Muslims in America

Have you ever received that email with the subject line “Why do Muslims want to kill us?”  I reckon I received it — the first time of many — around 18 years ago.  This terribly frightening email outlines all the torturous ways millions upon millions of angry, out-of-control Muslims want to kill all of us extremely hated Americans.


Just so you know from the get-go where I stand on this, let me be crystal clear: I find this false, inflammatory rhetoric to be not only repulsive, but extremely dangerous.  And, might I add, more than a little lazy.  I mean, the email doesn’t even bother telling me why or even how these crazies plan to kill me.  Am I going to walk to my car and just get my head chopped off one day?  Are they going to parachute down in black ninja outfits and just start throwing grenades and Chinese Stars at us?  Are they going to shoot automatic rifles into my school, church, or when I’m shopping at Walmart?  (no, never mind, White American men are the ones who usually do that)


At the risk of stating the obvious, there are people in this country who try their best to further divide our nation — and advance their highly self-serving agendas — by throwing rhetorical Molotov cocktails of anger, blame and fear.  


This has been going on for years, but it has now reached critical mass.  These flame-throwers want to convince us that we should deeply fear people who happen to speak, dress, worship or look different than we do.  This false narrative and incendiary manipulation must be stopped at once.


Specifically, the disrespect the Muslim-American community was shown during the Trump Administration is absolutely horrifying.  From the Muslim bans...to Donald Trump’s tweets that included anti-Muslim videos from a far-right British political group...to his saying the 100% false statement that “when the World Trade Center came tumbling down, and I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down”...to his saying that he would “strongly consider” shutting down mosques after the Paris terrorist attacks...to the treatment of Khizr and Ghazala Khan who lost their son, a U.S. soldier, in a car bomb in Iraq–American Muslims were disrespected in shocking and unacceptable ways.
 

These are not harmless games being played.  What in the past may have been dismissed as politics as usual has become truly dangerous.  
There is no question that there are radicals in Islam; there are terrorists; there are full-blown nut jobs.  I have seen firsthand the destruction being committed in the name of Islam – the extensive oppression of females, young girls being subjected to genital mutilation, and warlords in Africa who pillage, rape, and murder in the name of their religion.


But to suggest that this small percentage of horrendous behavior extends to the entirety of the Islamic faith is just flat wrong.  Far more often, I have seen incredibly brave people who have put their lives at risk to fight oppression, educate females, condemn genital mutilation, and protect rape victims and orphans.  These are wonderful people and they don’t deserve this.  


Equally upsetting is the damage this propaganda does to our troops who continue to serve so honorably in the Middle East.  I can only imagine their bewilderment and disappointment as they watch this madness play out stateside, while they endure sandstorms and gunfire to be our faithful ambassadors of democracy and freedom.   


This irresponsible narrative is a disgrace not only because it’s incredibly prejudice and hateful, but it simply makes no sense.  I get that world events seem super scary, but use your own B.S. Meter to determine if the all Muslims are the enemy assumption is actually valid on any level.  After all, there are an estimated 3.45 million Muslims of all ages living in America, but very, very few violent incidents involving Muslim-American extremists.


Analysis sponsored by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University revealed that,

“Muslim-American extremists caused no fatalities in 2020.  The total number of fatalities in the United States from Muslim-American violent extremism since 9/11 remained at 141.  Over this same period, there have been more than 309,000 murders in the United States.  In other words, the number of fatalities caused by acts of violent extremism by Muslim-Americans in 19 years is about the same as the number of murders that take place every three days in the United States.  In 2020 alone, 179 Americans were killed in mass killings according to the federal definition of mass killing as incidents involving three or more fatalities. Islamic extremism played almost no role in the considerable unrest that the United States experienced in 2020: protests for racial justice; protests against public health measures, including a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan; protests leading up to and following the elections in November; and a vehicle suicide bombing in Nashville in December, whose motivation remains unknown.”

Globally, there are over 1.8 billion Muslims.  That is 24 percent of the world population. That’s a lot of people, but we only seem to have a real problem with one or two regions.  One of the regions, by the way, where we have been engaged on-and-off in war for almost three decades. 

Listen up everyone: As our nation knows from being a participant in centuries of wars, a war by definition is going to involve enemies who aim to kill their enemy.  See, the funny thing about war is it cuts both ways.

 

Is it scary?  Absolutely, but it’s not rocket science.

 

I have been to many countries since 9/11 — including many with a majority of Muslim people — and I have never been treated with anything but the utmost honor and respect.  Not once.  I tell people this and they often suggest it’s because I am a blonde woman traveling alone, but that is simply not the case.  In many ways, I encapsulate the very traits they supposedly hate.

Certainly, there are parts of the world that seriously question our foreign policy and even angrily denounce it.  And clearly there are extremists who are super ticked off and act accordingly.  But it’s a colossal mistake — and a major impediment to our future relationships within the international arena — to believe a few radical terrorists are representative of the entire Muslim population. 

 

​This matters, both domestically and internationally.  For one, we desperately need the trust of our fellow Americans as they help us fight homegrown violent extremists and terrorists abroad, and they already help tremendously with this effort every day.  Many Afghan and Iraqi Americans, for example, have graciously assisted our military with language translation skills and by providing cultural knowledge as civilians.  Plus, there are 5,896 self-identified Muslims who currently serve in the military (this number is probably much higher since 400,000 service members elect to not self-report their faith).  

On a global scale, the crushing consequence of assuming all Muslims are the enemy extends far beyond our Middle Eastern strategy.  Left unchecked, Americans — feeling misunderstood by the international community — will increasingly turn inward in an era that demands the exact opposite.

Delighted by the chance to manipulate their vulnerable prey, politicians will pounce on the opportunity to turn momentary perception into counterproductive, permanent policy, in turn threatening logical debate on other global endeavors like trade and immigration.

Misperceptions like these are yet another thing that make us feel isolated and hopeless.  When Americans begin to believe these perversions of the truth, it triggers another misaligned, self-fulfilling prophecy and one more U.S. policy begins to circle the drain.  Enough.

Evidence:

1. Besheer Mohamed.  “New Estimates Show U.S. Muslim Population Continues To Grow.”  Pew Research Center.  3 Jan 2018

2. “Muslims in America: Immigrants and Those Born in U.S. See Life Differently in Many Ways.”  Pew Research Center.  17 Apr 2018

3. Mariam Khan and Luis Martinez.  “More Than 5,000 Muslims Serving in U.S. Military, Pentagon Says.”  ABC News.  8 Dec 2015

4. Charles Kurzman.  “Muslim-American Involvement With Violent Extremism, 2001-2020.”  Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, Duke Sanford.  14 Jan 2021

5. “Three Faiths.”  New York Public Library.