From a utilitarian perspective, it's simple. The average person faces greater danger from radicalized Muslims than from other dangers that we also fear, such as sharks or lightning.
- According to the ISAF, in 2009, there were 61 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide, resulting in five deaths and 56 injured.
- Lightning is more dangerous than sharks. According to NOAA, in 2009, 34 Americans died from lightning strikes. Worldwide, the estimate is about a thousand deaths and five thousand injuries annually.
- But radical Islamic terrorism is even more dangerous. According to the U.S. State Department report on terrorist attacks in 2009, "about one half" of the 10,999 identified terrorist attacks worldwide were associated with Sunni Islamists. That's the high end of the scale. By contrast, another list showing only attacks involving Islamic radicals indicates that they were only responsible for about 1,900 world-wide attacks in 2009. Still, those resulted in more than nine thousand deaths and 18,500 injuries.
The average person is thirty times more likely to be attacked by a Muslim than a shark, and hundreds of times more likely to be killed by one. But it's not wrong to be "Sharkophobic," even though the risk is infinitely small. There are good reasons to fear sharks.
- 1) Predatory - Sharks are dangerous predators that attack when we are vulnerable. Their attacks are sudden, unexpected, and very hard to defend against.
- 2) Single-minded - Sharks are single-minded and pursue their own objectives. This predatory behavior is controlled by instincts and criteria that I don't understand.
- 3) Uncaring - Sharks don't care about me or my concerns. I cannot get a shark to accept me as a person of value worthy of life.
- 4) Fear - The shark's reputation as a cold-blooded killer causes the mere appearance of one to produce fear.
Unfortunately, the reality is that there are also some Muslims who fit the same basic criteria.
- 1) Predatory - Radical Muslims are also dangerous predators who attack when we are vulnerable. Their attacks are sudden, unexpected, and very hard to defend against.
- 2) Single-minded - Radicalized Muslims are single-minded and pursue only their own objectives. This predatory behavior is controlled by a worldview and a set of criteria that few of us understand. (Further, those who do understand it make it clear that we could not accept it as normative without massively disruptive changes to our lives.)
- 3) Uncaring - Radicalized Muslims do not care about me or my concerns. In fact, they do not value anyone who doesn't precisely share their own specific interpretations of Islam. (As a result, the vast majority of their victims are also Muslim.)
- 4) Fear - It is the intent of these radicals to produce fear -- that's why we call them "terrorists." Terror is part of the method they employ to get compliance to their demands. It should not surprise us when they succeed in generating fear that greatly contributes to "Islamophobia."
- 5) Announced Intent -- There is a fifth dangerous element unique to these people. They have repeatedly "declared war" on us, our religion, our political system, and our way of life. As proof of their intent, they have conducted violent attacks inside our country, using attackers who live among us and hide their malicious intent until it is too late. Their deception involves extensive lying and efforts to appear "normal" so that they can attack without warning.
- Who would have thought that a mild-mannered Saudi national, who was college-educated in Germany and who had been in this country for more than a year learning to fly commercial jets, would have led the most vicious attack against civilians in U.S. history?
- Who would have thought that a U.S.-born practicing psychiatrist, an Army officer, sent through medical school by the Army, would have unexpectedly attacked random soldiers in his own workplace, killing thirteen and wounding thirty?
Therefore, it is logical to be fearful of Muslims because a tiny percentage of them, who deliberately deceive everyone about their intentions, might be extremely dangerous.
Unfortunately, this is bad for the rest of the Islamic faith. We can't tell them apart -- until it is too late. It seems to me that this logical fear will cause the Muslim faith as a whole to suffer growing isolation. Since I fear sharks, I do not go into the water when they are around, and I get out if they show up. The same withdrawal reaction is rational when dealing with Islamic radicals.
How do we counter "Islamophobia"?
It has been thoroughly proven that prejudice is not helpful to our society. But addressing the five elements that cause rational "Islamophobia" will require at least two things.
The most important thing will be for most of the leaders of the Muslim world to repeatedly make clear, public distinctions between those who are peaceful and those who are not. That's the only way in which those of us outside of Islam can know whom we can trust and whom we should avoid. It will have to be done over and over. But to do it will call for tremendous bravery on the part of those who want to pursue peace. By repudiating radical Islam, those leaders will become instant targets for those who want to dominate the world. Those of us outside the Muslim faith need to recognize and respect that courage. Whoever takes the lead on this issue in Islam will be showing true gallantry to the entire world.
The other important step will be for average people to experience frequent relationships with non-radical Muslims. Reality and experience show us that the most effective way to get over our "Islamophobia" is by building relationships among ordinary people, millions of times. That takes many years and cannot be rushed nor forced. Efforts to force that outcome will simply raise the walls of "Islamophobia" while denying its existence.
I've always found that honesty is the best policy in any relationship.
So, peaceful Muslims, please accept our apologies in advance.
Let us honestly say that when we may appear "Islamophobic," we think that we are actually just being "prudent." Over time, a relationship will develop between us, and trust will build. But this will take time, probably years.
Further, expect us to draw back each time the radicals trigger a surprise attack in the West. We will back off some because people like Major Hasan bring the danger to our minds again.
But if you're willing to take the time, I think you'll find that most Americans are, too. I know that I will. We are a kind and generous people who are worthy of your time.