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Letters to the Editor

3/31/11 7:00pm

To the Editor:

I was appalled by Eric Harrison's editorial last week ("Terrorism in the homeland: Islam begets the radicalism of terrorism," Mar. 18), in part for its uncalled — for slandering of Islam, and in part for its sanctimonious conclusion — he begins his piece by complaining about those who do not use reason to take a clear stand on an issue, when what he really means is that those who disagree with him about the ethics of profiling Muslims simply "don't want to think." There is a difference between having an awareness of nuance and complexity in a situation and not being able to form a valid opinion.

I rarely see statistics cited in these talks of Islam being outstandingly guilty of producing terrorists — in large part, because there are so few numbers, and even fewer supporting that argument.

The FBI, which should hopefully be keeping better count than most, released a report breaking down terrorists on US soil by affiliation between 1980 and 2005. Only 6 percent of these terrorists were Islamic extremists. Seven percent were Jewish extremists. 42 percent were Latinos, and another 29 percent were extreme left-wingers or communists.  

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, one of the groups with enough vested interest to actually go analyze publicly available information, compiled a report in which they tallied terror plots on US soil since 9/11 — all plots attempted by Muslims, domestic foreign in origin, were still outnumbered by plots originating from white supremacists and right-wing extremists alone. These kinds of statistics are the ones ignored by the Peter Kings of the world, and certainly aren't what one would expect from the current irresponsible media narratives at play.

On the other hand, the National Counterterrorism Center's 2009 report indicated that 60 percent of all terrorist attacks globally that year occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Half of all attacks worldwide were linked to Sunni extremists. I say this so it is clear that I am not ignoring it.

To imply that these terrorist attacks are caused by Islam itself, and not a huge collusion of socioeconomic and political factors in an incredibly war-torn region, is ignorant and meaningless. The Koran states clearly that the taking of innocent lives is forbidden and despicable. To call an entire religion "vile" because a minute fraction of its members have perpetrated terrible crimes is absurd  — by that standard, no group escapes blame. No group of over a billion is homogeneous. Moreover no sane person commits terrorist acts, no matter what their religion, because no sane person believes that the murder of innocents gives their cause credibility or power in the eyes of the world.

Mr. Harrison goes on to hint at some of what he calls Islam's "wicked and backward doctrines," which sound an awful lot like some tenets of Bible-literal, fundamentalist Christianity that are shunned by practicing Christians. In various places, the Bible calls for the execution of women who have engaged in premarital sex, fortunetellers and those who worship gods other than the Judeo-Christian one, to name a few of the groups. However, the overwhelming majority of Christians would never think to uphold such a command, and agree that murder is clearly contrary to Christian laws and ideals- even those who interpret the Bible as the perfect word of God.

Fueling the national fear of Islam is inextricable from fueling a national fear of Muslims  — despite the attempt to divorce the two, they are the same thing, and they are inexcusable. Terrorism is a real and pressing issue, but it is created by a multitude of factors, not a magic, easy-to-screen-for demographic factor. This is the same lesson we learn, and forget, over and over as a society. Bigotry always ends in tragedy.  It always winds up in the textbooks, decades later, as clear examples of closed-minded folly.

What Mr. Harrison fails to address is that ultimately, statistics and fear-mongering aside, the profiling of Muslims, even and especially for special screening in a security setting, is fundamentally contrary to the ideals upon which America is built, the ideals that allow it to thrive as a free society. Differential treatment based on ethnicity, gender or religion is consistently struck down in US courts as illegal, and this situation is no different, despite the emotional charge on all sides of the debate.  As a nation of immigrants, we are not our backgrounds, but our choices.  Most importantly, we are innocent until proven guilty. To assume or allow that some individuals are "more likely" to be terrorists than others because of their religion is to spit in the face of that tenet of who we strive to be as a nation. It can lead nowhere but to more anger, more hatred, more fear. If that happens, we have allowed terrorism to succeed.


Christine Gerbode (Sid Rich '11)

Annie Kuntz (Sid Rich '11)

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