Individual human nature is a strange entity, and can often influence behaviour in the worst and most divisive ways imaginable. It is curious, and is itself often colored by personal experience, environment and the example set by elders. The problems arise where a negative perception is created that concerns a specific group or demographic within society, which can lead to prejudice and the very worst kind of religious or racial intolerance. In addition to this, it is rare for the perception to be accurate in its detail, leaving a suspicion or dislike that is unique to a personal experience rather than a social group.
The Advent of Religious Extremism
In America this week, Republican representative Peter King has courted controversy by calling for hearing to discuss what he describes as the radicalization of Muslims throughout the entire nation. Regardless of any logic or thought that has gone into his campaign, he has drawn staunch criticism from various bodies by singling out the Muslim faith, despite his initial claims that many different factions of society maybe vulnerable to such extremism. While some support his assertions as courageous and necessary, others see it is a deliberate campaign to marginalize the Muslim faith within the US.
While Mr King is right to assert that radicalization is a serious and potentially dangerous element within contemporary society, it is certainly not specific to a single religious group or faith. It is more a reflection of the strained financial and cultural circumstances that exist in the country, as the continuing processes of integration and economic recovery create a society that is uneasy and unsure of their immediate future. Subsequently, any act or discussion which serves to isolate a specific culture or religion can only have a negative impact upon the society where it subsists.
There is no doubt that this assumption is influenced by the advent of religious extremism, which has been largely affiliated with radical factions of Muslims or Islamic groups. Through this the US has witnessed such atrocities as the September 11th attacks and a persistent threat to its international security, and experienced grief and tragedy on a vast scale. Therefore, it is inevitable that certain individuals in government and society will form negative perceptions of the Islamic faith, regardless of the perpetrators genuine motivation or the accuracy of their reasoning.
Muslims are Victims of Extremism Too
It should be remembered that religion is a much abused entity, and just because extremists claim to be acting in the name of a faith, cause or religion does not mean that they actually are. Religion itself is based on the assertions of ancient scripture and supposition, and as such is vulnerable to wilful misinterpretation and the machinations of anarchists. This means that individuals of a particular mindset are able to use it to spread terror and fear, while all the time implicating a peaceful religion is several global atrocities.
Herein lies the point, as anyone who has taken the time to study the Islamic faith knows that it is fundamentally peaceful and respectful to others, but this is not the image portrayed by self serving extremists who act in the name of its faith. It then becomes all too easy a habit for people to bemoan a perceived issue of radicalization within the faith, and unknowingly create a division within society between supposedly integrated cultures. If anything, this set of prejudicial circumstances will only serve foster further tension and resentment within society, encouraging additional anarchy and making multiculturalism a mere concept rather than a state of being.
The fact remains that the faith of Islam is as much a victim of extremism as those who have suffered at the hands of terrorists acting in the assumed name of faith, only through the subject judgements and persecution that they have been subjected to by narrow minded factions of society. The majority of Muslims who practice genuine Islamic values are entirely opposed to intolerance and extremism, and as disgusted at acts of religious hatred as any other faith. This is not considered when people talking about extreme religious groups and radicalization, as ill considered and generic terminology often brands Muslims and extremists with the same abhorrent scar.
A Question of Faith
We live in an age where too many politicians and federal representatives merely pay lip service to deeply significant social issues, and we should welcome anyone in power that has the courage of their convictions and a willingness to seek resolutions. However, those convictions can be misplaced, and there is a concern that in this instance Peter King is acting with good intentions put a poorly considered methodology. Like any good and socially aware American, he is driven by the grief and torment caused through various terrorist atrocities, but he is choosing to challenge an entire religion rather than separating a specific faith from those who act in its name.
It is an issue worldwide, especially in any nation that is seeking to integrate different cultures and religions within a single society. However, it is often driven by common perception, and there were few voices who talked of radicalization when mosques were burned throughout the UK in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks of 2001. This displays the differences in how religious groups and factions are perceived by society as a whole, and also how easy it can be for misconceptions to transgress into prejudice and intolerance.