Most Americans would say that Muslim = Terrorist or at least that they are very closely related. In a recent poll by Zogby Analytics, 68% of participants stated they have an unfavorable attitude towards Arabs and 73% stated the same towards Muslims. These rates have increased from the first poll in 2010. It seems that the growing sentiment and mental image of most Americans is that Muslims are not to be trusted. According to a study in 2010, there are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world. How, then, can people believe they are all terrorists? Although the percentage of Muslims who are terrorists is not accurately known, we may speculate that it cannot be a high number. If the majority of Muslims were terrorists, there presence would be higher and the attacks would be countless. However, this is not the case. I believe the Muslim negative image in the United Sates is due to the media and the lack of exposure to Muslim people. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, there were 2 million Muslim adherents in the US in 2010 making up only 0.6% of the US population. If a person only sees and hears about horrific attacks and threats from Islamic Terrorist groups on the newscast, radio, internet, etc. and doesn’t know any Muslim personally, it is difficult for them to create a positive perception.
In reality, the majority of Muslims condone Terrorism in the name of Islam and many are victims of these terrorist attacks. As seen in the graph below, the majority of terrorist attacks have occurred in countries were Islam is a prominent religion.
Thus, many Muslims are against terrorism because it misrepresents and contradicts their religion and because they are frequently subjects of the attacks. There are in fact numerous anti-terrorist Muslim organizations, for instance: Free Muslim Coalition, Muslims Against Terror, and The American Muslim.
Now that we are on the same page on Muslims with respect to terrorism, I wish to ask: Why do these Islamic terrorist groups exist? If the majority of Muslims agree that terrorism directly contradicts Islam, then, what motivates these people to become terrorists in the name of Islam?
I do not pretend to know all of the motivation and causes of terrorist groups but I will give a brief insight on the matter. For one, there are some passages in the Quran that may be interpreted as soliciting this kind of action. For example:
Having violent passages in a holy book is not a rarity; you can find violent passages in the Christian bible in the Old Testament. However, in all religions these passages are not to be taken literally. Many religious terrorist groups (not only Islamic) justify their actions through these passages in their holy books. Aside from this, Muslims may be driven by their desire to establish sharia law officially and even a caliphate (in ISIS’ case.)
Many of the recruits for terrorist groups are poor and secluded people. These people are many times easily manipulated finding a sense of purpose, solidarity, and resources in the group. Also, uneducated people are targeted because they can be read passages and be educated to believe the group’s message as the truth. Poverty, illiteracy, and oppression lead to people that are more vulnerable and susceptible to the influence of terrorist groups. It is not a coincidence then that many Muslims are successfully recruited; since in the regions where Islam is prominent, there are high rates of poverty and illiteracy.
I ultimately want to leave the reader with this: Muslims are definitely ≠ Terrorist.