Tempted to make generalizations about a world population of 1.5 billion Muslims? Please think twice, says Georgetown University professor Jonathan Brown.
“There are going to be different representations of any religion, and you have to be hesitant when people say they represent the true version of something” he says.
The Presidential campaign in the United States has featured a lot of anti-Muslim rhetoric on the part of one candidate, Donald Trump, who recently walked back a proposal for a complete ban on Muslims instead suggesting that his plan would focus only on “terrorist countries.”
But even under the broadest definition of a terrorist, says Brown, only .01 % of Muslims would qualify for that label, making the correlation statistically false. (A 2014 CNN article by Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider estimated that there might be, at the most, 106,000 jihadist militants worldwide).
“Americans don’t care when Muslims go to bed, brush their teeth, or go to work, “says Brown, director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding. “People only seem to care when Muslims do horrible things.”
The season of Ramadan (a month marked by daylight fasting, prayer, and charitable works) has been marked this year by grim events across the world, particularly in Muslim-majority countries, but also in Europe and the United States. In Iraq, where a truck bomb exploded this past Sunday in Baghdad, 285 people have now died from injuries sustainedwhen they crowded the streets to mark the end of their daily fast.
“Many more Muslims have died at the hands of ISIS than non-Muslims’ says Brown.
In the United States, University of North Carolina sociologist Charles Kurzman, who tracks Muslim-American terror suspects and perpetrators reported that in 2015 81 Muslim-Americans were associated with terror plots – the highest number since the events of September 11, 2001. The majority were attempting to travel to join militant groups abroad.
The total number of Muslim-Americans involved in violent extremist plans since 9/11? As of 2015, that number was 344, with half plotting against overseas targets.
Saying that ISIS represents Muslims is akin to claiming that the Ku Klux Klan represents Christianity, says Brown. “Does the KKK, which emerged out of a context of slavery and white supremacy represent what Americans want their country to be?” While ISIS comes out of the Islamic, because it uses verses from the Koran and should be viewed in the broader context of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements, it isn’t at all what most Muslims see as an accurate representation of their faith, he says.
In the United States, recently Muslim children have been bullied, women fear wearing their headscarves, and men and women identified as faith members are shot at and sometimes killed.