(ANTIMEDIA) In light of the devastating atrocities committed in Paris last week, millions of Americans have condemned Islam and the violent extremists it apparently inspires. In the deep pits of Facebook comment threads, many have called for the total annihilation of all adherents to the religion, arguing the Middle East should be reduced to a parking lot. The “less extreme” argue refugees from Syria should be quarantined to the region, that the evil flock to Islam, and that President Obama is aggressively attempting to establish Sharia law in the United States.
While these claims and demands are certainly impassioned, the more relevant question is: are they fair? To decide if this common American hatred for Islam is warranted, let’s examine some examples of Islamic extremism (DISCLAIMER: I encourage you to read the article in its entirety before reacting):
— Islamic extremists are ordered by their leaders to look the other way in the face of pedophilia. If they object, they are ostracized and shunned so child rapists may continue to abuse children. — Islamic extremists are responsible for more terrorist attacks in the U.S. than any other ideological group. — An Islamist radical in Texas fired over 100 rounds of ammunition at government buildings, including a police station. — Another Islamic extremist beheaded a Christian in the Central African Republic last year—out in the open streets. — Radical Islamists once starved half a million Iraqi children to death over political conflict. When one top leader was questioned on the morality of this action, that official said it was “worth it.” — One of the biggest exporters of Islamic extremism also has disturbingly high rates of rape and domestic abuse, and very little recourse for victims of such crimes. — That same society has heightened rates of other violence, and many citizens encourage their extremist rulers to brutalize people for nonviolent crimes. — One band of radicals, like many other extreme Islamic groups, has been condemned for oppressing women. Its fighters have killed hundreds of children in airstrikes this year, while their regime sentenced a pro-democracy blogger to 1,000 lashes and regularly sentences people to beheading and crucifixion. — Islamic extremists shot down a passenger jet filled with hundreds of civilians.
— Last month, Islamic extremists bombed a hospital filled with injured patients and doctors, shooting at those who tried to flee. They claimed injured enemy fighters were in the building, making it worth it to kill dozens of civilians to maybe kill them, too. An ally of this extremist group has deliberately bombed 100 hospitals this year.That group of radicals is implicated in the rise of the Islamic State. Members of this group are also implicated in financing 9/11.
These horrific examples cast a terrifying shadow over the Islamic faith, but in actuality:
If you found yourself shaking your head at these atrocities when they were blamed on Islamic extremism and are now frantically looking for excuses to exonerate incidents of ongoing U.S. and Christian aggression… you might be suffering from cognitive dissonance. You may have also failed to realize that none of the incidents of “Islamic extremism” came with evidence to back them up.
How can you claim to stand on the moral high ground if you excuse behavior when ‘your team’ does it? How can you claim they are savages when you condone the same behavior? All of these groups, whether Muslim or Christian, government or militant, have targeted civilians—and all of this violence is universally wrong.
How can you claim to value the American virtue of individualism if you continue to collectivize all Muslims as violent in spite of the facts just presented? The U.S. military commits violence in the name of Americans. That doesn’t make all Americans violent, nor does it make them all supporters of this aggression. Similarly, just because insane people on the other side of the world claim to commit violence in the name of Islam or Christianity, it does not make all Muslims or Christians evil. In fact, Muslims routinely condemn acts of terror.
What happened in Paris is inexcusable and tragic.But even people who live in the attacked neighborhoods can see that those actions are an outgrowth of much deeper, more complex foreign policy—like the actions the U.S. and its allies have committed for years. As resident Clemens Mama said, “They don’t want us to think that maybe it’s connected to the policies of our government and of the United States in the Middle East.”
Similarly, a recent report by The Nation revealed that though the Islamic State began as a fundamentally religious organization, it has attracted fighters for other reasons. “These boys came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003, in the chaotic and violent Arab part of Iraq, ruled by the viciously sectarian [U.S.-backed] Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki,” the report explained.
“The Americans came. They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security,” one fighter remembered. “I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When [the Americans] came here, the civil war started.”
As the author detailed, the fighters resent their lack of an adolescence. “They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government.”And so they joined the caliphate.
You may react to this article with outrage. You may call the author a traitor, a moron, a terrorist sympathizer, and naive. You may tell her to “go get raped in Afghanistan” to see how great she has it in the United States. Perhaps you’ll invite her to be slaughtered in a “backwards Islamic nation for wearing a tank top” (she’s heard it all before). You may continue to spout falsehoods perpetuated by Fox News and the rest of the corporate media.
Regardless of this reactionary response, however, as long as Americans and other Western extremists remain hell-bent on using violence to stop violence inspired by initial Western violence, terrorist attacks will continue to plague the nations that allow their governments to intervene in the Middle East.
As long as Americans refuse to look in the mirror, praising the peaceful nature of their Christian god while espousing hatred and calling for further violence, their government will continue to endanger them while the media perpetuates radical cognitive dissonance.
[Full disclosure from the editor/author: In addition to working with Anti-Media, I also produce video content. I’m in the video embedded above.]