Numbers don't lie: Islamophobia vs. Statistics



Pundits like Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher would like you to believe that Islamophobia is about religion, rather than race. They would also like you to believe that Islam is an inherently violent religion - that violence in the Middle East and attacks like those in Paris about 10 days ago are due to the teachings of the Islamic faith rather than politics.

Their "analysis" however doesn't seem to hold up when confronted with some basic statistics. For one thing, their standard picture of an Islamic terrorist is that of an Arab or Persian. However, more than 60 percent of the world's Muslims live in South and Southeast Asia. The most populous Islamic country in the world is Indonesia, with more than 200 million muslims. Together, Indonesia and Bangladesh have a Muslim population roughly as large as that of the Middle East and North Africa. This means the stereotypical picture of a "Muslim" is based more on race than on religion.

Saying that a particular religion or sect is inherently violent is a fair point for debate, but saying that a race or ethnic group is inherently violent is not. Such ideas have been repeatedly disproven by science, thus the need to disguise an anti-Arab bias as a religious debate.

Unfortunately for right-wing pundits it is also difficult to make the case that Islam is inherently violent.

Globally, the Muslim population is more than 1.6 billion or about 20 percent of the world's population. If violence was an integral part of the Islamic faith, you would expect the world to be much more dangerous than it is. Further, the violence wouldn't be suicide bombers and car bombs. It wouldn't be isolated cells working in secret. It would be dozens of very populous countries with sizeable militaries working together.. Such a coalition is the dream of Islamic State groups, but that dream is finding little support even in majority muslim countries.

Additionally, the Muslim population of Europe is nearly 45 million. The Muslim population of the Americas (North and South combined) is more than 5 million. If Islam is a religion of violence, terrorist attacks should be happening on a weekly basis. Instead the majority of terror attacks in the United States are perpetrated by white Christian racist and/or anti-government groups.

While incidents of terrorism committed by Muslims in the west are rare (but very well publicized), in 2013 there were approximately 200 hate crimes in the United States and Canada alone, perpetrated by westerners against muslims. That number is sure to rise in the wake of the attacks in Paris.

The case could be made, based on the western history of colonization, warfare and racism (dating back to, at least, the crusades) that the west is inherently anti-muslim but the reverse case is much harder to make.

While 9-11, the attacks on Paris and other incidents in the west are horrific. There is little point in trying to use them as examples of the Islamic "hatred of the west". The most frequent victims of Muslim terrorism against civilians are other Muslims. Of the more than 300 recorded terrorist incidents in 2015, only a very few involved Westerners at all.  Not only are Islamic civilians the most frequent targets of terrorism, they are very frequently the casualties (or "collateral damage") of reprisals against terrorist groups. Estimated civilian casualties, to date, in the "War on Terror" range from 80,000 to 1.2 million with millions of displaced persons currently living in refugee camps.  Muslims have far more reason than westerners to hate terrorist groups and they have sacrificed far more than anyone in resisting those groups.

I am a secular humanist, any "faith" I have is in human imagination, ingenuity and science. I find all religions a bit silly. However, I also don't like to see one particular group face discrimination especially when that prejudice is racially motivated and not based in reality.

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