The terrorist attack in Chattanooga will certainly add fuel to the fire of people who are already paranoid about Muslims living in the USA.
So what if plenty of peaceful American Muslims are appalled by what happened and would never condone such an act? The mere fact that they share certain religious beliefs with Islamic terrorists makes them guilty by association, right? Shouldn’t Islam now be outlawed from the public square?
If acts of terrorism justify the outlawing of the religion of terrorists, then Christianity would have been outlawed in the USA a long time ago. After all, once upon a time, acts of terrorism were carried in the USA by the Ku Klux Klan. According to one blogger, “The KKK has always based its precepts on Christianity.” The KKK was able to carry out acts of terrorism because ordinary white “Christian” citizens didn’t do much, if anything, to stop it from happening. After all, those KKK terrorists worshipped in the same churches as the peaceful white Christians. Thus, the religion of the peaceful white Christians should have been outlawed from the public square, eh?
Well, no. It would have been wrong to punish the many for the misdeeds of the few, as well as been unconstitutional. The KKK terrorists were accountable for their own actions, not the peaceful white Christians who never engaged in terrorism.
Likewise, those who commit acts of Islamic terrorism on U.S. soil are accountable for their own actions, not the peaceful American Muslims who are opposed to what the former have done.
Even if acts of terrorism are motivated by a particular religious ideology, the ideology alone doesn’t enable the acts of terrorism to take place. Elements with a culture work to suppress such acts or to enable such acts, and not all cultures are alike. The cultures in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, for example, aren’t anything like the cultures in the Middle East and Africa. The tribalism found in the latter cultures doesn’t dominate the former cultures.
To use an analogy from science, in order for there to be a fire, three elements must exist: fuel, oxygen and an ignition source. The lack of just one element is all that is needed to prevent a fire. When it comes to Islamic terrorism, the elements needed aren’t as much in supply in Western cultures are they are in the Middle East and Africa.
The terrorism committed by the KKK became a thing of the past because the culture that supported it was transformed. That same culture now works to suppress acts of Islamic terrorism. Yes, a few Muslims have conducted acts of such evil on U.S. soil, but they are the exception, not the rule, in regards to the general Muslim population in the USA.
The USA would be worse off if we were to start restricting freedom of religion in the public square in response to any acts of terrorism. One would do well to avoid condemning the entire apple orchard just because one has discovered some rotten apples along the orchard’s edges.
If one argues against Islam for religious reasons, then that is acceptable from a constitutional perspective. If one wants to ban all Islam from U.S. soil, then one has abandoned the U.S. Constitution and the American values that it enshrines. One simply shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water because one thinks that the baby is ugly.
Originally published at The Moderate Voice.
Featured Image is from the Oregon Historical Society.