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Boston Bombing and Islamophobia in America

In the wake of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, many Americans focus on *why* it happened.  It seems to be human nature to try to find the cause behind these types of events and, when any information is found, then attempt to use that knowledge to prevent any future incidents from taking place.  Unfortunately, more often than not the “Why?” question leads down a path to an emotional response and bigotry rather than rational solutions.

This line of thinking can also be dangerous and may infringe on the rights of those who are in no way connected to the event.  In this case, the first news to come from an official source said the act was religion based, and that the bombers identified their religion as Islam.  Before this news even came to light, the right-wing extremists had been calling the attack "a pretty safe bet .. that this attack was carried out by an Islamist.”  This sparked outcries from many left-leaning liberals of “Islamophobia” and racism, some justifiably so.  However, the two groups caught up in these remarks from both sides are peaceful Muslims who want to distance themselves from this violence, and anyone who speaks out against Islam in a more civil, factual tone.  Look at some of the writings of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and at the responses they have received.  Simple statements or questions, based on facts such as Islamic traditions teaching that the Prophet Mohammed flew on a winged horse, have elicited the “Islamophobe” response.  This exaggerated, ill-used retort does nothing to counter any logical statements, but only serves as an attempt at discrediting an otherwise valid, logical point.  Meanwhile, moderate Muslims are caught in a wave of ridicule and hyperbole from right-wing fundamentalists.

The disparity between ridiculing a belief due to its lack of veracity or logic and attacking or disparaging a people because their beliefs are different than your own is lost by the far ends on both sides of these discussions.  The right appears to have no regret in casting aspersions at any and all followers of Islam, while the far left is so busy defending against these attacks they are completely blind to the idea that the fundamental teachings of Islam may actually be to blame.  During the 16th and 17th centuries Christianity caused many wars across much of the civilized world.  This fact is rarely disputed.  Yet, it is nearly impossible to get a left-minded individual to admit that the more recent violence can be directly attributed to belief in Islam.  They appear to be completely unaware of the disparity between these two lines of thought.  The phrase “Islam is a religion of peace” is touted about and expected to be taken as fact by those ignorant of the teachings within the Qor’an, and those who are so irreverent to disagree are instantly labelled “Islamophobic” in an attempt to discredit their remarks.  However, the phrase “religion of peace” attempts to establish a fact about this religion that is difficult to support given what evidence is available to the contrary.

Alternatively, the majority of Muslims are actually peaceful people, do not adhere to a fundamentalist view of their belief, and wish to disassociate themselves from the violence and rhetoric of the radical Islamic movements.  A good example, which I am often asked for by my right-minded acquaintances, is Muhammad Robert Heft of Canada.  He is a Muslim who stands for peace, has worked as a de-radicalisation counsellor, and is a prime example of a good person doing good acts in the name of his religious belief.  He has also been cited by the Toronto Sun as an individual who aided the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the unravelling of a terrorist plot supposedly supported by al-Qaeda.

Of course, in my own estimation, to do good acts in the name of religion an individual must cherry-pick their beliefs from the religious doctrine and use their own morality, or that of local teachers of their faith, to establish which of the religious texts are valid in today’s social environment and which are not (and should be ignored).  This is done by Muslims much in the same way that today’s Christians will follow and evoke the teachings of Jesus from the Gospels without giving acknowledgement to the horrific lessons to be learned from the Old Testament.

It has been espoused by some on the left that the kind of fundamentalism and zeal in which one would think their truth is so important that they should kill another person, is as dangerous in the U.S., via Christianity, as it is anywhere else.  However, we cannot judge all religious beliefs to be equal in terms of outcome.  As has been pointed out by Sam Harris, the danger inherent from fundamentalist Jainism is quite different from fundamental Islam or fundamental Christianity.  Each of these people invoke quite disparate images and fears.  The one thing to focus on is the term “fundamentalist,” defined as “a usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.”

This is what everyone should remember: any fundamental religious belief can be rigid, intolerant, and vehemently, and even violently, opposed to non-belief, or differing beliefs.  Also, it is a belief, therefore neither fact nor logic need come into play to establish or maintain it.  This creates a very dangerous mixture and will continue to be the catalyst to keep non-believers, atheists, humanists, et al., pushing for reason, logic, and intellectual values as our guides to answer why these horrible events occur and how we should respond.

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