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NEWS FEATURE: Muslims See Double Standard in ‘Terrorist’ Label

(RNS) When 19 Muslim men crashed two planes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, it was widely labeled “Islamic terrorism,” even as many Muslims cringed at the term.
So when nine members of a Michigan-based Christian militia, fueled by visions of the apocalypse, laid plans to gun down police officers, is it “Christian terrorism?”
Many Muslims, and others, think it should be.
“In cases of violence committed by Muslims, when it’s politically motivated, yes, call it Muslim terrorism. But when other faiths or ideologies commit violence, it has to be the same,” said Alejandro Buetel, the government liaison officer for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington.
“We’re calling for consistency.”
Recent charges filed against the Michigan-based Hutaree militia are just the latest indication that terrorism is not unique to Islam, they say, and that other religious and ideological groups can commit violence for their cause.
Muslims aren’t alone in seeing a double standard in the way terrorism is linked to Islam but not often to Christianity or other religions.
“I understand their frustration,” said the Rev. Joel Hunter, a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of Northland Church outside Orlando, Fla., who says the Hutaree militia gives the same bad name to Christianity as Osama bin Laden does to Islam.
“I can feel what Muslims feel when they watch those mischaracterizations of their faith, and wanting people to know that that’s not what their faith is about.”
The Hutaree militia isn’t the only group that has issued an ideological call to arms. After Congress passed health care reform in March, at least 10 House Democrats reported receiving death threats, incidents of vandalism, or harassment, presumably from conservative opponents. In February, a Texas man, Joseph Stack III, flew his small airplane into an IRS office building in Austin, killing himself and an office worker.
“Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the faith, race or ethnicity of the perpetrator of the victims,” said Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a statement that called on the U.S. government to condemn the Texas attack as terrorism. “If a Muslim had carried out the IRS attack, it would have surely been labeled an act of terrorism.”
Muslims complain that although they and their leaders have condemned terrorism countless times, some of their critics still accuse them of not condemning it strongly enough. Given the recent acts of Christian and conservative terrorism, Muslims leaders said it’s now up to Republicans and other conservative figures to condemn those acts.
“It’s fair enough to say, `Where do you stand on this?”‘ said Pamela Taylor, a Muslim activist in Cincinnati. Added Buetel, from MPAC: “The inconsistency is politically irresponsible.”
Despite warnings about right-wing militias and the Hutaree arrests, many Muslims believe conservative figures –especially those who have embraced terminology like “Islamic terrorism” — have remained mostly silent on condemning right-wing violence.
Muslims point to the different labels used to describe Stack, the Texas man who flew his plane into the FBI office, and Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who’s accused of gunning down 13 people at Fort Hood. Both men showed signs of mental instability, and both had political and ideological motivations for their violence, but Muslims say many of the same people who were quick to call Hasan a “Muslim terrorist” preferred to call Stack “mentally ill.”
Muslim commentator Yasmin Mogahed, writing on, pointed out that after the Hutaree arrests, she saw no experts on TV exploring whether Christian doctrine condones violence, the same way experts often are invited to search the Quran for verses condoning violence.
“If there’s news of a Muslim terrorist, Islam becomes complicit in the crime. Yet few people are going to accuse Christianity of motivating the terrorism of the Hutaree militia,” she wrote.
Despite their grievances, most Muslims interviewed said they don’t want people to start using the term “Christian terrorism,” but prefer that no religious adjective precedes “terrorism.”
“There shouldn’t be any schadenfreude. That’s a selfish motivation that doesn’t serve the greater good,” said Taylor. “The idea of Christian terrorism is ludicrous, in terms of theology, just like the idea that Islamic theology is responsible for terrorism is also ludicrous.”
Even though other faiths are now exposed to the same association with violence that has dogged Islam in recent years, Muslims are keeping their expectations low that anything will change.
“Muslims are still `the other,’ and it’s easier to say Muslims are violent or prone to terrorism,” Taylor said. “But Christianity is something very familiar to most people in America, and it’s hard for people to say `Christian terrorism.”‘
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • nnmns

    Of course it’s Christian terrorism. It’s terrorism committed by Christians and in the case of the militia apparently their Christianity was behind their goals.
    People treat Muslims differently than Christians because they don’t know many or any Muslims. They know enough Christians to know most of them aren’t terrorists and probably they themselves are Christians so they aren’t about to use “Christian terrorist” unless they can be unusually fair.
    And from what I’ve read about some of the Tea Partiers they have aspirations to be Christian terrorists. In any case they don’t seem to be able to accept losing the last general election; a very un-American failing.

  • Gwyddion9

    They’re correct, they ARE Christian Terrorists, plain and simple. What still amazes me is to hear Christians say, “oh, they’re not ‘real’ Christians”. Sorry, that is a simple refusal to accept any responsibility and an act of ‘washing their hands’ of the problem.
    I think for some Christians, instead of calling them sheep, they should be called ostriches, it far more fitting.

  • cknuck

    Gwyddion9 it is no different than the claim that suicide bombers are not practicing the real Islam and are not real Muslims which as a Christian I believe to be true.

  • Gwyddion9

    Respectfully, I disagree. I see it as a tool used to distance one or ones religion from others and their actions. While you may believe this, the individuals who wanted to commit such a crime, believe, fully, that they are, without a doubt, Christian.
    I guess the fault I see in such a statement is trying to say that ‘real’ Christians would never do such a thing. Real by whose definition?

  • Henrietta22

    If the Michigan group called themselves Christian, that is what they consider they are. In this case they became terrorists, and thus are Christian Terrorists. What we Christians have to recognize is that all religions or any other group can turn to terrorism if they hate big enough. Stamp out hate! It demeans all of us.

  • cknuck

    Its very silly to consider anyone Christian=little Christs and terrorist at the same time. Anyone who would make such a association don’t know anything about Christ. There is stupid on both sides of the cross but not in the cross. Remember what Christ said about Judas, or not? You don’t say that you are a Christian and are automatically have Christ in you, anyone who thinks so knows nothing about Christ and cannot be a Christian by anything other than word of their mouth.

  • Gwyddion9

    As I said, ‘real’ by whose definition. You’ve given what you think but again, these individuals consider themselves Christian, whether or not you agree, as it’s simply irrelevant. I’ve never claimed that there is stupid ‘in the cross’ but agree, there is stupid all over and no religion has the market cornered.
    No, I am not Christian nor am I concerned about having Christ in me. I Wiccan and do not believe that a religion brings goodness to you; one must choose to do the right thing.
    To me, while these individuals claim to be Christian, from my understanding, they do not reflect the being of Christ at all but rather their own fears and hatred, justified by their beliefs.

  • cknuck

    Your point? You start your statement saying one thing “real” and end up with “they do not reflect the being of Christ”. Do you just like to argue?

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