Religion and Terrorism in Europe and America

Religion and Terrorism in Europe and America July 27, 2011

This report is a few months old but important to note in the wake of the Norway bombings. Americans, especially conservative Americans, tend to believe that terrorism is virtually synonymous with Islam, but only a minority of what could fairly be called terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11 have been committed by Muslims.

Since the attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, Muslims have been involved in 45 domestic terrorist plots. Meanwhile, non-Muslims have been involved in 80 terrorist plots.

In fact, right-wing extremist and white supremacist attacks plots alone outnumber plots by Muslims, with both groups being involved in 63 terror plots, 18 more plots than Muslim Americans have been involved in.

Bear in mind that Muslims only make up one percent of the population in this country, so let’s not pretend that there isn’t a serious problem with terrorism among a subset of Islam. There clearly is and it is clearly an enormous threat to our safety and security. But let’s also not pretend that this makes all Muslims into a threat because it doesn’t. Also bear in mind that in a full 70% of the terrorist plots by Muslims in the U.S. since 9/11, the perpetrators were stopped with help from Muslim Americans.

And as Matthew Yglesias points out, in Europe there are more terrorist attacks from nationalist and separatist groups than from Muslim extremists. The point of this is not to downplay the threat of Islamic terrorism, which is very real.

Muslims, just like Christians, show staggering diversity in their actual beliefs and actions. There are many Islams and many Christianities with enormous differences between them. The Christianity of RJ Rushdoony is not the same as the Christianity of Jim Wallis or John Shelby Spong, not by a longshot. Merely applying that label as a convenient shortcut tells us very little.

There are reactionary Muslims who preach violence and hatred. There are also Muslims — and my boss is one of them — who fight tirelessly for freedom and equality for women, gays and everyone else. To conflate the two is, ironically, to think exactly like those reactionary religionists who casually demonize their enemies to the point where it becomes okay to kill them.

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