Islamophobia is Stupid

Muslim Girl

Is there a reason so many are determined to make people like her their enemy?

Recently, fellow MennoNerd Micael blogged about why Deport All Muslims Now is Stupid, Evil, and Unchristian. The last two really should be obvious if you’ve ever actually listened to Jesus’ teaching ideas like loving your enemy and doing good to those who hurt you. Many admit this but then fall back on “the only way to stop the tiny fraction of Muslims who are extremists is to just kill everybody.” In other words, they think it is smart even if they sort of acknowledge it is evil and unChristian.

Fighting Fire with Fire

N.T. Wright says this:

the real battle is against violence itself, against the normal human wickedness that shows itself in the desire for brute force to win the day. If you fight fire with fire, fire still wins. And Jesus has come to win the victory over fire itself, over the rule of the bullies and the power-brokers, in favour of the poor, the meek, the mourners, the pure in heart.

(Longer quote in this old blog post)

This is another reason why Islamophobia as a response to ISIS or other extremists is stupid: it’s throwing more fuel on the fire then being confused that the fire is growing. A lot of people seem to ignore why many of these extremists hate the West in the first place. You might have a few who suffer from sociopathic tendencies (as in any group of people), but most see themselves as fighting for freedom against Western tyranny. Many have seen their family members and friends killed in the past 20 years by Western countries indiscriminately bombing them, thousands upon thousands of civilian casualties that easily could have been avoided.

It’s actually a very similar situation to Germany before WWII: if you kill a bunch of a nation and then leave who’s left in a giant mess, somebody will probably step up to unite that mess against whoever created it. Hitler capitalized on German anger against the Allies for the unfair peace treaty after WWI, ISIS capitalized on Iraqi/Syrian anger against the West for a lot of things in the past 70 years (not only the recent Iraq War, but also the Contra Affair, the ignoring of Palestinian oppression, and so on).

Many choose to ramp up the rhetoric and violence. This gets more people angry and afraid on both sides. That turns more of the average Muslim citizens against the West, making them more willing to support ISIS or other extremists. Less than 1% of Muslims are extremists, but if you constantly tell them they all are and how you need to deport them, or deny their refugees, or bomb their weddings, some of the other 99%+ would probably be swayed to joining them. You’re going to create a much bigger fire, as history has proven over and over again.

On a tangent, if you actually applied this logic to every group where less than 1% pose an actual threat, you would have to kill everyone. In the U.S., there have been more terrorists deaths since September 11th, 2001 caused by white right wing extremists than by Muslim extremists. In Canada, you’re more likely to be killed by a moose than a Muslim extremist. Yet we call for deporting, bombing, denying refugees, and taking away fundamental human rights allegedly to protect against Muslim extremists. The fact we aren’t exterminating all of our moose or deporting white conservatives using the same “just in case” reasoning shows that it really has nothing to do with logic. It’s all about fear and scapegoating, with Muslims a prime target right now.

Loving Our Enemies

On the other hand, we could help the victims of ISIS, the average citizen (Muslim and otherwise). Offer them refuge when they try to flee. Feed and clothe them. Help them rebuild their homes. This is not only a decent human thing to do (and obviously a Christian thing to do); it also deprives ISIS of its soldiers. Instead of that less than 1% of Muslims being extremists going up, it will go down as the current extremists will have a harder and harder time convincing the average citizens to rise up against the people that treated them well. Instead of throwing more oil on the fire, this deprives extremists of the oxygen where their fire can thrive. This should sound like common sense, but apparently it’s a radical idea (I get all my best radical ideas from Jesus).

This could easily be about making our government do these things, but it really should be about what we do as the ordinary radical Christian citizen. Are there any Muslims in your community? What can you do to make sure they feel safe and welcomed as an equal? When you see Islamophobic memes spreading on social media, how do you respond? Do you point out reality or just shrug and leave their hatred to spread? Of course some are just trolls and you don’t want to get stuck in a fight, but many actually are being misled by fear into saying and doing harmful things – how do we step in and help them before extremists are created on either side?

Last Word from John

Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)

If you love people, you can’t fear them and they’ll stop fearing you (not necessarily immediately, since there’s a lot of past damage to undo). Reject fear. Choose love.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.