On Sunday, Donald Trump gave a speech written by a non-crazy person and managed to stay on topic. He almost sounded like a liberal so don't expect it to last:
The relatively even keel stayed on target as the president read carefully from his teleprompter and avoided off-the-cuff remarks that got him into trouble in the past."
This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations," Trump said. "This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it," Trump said. "This is a battle between good and evil."
The shocking part here is that he's right; we are not at war with Islam no matter how badly some conservatives want that to be true. Islam is no more violent than Christianity or Judaism and until we recognize that, we will never deal with the root cause of "Islamic terrorism;" the barbaric cultures that warp it into a death cult.
It's really easy to blame Islam because we're a nation that overwhelming practices Christianity. It lets us feel smug and superior and there's not a small amount of racism involved as well (and Americans excel at racism). This is why we talk about "profiling" terrorists, meaning people of Middle Eastern descent, while ignoring that several well-known Muslim terrorists were very much not Arabic. Two of the most wanted female terrorists in the world are white and British. But when you take Muslims out of violent cultures that practice stoning women to death, beheading witches, and genital mutilation and place them in advanced cultures like Germany, Canada and the United States, magically, most of that behavior vanishes. I've made this argument before and have yet to hear a rational explanation of why the culture is not the determining factor in this miraculous transformation.
Yesterday, a very angry right winger was yelling at me online and he unwittingly made the same point:
Christianity did indeed iron out the "bugs" through the long and bloody struggle known as The Reformation. But the religion itself did not change. The Bible is still the Bible and it was not rewritten. The Bible still advocates that women who have sex before marriage should be killed. It still demands that adultery be a fatal sin and any child that raises a hand to their parent be put to death. There are oh so many more reasons to be murdered in the name of God. Yet, with few exceptions, no one practices this extreme version of Christianity anymore. Western civilizations slowly moved beyond the primitive violence that gave the Dark Ages their name and they dragged Christianity with them into the light.
Should the Middle East ever manage to get its shit together (less Western adventures looking for oil would go a long way) and reject the barbarism that currently defines many of their cultures, terrorism will struggle to take root much like it struggles in the West. And we know this for a fact because left out of almost every discussion about terrorism and Islam is the reality that Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country (over 200 million Muslims and counting) and they somehow are not buried in terrorists. Neither is India (over 180,000 Muslims), Pakistan (178,000), or Bangladesh (145,000). That's almost half of the world's Muslims. That's not to say they're devoid of extremism but they're not wracked with violence the way a number of Muslim majority countries with much smaller populations are.
Detractors will, of course, find isolated instances of religious violence in these countries and archly proclaim that I'm wrong about Islam. These same people will also react like my right wing friend above when similar instances of biblically inspired violence are listed. They will fail to see the inherent contradiction. We need to be better than that if we're ever going to end the "war" on terrorism that so far only serves to further encourage monsters to hide behind the Koran while they slaughter Muslims by the thousands. We can stand ready to give the Middle East whatever help it asks for but their Reformation has to come from within. Trump, amazingly, was right that the people most afflicted by terrorism have to be the ones to drive it out. That kind of evolution has to be internal to be real; anything else will fail miserably. Just ask the people of Afghanistan and Iraq how well we've done reducing terrorism in their countries.