In 2008, when I was seventeen, I opened my inbox to find a chain email message forwarded by a close family friend. Circulated around my Catholic parish community before arriving to me, the message compared the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims to the “silent” Germans of the 1940s, both of whom, the email claimed, were responsible for the actions of Muslim terrorists and Nazis, respectively.
Fast forward several years later, to the 2016 presidential campaign, and we find that the same narrative about Muslims’ complicity in terrorism is being peddled by candidates who could be our country’s next president. During an appearance on ABC’s“This Week” on November 15, Senator Marco Rubio was asked to respond to Hillary Clinton’s refusal to use the phrase, “radical Islam.” Here’s what he said:
That would be like saying we’re at war with Nazis, because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi Party but weren’t violent themselves.
This comparison of Nazi-era Germans and the majority of Muslims is one of the most persistent narratives I’ve encountered in the years since 9/11. I’ve heard it echoed countless times in the honest question, “Why don’t Muslims speak out?” posed by family friends, and in the disingenuous commentary by Fox News hosts whenever a Muslim is the perpetrator of violence.
By claiming Muslims are like Nazis, both Rubio and the 2007 chain message assert a dangerous, but latent, assumption: that ordinary Muslims and groups like ISIS have the same worldview, want the same things, share something fundamental and are part of the same “party” simply because of their shared religion.