If we identify Islamic terrorists by their religion, why not Christian terrorists?
Terrorism has been described generally as the use of violence, or the threat of violence, to accomplish a political, religious, or ideological purpose. The World Health Organization defines violence rather broadly as:
“The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”
Over the past couple of decades, the term “terrorist” has come into widespread use to describe acts of terror perpetrated primarily by members of groups who use their distorted and corrupted interpretations of Islam as their justification. These groups include al-Quiada, ISIS, Boco Haram, Hamas, and Hesbala, among others.
Throughout our current presidential election cycle, major Republican leaders as well as all candidates on the Republican side have routinely criticized and condemned President Obama and the Democratic candidates for not referring to these violent extremists as “Islamic extremists” or as “radical Islamic terrorists.” For example, Donald Trump slammed the President for being so politically correct that “you’d almost think they have the terrorists coming out from Sweden.”
I believe that people who advocate and inflict injury and murder of innocent non-combatants, young people, women, people adhering to other religious backgrounds, and people of the same religion to which they themselves claim to follow, we must define them for what they are: “evil,” “criminals,” “barbarians,” “thugs,” “savages,” “monsters,” and yes, “terrorists.”
Obama, Clinton, and Sanders understand, unlike the Republicans, that the perpetrators of this violence do not, in fact, represent the teachings of Islam, and to refer to them as such would not only validate their claims to divine inspiration, but would, in turn, unduly implicate the billions of non-violent follows of Islam worldwide.
If anyone continues to insist, as do all the Republican presidential candidates, that we must refer to these murderers as “Islamic extremists” or “radical Islamic terrorists,” then I contend that we refer to any and all people who were Christian and supported the institution of slavery, like the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, as “radical Christian terrorists.”
The expansion of the republic and movement west on this continent, in part, people justified by the overriding philosophical underpinnings since the American Revolution. Called “Manifest Destiny,” it was based on the belief that God intended the United States to extend its holdings and its power across the wide continent of North America over the native Indian tribes and other nations from the east coast to the west. The doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” embraced a belief in U.S.-American Anglo-Saxon superiority. These people, therefore, were radical Christian terrorists.
Joan of Arc, the teenager who helped defeat the English in her native France, became one of the greatest war heroes in French history. In spite of this, she was tried by the Catholic Church on the charge of heresy in rejecting Church authority in preference for direct inspiration from God, and most importantly, by donning men’s clothing. By executing Joan by burning at the stake, the Church falls under the definition of “radical Christian terrorist,” as does Joan herself.
Pope Urban II summoned the First Crusade in Clermont, France to “liberate” Jerusalem from Muslims. In the summer of 1096, as the crusade began, soldiers murdered several thousand Jews along their way in the lands along the Rhine River, looted and destroyed their homes, as the Crusaders stated, “Because why should we go off to attack the unbelievers in the Holy Land and leave the unbelievers in our midst untouched.?” They accused Jews as being treacherous auxiliaries of Muslims.
According to Pope Urban II, “Let us first avenge ourselves on them [the Jews] and exterminate them from among the nations so that the name of Israel will no longer be remembered, or let them adopt our faith.”
When the Crusaders reached Jerusalem in 1099, they pillaged Muslim buildings and killed thousands. The massacre of the Muslim population of Jerusalem reached epic proportions. In addition, the invaders burned the synagogue on the Temple Mount to the ground with all the Jews inside. One Crusader, an eyewitness to the event wrote:
“Men rode in blood up to their knees and bridal reins. It was a just and splendid judgment by God that this place would be filled with the blood of the unbelievers.”
The Crusades lasted from 1040 – 1350. By 1204, however, the tide began to turn against the Western European invaders, as the Mamluk dynasty in Egypt drove them out of Palestine and Syria. So I ask, why do we read in the history books about the “Christian Crusaders” rather than the “radical Christian terrorists.” I ask the same in reference to the Christian “Inquisition,” because this terror was far more than a mere “inquiry.”
And yes, of the many rationales Hitler and the Nazi command used to justify their “solution” to the so-called “Jewish question,” was their justification that they were doing “God’s” work” as stated by Adolph Hitler in his book Mein Kampf:
“Today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord” (p. 65).
So, yes, Hitler was a “radical Christian terrorist” as was the entirety of the Nazi Party.
What’s in a Name?
If it is not already quite obvious, my intent is to expose the wide and deep double standard in the representations used in public discourse in reporting and discussing violent acts. When officials suspect Muslims of committing crimes or inciting violence, leaders and the media almost automatically term them “Islamic terrorists” or “radical Islamic terrorists,” but rarely if ever refer to Christian perpetrators of crime and violence as “radical Christian terrorists.”
Which news outlets called Timothy McVey, the convicted perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, a “radical Christian terrorist”? Who referred to the illegal “occupiers” of federal lands for 41 days in Oregon, led by Ammon Bundy as “radical Christian terrorists”? When was the last time we heard members of the myriad so-called white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation called “radical Christian terrorists”?
The double standard not only exposes inherent Islamophobia, but by naming “Islam” and “Muslims” in the rhetoric regarding the criminal acts, it wrongly legitimizes and validates the suspects’ claimed religious justification for undertaking these actions.
When a Christian performs a good deed, we often hear of that person’s “Christian charity” or “good Christian values” used to describe these acts. This individual is portrayed as representing the group of Christians as a whole. On the other hand, when a Christian engages in crimes, violent or not, we see the person painted as some sort of outlier or deviant of the group norms with their Christianity not seen as part of the portrait. Quite often, the same conditions reproduce themselves in the case of “race.”
Often when law enforcement officials suspect a white person, the media lede goes something like this: “Police arrested (name), age (fill in the blank), who is suspected of robbing (store).” When a person of color is involved, however, the lede usually includes the suspect’s race: “Police arrested (name), age (fill in the blank), an African American (for example), who is suspected of robbing (store).”
At the intersections of “race” and religion, our society “racializes” persons adhering to a number of non-Christian faiths. For example, for persons our society constructs as “white,” when wearing the sacred head coverings of Muslims, Sikhs, or orthodox Jews, or the hair styles of Rastafarians, the public imagination converts these individuals and groups to the category of “racialized other,” and thus profiles them as such.
This is how dominance functions in our society to sustain and perpetuate itself. In this way, dominance avoids the glaring lights of examination and thus escapes challenge. Therefore, dominance is maintained by its relative invisibility; and with this invisibility, dominant group privilege is neither analyzed nor scrutinized, neither interrogated nor confronted. It is perceived as unremarkable or “normal,” and when anyone poses a challenge or attempts to reveal its significance, those in the dominant group brand them as “subversive” or as “sacrilegious.”
Therefore, I applaud the President and the Democratic candidates for not falling into the discursive traps set by the Republicans.