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Stercula: Differentiate ISIS from Islam

BY TYLER STERCULA | SEPTEMBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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On Sept. 13, ISIS released a video of the execution of David Haines. Haines, 44, was a British aid worker who was abducted and beheaded by the extremist group. Yet another public execution of a Western hostage, ISIS’ beheading of Haines has sparked even more outrage in Western countries.

Unfortunately, because this extremist group’s name contains the word “Islam,” this outrage is often misdirected at the Islamic faith and its followers.

This is the same Islamophobia that occurred after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and it’s the same process with any instance of a racial difference between an attacker and a victim. In the case of ISIS, those who have wronged us as citizens of the United States, a predominantly white population, are of Middle Eastern descent. This has unfortunately sparked completely unwarranted insults and slurs against people of the same race. This abhorrent racism hinders any and all efforts toward peace and unity.

David Haines’s brother, Mike Haines, released a public statement denouncing such ignorant generalizations. “It is not a race, religion, or political issue. It is a human issue, and it is in our everyday lives,” he said. In his statement, he also quotes the Koran, the primary religious text of Islam. He says, “I have become aware of a number of verses in the Koran that I feel particularly apt at this time. ‘Since good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou evil with something that is better.’ ”

These quotes are coming from a man who has every right, much more so than nearly anyone else in Western civilization, to feel anger and rage toward ISIS. Instead, he chooses to focus on peace.
Islam is not a part of the ISIS agenda. Islam is just as peaceful as Christianity. The reason some in the West are so obsessed with denouncing an entire religion and its followers is because a small subset of its followers are extremists who misinterpret certain verses, cling to archaic and obsolete ones, and ignore entire useful messages of peace altogether.

Extremism can and does happen in every religion or ideology. The legitimacy of a majority cannot be discounted because of the actions of a minority. Many Arab states, countries whose primary religion is Islam, have even offered to help the United States with air strikes against ISIS. Do these countries deserve to be demonized for practicing a specific religion that certain extremists claim to also practice?

While prejudice of any kind is certainly unacceptable, reactionary prejudice is particularly damaging to society. Conflicts happen, and sometimes these conflicts occur between members of different races. Fueling a dispute with generalized animosity leads to nothing but further conflict.

Hatred is a culturally systematic issue, and it is the responsibility of everyone to try to stop it. For the average person, that means simply treating others with the respect they deserve.    

With ISIS, that means not projecting one’s fears onto the faces of every Muslim in the world. They are not responsible for the heinous actions of ISIS. They are not responsible for the murder of David Haines, Steven Sotloff, or James Foley. The men responsible are the ones who committed the atrocities, not the religion they claim to represent.


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