Even in an age of tolerance, dislike and prejudice against Islam has increased in response to terrorist attacks committed under the guise of teachings rooted in Islam. While the vast majority of the world’s nearly 2 billion Muslims denounce acts of violence, many outside of the Muslim community struggle to reconcile the good intentions of the Muslim majority with the nefarious actions of a minority group of terrorists. America, a country that self-identifies as a majority-Christian nation, should be the most understanding of the warring ideologies within the Muslim community. Surprisingly, many who seemingly set themselves in opposition to Muslims and embrace prejudice against Islam, identify as Christian. In fact, it is often Christians who label Islam as dangerous, cult-like, and an enemy to American values. This is rather perplexing, as to date, there has yet to exist an atrocity in the history of mankind greater than those committed by those claiming to follow Christian teachings.
Islam at 1400 years old, is a much younger religion than Christianity. Comparing the two, without considering the vast age gap, excludes context, the absence of which gives Christianity a false illusion of moral superiority. Until very recently, Christians have participated in unspeakable acts of terror (while some still do). Christians often reference America’s Christian roots, praising its pioneering Christian forefathers, while simultaneously ignoring that many of these men abused, raped, sex-trafficked, and murdered slaves. They believed in Manifest Destiny, a faith-inspired idea that Christian and Western values were preeminently supreme. This belief was their godly justification for the genocide of millions of Native-Americans who were seen as inconveniently pagan. Christians cannot have it both ways. They can’t ignore their own propensity for atrocity while simultaneously demonizing good people who are being scapegoated by the same type of faith-inspired atrocities their religion was once consumed by.
As early as 315 A.D., Christians have been persecuting pagans and even other Christians simply for believing differently. While Christians have been the victims of anti-Christian violence for the past two millennia, they have committed considerably more than their fair share of violence. When tallied, including modest estimates, the death toll of Christian-inspired aggression has no equal. No other religion has come close to taking nearly as many lives as the Christian Church and its followers. Several crusades claimed the lives of 20 million people. [WW224] The German Church killed thousands of Christian peasants in a single day for being unable to afford the hefty taxes they owed to the Church. [WW223] The Spanish Inquisition Tribunal ordered 3 million to be exterminated. [DO31] Over 150 million natives were murdered at the hand of Christian colonizers (in both Americas) [SH66-244]. Hundreds of millions of victims have been killed as a result of Christian imperialism, colonialism, and violence. This tally does not include the lives that could not be counted due to the lack of credible estimates. It also does not include the lives of those lost in non-religious events like the German holocaust, a horrific event that much of the German Church supported or remained silent about.
What we cannot draw from these regrettable events caused by those claiming to be Christians, is an indictment on Christianity. What we should draw from them is that people have a propensity for good and evil, and we cannot attribute it to a religion. If Christians unite against Muslims and their right to freely practice their religion peacefully and successfully alienate them, what precedent does that set for Christianity? Christianity, the religion with even more to answer for, may falter at the hand of the same prejudice they were at the very least, complicit to. Christians defend attacks on their faith that reference their historic violence and oppression with excuses like: “They weren’t real Christians,” “Those violent scriptures aren’t applicable today,” or “You can’t blame all Christians for the mistakes those people made.” Strangely, Christians often do not accept the same legitimate reasoning they depend on, from Muslims.
Islamophobia is just as dangerous as the terrorism it responds to. It tells Muslim people that we are not their allies. Herein lies the danger of rejecting many based on the actions of a few. Many of the advances western militaries have made against ISIS have come from clandestine (undercover) Muslims who risk their lives from within terrorist organizations to keep the world around them safe. Additionally, Muslims have suffered at the hands of terrorist groups like ISIS several times more than Christians have. Many potential terrorist crises are thwarted because Muslims tip off investigative authorities. While the recent bombing in Manchester, England was not prevented, Muslim leaders and friends of the attackers warned authorities 5 times about the attacker’s turn toward extremism. Muslims around the world are not only the greatest victim of terrorism, they are doing more to root out extremism around the world than any other community.
In the United States, toddlers killed more people in 2015 than terrorists; however, the rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaigning focused primarily on the issue of extremism within the Muslim community. If we want to get the biggest bang for our buck – if we want to save the most lives possible from potential violence, why are we prioritizing an irrational fear of Muslims over gun violence? Every day in America, 93 people are killed by guns. 32 are murdered. 58 commit suicide. 1 is killed unintentionally. 1 is killed by legal intervention. 1 is killed with an unknown intention. Additionally, every day 222 people are shot and survive, 164 of which result from an attack. Either anti-Muslim rhetoric is a poor prioritization of American violence, or the rhetoric is fueled by hate.
Islamophobia is rooted in hatred for people who are seen as a threat to Christian values. Ironically, Christian values find their origin in much of the same literature that Muslims read and believe in. Christians and Muslims alike, have struggled to distinguish their message from the violence perpetrated by those who have used their faith to justify atrocity. Such similarities should encourage these religions, both whom seek to follow the teachings of Jesus, to obey his command of loving your neighbor. A beautiful display of this was seen at the University of Michigan as Christian protesters linked arms to protect their Muslim comrades as they kneeled in prayer. The most courageous display of this love was seen when two men gave their lives to defend to Muslim girls who fell victim to the irrational hate of a white supremacist in Portland, Oregon.