It’s part of American conservative orthodoxy right now to consider Muslims as irredeemably evil. They’re trying to destroy our country as well as Europe. Even if they aren’t directly attacking Europeans (and they have mounted some horrifying attacks) they’re trying to take over by out-reproducing whites, at least in Great Britain. When they’ve attained a majority they’ll be able to impose Sharia law on Britain, which they plan to do in the USA too.
Is this view true? It’s true that some Muslims are extremists who carry out terror attacks, but not that they’re the only group that does so. According to Wikipedia, the first Muslim immigrants to this country began coming in the 1840s (other than slaves, many of whom were Muslim, but were prevented from practicing their religion by their owners, and were often forcibly converted to Christianity), and that 292 Muslims fought in our Civil War. Large numbers of Muslims immigrated to this country between the 1870s and 1920s, As far as I can tell, Muslims committed no terrorist acts in this country until the 1990s.
Why did they do so then? Many Muslims resented European colonial powers who, in their view, mistreated Muslim countries in seeking oil, which had revolutionized power generation in the West. European countries began seeking concessions to drill for oil in the Middle East about the beginning of the 20th century, and the Middle Eastern oil fields quickly became so important that Great Britain occupied portions of the Ottoman Empire to safeguard their supply of oil. European influence had a great deal to do with the breakup of that Empire into artificial countries: Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Iraq in particular was home to a variety of peoples who had little loyalty to each other: Sunni Muslims (the majority of Muslims worldwide), Shia Muslims (the majority in Iraq), and Kurds, who wanted their own territory, but have yet to secure a recognized nation. The American invasion of Iraq destabilized the country, along with much of the rest of the Middle East. Saddam Hussein had certainly not been a nice leader, but I suspect few Iraqis would have opted to go through the violence and chaos they’ve experienced in the past fifteen years.
In Iran after the First World War British diplomats supported the takeover of the country by an army officer named Reza Pahlavi, who became the Shah. After World War II he was forced out of power and his son became Shah. In the early 1950s the Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh nationalized the oil companies in the country, greatly displeasing the Western powers. The CIA funded a military coup that displaced Mossadegh, and brought back the Shah (who had fled the country). The Shah wanted to modernize and secularize the country (the latter was disliked by the religious authorities), and used a notorious secret police force to force people to comply.
Perhaps the main issue that made Muslims unhappy, especially those in the Middle East, was Western support for making Palestine the homeland of the Jews. Zionists had been urging Jews to immigrate to Palestine since the mid-19th century, and many had. The trickle began to become a flood with the rise of Hitler, and Palestinian Arabs became alarmed and fought against the Jewish immigrants. Terrorism was committed by both sides. I think it’s possible to support Israel as homeland for Jews without agreeing with all its policies or excusing its expropriation of the property of the Palestinians or killing them. The existence of Israel enraged the Arabs of the region, and they tried to defeat it and allow Palestinians to get their property back. But the Israelis had a stronger economy and higher military technology, and successfully resisted attempts at invasion. They also had the support of many Western countries, including the United States. That was another thing Muslims of the region resented.
In the late 1970s Iran began rebelling against the Shah at about the same time he became ill and traveled to the USA for treatment. The Ayatollah Khomeini became the political leader of the country at about the same time that Iranians took a lot of Americans hostage. Not all approved of the Ayatollah’s version of an Islamic government, but many approved of Iran going its own way whether the United States liked it or not.
In 1980 the USSR invaded Afghanistan, and Arabs in various countries organized Mujahideen to help resist them. One of these was Osama bin Laden, who fought in Afghanistan and, after the Russians were driven out, returned to Saudi Arabia a hero. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, he offered (fearing Iraq would invade Saudi Arabia next) Mujahideen to repel the Iraqis. Some believe he was outraged by Saudi acceptance of American help to defeat the Iraqis and especially their allowing the United States to build a military base in the country. Other accounts say he believed the US was harming Muslims in the Middle East (Wikipedia quotes Michael Scheuer, who led the hunt for bin Laden as saying, “They hate us for what we do, not who we are.”) under the influence of the Israelis, and called upon them to cease fornication, homosexuality, gambling, and usury. He belonged to a particular school of theology that believed violent acts against innocent civilians were justified by jihad.
Not everyone agreed with this interpretation. According to Wikipedia, “Jihad is classified into inner (‘greater’) Jihad, which involves a struggle against one’s own base impulses, and external (‘lesser’) jihad, which is further divided into jihad of the pen/tongue (debate or persuasion) and jihad of the sword. Most Western writers consider external jihad to have primacy over internal jihad in the Islamic tradition, while much of contemporary Muslim opinion favors the opposite point of view.” Wikipedia adds that in classical Islam there were elaborate rules against harming innocent noncombatants in jihad, and that modern Islamic scholars emphasize armed jihad as primarily defensive, a stance bin Laden obviously disagreed with.
Extremists of all kinds are liable to be violent. To condemn all Muslims for the actions of a relative few is to be unjust to more than a billion people. One guess is that we have between four and seven million Muslims in this country. If all of them were extremists, we would be in bad trouble. Despite our intelligence organizations, it would be nearly impossible to keep that many people from committing terrorist actions if they really wanted to. Did they come to this country to do that, or did they come for similar reasons to our own ancestors: because they wanted to make better lives for themselves? It’s interesting that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson both advocated tolerance of Islam as well as any other religions, though of course they had little if any contact with any Muslims.
I suggest that Muslim terrorism is part of a larger problem: alienation. Alienation isn’t a necessary part of Islam, any more than of Christianity or any other belief. But so-called Christians have committed terrorist acts too, such as bombing abortion facilities, synagogues, and churches. I believe alienation makes people more vulnerable to drug and other addictions as well. Are Muslims in Great Britain trying to take the country over? Why would they want to? Have the British been mistreating them? If they’re accepted as citizens like any other, won’t they behave like most citizens?
At the same time, while Americans were justifiably enraged at the atrocity of 9/11, a lot of sympathy was lost for America after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq killed at least hundreds of thousands. Was that not also terrorism?
The reason many Muslims are trying to leave their countries of origin is because they’ve become almost impossible to live in. Sometimes the reasons are drought or famine. Other times they’re political, like civil war. The French famously dislike the Algerians. Could it be because Algeria was once a French colony and the Algerians forced the French out? Could it be the English don’t like the “Pakis” because India (of which Pakistan used to be a part) was once part of the British empire? Europeans subjugated much of the rest of the world during the colonial period. Is it the turn of the Western powers to be subjugated by people from their former colonies? Or is it possible we’ll learn our lesson and treat those people decently, so they won’t WANT to subjugate us? Or are we assuming that Muslims (as well as other refugees) will behave the way some of our ancestors did, doing anything they could think of to take the land from its indigenous peoples?
What is written above is a very over-simplified history of Middle Eastern interactions with Europe and America. It says nothing about the early history of Islam when its civilization was much higher than Europe of the same time. When the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem they massacred everyone inside, Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. When the Muslims retook Jerusalem they managed to arrange an orderly departure for the Crusaders without any massacres.
Muslim poets and philosophers also influenced Christian thinkers during the Middle Ages, often from Spain, where Muslims, Christians, and Jews managed to get along harmoniously for several hundred years until a new wave of more fundamentalist Muslim invaders came in, followed by a Christian terror of the Jews which led to the Spanish Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain.
How different that is from the way the way the Sultan of Egypt reacted to a European invasion in the early 13th century by feeding the soldiers after having defeated them. Will it be possible for our civilization to respond as generously as did the medieval Egyptians, or are we too frightened to behave in a Christian way?