be described as Islamophobia.

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Image:

  • Sheikh Aly N’Daw, Choice, Liberty and Love: Consciousness in Action
  • 3 Responses to “Muslim does not equal Terrorist”

    1. Graham Says:

      Did you mean to edit that quoted passage so that it says “terrorism” instead of Islam in the two relevant spots?
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      They are currently identical word for word so far as I can see.
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      For my part, I am somewhat aware of the Mecca/Medina distinction and the historical context for it, and am as aware that Islam has provided peaceful comfort for 1500 years of believers. More of less as Churchill put it in The River War.
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      I would say that while other religions, notably but hardly exclusively Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism [many strands] and Buddhism [ditto], can, do , and have provided conceptual justifications for war, they require different and at times effortful intellectual efforts to justify against other foundational premises of the religions. Christianity had to work itself into accepting normal, secular conflict as a feature of the world which Christians might be required to take part in, benefit from, or even command. It had to work itself farther to come up with a doctrine of explicitly religious war.
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      Islam has it more baked in the cake.
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      I do not consider this an argument for “Islam is a religion of war” let alone “Islam is a religion of terrorism”. These are ridiculous positions. I can just about see them as gut reactions to 15 years of the “Islam is a religion of peace” guff, but they are childish and dangerous overreactions nevertheless.
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      And I find them curious overreactions since it is not obvious that the people who make them are doctrinaire pacifists, opposed to war in their own cause.
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      I would note that, from my perspective, when I say that Islam has a more entrenched, doctrinally founded, intrinsic idea of the use of war to advance its cause, I am not making a criticism as such. Many who hear me say this automatically assume I mean it as such.

    2. Graham Says:

      Your additional comment about how it plays out not only among different doctrinal traditions but across cultures is well taken.
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      One should be careful not to tar any region with a broad brush, but well advised to note that the market for jihadism is consistently thinner in west Africa or Indonesia than in the Arabian peninsula or Pakistan, and one could go on at very great length to give religious, cultural, historical, economic and political reasons.

    3. Charles Cameron Says:

      Thanks, Graham — yes indeed, I’d missed the identical formulation of the quote and my suggested improvement when this post was originally published, and have now corrected it at your suggestion.
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      Thanks again.

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