During that interview I stressed several points: first, terrorism is an international problem and not just one of "those people" in the Middle East and elsewhere; second, America has a problem with terrorism by white, Right-wing, Christian conservatives; third; a perverse type of white identity politics endangers public safety because a mature discussion about terrorism by white people (especially white conservatives) will be shouted down by Fox News and its enablers across the media.
The scars of 9-11, and the American derangement that occurred in its aftermath, have combined with Orientalism, a cartoon bogeyman version of the Arab and Muslim "Other", and white supremacy to make all Muslims--however cosmopolitan and "Western" they may be--responsible for the vicious crimes of a few.
In that imaginary, all Muslims are made accountable for violence by Islamic terrorists.
This is part of the same logic which deems that all black Americans are somehow responsible for the crimes of a few people who by virtue of melanin count and the 1 drop rule in the United States are also arbitrarily deemed "black". By contrast, whiteness and white privilege are individualism in extremis. Thus, white killers, terrorists, and other monsters are "lone wolves" who reveal nothing about white people en masse.
When religion and political violence are intertwined, these questions of identity and group responsibility become even more complicated. Faith is a belief in that which cannot be proven by ordinary empirical means. By implication, religion is a type of magical thinking. However, it is made no less powerful a social force--both for "believers" and "non-believers--because of said fact.
Religion also creates a type of kinship network, tribe, and sense of community. Generally, members of a given religious clan are given more latitude and benefit of the doubt in their behavior than those who are outside of it. The religious Other is to be judged differently than those who of the religious in-group. Of course, this is hypocritical.
This hypocrisy is not conjecture; it is a measurable social phenomenon. Public opinion polling data from 2011 details how:
Such is typically not the case for acts of violence perpetrated by other religious groups, and a 2011 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey may offer a hint as to why the double-standard exists.
The PRRI survey showed evidence of contradictions in Americans' attitudes toward religious violence. Most notably, 83 percent of Americans said that self-proclaimed Christians who commit acts of violence in the name of Christianity are not really Christians, while 48 percent of Americans said that self-proclaimed Muslims who commit acts of violence in the name of Islam are not really Muslims.
Republican respondents (55 percent) were more likely than Democrat respondents (40 percent) to say a self-identified Muslim who commits acts of violence in the name of Islam is really Muslim...
A September 2014 Pew report found that 50 percent of American adults say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its followers -- up from 40 percent in 2011, Jones said.This is validation of the individual level experiences that I (and many of you) have had, where when asked about the ill-deeds committed by someone of their faith, the religiously minded often hee and haw as they say "x person isn't a 'real' Christian or Muslim so their behavior does not reflect the faith". Such deflections are cognitive shortcuts that defy critical engagement, as faith for the faithful is by definition a suspension of critical thinking via an embrace of the mysteries that come with a revelatory experience with their personal God.
The American Taliban--the Christian Dominionists, Sovereign Citizens, Christian Reconstructionists--have much in common with Islamic terrorists. They are both anti-Enlightenment, against free speech, do not believe in the separation of church and state, are hostile to the rights of gays and lesbians, and view women as not being full and equal citizens in the polity.
However, there is one key difference. Islamic terrorists own and embrace the use of violence against the public as a tool of intimidation in the service of advancing a political goal. By contrast, the American Taliban are enabled and protected by the Right-wing media and a broad swath of the white conservative public even as both run away from the twin labels of "Christian" and "terrorist".
"Christian terrorism" is terrorism. "Muslim terrorism" is terrorism. "Jewish terrorism" is terrorism.
Why is that reality so difficult for so many people to accept?