There are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world, and only 7% of them can be defined as “radical,” in that they support the actions of terrorists. Some minute number of those radicals — around 0.1% — are actual terrorists. The other 93% feel precisely the same way you and I do. They’re just as upset about what happened in Paris. And they no more deserve the blame than the inanimate object you’re sitting on.
ISIS is about as evil an organization as an organization can possibly get; it’s as if Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy, and several comic book writers and video game designers sat around in a room together for several months, trying to create the most sinister terrorist group they could collectively imagine. ISIS is so evil that their reign of terror has caused the largest refugee crisis on the planet since the second World War. They’re so heinous that even Al Qaeda has called them “too radical.”
That’s one end of the spectrum. The end that we’re all familiar with. But we westerners tend to push every other Muslim toward that end of the spectrum, despite their not belonging there. We have perfectly warranted anger, hatred even, but we direct it at the wrong people. Innocent people. People who are no more likely to strap on a suicide vest and detonate themselves in a public space than Ryan Seacrest.
I say all of this as someone who has been directly affected by terrorism. I knew people personally who died on September 11th, 2001, including my college radio mentor, Paul Battaglia, who was incredibly influential to me. And I was angry, for him and for the others I knew, and for the thousands of other people I never once met. Every time a fighter jet whirred overhead, I got angrier. Every time I saw a National Guard truck parked at a highway off-ramp, I got angrier still. And on occasion, I found myself being angry not just at the extremists, but at all Muslims, who in those times of grief came to symbolize the radicalism that had killed my friends.
But then, almost instantly and always subconsciously, I’d remind myself of how Paul was, as I knew him: he was, in my interactions with him anyway, the least judgmental person I knew in those days, someone who would refrain at all costs from allowing one rotten egg to condemn the dozen. That’s how I’d talk myself down from that ignorance. That’s how I’d dissipate the anger and the misery. That’s how I learned to be angry at the evil people, and stand up for the good people.
ISIS poses a very serious threat to all of our human race. They murder Muslims just as frequently as anyone else, because they believe those Muslims don’t love Allah the right way; those millions of Muslim refugees aren’t fleeing the region to escape cupcakes or daffodils. ISIS is pure evil, but they don’t represent Islam. They represent their own aforementioned pure evil, and little else.
ISIS’s attacks in Paris were vile, cowardly acts of radical extremism. They deserve every ounce of your anger. So please, don’t waste that anger on the wrong people. Don’t senselessly discriminate against all Muslims due to the ignorant acts of a select, radicalized few. That’s precisely what ISIS is relying on, and your inadvertently giving in to their desires is all they could ever hope for. As much as I hate to quote George W. Bush, that’s how “the terrorists win.”