This morning we learned that another terror-style attack took place, this time in London at the Parliament building. It is worth noting that the identities of the attackers and their motivations have not yet been publicly released (at least not at the time that I write this).
However, on social media, in the news and in government people are once again asking: Should we blame Islam? Can we trust Islam? And why do they hate us?
In February, the Pew Research Center released a report on Islam, in which they found, among other things, that Muslims are overwhelmingly opposed to groups like ISIS (the Islamic State organization that claims responsibility for many acts of terror). The report states “Muslims mostly say that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam are rarely or never justified, including 92% in Indonesia and 91% in Iraq. In the United States, a 2011 survey found that 86% of Muslims say such tactics are rarely or never justified.”
While data like this should be reassuring, Fox News’ lead story on the attack references ISIS, reminding readers that ISIS “claimed responsibility for the coordinated suicide bombings last year…” and that “ISIS has long promoted the use of vehicles and knives in attacks,” both of which were used in this incident. Breitbart News reported earlier today that the identity had been confirmed as a “ radical Islamist convert Trevor Brooks, now known as Abu Izzadeen,” a confirmation that was later retracted (because, as it turns out, Izzadeen is in prison). CNN does not mention Islam or ISIS in their headline coverage of the attack.
The Pew report continues, “In many cases, people in countries with large Muslim populations are as concerned as Western nations about the threat of Islamic extremism, and have become increasingly concerned in recent years.”
The thing is, radicalism is not isolated to Islam and the behaviors and ideologies of radicals are not tied to any religion. Instead, considerable research suggests that radicalism is a symptom of deprivation and hopelessness, and the fact is that people become radicalized when they find hope in organizations that provide it to them.
In the New Yorker in December, 2005, Pulitzer Prize winning author Steve Coll writes that the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Osama bin Laden was a member, “operated both in the open and in secret, through peaceful political campaigning and through support for terrorism.” In much the same way that cults and other similar organizations work, ISIS and other organizations develop group cohesion and adherence through after-school sports and other programs, in which they teach trust and provide space for disaffected youths (and others).
There are important reasons why President Obama refused to tie radicalism to Islam. Among them are the fact that radicalism transcends all religious traditions and that the doctrine of radicalism frequently contradicts the teachings of religions – even Islam. Just as importantly to my mind, for the president to tie radicalism and terrorism to Islam is to further alienate Muslims, which might actually result in the creation of more disaffection, isolation, deprivation, hopelessnesses, and, ultimately more radicalism.
And I don’t just mean Islamic radicalism, I also mean anti-Islamic radicalism, which is also a thing.
– Dr. Mark Finney