Calling it like it is: Islamic Terrorism

Boehner, John and Obama, Barack

John Boehner (R) Speaker, Congress and Barack Obama (Photo Credit: AP)

In the United States there is a growing rift between Democrats and Republicans on how to describe the terrorism in the Middle East and northern Nigeria. (As if politics in America needed any more rifts!) The Obama administration will not use the word “Islamic” in conjunction with “terrorism”. This decision is supported by the far left of his party and many in the media, but is angering others.

Obama’s reasoning seems to be that the majority of Muslims say that DAESH, Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and Boko Haram do not represent Islam and so we should not mention Islam in combination with the terrorists. There are several Muslim-majority countries who are part of the US-led coalition against DAESH, and part of Obama’s motivation is apparently to not offend them. Another consideration is the expectation of a backlash against Muslims living in America and other countries where Muslims are not the majority because of the actions of the terrorists.

I think the worry about a backlash can be dealt with pretty easily by looking at the evidence. For a start, I really don’t think President Obama not mentioning that DAESH et al are Islamic extremists is going to fool anyone into thinking that their religion isn’t a big part of their motivation. Everyone knows Mr President! There is, of course, no doubt that there are some ignorant people who have used the atrocities of these terrorists to treat Muslims in their community or on-line abusively, unfairly, rudely, or with prejudice. However, in my opinion those kind of people would have treated Muslims badly anyway, and now they are simply using the fact of Islamic terrorism to justify their bigotry. Not using phrases like “fundamentalist Islam” makes no difference.

Shahadah creed There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger

Shahadah: There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger

Most people are more sophisticated in their thinking. An example is what happened in the aftermath of the Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney, Australia in mid-December 2014. The perpetrator was a man who expressed support for DAESH and during the siege displayed a black flag with the shahadah written on it in Arabic. Following the incident, a Muslim woman expressed her fear of riding public transport wearing her hijab, and wondered whether she should remove it. A non-Muslim Australian woman reached out with the hashtag I’ll ride with you (#illridewithyou), which spread around the world like wildfire. People were reaching out to their Muslim fellow citizens in support. This to me proves that most people don’t judge the majority by the actions of a minority.

Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour after bombing by French secret service agents.

Greenpeace ship ‘Rainbow Warrior’ sunk in Auckland harbour by French secret service agents 10 July 1985

In New Zealand, we’re lucky enough not to have to worry much about terrorism – attacks are extremely rare and so far have never involved Muslims anyway. In October last year the threat level was officially raised from ‘very low’ to ‘low’ mainly due, it appears, to increased tensions in Australia. Prime Minister John Key told Radio New Zealand in an interview, “that meant that where previously the threat of a terrorist attack was assessed as ‘unlikely’, it is now assessed as ‘possible, but not expected’.”

You just have to look at the numbers to realize how unlikely it is that any Muslim who is part of your life in New Zealand is any more a threat than any other New Zealander. Around 50,000 New Zealand citizens are Muslim, of whom the SIS (Security Intelligence Service) say five are thought to be in Iraq/Syria with DAESH. Some of them joined before it became apparent just what a brutal organisation it was. (Remember there was a time before they came to prominence when the average person could have easily considered them just a part of the Sunni opposition fighting against President Assad of Syria, whose attacks on them included the use of chemical weapons.) In addition to those five, the prime minister advised last year that there were about another forty the SIS were monitoring, and forty more they were considering monitoring. That leaves 49,915 Muslim New Zealanders who are getting on with their lives just like the rest of us. So any bigoted behaviour displays ignorance as much as it always has.

No good religionsAs for not using the word “Islamic” in combination with “terrorist”, I think that’s political correctness gone mad. I understand completely that Muslims in general do not want their religion to be associated with such people, but that isn’t a reason not to do it. All of us have people we share some kind of identity with that we would rather not be associated with – whenever a New Zealander does something bad that hits the international headlines, for example, I’m embarrassed, and sometimes ashamed. However, I’d be mocked if I tried to insist that the person’s nationality was excluded from news reports. (But Russell Crowe was only born here – he grew up in Australia. His genes are Kiwi, his behaviour is from Oz! 🙂 )

The terrorists themselves clearly identify strongly with Islam. Their interpretation of the Qur’an, hadiths and Sharia are extreme, but it’s possible to understand their logic. The problem is religion. Once you have accepted that a particular text or collection of texts is sacred, then acting on what those texts say becomes rational behaviour. If you believe there is a god who wants you to behave in a certain way, and that you’re doomed forever if you don’t behave that way, it is logical TO behave that way.

al-Kaseasbeh, Mu'ath

Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh

The latest hostage murder by DAESH is a case in point. Jordanian pilot Mu’ath Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh was burned alive in a cage in an unbelievable display of cruelty and brutality. The people of Jordan are, of course, particularly upset by the killing of one of their own. (It took me a couple of days to stop thinking constantly about how this poor man suffered.) Various imams have come out to opine that nowhere in the Qur’an is burning to death mentioned as a punishment, even for non-Muslims! This proves DAESH has abandoned Islam! Now, those that are wavering between supporting their government and supporting DAESH, if only verbally, will oppose DAESH! The disturbing thing about the reaction of these men is that following their own logic, if the Qur’an had supported the immolation of enemies, Jordanians wouldn’t now be turning against DAESH en masse.

Malzberg, Steve and Choudary, Anjem

Steve Malzberg interviewing Anjem Choudary

However, we have at least one dissenter, who makes it clear that those who say the terror video of al-Kaseasbeh’s murder served a dual purpose as a recruiting tool had a point. Cue British DAESH apologist Anjem Choudary, who on The Steve Malzberg Show stated that DAESH were justified in burning Muath al-Kaseasbeh, and that justification could be found in the Qur’an in the actions of Mohammed. (You’ll have to use the link above to watch the interview – they use an embed code that won’t work with WordPress.) Basically his logic is “an eye for an eye”; people were burned in bombing raids by those fighting DAESH, and previously in Iraq and Afghanistan, therefore burning al-Kaseasbeh alive is justifiable.

So much as I admire you President Obama, get a grip. On this one you need to change your practice. Pretending that Islamic extremism isn’t part of the problem makes it more difficult to fix. There are many Muslims and Muslim organisations around the world that are doing great work for liberal Islam, and they are suffering. Some are risking their lives. Several have been killed. Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for campaigning for education for girls – it was only incredible work my multiple medical professionals that saw her survive. Raif Badawi is in prison in Saudi Arabia for promoting political discourse – his punishment includes 1,000 lashes, 50 of which were carried out on the same day the Saudi Arabian ambassador to France walked in the post Charlie Hebdo massacre Unity March. There are probably millions who are too scared to speak out, and they don’t even realize they aren’t alone because of the limits to free speech in their countries. Those people need support, and yours makes a bigger difference than most.

Divine Commands DelBoi

26 Responses to “Calling it like it is: Islamic Terrorism”

  1. Good job! That guy Choudary is execrable, but at least he shows a palpable connection between Islam and violence (although the apologists will find a way to deny it). Guys like him really test my view that all speech should be permitted unless it incited immediate violence. Yes, he should be allowed to spew his venom, but since he can’t be deported, I wish he’d just move to Iraq or Yemen.

    • For those of you who don’t know, Jerry has wrote an excellent piece about this on his website following an interview he did with Laurence O’Donnell on The Last Word on MSNBC. You can see both here: Jerry’s latest book, Faith vs Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible, will be released on 19 May 2015.

      • paxton marshall says:

        Heather, I think the author of the article linked above misrepresented both President Obama and the American political climate in the following statement:

        “These apologists, of course, which now include President Obama, are motivated by a desire to avoid criticizing religion at all costs—especially Islam. In America, criticizing religion is political suicide,…”

        First President Obama has not avoided criticizing religion. In fact most of the hysteria over the event in question is because Obama did criticize religion–Christianity, which happens to be his own religion. He did not criticize Islam directly, but he certainly criticized groups like ISIS who call themselves Islamic.

        Second, and more ominously, criticizing religion in the US is far from political suicide–as long as it is Islam that is being criticized. Hundreds of right wing politicians at every level, thrive on stirring up fear of sharia law, caliphates, head scarves, and everything Muslim. The author of this article has joined the chorus, even praising right wing extremists for seeing the evil in Islam that liberals refuse to recognize. In doing so, this author is complicit in encouraging the drumbeat in the US, to once again “put boots on the ground” in the middle east, just his fellow atheist Christopher Hitchens was complicit in the delusions that supported the Bush/Blair Iraq invasion.

        Atheism grows out of the enlightenment tradition of skepticism and tolerance. Those who would turn atheism into a vehicle of hatred towards religion, and especially towards certain religious traditions, violate that humane enlightened tradition.

        • There are far-right loons like Michele Bachman who get praised for hate-filled conspiracy theories against Muslims in the US, I grant you, and it sickens me. And there’s some pretty awful rhetoric about Islam, especially on the right. I wish those people would just shut up, because they invariably don’t know what they’re talking about and are only doing harm. The problem won’t be sorted while they’re in the room.

          However, I will continue to criticize any beliefs of Islam (along with any in any other religion) I find offensive. I’ve quoted Sam Harris a couple of times before from the infamous Real Time with Bill Maher episode: “We have to be able to criticize bad ideas … and Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas”. I know you don’t like that, but imo he’s right, and it’s not anti-Muslim to say so, it’s anti-Islam, and there’s a big difference, albeit one many don’t grasp. (Although I know you do.) The attitude to women in its tenets I find particularly abhorrent, and I’m not prepared to shut up about that just because someone might find my opinions offensive.

          There are many Muslims around the world I admire, all of whom are working to make Islam more progressive. I don’t want anyone to be judged simply by their religion or lack of. We are all individuals with our own set of qualities and faults. The majority of Muslims, of course, don’t support the actions of DAESH, and the rest of us need to remember that. But, and there is a but, there is a lot about Islam I don’t like, just like there is stuff about every religion I don’t like. There is a tendency to think that any criticism of Islam is Islamophobia, and I refuse to buy into that. Freedom of speech and freedom of thought are the most important rights we have in a democracy.

          I don’t see in the article a military drumbeat, but I feel I know the writer well enough to judge that’s not his purpose. It may read differently to someone else. Also I don’t think it is fair to reduce all the work of Hitchens to a reference to how he got it wrong on Iraq. Yes, he was wrong there, but the rest of his work was wonderful, and he is a sad loss to the forces of reason. I continue to mourn his death.

          • paxton marshall says:

            I think Hitchens was brilliant, and I don’t judge him solely by his support of the Iraq war. But he did support the war, and his support was influential. Our other author may not be supporting war, but his voice adds to the anti-Muslim hysteria that has gripped America since 9/11. I would never suggest that you refrain from criticism of Islam. But to single out Islam as the mother lode of bad ideas does not survive the smell test. The history of every religion, as of all peoples, is filled with barbarities. Was the holocaust Muslim? Stalin? Mao? Pol Pot? the Rwandan holocaust? Were the Atlantic “middle passage” slave traders Muslim? Were the people who plunged my country into a civil war to protect the rights of a few to own slaves, Muslim? Were the Jim Crow lynchers in the US, whose executions included torture, burning, mutilation, as well as hanging, Muslim? Were the perpetrators of the rape of Nanking Muslims? Were the folks who firebombed Dresden and dropped nukes on Nagasaki and Hiroshima Muslim? Were the people who virtually eliminated native cultures in your country and mine, Muslims?

            Heather, I know that you keep up with American politics. You are aware that the coalition of interests that led Bush/Blair to invade Iraq, is still very much alive in America. Islam is the new Communism. When I was young we saw commies behind every rock, and the communists were committed to dominating the world. Those who want to make war, (and these are powerful and influential people and corporations) seize on our fears of the enemy. Intellectuals and journalists just play into the hands of the militarists when they start piling on the enemy du jour.

            To take it back to the Obama speech, saying “Islamic terrorism” or “Muslim extremism” is meaningless and even misleading if Sunni or Shia are not specified. His task is not to confront a monolithic Islam, it is to try to contain and moderate the Islamic civil war.

            I enjoy your columns and I hope I haven’t imposed too much on this one. If I’m making a big deal of what to you is a minor issue, I apologize. I just hope that you are right in claiming that the new atheist horsemen are not becoming unhinged in hatred of Islam. 🙂

  2. Diane G. says:

    Particularly appropriate now that Obama is taking so much flack for daring to allude to the Crusades and slavery in his address to the National Prayer Breakfast.

    Yes, I understood Obama was going to take the gloves off during his lame duck years and quit tip-toeing around Islam’s role in terrorism (among other topics). I wonder if the Democratic National Party is afraid his doing so might hurt the chances of the next Democratic candidate? (I’m sure Hilary can lap him several times over in obfuscating.)

    Excellent post!

  3. Ken says:

    I agree that we shouldn’t shy away from calling this Islamic terrorism. Obama’s comments imply that there is something else one can call proper Islam, or proper Christianity, etc, which is ridiculous. But I think you are very wrong that a backlash against peaceful Muslims is nothing to worry about. Examples like that of some people acting decently in Sydney also show that there is a real problem to address. And we know the situation in other countries, such as France, is far worse. Let’s not pretend innocent Muslims won’t suffer greater discrimination, be harmed and even killed, the more we focus on Islam.

    And the bigger problem here is not that we pretend Islam isn’t part of the problem, but that we reinforce the right-wing meme that it is the only problem. So long as we pretend these are just evil or crazy people with no other motivation than religion and who are coming to get us, the more the West, as well as Muslims, will suffer from Islamic terrorism.

    Al Qeada and Daesh’s main goal is to bring down corrupt mid-east governments. They thrive on chaos and execute their terrible stunts to goad us into retaliation. It is arguable that neither group would even exist if it weren’t for the chaos the US created with it’s genocidal sanctions in the ’90s and by outright destroying Iraq in the ’00s. Recruits to their cause come from this chaos and we fan the fire the more we focus exclusively on Islam and ignore our own actions.

  4. paxton marshall says:

    Obama is trying to resist the war profiteers and their stooges who want to get us back into full scale war in the middle east. He has the recent example of how the W Bush administration fomented fear and the desire for revenge after 9/11 to support his desire to invade Iraq. It was that invasion that laid the groundwork for what is ISIS.

    To speak of Islamic terrorism masks the fact that this is primarily a civil war between two branches of Islam, sunni and shia. To lump them together obscures the choices before us. We overthrew the Sunni government in Iraq and installed a Shia government. The shia government of Assad in Syria rules over a largely sunni country. ISIS is a sunni insurgency fighting against these two governments. We are opposed to ISIS, but have also called for the ouster of Assad. Our overthrow of sunni Saddam Hussein in Iraq has vastly strengthened the shia government of Iran, who the warmongers also want to attack. There is no easy solution and the US cannot solve their problems.

    Why the obsession with the words Obama uses? He is bombing and droning ISIS. Doesn’t that signify more than what he calls them? Obama has been an exceptionally successful President and this is just more right wing nit-picking, to portray him as not a real American, but a Kenyan, not a Christian, but actually a muslim himself. As with the middle east war itself, the struggle is often expressed in religious terms, but is actually about politics and power.

    And yes, the burning of the pilot was horrible, but is it worse than the thousands of innocent people who have died horrible deaths, including burning to death due to American and allied bombing and droning? We should take the mote out of our own eyes before criticizing the speck in the eyes of others.

    Finally we should open our eyes to the the hidden agendas of those who are criticizing Obama’s cautious approach and trying to stir up fear and hatred of Muslims. In addition to the war profiteers who never saw an enemy they didn’t want to produce weapons to attack, Zionists and Israel firsters [who] are committed to demonizing Islam to distract attention from Israel’s indefensible imprisonment of the Palestinians. Zionists control much of the American press and have a huge influence in American politics. I’m sticking with President Obama. He has adopted a cautious and prudent approach to world crises, that was sadly missing when Christian zealots Bush and Blair launched their crusades last decade, with such disastrous consequences. Those who see religion as the source of all of our problems seem to have a blind spot when it comes to Christian and Jewish imperialism.

    • I have deleted the name of the person you named in your last paragraph. I don’t want personal attacks against other commenters. On my site, commenters have a right to argue their point of view and disagree, but in my opinion you crossed the line into abuse.

      I have argued for Obama’s position before, and I agree with some of what you said. His resistance of the hawks has been excellent, and I think the coalition against DAESH that he has brought together that includes so many Sunni Muslim countries fighting against DAESH is a remarkable achievement, for which he will go down in history. I have also written elsewhere, though not here, that while others were criticizing Obama for not going to Paris, he was actually bombing DAESH.

      I am not in any way “trying to stir up fear and hatred of Muslims”. In fact the opposite is true. It is obvious that the majority of Muslims do not support the brand of Islam promoted by terrorists. However, they are genuinely too scared to speak out. They are the biggest victims of the fundamentalists. We need to support those like Majid Nawaz who are leading the charge for an Enlightenment within Islam. However, it is not specifically Islam that is the problem, but religion, especially when it shuts down debate via things like blasphemy laws. I’ve made my position clear on this in multiple articles.

      I am NOT criticizing Obama’s cautious approach – I admire it and have said so before. To suggest that I’m a right-wing nit-picker who’s trying to suggest Obama’s a Kenyan Muslim says to me you didn’t read what I wrote, and are just looking for somewhere to express your opinion of far-right Republicans. I have a problem with pandering to religion though, which is what is happening when the US Administration won’t call the terrorism “Islamic”. Religion is a big part of the problem and it is the motivation of groups like DAESH who consider it the solution. I have no blind spot when it comes to religious imperialism, whichever religion it comes from.

      I continue to support Obama’s approach to foreign policy, and it is ridiculous to suggest I’m suddenly a right-wing hawk because I disagree with one aspect of it.

      • paxton marshall says:

        Dear Heather, you have taken my comments much more personally than they were intended. I have read all of your posts and appreciate your support for President Obama’s polices. When I spoke of “obsession” and “nit-picking” of Obama’s language I was thinking more of some of the inanity I’ve been hearing from the American press than anything you said. My intention was to make a case for Obama not using provocative language, because America is full of people itching to get into the fray over there. It was against them and the disastrous Bush policies that they helped foment, that I was denouncing. Please believe that I never thought you were a right wing hawk. I’m sorry that I was not clearer about the targets of my criticism.

        Like you I’m against religious privilege and such things as blasphemy laws, but I don’t believe that is useful for the President of the US to be denouncing anyone’s religion. The important thing is that he recognizes the sources of threats to the US and elsewhere and employs the best intelligence and appropriate responses to thwart their plans. I think this is best done quietly and by cultivating the friendship of as many Muslim constituencies as possible. Alienating them by constantly connecting their religion with terrorism does not help our cause.

        As to the redaction of a name from my previous comment, I respect your decision, although I will point out that he is a public figure and controversialist himself, and it surprises me that my expressing my opinion of his political position would be regarded as abuse.

        • Hi Paxton. I appreciate you clearing that up. I thought it was probably the case, but as I disagree with some of your points of view (although I fully understand it too, and have some sympathy with it), I decided to go the whole hog, so to speak.

          As you know, I’ve left that name in another comment you’ve made, but his status as a commenter was different then. This is an extension of my home, and once people become my guests, things change.

          Cheers 🙂

  5. paxton marshall says:

    Heather, we in the US now have a new reason why our President should not be constantly associating Islam with terrorism, as the US right wing media love to do. Three young muslim students were murdered in North Carolina. CNN reports: “Hicks, who claimed he is an atheist, allegedly wrote: “When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I.” ”

    We don’t know yet if Hicks was a follower of any of the “new atheists” such as Sam Harris, (I won’t mention another prominent name in order not to offend your commenters) who have been singling out Islam for particular animosity. I expect more information will be forthcoming. But it highlights a trend toward intolerance that seems to be associated with too many atheists.

    Although raised a Christian I have been an atheist for some 50 years. Although I prefer to call myself a skeptic, because it is primarily faith I am opposed to, I reject all gods and supernatural claims of all religions. Thus I was thrilled when the new atheists seemed to make it more acceptable to criticize religion, especially because one of them, Richard Dawkins, was a scientific hero of mine. I participated in several blogs, and especially denounced the harm done in the name of religion and the undue privileges that religion still retains in society.

    But I never felt that destroying religion was an end in itself, or that religion was responsible for all the evil in the world. As certain atheists seemed to want to blame all problems, including warfare, on religion, I began to question their zealotry. A case in point is Karen Armstrong’s new book “Fields of Blood” which I am nearly finished reading. In it she makes a well argued point that most warfare has been primarily about power and wealth, and that religion, although by no means faultless, has been used to justify and motivate war rather than being the root cause. Maybe she’s right, maybe not, but I’ve noticed that certain atheists speak of her often and scornfully as just an apologist for religion whose ideas have no merit.

    When it became clear that this hatred of religion was not spread equally on all religions but singled out Islam for particular animosity, and that moreover Judaism, and in particular Israel, seemed exempt from such hatred, and in fact was often defended from criticism by charges of anti-Semitism, I began to lose respect for some of the more strident atheists and to feel resentment that they are leading atheism in a bad direction Now we have the awful example of an atheist terrorist.

    Once again Heather, I want to emphasize that none of this criticism is directed at you. I think you were mistaken in the main claim of this post, but I have never detected any hatred or hypocrisy in your writings. But the same is not true of other prominent atheists who write on this subject.

    • Hi Paxton. Thanks for a thoughtful and interesting response.

      There was another potential attack by DAESH supporters thwarted by Sydney Police yesterday morning which prompted me to write another piece which I suspect will be more to your liking. The murders in Chapel Hill sound awful, but the words that are being highlighted sound like some that are in response to another comment, such as you get on Twitter, so I’d like to know the context before I judge whether this is the type of man who would commit a hate crime. (I will probably now refer to the article you referenced in my piece though, so thanks.)

      Sam Harris has outlined on his own website why he currently leans towards Israel, and I find his argument sound. He in no way gives a pass to Israel, and fully acknowledges their faults. There was also an interview with Arafat’s widow on BBC recently. She said he would have been horrified by Hamas, and that he wanted a secular state. It was very interesting.

      I haven’t read Karen Armstrong’s book, although I’ve heard about it. I had a similar argument with someone on Jerry’s site recently who has written a book stating that all wars are economic in nature. I didn’t agree with that and pointed to the Crusades. Many believe the motivation for them was money and power, but anyone who has studied them in depth (like me) will tell you that wasn’t the case. At some point I will post an essay about the origins of the First Crusade on this site to back up my argument. I think there’s a case when it comes to political leaders that their motives in starting wars are not religious. However, their motives would often not encourage their followers, and they use religion to motivate them. Therefore a case can be made that there are many wars that wouldn’t have happened if religious zealotry wasn’t available as a motivation to those that are actually doing the fighting.

      • paxton marshall says:

        Hi Heather, I certainly agree that religion is often an important factor in the complex of causes that result in wars. The crusades were perhaps exceptional in their religious motivation, but the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, the Balkan wars, and the Sunni-Shia war now consuming the middle east are substantially, if not entirely motivated by religion. But Armstrong points out that even in the thirty years war, Protestants and Catholics were variously arrayed against their own kind as well as for them. Similarly during the period of the Christian states in Palestine, Christian states would sometimes ally with Muslims against other Christian states. We’re seeing the same now in the middle east, with Sunnis generally arrayed against Shia, but sometimes opposing fellow Sunnis when it suits their interests. And of course there are ethnic differences that don’t always line up with religious differences. BTW Armstrong makes a point of contrasting the bloodletting of Muslims and Jews when the crusaders captured Jerusalem, with the benign treatment of the Christians by Sal-uh-Din, when he retook the city.

        • paxton marshall says:

          Wanted to add that in the Crusades, as probably in many wars, at least pre-modern wars, one major factor was the desire of the young bucks and some older ones too, to achieve fame and glory. In the U.S. being hawkish reflects manliness, even though the decision makers and pundits, and even the professional military men seldom face man to man combat as they did n the crusades. I think women in power are much less likely to succumb to macho incentives to war. Being macho was very important to GW Bush, and I suspect was part of his motivation for wanting war. Obama has resisted that so far, although todays request for war powers is ominous.

  6. AU says:

    Imagine there is an ideology that can be interpreted in different ways – let’s call it Heatherism. The ideology was created during a time of war, so it contains some ideas that are about killing other people if you must in war, and it contains some ideas about showing mercy to people and not oppressing them.
    Let’s say 99% of people who follow Heatherism are peaceful. Let’s say 1% of people who follow Heatherism want to kill everyone else who doesn’t follow Heatherism. Does this mean that these 1% represent Heatherism? Should we say “Heaterist extremists kill civilians in Mosul”? Or, should we say the 99% represent Heatherism, and therefore refer to the 1% as “radical Heatherists”?

    So your whole argument about “political correctness gone mad” is completely wrong. It has absolutely nothing to do with political correctness, and everything to do with the fact that if a very small minority have their own interpretation of an ideology, then that very small minority isn’t considered representative of that ideology. The interpretation ISIS have of Islam is a fringe interpretation, and therefore, ISIS are not Islamic, but radical/fringe Islamic – there is a HUGE difference.

    Of course, most people have agendas, and so an Evangelical Christian, or an atheist who is intellectually dishonest, will deliberately ignore this, and say “no, ISIS are Islamic”, because they don’t like Islam and so want to portray the worst of Islam as being the norm of Islam.

    So I have a question for you – if a nationalistic New Zealander went on the rampage and killed 20 immigrants in Wellington tomorrow, should we call him a “patriotic New Zealander”, or should we call him an “extremist patriotic New Zealander”?

    • I see exactly your point, but I look at it slightly differently. The problem is, that everyone knows that DAESH are Muslim. Their interpretation is one that most Muslims don’t support. However, most people in the West don’t know much about Islam, so they’re unable to make that distinction in their minds. They therefore associate all Muslims with DAESH. My judgment is (and, of course, I may be wrong) that if we acknowledge that DAESH are following an extreme form of Islamism, people will better be able to separate them in their minds from most Muslims. My opinion is that failing to acknowledge that link makes it look like the link is trying to be hidden. Also, when we acknowledge that DAESH believe they are following true Islam, we can try to address the issue of those imams who are teaching that interpretation. I think that talking about the extremist views that DAESH hold, means we can make it clear that most Muslims are just as opposed to them as everyone else, and that will reduce the likelihood of a backlash. As I said, I could be wrong, but I think the approach I suggest will result in less bigotry against Muslims, which is, imo, the most important thing for those of us living ordinary lives.

      • paxton marshall says:

        Heather, you say: “I think that talking about the extremist views that DAESH hold, means we can make it clear that most Muslims are just as opposed to them as everyone else, and that will reduce the likelihood of a backlash”

        But have you not noticed that many want to emphasize just the opposite, i.e. how many Muslims do support terrorism. For example the post “24% of British Muslims say violence against cartoonists who draw Muhammad is justifiable” was making exactly that point. If your purpose is to reduce the likelihood of a backlash, is his to increase that likelihood?

        • Apples and oranges. That’s more about free speech and how some religions feel their religion shouldn’t be questioned. Besides, if we talked more openly, perhaps so many Muslims in some societies wouldn’t feel marginalized and therefore more in sympathy with such opinions.

          There were dozens of articles about that survey in mainstream media, multiple pieces on TV, and hundreds of blogs. Different ones focused on different areas – some negatively towards Muslims, some positively, and some neutral. I read/saw several myself. You are, imo, a bit obsessed with one website. What was that thing about logs and eyes?

          • paxton marshall says:

            Yes, it was very interesting who interpreted the survey as glass half full, and who interpreted I as glass half empty. Surveys of these kinds of things are very variable according to the public mood of the moment. But how the results are interpreted demonstrates the bias and political goals of the interpreter.

            No religion or other self defining group likes to be mocked, especially by those who hold power over them. Mocking and questioning a minority group in a challenging way are means by which the majority group maintains its power. The most popular entertainments from the civil war to the 1930s in the US was mocking blacks. It contributed to the legal and social oppression of the black community. All in the name of fun and free speech. I don’t know that talking more openly about how barbaric Islam is will likely make Muslims feel less marginalized.

            You are right, of course about the obsession with one website as a log in my eye. I’ll try to broaden my perspective. Thanks!

          • It’s not about Islam, it’s about Islamism. I never said that Islam is barbaric. We need to let people know that Islam isn’t one, big homogeneous group, just like Christianity isn’t. A lot of people don’t understand that, and they equate all Islam with that practiced by DAESH. They’re incapable of recognizing the parallel between the Bible saying lots of awful stuff, but most Christians not behaving like that and the Qur’an saying lots of awful stuff, but most Muslims not behaving like that. There are, however, Christians who do act abominably and use the Bible for inspiration, and there are Muslims who act abominably and use the Qur’an for inspiration. Hate comes from fear and fear comes from ignorance. Get more people to understand that Islamism is not a version of Islam that most Muslims have any time for, and maybe they will be more accepting. When people have a particular prejudice they need a reason to change their mind – give them more knowledge about Islam and Muslims and they will work it out for themselves, which is usually the best way for it to happen.

            I just don’t think denying Islamism is a part of Islam is going to work, because it’s simply not true, and it gives fodder to the haters. It’s like saying the Inquisition wasn’t part of Christianity, or slavers didn’t use the Bible as justification.

          • paxton marshall says:

            I don’t get it Heather. Your post is criticizing Obama for not calling the DAESH terrorism Islamic. Everyone knows that DAESH fighters are Muslim (though most don’t know they are Sunni). Obama was saying DAESH’s practices aren’t truly Islamic as Islam is practiced by the vast majority of Muslims. Now you say, “We need to let people know that Islam isn’t one, big homogeneous group, just like Christianity isn’t.” Isn’t that what Obama was trying to do? He was saying these people (DAESH) are not typical of Muslims. Do you think he is denying that DAESH considers itself Muslim? You say “It’s not about Islam, it’s about Islamism”. But then you say “I just don’t think denying Islamism is a part of Islam is going to work, because it’s simply not true and it gives fodder to the haters”. Obama may not have been using your words, but isn’t that what he was trying to do, say the DAESH are not typical of Islam? He should have identified it as “Islamic Terrorism” so as not to give fodder to the haters? And then you defended blogger and newspaper accounts that emphasized that a significant portion of Muslims will not denounce atrocities like Charlie Hebdo. Isn’t that identifying Muslims with Islamicists in the minds of people and giving fodder to the haters? What am I missing? What would you have said if you were Obama, and how would that have defoddered the haters?

          • No. Obama does not make the qualifications you do when he is denying DAESH are Muslim – if he did I wouldn’t have a problem. And I didn’t defend all accounts of those that portrayed the stats the way you don’t like – some of them came across to me as bigoted, and didn’t judge the stats fairly. The one you are obsessed with did judge them fairly imo. And I don’t equate all Muslims who won’t denounce the Charlie Hebdo massacres as Islamists. Many just don’t get freedom of speech – they think blasphemy should be illegal, especially as it relates to Islam – the actions of the International Islamic Council are proof of that.

            It’s about people gaining knowledge (of Islam) and therefore a better understanding. I constantly feel like someone as smart as you who is perfectly capable of understanding the nuances of my argument is deliberately misrepresenting me.

  7. AU says:

    I am confused Heather – you say you couldn’t stop thinking of the Jordanian pilot who was burned by ISIS**. Why? Do you also sit there thinking about the many hundreds of civilians who have burned to death during the indiscriminate barrel bombs dropped by Assad’s forces? For more than 10 years, we had a no-fly zone over Iraq, when we wanted to, we had a no fly-zone over Libya, yet we have no no fly-zone over Syria even though we have the means to do it – are you also appalled at how many hundreds of Syrian civilians have burnt to death because we have allowed them to?
    Do you also sit there getting upset at the 100,000+ civilians who burnt to death in Hisroshima and Nagasaki? Of the hundreds and thousands of civilians who burnt to death when the Americans fire-bombed Japanese cities? Of the tens of thousands of civilians who burnt to death when the Brits and Americans fire-bombed Dresden?

    ** Oh, and BTW, the pilot was drugged, so he didn’t feel as much pain as you probably think he did – and I am not saying this in an apologist or callous way, even if he suffered pain for 10 seconds, that is 10 seconds too many, I am just stating a fact. Of course, the media didn’t report this, because they like sensationalism, and they want to portray ISIS in the worst possible light.

    • It’s about the tactic of terror – there are millions suffering every day in Syria, but I don’t see them. I saw the Jordanian pilot. I agree it’s wrong. Basically, DAESH are very good at terrorism, and creating the reaction they want. The GOP are all currently at CPAC – and they’re all going on about how wonderful it is that the King of Jordan responded by executing prisoners and going on bombing raids, while Obama responded to the same thing by dismissing DAESH. Obama is handling it better – DAESH, revolting as they are, are not an existential threat. They’re more a diversion long-term.

      And actually, whenever I remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki I feel sick about what we did. I have a Japanese sister-in-law (and half-Japanese nieces and a nephew). Her father was a child during WWII and lived near Nagasaki. He’s such a lovely man and every time I meet him again I feel guilty about what my ancestors did to him.

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