I found myself in agreement with national columnist George Will, who quit the Republican Party because of the probable nomination of Donald Trump for the presidency.
I read Mr. Will’s column regularly, and normally disagree with him. So at first I thought there had been a ripple in the Space-Time Continuum somewhere to the left (or maybe the right) of Saturn that was distorting the political universe. It turns out, though, that Mr. Will and I differ drastically about whom to vote for instead, so I really don’t agree with him, and all is still right (or left, if you prefer) in the cosmos.
My agreement with Mr. Will is based on many factors, and one of them is that he tries to frighten voters into voting for him. One of Mr. Trump’s tactics, for example, is his position that all Muslims are possible terrorists, and we need to keep close watch on them and even restrict some of their freedoms. I believe doing so would be un-American and in the end would make protecting ourselves from terrorism more difficult.
I have stated that before, and a few weeks ago, a reader told me he could find no logic to my views on terrorism, Islam, and the relationship between the two. In his opinion, logic dictates that I accept the fact that all Muslims ultimately hate Christians, support terrorism and are potential supporters of the Islamic State (ISIS). He indicated that all Muslims — there are roughly 3.3 million of them in the U.S. — should be regarded with suspicion, and on the international front, we should make war on them using the same strategy and tactics we used against Hitler.
Well, I’m not surprised he doesn’t see my logic, and I doubt I can help him see it, but just in case, here are my reasons for rejecting the notion that total war is necessary because all Muslims are potential terrorists.
Last month’s attack on a Florida nightclub wasn’t the only attack in recent weeks. Several others credited to ISIS followed it. They took place in Turkey, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Iraq, killing as many as 350 people. All of those attacks happened in Islamic nations, and most of those killed were Muslims. Some of the attacks were against mosques, so Muslims were obviously targeted, because the war to establish an Islamic State is primarily a war against other Muslims. The evidence is that mostly Muslim deaths in Syria and Iraq vastly outnumber our dead in this war, and we should ally ourselves with the Muslim enemies of the Islamic State, not declare war on them.
Islam isn’t as fragmented as Christianity, but 1.6 billion people can’t all think alike. All Muslims believe the Qur’an is the word of God, but that doesn’t mean they all interpret what it says the same way. Events after Mohammad’s death split the faith into Sunni and Shi’a sects, and that disagreement has sometimes turned violent. Islamic State, which identifies itself as Sunni, claimed last week’s attacks were against Shi’a, even though their victims included many Sunnis as well.
Further, Muslims live in a wide variety of cultures and belong to many different ethnic groups. Ethnic divisions are the result. Kurds chafe under governments by Turks, Persians and Arabs, and our efforts in Afghanistan are complicated by the mix of Afghans, Turkmen, Pashtuns, and more than 10 other ethnic groups that live there. The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran has its roots in ethnic differences between Arabs and Persians. I suspect the Muslims in the tropical islands of Indonesia, the nation with the largest Muslim population, no doubt see the world differently than Muslims in Morocco. Logically, there will also be variations in their interpretation of Islam among them.
As a Baptist, I am acutely aware that people of any religion differ in the way they approach their faith, and I think that’s true for Muslims. I have known only a few Muslims well, but at one time, I had three Muslim acquaintances whom I saw nearly every day and spoke to regularly. Two were from the Middle East, the other from West Africa.
The most devout of them was an intellectual who took his religion seriously. He enjoyed theological conversations — the deeper the better — with anyone and was quite knowledgeable about Christian and Jewish beliefs. Talking with him was always an enjoyable experience.
Another was a military officer in his home country. He was Muslim, but he didn’t seem to spend much time with it. In fact, I don’t remember that he ever mentioned it. To me, it seemed that his loyalty was to his military unit and his government rather than his religion.
The third man was from the Islamic part of West Africa, and his given name was a variation of Mohammed, so I knew he had a connection with Islam. He was probably an agnostic, though. We talked about religion at dinner on several occasions, but our conversations never focused on Islam and only occasionally did it come up. He was curious about what others believed and why they believed it, but when asked, he said he had no religion.
In short, I find the notion that all Muslims hate Christians, or that 1.6 billion people are universally bent on destroying America, isn’t true. If that notion becomes government policy and we begin to look at all Muslims with official suspicion, it will be more difficult to focus on stopping the few actual terrorists.
I am as distressed and angry as anyone about the lethal activities of radical Islam. But I’m not going to blame all the 3.3 million or so American Muslims for them. From what I know about religion, Muslims and people in general, doing so would be illogical.