Are Islamic Terrorists Muslims?

Howard Dean is one of many establishment political figures (President Obama is another) who insist that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. On MSNBC yesterday, Dean said:

“I stopped calling these people Muslim terrorists. They’re about as Muslim as I am,” he said. “I mean, they have no respect for anybody else’s life, that’s not what the Koran says. And, you know Europe has an enormous radical problem. … I think ISIS is a cult. Not an Islamic cult. I think it’s a cult.”

Dean’s formula is consistent with the syllogism we have heard many times from American politicians: Islam is a religion of peace; terrorists aren’t peaceful; therefore the terrorists are not “true” Muslims.

The problem is that someone forgot to tell a great many of the Prophet’s followers. A poll taken by ICM in August, for example, found that 16% of French respondents have a positive opinion of ISIS. Among French youth, ages 18-24, a whopping 27% said they have a positive view of ISIS. This is a little mystifying, as there are reported to be five million Muslims out of France’s population of 66 million, or around seven percent. It is hard to see where the remaining support for ISIS, as reported by ICM, would come from.

But polling data aside, there is no doubt that many European Muslims do not share the comforting belief that Islam is a religion of peace:

Newsweek’s France Correspondent, Anne-Elizabeth Moutet, was unsurprised by the news [that 16% of French poll respondents support ISIS]. “This is the ideology of young French Muslims from immigrant backgrounds,” she said, “unemployed to the tune of 40%, who’ve been deluged by satellite TV and internet propaganda.” She pointed to a correlation between support for ISIS and rising anti-Semitism in France, adding that “these are the same people who torch synagogues”.

While the number of people willing to commit mass murder is vanishingly small as a percentage of the population, it is foreseeable that if a significant portion of a large demographic group tolerates or even supports terrorism as a political strategy, terrorists will emerge from that group. This may be what we are seeing in France; in any event, it is not unreasonable for French citizens to worry that unconstrained immigration from Muslim countries is likely to lead to more terrorist attacks like the one perpetrated against Charlie Hebdo. In Europe, as in the U.S., elites are unwilling to address such concerns in any realistic way, preferring to hide behind the comforting fiction that terrorists who scream “Allahu Akbar!” as they commit mass murder are under some sort of misapprehension, and aren’t really Muslims at all.

PAUL adds: I don’t think an American WASP like Howard Dean gets to say who is and who isn’t a Muslim.

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