Common Word, Common Lord

In the Name of God: The Extremely and Eternally Loving and Caring

Don’t get me wrong. Even one American Muslim either thinking about, or planning, or trying to commit an act of terror is too many. Each case is a failure, on multiple levels. Yet, if one hears pundits, so-called “terrorism experts,” and politicians – especially those in the GOP – speak, he or she would think that there is a Muslim waiting on every corner of this beautiful country ready to pounce and kill at will.

The truth, thank God, is very different than the rhetoric.

Since 2010, Charles Kurzman, Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and specialist on Islamic movements, has been publishing a report on Muslim-American terrorism. His latest was released on February 2:

Eighty-one Muslim-Americans were associated with violent extremist plots in 2015, the highest annual total since 9/11. A majority of the individuals identified in 2015 innolved travel (22 individuals) or attempted travel (23 individuals) to join militant groups based in Syria. Three joined militant groups in Pakistan or Somalia; and four were accused of helping others travel to Syria. Twenty-eight were associated with plots against targets in the United States. One person both traveled to Syria and allegedly plotted against targets in the United States upon his return.
Again, don’t get me wrong: this picture is very distressing to me as an American Muslim. But, out of a community of at least 2.5 million people (the most conservative estimate), this is a very tiny fraction: .00324%. In an interview with Religion News Service, Professor Kurzman said:

Each year since 2010 when I began doing this report, I try to remind readers … that among the threats to public safety that Americans face year in and year out, Islamic terrorism has played a very small role. Even the numbers of disrupted plots remain much lower than the public debate would lead us to believe. And yet it remains the focus of so much of the security discourse in American politics.

And that’s the larger point I want to make. There are those in our country, including individuals running for President, that are trying to stoke up fear of Muslims for some sort of gain: political, financial, or otherwise. Yes, since 9/11, the report states that a total of 69 fatalities have occurred as a result of Muslim extremists. That is way too many. Yet, in 2015 alone, 134 Americans were killed in mass shootings.

Of course, one statistic is not better than the other. The murder of anyone, whether by a Muslim savage terrorist or a petty thief, is an enormous tragedy. But the fear of Muslims is not based on evidence, and we must resist the “otherization” of any community in this country by any and all. With the Presidential election now in full swing, I pray that more and more Americans take this lesson to heart.

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