Islam is not the enemy
We fight individuals who subvert the religion
By Richard Larsen
Richard Larsen is a deputy opinion page editor at The Star. His e-mail
Must we commit the same errors as hate mongers of years past?
Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: By defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.'
— Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf," 1925
In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this Earth, I draw a line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say: segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.
— George C. Wallace, inauguration speech, Jan. 14, 1963
Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts a hand on you, send him to the cemetery.
— Malcolm X, "Malcolm X Speaks," 1965
These three statements share a perverse belief, based on religion for Hitler and skin color for Wallace and Malcolm X, that people different from us must be inferior and, therefore, must be isolated from mainstream society. As we know, this belief led Hitler to an attempt to exterminate those he considered undesirable, killing 6 million Jews and 5 million others in his effort to purify the Aryan race. Wallace's and Malcolm X's words did foment violence against whites and blacks, but to their credit, both later recanted their volatile rhetoric.
You would think people would have learned by now that rampant hate, no matter what excuse might be given, brings no good to society. Yet, a new form of hatemongering has arisen that, frankly, looks more like the path Hitler chose than the one Wallace or Malcolm X selected. Only this time, the hatemongering has become a two-way street, with both sides ratcheting up the rhetoric, both sides armed and both sides adamant in their belief the other side epitomizes evil.
In the United States, a growing attitude exists that Islam mandates violence against those who do not accept it as their religion and that Muslims have to wage war to establish an Islamic social order worldwide.
Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, has spent decades seeking to convince people that Islam itself breeds the terrorists who commit their misdeeds based on the teachings of the Quran and Islamic theology. He does not argue that the terrorists pervert Islam.
"It is very difficult to formulate a case on — solely on Muslim ground to say that that's illegitimate," he said Sunday night on C-SPAN's "Q and A." "And so while there are moderate Muslims, the fact that Islam is not moderate makes it difficult for those moderates to establish any kind of large-scale, anti-terror effort."
Spencer goes out of his way to deny he foments hatred for Islam. He doesn't have to. Enough people have already picked up the mantra that Islam can be nothing other than a violence-centric religion. Many times, the hatred comes directly; other times it comes couched in the preferred phrasings to describe the enemy in the war on terrorism: "Islamo-fascists" and "radical Islamists."
Does not using descriptive forms of "Islam" tar the whole religion?
In the '60s, when Rabbi Meir Kahane's Jewish Defense League engaged in paramilitary activities (bombings and harassment of political and intellectual opponents), did we refer to them as "Judeo-fascists" or "radical Hebraists"? In the '70s," when people who called themselves Christians committed arson, firebombing and vandalism against abortion clinics, did we call them "Christian-fascists"?
We did neither because we realize zealotry — whether from the left or the right — does not represent the mainstream of any religious, political or social moment.
But we fight a foe who want us to do just that. The terrorists foment hate against Westerners, especially the United States, calling it "the great Satan" and characterizing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as another Western Crusade. We hear the chants "Allah is great" and exhortations to kill "infidels" often. We know the terrorists want to create a fundamentalist society based on a warped idea of Islam. And we know they couch their acts of violence in religious terms.
For each effort people make to turn Islam into the enemy, we play right into the hands of the terrorists, just as President Bush and his administration played into Osama bin Laden's and al-Qaida's hands by leaving off the war on terrorism to invade Iraq. We know the terrorists want to create a war of religions: a Judaist-Christian alliance against Islam.
Why give them the satisfaction?
Why sink to their level?
If we allow the hate mongers to turn one of the world's largest religions into the enemy because radical extremists misrepresent it to justify bloody acts of violence, then we will have lost the right to claim any moral high ground.
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