Radical Islamic terror. Islamic. Terror. When you separate those words, they can’t be any more diametrically opposed. The dictionary defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion,” or as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in pursuit of political, religious or ideological aims.”
Islam—the religion practiced by 2 billion Muslims all over the world—is a word that translates from Arabic to English as “submit” or “surrender,” as in submitting to the power and wisdom of God, or Allah. For centuries, Muslims have greeted one another with “As-salaam alaikum,” translated as “Peace be unto you.”
Submission to God. Peace be unto you. Does that sound like anyone who would co-opt the tenets of mass murder and torture to you? And yet, when hearing about Muslims and Islam, there is a tendency by many to subliminally attach heinous acts of violence to the religion and its adherents.
The current president of the United States not only profusely uses the term “radical Islamic terror,” but during his 2016 campaign, he even condemned Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton for not using the term often enough!
He, his administration and, to be fair, many Republicans and far-right pundits before him have used the term in an attempt to attach the word “terrorism” to “Islam” and, even more so, to people of color overseas.
When the San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando, Fla., shootings happened, “radical Islamic terror” was thrown around, and speculation about attachments to the Islamic State group, often referred to as ISIS, happened in the media and the like.
Recently, the president tweeted an unfounded statistic about how radical Islamic terror had contributed to the rise in crime in the United Kingdom. However, when a Canadian mosque was attacked, allegedly by Trump supporter Alexandre Bissonnette in January, authorities said that the shooter acted alone and that he killed because he felt the victims didn’t believe what they should. Was the shooter in this case not a terrorist? The prime minister of Quebec said so, but the U.S. president didn’t. Why?
A discourse must be had about the contradiction that derives from Christian beliefs and adhering to those beliefs when it comes to people of color. Coercion, intimidation and violence have been the name of the game for prejudiced people of power in the United States for hundreds of years and in the world for even longer, and the Bible has often been their how-to guide. The truth is, the country was founded on and continues to operate via radical Christian terrorism.
There are perhaps no two entities in human history as powerful and persuasive as religion and language. Both have the ability to move millions, if not billions, of people to come together or be torn apart. When put together, they can be revolutionary and toxic.
The act of fusing the ideology of Islam with terrorism, no matter how many mass murderers from ISIS or al-Qaida claim to practice the religion, is irresponsible. And, considering the centuries of damage that so-called practitioners of Christianity have thrust upon this planet, is obtusely hypocritical.
Before the United States was even a glimmer in the eye of a Puritan Pilgrim or a wooden-tooth revolutionary general named Washington, spreading Christianity around the world with manipulative rhetoric and bullying caused more bloodshed and brainwashing than anyone could imagine. Writer Amiri Baraka brilliantly commented on 11th-century holy wars in his book Blues People, citing the Crusades as the admission of “the hypocrisy and opportunism of the Christians, and the prostitution of Christianity.”
Such opportunism was practiced during slavery. The act of forcing slaves (many of them Muslim, by the way) to abandon their African religions and adopt Christianity was a microcosm of the aforementioned Crusaders, if you will: overthrowing the religion of an entire population to implement your own on them and elsewhere.
Those familiar with the story of Nat Turner’s rebellion of 1831 know that a devout Turner was coerced by his slave master to read Bible Scripture to fellow slaves to convince them that their bondage was a matter of divine law. In Ephesians 6:5, it reads, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”
Failure to act accordingly came with disastrous results—whippings, torture, rape and later lynchings, bombings and death. Are those not the acts of a terrorist? Biblical justification of slavery, segregation and injustice toward people of color has been par for the course for a long time in this country.
Furthermore, the exploitation of black Americans’ contemporary devotion to Christianity is absurdly ironic. The Ku Klux Klan is perhaps the poster child for radical Christian terror. Scaring good Christian black folk by burning crosses on their front lawns was merely foreplay to the climax that was murder.
When the four little girls were killed in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama, that was an act of terrorism: intimidation and violence against citizens for political aims.
In 2015, Dylann Roof infiltrated the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., shooting and killing nine African-American parishioners. Roof is a neo-Nazi sympathizer, and Nazis devoted themselves to ethnic and religious cleansing during the Holocaust. Terrorism doesn’t get any more radical and absolute than that.
And yet, this summer, when neo-Nazis protested the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue with torches, violence and the killing of one person, the president of the United States proceeded to say that some of them were “good people.” Meanwhile, earlier this year, eight black churches burned to the ground all over the South with little mention in the news.
Statistically speaking, more Americans have been killed by so-called domestic terrorists (regardless of whether or not they are described as such in the press) than by al-Qaida or the Islamic State group, with 115 killed domestically, compared with 63 abroad between 2008 and 2016, according to HuffPost. The terrorist coercion in regard to Christianity continues today with the new administration in a big way.
On Oct. 5, the current presidential administration officially moved to roll back mandates that, under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), allowed women to receive birth control for free under health coverage at their jobs. According to the New York Times, “The rules offer an exemption to any employer that objects to covering contraception services on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
There is a sense of entitlement, of self-righteousness and patriarchy, among practitioners of Christianity in government that is dangerous, and an act of religious and political coercion. Allowing employers to deny free birth control to female employees for religious reasons is an earmark of tyranny and discrimination—and both of these tenets are the backbone of terrorism.
The next day, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum on proposed legislation from the president to lawfully enforce what the administration deems “religious liberties” for business owners.
In Article 19 of the 25-page memorandum, titled “Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty,” it states: “Religious employers are entitled to employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts.”
This twists the First Amendment language regarding freedom of religion, just as the government often does for the Second Amendment when it comes to the right to bear arms. This is merely thinly veiled discrimination, indicating that employers have the right not to hire someone who doesn’t believe in Christianity.
And let’s be clear. That last sentence was not an accident. When Sessions or the president uses the term “religious liberty,” make no mistake—he means “Christianity.” All you have to do is look at the faith practiced by a majority of the members of the U.S. government, past and present alike, and the condemnation of other religions, Islam in particular, as a result.
The “radical Islamic terror” rhetoric and the several incarnations of the travel ban to or from Muslim countries are enough to prove that. The commander in chief even retweeted a damning portrait of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race that implied Jewish people had dishonest ways.
The condemnation of Islam by those in government is deeper than just an attempt to eradicate dangerous potential terrorists from abroad. This is an out-and-out damnation of an entire religion and population of people, based purely on the fact that they don’t believe in the same religion as many in our government, despite the old adage that church and state should be separate.
There is no such thing as radical Islamic terrorism, and there is no such thing as radical Christian terrorism. There are only terrorists, plain and simple.
Those who commit such egregious acts, like flying airplanes into buildings or beheading Americans on camera, are not real Muslims—no matter what the perpetrators say.
Christianity is based on the tenets of Jesus Christ, who never once promoted such violence and peril. In Matthew 10:16, Christ said, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”
If others don’t want to believe in Christianity, let them be, and whatever happens to them is up to God, not man. Plain and simple.
But as long as the term “radical Islamic terrorism” continues to be spewed, let’s keep things fair and call a spade a spade: If you kill, coerce and/or intimidate people to convince them to follow Christian doctrine and denounce all else, whether by law or by force, you are a terrorist and will be identified as a radical Christian one.