So, here's the fact of the matter: of the world's estimated 1.6 billion Muslims, more than 3 times as many live in the Asia-Pacific region as live in the Middle East/North Africa. The third largest number live in sub-Saharan Africa.
And yet all pronouncements on what is acceptable to Islam continue to come from Middle Eastern countries. Which is sort like saying all pronouncements on what is acceptable to Protestants in America can come from Germany, or the Archbishop of Canterbury. And, of course, all identification with Islam continues to refer to people of Middle Eastern ancestry; which, again, is like saying all American Christians are WASP's.
Then there's the problem of who is a terrorist. They're all Muslims, of that we're sure. Well, no.
As Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, noted in its report released last year, the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups. For example, in 2013, there were 152 terror attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated,” while 84 were predicated upon ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs.I just pause to point out three gunmen in Paris riveted the world's attention, perhaps because they claimed to act in the name of Islam (and on behalf of Al Qaeda), while rocket attacks against two French cities drew no international attention at all (probably not even from "Charlie Hebdo").
We are talking about groups like France’s FLNC, which advocates an independent nation for the island of Corsica. In December 2013, FLNC terrorists carried out simultaneous rocket attacks against police stations in two French cities. And in Greece in late 2013, the left-wing Militant Popular Revolutionary Forces shot and killed two members of the right-wing political party Golden Dawn. While over in Italy, the anarchist group FAI engaged in numerous terror attacks including sending a bomb to a journalist. And the list goes on and on.
Have you heard of these incidents? Probably not. But if Muslims had committed them do you think you our media would’ve covered it? No need to answer, that’s a rhetorical question.
Mostly what the terrorist are, when they self-identify as Muslim, is related to the so-called "Middle East" (which isn't even a continent (hello again, Egypt!) but a region (which seems to include Asian countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well). In fact, if there is any binding relationship among most of the terrorists, it is that they are Arabic, or identify with Arabic culture.
Which is not to slam Arabic culture, or to excuse some kind of racial profiling, but to point out that people like Bill Maher and Tom Friedman are (surprise!), surprisingly (or not) ignorant. Islam is not what endangers the world. The culture of a small region of the planet is what endangers the world.
Well, if anything endangers the world besides just human nature. When most of the terrorist acts in Europe are by separatist movements, not "Muslim terrorists," it's kind of hard to even blame culture for what scares us.
To me, that's kind of "the thing." We are not beset by mindless religious zealots: we are beset by violent people growing up in violent cultures. The people who rallied to defend Cliven Bundy didn't do so on religious grounds; they did so largely because they live in a culture that promotes violence as a rational response to the world around them (and I don't mean because they grew up on TV and video games). The violent culture of the American South has been linked to the Scots-Irish forebears in many a scholarly study. It's not racism to identify the roots of that violence in the culture of Scotland and Ireland (although I suppose it could be, if they weren't white): it's sociology, and even anthropology. It's cultural analysis, in other words.
So why isn't there an analysis of terrorist violence springing from the Middle East that takes into account the dominant culture of that region? Probably because it's easier to be ignorant about Islam and to take that ignorance as deeper knowledge. Which is pretty much the excuse for the violent nature of the culture of the Scots-Irish in the South. Education, you know, is supposed to cure all that.
Funny thing, though; Bill Maher has an Ivy League pedigree. He's not violent; but he's not all that educated, either.