Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash
When I was a senior in high school, Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign rattled me. I was (and still am) a Muslim American woman, so you could probably guess that his declaration for having “a shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States was not something I was particularly pleased to hear.
It hurt especially also because of the fact that he was likening innocent Muslims such as myself to the atrocity that is ISIS. I cringe at the name of ISIS itself– not just because of the fact that it refers to the disgusting excuses of human beings who don’t deserve to be deemed human beings. But also because of the name itself– the “Islamic State.” As a devout and practicing Muslim, I dread that such a terrorist group that goes against the principles of Islam so far as to insult Islam and Muslims, yet carries around the holy name when the terrorist group is far from holy.
In other words, this evil group that dares to call themselves “the Islamic state” is an enemy toward Islam and its followers.
Being a practicing Muslim whose religious principles are far from what ISIS ideology preaches, so much so that it was hard for many Muslims such as myself to even consider ISIS as part of our ummah (religious community), me saying that it hurts to be associated and lumped together with ISIS is an understatement.
It hurts especially when ISIS is an enemy toward Muslims themselves.
A lot of Americans, especially those who were (and still are) enthusiastic supporters of the Muslim ban, didn’t and don’t seem to acknowledge the fact that the majority of ISIS’s victims were/are Muslims themselves– the very Muslims comprising Syrian refugees who were seeking to escape from these terrorists. At the same time, other Muslim ban supporters recognized that it was true that most Muslims were peaceful. That most Muslims were/are not terrorists. They acknowledged and recognized that the majority of Syrian refugees were peaceful Muslims who were trying to flee the brutality of the same terrorists of ISIS that the Americans trying to keep them out feared. In an essence, the refugees and these Americans were on the same side– they both abhorred and wanted to be protected from ISIS.
But there was the M&M analogy, which was used as logic to back up the reasoning for their stance with the Muslim ban.
And I get the logic behind it, and I get where they were coming from considering the fear of the threat of ISIS and what the media was showing them. Of course, if there was a handful of M&M’s, and I knew that one or two of those M&M’s were bad and even poisonous, I would refrain from eating them as I would hope any human being with common sense would do. So I get the argument, and the logic behind it when applied to the case of allowing Syrian refugees and other Muslims into the United States (note: not all Syrians are Muslims, and I know that– but the M&M analogy was specifically regarding Muslims, Syrian or not).
While the M&M argument may seem sound and reasonable at first, it’s important not to take the analogy for granted. It’s important to look deeper: what assumptions and biases prompt the use and justification of this analogy in the first place?
According to the FBI website, terrorism is defined as the following:
- International terrorism: Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups who are inspired by, or associated with, designated foreign terrorist organizations or nations (state-sponsored).
- Domestic terrorism: Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.
Both definitions entail the use of violence to incite fear and control by one ideological group against civilians, whether those civilians are of one’s own country or not.
When looking at ISIS, I can agree as a Muslim, as an American, as a human being, that ISIS and other extremist groups like al-Qaeda are terrorist organizations who are part of the lowest scum of the earth and do not deserve to be called human.
And I think that whether you’re conservative or liberal, if you’re a decent human being, you would agree with me that the reasons that these organizations are evil and less than human is because they are terrorists.
My question is, why is a blind eye turned when it is Americans and other non-Muslims committing acts of terrorism? Or when a blind eye isn’t turned, why is it that acts of terrorism by groups such as White supremacists are not recognized by the media as the terrorist attacks that they are?
Why is it that the New Zealand terror attacks where a White supremacist shot up innocent Muslims doing their Friday prayers was acknowledged as a lone wolf attack, when there have been several terrorist attacks by White supremacists in the Western world who identified themselves as Right-wing conservatives? Why weren’t their actions coined as an instances of “Right-Wing terrorism”? Take for instance the evils of Dylann Roof who massacred Black church goers, and the Tree of Life attack committed by a monster by the name of Robert Bowers. These are just a few examples of many terrors committed by White supremacist and extremist Right-wing ideology.
There may be some reading my defining of these White supremacist attacks as terrorist attacks as inaccurate. But what is the reason for this disagreement? My guess is that it doesn’t fit the media format of what a terrorist and terrorist attack is “supposed” to look like– a Middle Eastern or brown man shooting up innocent White westerners. I urge you to think about your bias if this is the case. Why are you quick to label a perpetrator of violence who claims to be Muslim as a terrorist, but not do the same for a perpetrator of mass violence who is not Muslim when there is clear evidence of their extremist ideologies and extremist affiliations? Are these extremist Right-wingers not hurting those who they dehumanize with the aim of subjecting them and getting rid of them? Are they not doing so with the goal of promoting their own extreme and Supremacist agenda in which they are trying to gain power over their perceived “out-groups”? Are they not operating by a specific kind of ideology?
Your argument may be due to the assumption that conservative ideologies in themselves are not extreme– that Christianity in itself it not extreme– that they in themselves do not preach or condone violence. That the majority of conservatives are peaceful and loving, that Christianity condemns violence. Or it may be that conservative ideologies, Right-wing ideologies, are not religious ideologies and therefore not as dangerous.
But regardless of whether an ideology is inspired by religion or politics or something else, an ideology is an ideology; it is a set of ideas that consists of emotional attachment to its followers and upholders.
Can’t we all agree that for those who decide to take radical, extremist approaches in adherence to an ideology of any kind, these people are in the wrong and are committing terror? That they are perverting something that is pure or not in itself evil, that they are manipulating something and interpreting it in a way that benefits their twisted agendas for power?
But then why don’t you extend the same reasoning to Muslims and Islam, and the way that Muslims practice Islam? Why are you so quick to decide that Muslims and Islam don’t get that same benefit of doubt that Christians and conservatives get, that same level of understanding that it is up to the individual interpreters of how they either keep something pure or destroy it?
Why is it so hard for you to accept that Islam itself is not inherently violent, that Muslims themselves are not inherently violent, in the same way that you understand that Christians and Christianity, conservatives and conservative ideologies, are not inherently hateful and violent?
When using the M&M analogy against Muslim Syrian refugees and other Muslims, there is the selective bias of being aware of terrorists within only Muslim demographics. The same attention is not applied to other ideologies, including those of extreme Right-wingers and White supremacists.
Now I know another argument to explain this bias– there is the assumption that most terrorists are Muslim, and that Islam itself is inherently violent and evil.
As someone who is Muslim and continuously studies her own religion, and keeps up with statistics, I can confidently say that these assumptions are false. I will go into an article debunking myths that state that Islam is a terrorist-advocating religion in another blog post, but for now, I hope that you can take my word as a Muslim who is knowledgeable about her religion. If not, then tune in a new blog post coming up soon. 🙂
I also encourage you to consider the selective bias about from the media and the selective focus put into certain groups more than others by conservative groups (and even liberal ones– I’m looking at you, Fox and CNN).
Notice how the M&M analogy is applied by Trump supporters toward Muslims, but refrained form being used when it comes to other extremist groups such as White supremacists. Notice how it isn’t used against Christian groups and conservative groups where racism and violent ideologies are present.
Why is the M&M ideology only applied to Muslims, but not against domestic terrorists that are already within the country? Especially when conservatism is a huge proponent of “America first”? Shouldn’t we work on weeding out the bad that is already present within our country as much as if not more than we are wary of what is outside of the country? What might we be ignorant of?
I want you to wonder what this tells us about our perceived biases of ourselves in being Americans. What are we excusing within our country that we would not tolerate elsewhere and among others?
Think about it. We were quick to condemn Muslim, Islam and the general Middle East after 9/11 happened. And there is no doubt that Osama bin Laden and his supporters should be rotting in Hell for what they did to innocent people and their families.
But how come while Americans were quick to condemn bin Laden, they did not condemn themselves about the terrorism they committed overseas that motivated and prompted bin Laden’s attacks on US soil?
Why did Americans conveniently turn a blind eye to the way in which the US government had already been killing and plundering innocent people in the Middle East, killing women, children and men similar to the way that bin Laden took innocent lives away that tragic morning in 2001?
It wasn’t until my final year of college when I had learned through one of my classes that 9/11 wasn’t even religiously motivated. It was done out of retaliation to American terrorism in the Middle East. It’s interesting that innocent lives being exploited and slaughtered were tolerable when they weren’t White, American lives– when it was the United States itself that held the role of terrorists. When it was the United States that was the oppressor, the murderer. How interesting it is that while Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were termed terrorists, as they should be, the United States didn’t even think of recognizing their own terrorism that prompted al-Qaeda’s terrorism.
My point is, the way we, as Americans, as human beings, look at terrorism shouldn’t be exclusive. We shouldn’t only label people as terrorists when they’re not our country’s leadership. The United States is guilty of terrorism– the fact that we excuse our own leaders for their terrorism while condemning others for the same should make us reconsider our biases and arrogance.
Imagine how hurtful, unfair, dehumanizing, arrogant and downright sinful it would be had other countries banned Christians and Right-wingers from entering because of the actions of a few who don’t represent the majority. Imagine if Donald Trump called for a “complete shutdown” of Christians entering the US instead of Muslims. Imagine if Donald Trump called for a complete exclusion and deportation of people based on absurd generalizations. Oh, wait– he already did. They just weren’t White Christians. Again, I urge you to wonder why the M&M analogy is only applied exclusively to certain groups of people.
Why is White supremacy, an ideology that in itself is evil, more tolerated than is Islam, an ideology that is not in itself evil?