Terrorism Knows No Religion

RLDMany Republican presidential hopefuls have branded Islam as the religion of terrorists. Some, such as Donald Trump, have gone as far as suggesting we should register all Muslims in America, like they did to Japanese-Americans during World War II. Ever the ugly idiot, Trump even called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, apparently unaware of the little thing we call the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I was curious to see how these ill-informed and shamelessly intolerant politicians, and those who share such beliefs about Islam and Muslims, would react to the recent shooting in Colorado Springs. Of course, it was followed by an even more horrific shooting rampage by a California couple who claimed to be Muslims, acting on their own twisted interpretations of Islamic doctrine. But the shooter in Colorado Springs, Robert Lewis Dear, claimed to be a Christian and was apparently acting on his own twisted interpretations of Christian doctrine.

So we’ve had two mass shootings by people who profess a certain faith but follow their own twisted interpretations of that faith – interpretations not widely recognized by the true adherents of their faith. Both are cases of violence in the name of religious extremism and religious intolerance. Yet the acts committed by those claiming to be Muslims are widely recognized as terrorism while the similar actions of someone claiming to be a Christian are viewed more as an unfortunate incident by a mentally unstable individual.

Other Christian terrorists have used bombs, arson, fake anthrax, and assassination as tools in their jihad against law-abiding citizens choosing to exercise their rights and freedoms. Mainstream Christians rightfully denounce such acts, noting that they do not represent their faith. In such instances, including the recent shooting in Colorado, we all recognize that these are people who are using religion as an excuse for their own intolerance and hatred. Yet when someone commits such horrific acts in the name of Islam, based on their own warped interpretation of that religion, they are said to be evil, haters of freedom, and their entire religion is often condemned for the actions of a few. The difference in the reactions to these two tragedies, particularly by the Republican presidential candidates, illustrates this bias unmistakably.

But there seem to be far more acts of terror being committed in the false name of Islam, so there must be something about that religion, right? Well, maybe if you were born yesterday. Anyone who knows their history will recognize that this wasn’t always the case. For example, a litany of unspeakable horrors we’re committed in the false name of Christianity during the Inquisition. But I believe the recent rise in Islamic extremism is being driven by two factors.

First and foremost, many nations in which Islam is the dominant religion have been ruled by corrupt regimes, often either put in power or supported by Western nations like Britain, France, and the United States. That has resulted in generations who feel disenfranchised and cheated by their own leaders and they, in turn, blame the nations that have put or helped keep these beasts in power.

We’re talking about uneducated, impoverished individuals with an axe – real or imagined – to grind, much like Robert Lewis Dear. We’re also talking about the alienated outcasts and, quite often, those who consider themselves victims of some grievance – again, real or imagined. And, of course, there are those who simply want to be somebody, striving for global infamy in a brazen act of terrorism instead of the now somewhat lesser infamy (and often much harder to justify to oneself) of killing a celebrity or politician.

This is compounded by some very manipulative people who also feel they have an axe to grind, and know how to use things like religion to get these other unfortunate fools to do their bidding. And they have been able to greatly expand their reach thanks to the Internet and 24/7 news cycle. Think of Osama bin Laden, the maniacs in charge of ISIL, and even the evil bastards who doctored videos of Planned Parenthood staffers to make them look like monsters and then fed these brazen falsehoods to the conservative Christian propaganda machine.

As you see, it takes all kinds. And in this culture of victimization, there are no shortage of candidates who might decided to commit an act of terror to right what they perceive as wrongs. For them, religion – that ultimate authority that has the power to both justify and absolve – is an ideal form justification. And that goes for any religion, including both Islam and Christianity.

The Bible, like the Quran, is open to interpretation. Some people say you can eat shellfish. Others claim that doing so is an abomination. So when will we recognize that those who commit heinous acts based on their misguided interpretations of the Quran are no different from those who commit similar acts based on their misguided interpretations of the Bible? And when will we finally admit that terrorism is not the product of a religion but rather of people who use religion as an excuse for anger and evil?