Perhaps radical Islam...isn't
When Donald Trump opined that we should stop all Muslim immigration "until we can figure out what is going on," perhaps he stumbled on something we have yet to recognize: that radical Islam...isn't. Much is being made (with good reason) of President Obama's failure to use the words "radical Islamic terrorism" when describing the horrific act in Orlando and other terror attacks here in the U.S. Even yesterday's atrocity, the brutal murder of at latest count 80 civilians, who were run over by a French citizen of Tunisian descent, using a 5-ton cargo truck, has yet to elicit those words from President Obama.
However, our focus may be a bit off here. Perhaps the problem isn't radical Islam. Perhaps the problem is Islam in its entirety. As horrific as this brutal mass murder was, at what point does a radical politico-religious extreme become a mainstream religious belief?
There are some interesting surveys out there regarding Muslim attitudes by the Pew Research Center. The findings were interesting, especially when we examine them against a definition of "radical" or "extreme" that presupposes a locus at the end of a politico-religious spectrum and a population of less than 1 percent of the total population surveyed.
Here are some of the findings:
As of 2010, there were 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, or 23% percent of the population.
Latest estimates put Muslims at just under 1% of the U.S. population at 2.75 million, 63% percent of whom are immigrants.
Pew projects that by 2150, U.S. Muslims will outnumber American Jews, becoming the second most populous religion at 2.1% of the U.S. population, a little more than double today's share. Extrapolating forward, we are talking over 5.5 million Muslims in the U.S.
Taken by themselves, those numbers would cause little concern. However, Muslim attitudes both in the U.S. and worldwide should give us all pause. A Washington Post article regarding Muslim attitudes toward homosexuality ("Here are the ten countries where homosexuality may be punishable by death") notes that Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, all U.S. allies, have death penalty statutes regarding the practice of homosexuality. Abhorrent to Americans as that may be, it's difficult to paint that viewpoint as "extreme," when it is the legal position of duly constituted governments, some of which are U.S. allies in the war on "radical Islamic terrorism."
Closer to home, the Pew study looked at the opinions of Muslims residing in the United States. One interesting finding:
More generally, Muslims mostly say that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam are rarely or never justified, including 92% in Indonesia and 91% in Iraq. In the United States, a 2011 survey found that 86% of Muslims say that such tactics are rarely or never justified. An additional 7% say suicide bombings are sometimes justified and 1% say they are often justified in these circumstances.
Using these percentages, coupled with the current Muslim population, that's 25,000 U.S. Muslims who believe violence in the form of suicide bombers is often justified in support of Islam.
Polls may show that a clear majority of Muslims abhor ISIS violence, but until they actively do something to reform the clear plurality of Muslims who support it, innocent men, women, and children will continue to be murdered by this theocratic terrorist element that is by no means looked at as "extreme" by a goodly part of the Muslim world.
Whatever happens, our Republic, with its protections for individual liberty, especially religious liberty, will have to come to grips with this, sooner rather than later. Maybe Trump is right. Maybe we should halt all Muslim immigration until "we figure out what is going on," and those so-called, "moderate Muslims" nudge their politico-military-religious construct towards meaningful reformation.
Mike Ford is a retired infantry officer with experience in counterterrorism in Central America, Southwest Asia and as an instructor at the JFK Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg, N.C.