There is no religion that is more controversial than modern day Islam. Nowadays, when we think Islam, we think terrorist attacks, wars in the Middle East and constant hate crimes. We often wonder how things got to such a confusing and divided place. Asking questions, like why do we correlate Islam with terrorism? What is causing such a radical shift in the beliefs of Muslim people? We even become surprised to hear that innocent Muslim people, who are citizens of our own country, are becoming victims of unjust persecution.
The spread of the Islamic fundamentalism began in Saudi Arabia, when the scholars of the Wahhabi movement gained control of public education and universities during the 1950’s and 1960’s. The ideology emphasizes extreme conservative practices, and a transnationalist view of Islam. By gaining control of the education system, scholars could indoctrinate the citizens with their beliefs and create a body of people loyal to both the state and the religion. Similar movements would occur in other Gulf states, and even in the nation of Afghanistan where the infamous Osama bin Laden would begin his career in terror.
Eventually terror groups would rise across the world seeking to establish Islamic states and caliphates. Terror attacks now plague the world, including the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers that would lead to the war in Afghanistan.
This act of terror against the US would then ignite prejudices against Muslims. Hate crimes would begin to rise, fears of sharia law would be the topic of outrage, and the idea that all Muslims were time bombs waiting to explode would then become a lingering prejudice. Some people would begin to lump an entire religion into the same mindset, even though the variations between sect, nationality and even individual were ignored. This often led to irrational actions and beliefs.
The increasing coverage and transmission from organizations within the media and communication through the internet only multiplied hysteria and speculation.
The threat of terrorism is all too real, but we as people must remember that those who use this horrible act of cruelty to inspire others to hear their message are called radical for a reason. They are not the norm and sharing a religion does not mean you share in their actions. Islam as a people and religion are not guilty because of these people; the whole should not bear the responsibility of the minority. As Americans we should keep that in mind when observing and interacting with people of the Islamic faith. Our beliefs do not shape us, our actions do. Both for them and for ourselves.