First, let’s get one thing clearly out of the way: The terrorist actions in Mumbai are horrible. The terrorists should be captured (if necessary). Massive police work must be done to find the cells and eliminate them with extreme prejudice. They have quite clearly demarcated themselves as varelse by their actions.
Secondly, thanks to @tomzer1 for forcing me to actually articulate this stuff. Seriously.
Earlier today, one of my twitter-compadres tweeted: “The Islamic terrorist attacks have killed some Americans in Mumbai, it turns out. The fruits of Islam.”
To which I replied: “Why is it when self-labeled Christians do bad things, they aren’t seen as a referendum on all Christians like you do with Muslims?”
And this just started a crapstorm of commenting back and forth. Let me save you the link-following; I think it’s a horrible idea to blame Islam for terrorism, and there’s three big reasons why.
1) It is a logical fallacy to hold all of Islam responsible for the acts of a few people. Islam is a huge religion, with multiple disagreeing sects, and large variations in beliefs within those sects. It is, in this respect, very similar to Christianity. There are three large branches of Christianity (Roman Catholics, the Orthodox faiths, and Protestants), and there are sub-sects within each of those. And even within each sect there can be a large variation of philosophies, beliefs, and political orientations. Or as Emo Phillips put it:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said “Stop! don’t do it!” “Why shouldn’t I?” he said. I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” He said, “Like what?” I said, “Well…are you religious or atheist?” He said, “Religious.” I said, “Me too! Are you christian or buddhist?” He said, “Christian.” I said, “Me too! Are you catholic or protestant?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me too! Are you episcopalian or baptist?” He said, “Baptist!” I said,”Wow! Me too! Are you baptist church of god or baptist church of the lord?” He said, “Baptist church of god!” I said, “Me too! Are you original baptist church of god, or are you reformed baptist church of god?” He said,”Reformed Baptist church of god!” I said, “Me too! Are you reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1879, or reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915?” He said, “Reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915!” I said, “Die, heretic scum”, and pushed him off. — Emo Phillips
And take these two images:
Since both of these folks fall under the banner of “Christianity”, I think we can start to realize that maybe not all Muslims feel that everyone should be blown up, the same way most Christians don’t agree with both (or either) of those two. And then you’ve got the very real Christian terrorist groups out there. If we are going to claim that religiously-motivated wackos smears the whole religion, Christianity is just as bad. If holding a religion responsible for its extremists is starting to look like a weak argument, just wait – it’s a dangerous one too.
(By the by, if anyone somehow finds this under “Gay Christians” and needs a supportive community, christiangays.com might be a good start.)
2) Assuming a whole religion is to blame is a horrible security policy. Not only does assuming all Muslims are “out to get you” immediately increase your number of false leads, but it also alienates those who might be on the borderline. Killing someone’s parents as “collateral damage” by overbroad targeting might just cause some feelings of revenge.
We might have some cultural recieved knowledge about that kind of thing. Just maybe.
And it also ignores the very real groups of Christian terrorists out there, who are just as real a security threat. It’s the same reason that profiling is a bad move; it means you get lazy and assumes the bad guys are stupid and all dress the same.
They’re not, and they don’t.
So why do we only hear about the “bad” Muslims? Where are the moderate Muslims that denounce these crimes? Fair question, and point number …
3) We hear what fits with our preconceptions because people tend to self-select their news. Just as liberals might read Kos and Huffington, conservatives take in Fox and Limbaugh. (There’s a lot more examples, okay?) The point is, there’s very little “crosstalk”, and that means it’s all too easy for any of them… US… to get sucked into groupthink. Nobody is immune to it. While Tomzer and CrapMariner weren’t seeing Muslims condemning the Mumbai attacks, it was very easy for me to find them, even from a local group. Yet an April 2008 arrest of a Christian terrorist goes nearly unreported.
Soundbites and clean-cut dualities of “bad guys” and “good guys” are almost always faulty. Whenever you’re presented with something like that – especially if you agree with it – challenge yourself to question it, and see how strongly your house of cards is built.
As always, I challenge you to test mine.