Radical Islam is a Radical Stereotype

We must show the rest of the world that we will not be intimidated, and that we are above the radicalism and hatred that spawns such awful acts of terrorism. I want to believe that we truly are above such hatred, but I can’t. We aren’t.

In times like these, we as Americans must band together. We must show the rest of the world that we will not be intimidated, and that we are above the radicalism and hatred that spawns such awful acts of terrorism. I want to believe that we truly are above such hatred, but I can’t. We aren’t. That much was made clear by Donald Trump in his speech on Monday in response to the Orlando massacre; a speech in which he proposed that we ban all Muslim immigrants from entering the United States. Such a proposal from a leading presidential candidate is scary enough, but what is even scarier is that people believe him. People I see on social media believe him. Customers that I bag groceries for at work believe him. Even some of the people who I’m friends with believe him. They all share the same view as Trump: Muslims are terrorists, and they should not be allowed in this country. I wish I was exaggerating, but that was almost a direct quote from a woman I helped out at my grocery store. Radical Islam has become a radical stereotype, and our hatred is far more dangerous than any terrorist.

The Threat of Fear

If we, as Americans, allow ourselves to be torn apart by such fear, we will be doing the terrorists’ work for them. If we ban all Muslims from entering the United States, not only will we infuriate the violent militant groups that already hate America, but we will be showing groups like ISIS that we are easily intimidated. They will see that as an incentive to strike again and to hit even harder. We will fight fire with fire, hate with hate, and things will only get worse.

The saddest part is, most Muslims – just like most Christians, and most Jews, and most of all other demographics – are peaceful. I am friends with several students at my school who are Muslim, and I’m going to put this bluntly: my school has not exploded, and I have not been shot. If all Muslims are truly terrorists who hate America, then I should be dead already. If even a small number of Muslims were terrorists, I would still be dead already.

I am not dead; I am alive, and I am better for having gotten to know my Muslim friends. They are good people with hopes, dreams, and ambition, and they are as much of an American as I am.

Yet we choose to label them as violent terrorists, and we make them feel unsafe and unwelcome in the land they love, the land they call home. This is an injustice that we would never accept if it was directed towards Christians, because we perceive ourselves as innocent. We are quick to dismiss the many Christians who steal, rape, and murder each day as the outliers, the bad eggs, and we continue to view Christians as a good people overall. We do not allow the few drops of evil to color our perceptions of a group that we want – no, need – to view as righteous. We refuse to debase ourselves.

Contradicting Our Own Beliefs

To feed this positive self-perception, it seems that we are all too willing to slander those with different religious beliefs. After all, if the Muslims are right, what does that say about Christianity? We refuse to let the shadow of doubt be cast upon our faith, and so we march off towards the “heathens” with torches and pitchforks in hand. If we can’t prove that we are right through our words, then we must do it through force. We must do it through hate.

That is the most un-Christian behavior of all, and it is un-American as well. America was born to be the land of the free, a land where anyone could find a better life regardless of age, gender, race, or religion. It was founded on the principles of tolerance and brotherhood. We were meant to find strength by banding together, but instead we divide ourselves now more than ever. “Radical Islam” has become the battle cry of a movement that threatens to tear this country apart. What will Trump and his supporters do if a Hindu decides to commit an act of terror? Ban every American who hails from India? And what if, God forbid, a future terrorist turned out to be a white, upper-class, devout Christian? Who would Trump ban then?

A Troubling Comparison

Proposals like a ban on all Muslim immigrants threaten to take us down a dark path. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, in an effort to defend Trump’s actions, reminded Americans that “Churchill didn’t dance around the Nazis, he called it fascism”. It turns out that Mr. McCaul does have a point, though it is not the one he intended.

When you compare the Nazis to groups like ISIS, McCaul’s argument doesn’t hold much water. After all, the Nazis controlled Germany through the support of the German people. Hitler was a very influential leader and an effective speaker, and he used this power to direct his fellow Germans to commit atrocities in the name of “purifying the human race”. Despite his horrible treatment of minority groups, Hitler took very good care of the German people, and that is what bought him their loyalty. They were willing to believe him when he told them that the Jews were evil, and so he slowly but surely built his way towards a Holocaust. Hitler left one of the most terrifying marks on human history, and we cannot afford to ignore it.

When we look to ISIS, there aren’t too many comparisons. They both are ready and willing to commit atrocities in the name of their twisted beliefs, but ISIS does not have the support of the people it claims to govern. Muslims worldwide, the vast majority of Muslims in fact, condemn ISIS and its actions. They want no part of such “radical Islam”. In the case of the Nazis and of Germany as a whole, yes, Churchill was right to deem them fascists. That was what German society had become. In the case of modern Islam, we would be horribly wrong to deem them all radical terrorists. Muslims are honest people, like you and I, and they are just trying to enjoy their lives in a country that offers them so much opportunity. Like you and I, Muslims did not wish for such heinous acts of terror, and would have done anything to prevent them. We cannot compare the Muslims to the fascists of Nazi Germany. They are nothing alike.

So what was Mr. McCaul’s unintended point? Well, there is a group that is a threat to America, and it is led by Donald Trump. He has demonstrated an attitude towards Muslims that is built on hate and fear, and he does not want them in our country. Sound familiar? It should. That is how Hitler began his Holocaust. He marked the Jews as the enemy, and death and destruction followed.

I am not saying that Donald Trump is a modern-day Hitler, but I am asserting that he is leading us down a dark and dangerous path. We all believe that humanity has learned its lesson, that we would never allow another Holocaust to occur. I believe that is true; we will not allow this to happen, but we can only prevent it if we avoid developing the hateful attitudes that led to so many deaths in Nazi Germany. We have to prove that we really have learned our lesson. When one man decides to tell us that an entire group of people, instead of just a few radical terrorists, is the enemy, we must remember not to listen.

What We Must Do

We are going to win the war on terror; of that much, I am sure. But we’re only going to win if we can unite as Americans to go against the real enemies instead of fighting one another. Divided, we will crumble under the attacks of our enemies, but together, working as one America, we are unbreakable. Our true enemy, the one behind the mask, is fear. Fear has already defeated the terrorists; it controls their every thought and action. They fear us, so they must try to strike us down to feel strong. We will not be defeated by fear, and we will not let the actions of a violent few force us to lash out against an entire group of innocents. We are stronger than that. We are Americans.

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