It is not surprising, but most certainly saddening, to see the broad brushstrokes being applied to Islam at the moment (especially by elements of the religious right).
Whilst is undoubtedly true that Islamic extremists are dangerous and hateful, this doesn’t make everyone who is a Muslim evil – yet it is all too easy to persuade people at times like this that they are.
Does Islam have its problems? Unquestionably. I am far from convinced that moderate voices do enough to combat the radical elements that encourage and carry out these attacks. This is even more astonishing when you consider that extremists target moderate Muslims as well! As I posted over at Big Footy:
… radicals want to remove those who are not ‘true believers’. Moderate voices are deemed thus and are therefore a threat.
After all, to an extremist, anyone that does follow their religion, nor in the exact same way, is not a true believer. The floods of refugees fleeing Syria are doing whatever they can to get to safety precisely because of this – because irrespective of whether they are Muslims, Jewish, Christians or anything else, they are not radical enough in their beliefs.
Religion, like a lot of things, boils down to interpretation, and Islam is not unique in this. Just as Islamic extremists target Non-Muslims and other Muslims alike, so have Christians done in the past, yet this would appear to be white-washed by some who feel they can somehow hold a moral high ground because of their beliefs. Violence between Protestants and Catholics raged for many years across Europe, and in fact continued until quite recently in Northern Ireland (it wouldn’t surprise me to learn if pockets of violence continue there even now). The primary difference between Christian and Muslim extremists is that Christian extremists have gotten clever, embedding themselves in the political machine of the USA, using their influence to quietly and patiently turn America into a theocracy (well, trying to). The hardline elements of the religious right (not just in America but here in Britain and elsewhere) seek to deny homosexuals rights, want to tell women what they can and can’t do with their own bodies, and desire pseudo-scientific ideas like creationism to be taught as scientific fact in schools.
Their goals are depressingly similar to extremist Muslims – only instead of cowardly attacks on innocent bystanders, they’ve gotten smart and use words.
Christian extremists also seek to tar Islam in sweeping strokes too. ‘Islam is a religion of violence’ they will say, whilst reminding us that Christianity is a peaceful religion – never mind its dark history.
So, to summarise :
Islamic extremism is extremely dangerous. The acts carried out in Paris on Friday (not to mention the numerous other atrocities carried out elsewhere) underscore the need to oppose IS and do so properly (striking through various means). It is vitally important to encourage moderate Muslims to play an active role (politically or otherwise) in opposing extremism, something which right now does not happen enough.
It is also important to remember that not all Muslims are responsible for the bloodshed. It is entirely unreasonable and unfair to make such hasty generalisations.