Samir’s Selection 12/13/2015 (p.m.)

  • ” A quarter of British Muslims sympathized with the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, according to a February poll by ComRes for the BBC. A 2008 YouGov poll found that a third of Muslim students believe that killing for religion can be justified, and 40% want the introduction of Shariah as law in the U.K. Another poll, conducted in 2007 by Populus, reported that 36% of young British Muslims thought apostates should be “punished by death.””

    tags: MaajidNawaz Islam Islamism jihad religion intolerance extremism fundamentalism ISIS publicopinion CharlieHebdo

    • Islam is a religion, and like any other faith, it is internally diverse. Islamism, by contrast, is the desire to impose a single version of Islam on an entire society. Islamism is not Islam, but it is an offshoot of Islam. It is Muslim theocracy.
    • In much the same way, jihad is a traditional Muslim idea connoting struggle—sometimes a personal spiritual struggle, sometimes a struggle against an external enemy. Jihadism, however, is something else entirely: It is the doctrine of using force to spread Islamism.
    • President <!–  –> Barack Obama<!–  –> and many liberal-minded commentators have been hesitant to call this Islamist ideology by its proper name. They seem to fear that both Muslim communities and the religiously intolerant will hear the word “Islam” and simply assume that all Muslims are being held responsible for the excesses of the jihadist few.
    • I call this the Voldemort effect, after the villain in <!–  –> J.K. Rowling<!–  –>’s Harry Potter books. Many well-meaning people in Ms. Rowling’s fictional world are so petrified of Voldemort’s evil that they do two things: They refuse to call Voldemort by name, instead referring to “He Who Must Not Be Named,” and they deny that he exists in the first place. Such dread only increases public hysteria, thus magnifying the appeal of Voldemort’s power.
    • The same hysteria about Islamism is unfolding before our eyes. But no strategy intended to defeat Islamism can succeed if Islamism itself and its violent expression in jihadism are not first named, isolated and understood. It is as disingenuous to argue that Islamic State is entirely divorced from Islam as it is to assert that it is synonymous with Islam. Islamic State does indeed have something to do with Islam—not nothing, not everything, but something. That something is the way in which all Islamists justify their arguments using Islamic scripture and seek to recruit from Muslims.
    • The urgency of making these distinctions should be apparent to everyone. The attacks seem to be coming in swift succession now: Istanbul, Sinai, Beirut, Paris, San Bernardino, London. What is the strategy behind this Islamic State-inspired violence? Jihadists of all bents seek to create discord, pitting Muslims against non-Muslims in the West and Sunni Muslims against Shiite Muslims in the East. The theocratic ideology of Islamism thrives on division, polarization and claims of Muslim victimhood.
    • Islamic State hopes to turn non-Muslims against Muslims and, once this process is complete—that is, once we all begin to see each other primarily through narrow religious lenses—to set off a global religious war.
    • As I deradicalized myself over the next five years, I eventually concluded that Islam, my faith, was being exploited for a totalitarian political project and must be reclaimed from the theocrats. I have spent the past eight years doing just that through a counterextremism organization that I co-founded.
    • A quarter of British Muslims sympathized with the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, according to a February poll by ComRes for the BBC.
    • A 2008 YouGov poll found that a third of Muslim students believe that killing for religion can be justified, and 40% want the introduction of Shariah as law in the U.K.
    • Another poll, conducted in 2007 by Populus, reported that 36% of young British Muslims thought apostates should be “punished by death.”
    • from this milieu, up to 1,000 British Muslims have joined Islamic State, which is more than have joined the British Army reserves.
    • Only 28% in Pakistan disapproved of the group, and 62% offered no opinion. In Nigeria, 14% of respondents had a favorable view of Islamic State; in Malaysia and Senegal, it was 11%; in Turkey, it was 8%; in the Palestinian territories, it was 6%. There is, in short, nothing like majority support for Islamic State among the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, but such numbers are still worrisome.
    • It is more accurate to say that we face a global jihadist insurgency. Islamic State is the latest incarnation of this insurgency, but it has been brewing for decades, spurred on by Islamist social movements that have filled the void left by the shortcomings of all too many Muslim-majority governments. Characterizing Islamic State as part of an insurgency is important because, as Vietnam taught us the hard way, defeating an insurgency is different from winning a conventional war.
    • Counterinsurgency rests on the assumption that the enemy has significant support in the communities from which it recruits. The aim of counterinsurgency strategy is to deny the enemy any propaganda victories that can further fuel its recruitment.
    • Insurgents must be isolated from their targeted host communities. This requires a combination of psychological, physical and economic warfare, all with the aim of undermining the insurgents’ ideological, operational and financial capabilities.
    • The most critical part of such a strategy must be messaging. In fighting Islamic State, we must avoid the language that it uses to promote its worldview and, at the same time, offer compelling alternative narratives. Only in this way can we deny today’s Islamists and jihadists their ability to appeal to Muslim audiences.
    • In this effort, Muslims who deny that Islamist extremism is a real problem are as counterproductive as Mr. Trump and his populist fear-mongering. Both serve to increase the religious polarization and mistrust that the extremists relish. Islamic State is out to provoke a “clash of civilizations.” We should not oblige them.
    • Absent an accurate language that explains the difference between Islamist ideologues and the majority of non-Islamist Muslims, anxious non-Muslims in the West can be more easily alarmed by blaring media coverage and attention-seeking politicians. Some will simply assume that the problem is Islam itself and all Muslims per se, which helps to explain the rise of xenophobic politics in both Europe and the U.S.
  • tags: RossDouthat Islam USculture USpolitics Western perception religion intolerance

    • But most Americans do look at Islam and see a problem. It isn’t just Trump supporters or Republicans. In a poll the Public Religion Research Institute conducted before the Paris attacks, 56 percent of Americans agreed that “the values of Islam are at odds with American values.” In a more recent YouGov poll, 58 percent of Americans viewed Islam unfavorably, just 17 percent viewed it favorably.

    • the issue lurking behind a lot of Western anxiety about Islam. On the one hand, Westerners want Islam to adapt and assimilate, to “moderate” in some sense, to leave behind the lure of conquest, the pull of violent jihad.
    • But for several reasons — because we don’t understand Islam from the inside, but also because we’re divided about what our civilization stands for and where religious faith fits in — we have a hard time articulating what a “moderate” Muslim would actually believe, or what we expect a modernized Islam to become.
    • And to any Muslim who takes the teachings of his faith seriously, it must seem that many Western ideas about how Islam ought to change just promise its eventual extinction.
    • This is clearly true of the idea, held by certain prominent atheists and some of my fellow conservatives and Christians, that the heart of Islam is necessarily illiberal — that because the faith was born in conquest and theocracy, it simply can’t accommodate itself to pluralism without a massive rupture, an apostasy in fact if not in name.
    • But it’s also true of the ideas of many secular liberal Westerners, who take a more benign view of Islam mostly because they assume that all religious ideas are arbitrary, that it doesn’t matter what Muhammad said or did because tomorrow’s Muslims can just reinterpret the Prophet’s life story and read the appropriate liberal values in.
    • The first idea basically offers a counsel of despair: Muslims simply cannot be at home in the liberal democratic West without becoming something else entirely: atheists, Christians, or at least post-Islamic.

      The second idea seems kinder, but it arrives at a similar destination. Instead of a life-changing, obedience-demanding revelation of the Absolute, its modernized Islam would be Unitarianism with prayer rugs and Middle Eastern kitsch – one more sigil in the COEXIST bumper sticker, one more office in the multicultural student center, one more client group in the left-wing coalition.

    • The first idea assumes theology’s immutability; the second assumes its irrelevance. And both play into the hands of ISIS and Al Qaeda: The first by confirming their own clash-of-civilizations narrative, the second by making assimilation seem indistinguishable from the arid secularism that’s helped turn Europe into a prime jihadist recruiting ground.

    • And they might notice, finally, that all of the models for reconciling ancient faith to modern life tend to lurch between separatism and dissolution. The ghettoized “fortress Catholicism” of the 1940s gave way to the hemorrhaging “modernizing Catholicism” of the 1970s. The Americanized Judaism of midcentury is now polarized between a booming Orthodoxy and a waning liberal wing. The liberal Protestant churches have emptied, while Protestant fundamentalism remains a potent force.
  • tags: hatespeech hate fear anger racism nonviolence Google search socialmedia evidence research

    • The top Google search in California with the word “Muslims” in it was “kill Muslims.” And the rest of America searched for the phrase “kill Muslims” with about the same frequency that they searched for “martini recipe,” “migraine symptoms” and “Cowboys roster.”
    • People often have vicious thoughts. Sometimes they share them on Google. Do these thoughts matter?

      Yes. Using weekly data from 2004 to 2013, we found a direct correlation between anti-Muslim searches and anti-Muslim hate crimes.

      We measured Islamophobic sentiment by using common Google searches that imply hateful attitudes toward Muslims. A search for “are all Muslims terrorists?” for example leaves little to the imagination about what the searcher really thinks. Searches for “I hate Muslims” are even clearer.

      When Islamophobic searches are at their highest levels, such as during the controversy over the “ground zero mosque” in 2010 or around the anniversary of 9/11, hate crimes tend to be at their highest levels, too.

      In 2014, according to the F.B.I., anti-Muslim hate crimes represented 16.3 percent of the total of 1,092 reported offenses. Anti-Semitism still led the way as a motive for hate crimes, at 58.2 percent.

    • The frightening thing is this: If our model is right, Islamophobia and thus anti-Muslim hate crimes are currently higher than at any time since the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Although it will take awhile for the F.B.I. to collect and analyze the data before we know whether anti-Muslim hate crimes are in fact rising spectacularly now, Islamophobic searches in the United States were 10 times higher the week after the Paris attacks than the week before. They have been elevated since then and rose again after the San Bernardino attack.

      According to our model, when all the data is analyzed by the F.B.I., there will have been more than 200 anti-Muslim attacks in 2015, making it the worst year since 2001.

    • How can these Google searches track Islamophobia so well? Who searches for “I hate Muslims” anyway?

      We often think of Google as a source from which we seek information directly, on topics like the weather, who won last night’s game or how to make apple pie. But sometimes we type our uncensored thoughts into Google, without much hope that Google will be able to help us. The search window can serve as a kind of confessional.

      There are thousands of searches every year, for example, for “I hate my boss,” “people are annoying” and “I am drunk.” Google searches expressing moods, rather than looking for information, represent a tiny sample of everyone who is actually thinking those thoughts.

    • “If someone is willing to say ‘I hate them’ or ‘they disgust me,’ we know that those emotions are as good a predictor of behavior as actual intent,” said Susan Fiske, a social psychologist at Princeton, pointing to 50 years of psychology research on anti-black bias. “If people are making expressive searches about Muslims, it’s likely to be tied to anti-Muslim hate crime.”
    • It doesn’t take a representative sample to commit a hate crime. It takes one person. And many Muslim Americans have already experienced the havoc that one Islamophobe can create.
    • It is not just that hatred against Muslims is extremely high today. It’s that it’s exceptional compared with prejudice against every other group in the United States.
    • What, then, can we do to fight Islamophobia?


      Unfortunately, there is not much evidence that some of the most obvious-sounding solutions might work. One idea might be to increase cultural integration. This is based on the “contact hypothesis”: If more Americans have Muslim neighbors, they will learn not to harbor irrational hate.

    • We did not find support for this in the data — in fact, we found evidence for the opposite. We looked at searches in the 10 counties with the highest Muslim populations in the United States. On average, these counties are about 11 percent Muslim, compared with 0.9 percent of the United States as a whole. We estimate, in these 10 counties, that anti-Muslim search rates are about eight times higher than they are in the rest of the country.




       Continue reading the main story 

      That’s evidence for the dominance of the “racial threat” hypothesis, which predicts that proximity breeds tension, not trust. John Sides, a political scientist at George Washington University, said, “This is one of the better chances for contact to work, and it doesn’t.”

    • Another solution might be for leaders to talk about the importance of tolerance and the irrationality of hatred, as President Obama did in his Oval Office speech last Sunday night. He asked Americans to reject discrimination and religious tests for immigration. The reactions to his speech offer an excellent opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t work.

      Mostly, we found that Mr. Obama’s well-meaning words fell on deaf ears. Overall, in fact, his speech provoked intolerance. The president said, “It is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination.” But searches calling Muslims “terrorists,” “bad,” “violent” and “evil” doubled during and shortly after his speech.

      Mr. Obama also said, “It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country.” But negative searches about Syrian refugees rose 60 percent. Searches asking how to help Syrian refugees dropped 35 percent. The president asked us to “not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear.” But searches for “kill Muslims” tripled during his speech.

    • There was one line, however, that did trigger the type of response Mr. Obama might have wanted. He said, “Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes and yes, they are our men and women in uniform, who are willing to die in defense of our country.”

      After this line, for the first time in more than a year, the top Googled noun after “Muslim” was not “terrorists,” “extremists” or “refugees.” It was “athletes,” followed by “soldiers.” And, in fact, “athletes” kept the top spot for a full day afterward.

    • On the whole, though, the response to the president’s speech shows that appealing to the better angels of an angry mob will most likely just backfire. Subtly provoking their curiosity, giving them new information, and offering them new images of the group that is stoking their rage: That may direct their thoughts in different, more positive directions.
    • After sifting through the search data, we think there are three things the rest of us not giving speeches in the Oval Office can do.




       Continue reading the main story 





       Continue reading the main story 

      First, parents should be talking to their kids about how the overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans pose no threat to them.

    • Second, police departments would be wise to use search data to allocate resources through predictive policing. The data, for example, could tell police chiefs when sending a cop to do an extra drive through a Muslim neighborhood, or making sure that the town mosque was safe overnight, would be a good idea.
    • Third, Muslim Americans are right to take some precautions. Like most grave threats, hate crimes are rare. Our model suggests that, if Islamophobic sentiment stays at its current level, about one in every 10,000 Muslims will be the victim of a reported hate crime over the next year, similar to the rate of automobile fatalities and orders of magnitude higher than the chance of being a victim of terrorism.

  • tags: NicholasKristof religion Christianity Judaism Islam ignorance prejudice fear racism

    • analysts who have tallied the number of violent or cruel passages in the Quran and the Bible count more than twice as many in the Bible.
    • There’s a profound human tendency, rooted in evolutionary biology, to “otherize” people who don’t belong to our race, our ethnic group, our religion. That’s particularly true when we’re scared. It’s difficult to conceive now that a 1944 poll found that 13 percent of Americans favored “killing all Japanese,” and that the head of a United States government commission in 1945 urged “the extermination of the Japanese in toto.”
    • What counts most is not the content of holy books, but the content of our hearts.


      When I hear Americans stereotype Muslims, when they don’t actually know any Muslims, it seems to me an odd echo of anti-Semitic comments I sometimes hear in Muslim societies.


      Trump’s bluster reinforces the Islamic State narrative of a clash of civilizations, and undercuts moderates. In my travels in Muslim countries, I’m sometimes asked about Islamophobia. In the past, I’ve been able to say something like: Well, the Rev. Terry Jones may be planning to burn Qurans, but he’s a fringe figure. Alas, Trump can’t be explained away as a fringe figure.


      In international relations, extremists on one side empower extremists on the other side. ISIS empowers Trump, who inadvertently empowers ISIS. He’s not confronting a national security threat; he’s creating one.

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