Let's begin with former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who intoned that the Charlie Hebdo shooters are "about as Muslim as I am" on MSNBC's Morning Joe:
You know, this is a chronic problem. I stopped calling these people Muslim terrorists. They're about as Muslim as I am. I mean, they have no respect for anybody else's life, that's not what the Koran says. Europe has an enormous radical problem. I think ISIS is a cult. Not an Islamic cult. I think it's a cult.
Kindly ignore the shouts of "Allahu Akbar" and professions of "avenging the prophet." That's cult talk, and it has nothing to do with Islam, Dean says. He's echoing President Obama's insistence that the Islamic State, or ISIS, "is not Islamic." Our colleague, ahem, Allahpundit, notes that the politically-correct stance on such matters has evolved from the aspirational "Islamic extremists are a tiny fraction of a peaceful religion" to the delusional "these people have nothing to do with Islam whatsoever." He lays the snark on thick while poking a few holes in this sanitized departure from reality: "Sure, they may swear by the Koran, and sure, most of them come from the Middle East, and sure, they act with plenty of moral support from Salafist clerics based in the same country where Mecca and Medina are located, but hey — that doesn’t make them Islamic." Right. Most Americans recognize that it's grossly unfair to pass judgment on all, or even most, worldwide Muslims based on the medieval attitudes and violent tendencies embraced by more radical elements of the faith. Unnerving evidence exists, however, that the 'extremists' aren't necessarily the marginalized faction we'd like to imagine them to be. See: This 2006 poll of British Muslims I linked yesterday, and this 2013 worldwide survey of Muslims conducted by Pew. We can quibble and debate about how small a minority must be to fit the definition of "extremists," but we must reject the dangerous and fanciful notion that Islamist terrorism has zero connection to Islam. Vox's Ezra Klein surveys the evidence and pronounces yesterday's rampage not a function of the perpetrators' religion:
What happened today, according to current reports, is that two men went on a killing spree. Their killing spree, like most killing sprees, will have some thin rationale. Even the worst villains believe themselves to be heroes. But in truth, it was unprovoked slaughter. The fault lies with no one but them and their accomplices. Their crime isn't explained by cartoons or religion. Plenty of people read Charlie Hebdo's cartoons and managed to avoid responding with mass murder. Plenty of people follow all sorts of religions and somehow get through the day without racking up a body count. The answers to what happened today won't be found in Charlie Hebdo's pages. They can only be found in the murderers' sick minds.
No larger truths to see here, folks. CNN commentator Sally Kohn hopped aboard this train early, erecting straw men faster than they could be knocked down. One of her many nuggets:
Since 9/11, right-wing extremists (incl anti-abortion, anti-gov) have killed more Americans than Islamic extremists — http://t.co/1IiyXdi2cj— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) January 7, 2015
She links to a CNN op/ed that cites a New America Foundation analysis purporting to prove this very point. John Sexton tweeted a strong piece he wrote criticizing the methodology of the study, summarized in this tweet:
. @peterbergencnn's argument: If you ignore 9/11, attacks on Americans abroad and honor killings--Muslim extremism not so bad.— John Sexton (@verumserum) January 7, 2015
Comparatively, at least. Kohn, as is occasionally her wont, later descended into bizarre moral equivalencies, arguing (I think) at one point that Islam isn't as intolerant of homosexuals as Christians, or something:
QED MT @sallykohn:Ottoman Caliph decriminalized homosexuality in 1858, Christians in Uganda passed anti-gay law in 2014— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 7, 2015
While it's no doubt true that egregious violations of gay people's human rights have been -- and in some cases, continue to be -- carried out in the name of Christianity, there is no comparison here. Check out this chart, and see if you can spot the pattern. And then try to extract yourself from the rabbit hole I've led you down. We should all be able to agree that holding the horrendous actions of killers against larger groups with whom they're associated is almost always unjustifiable and wrong. We can lock arms and agree that a majority of Muslims across the world do not condone what happened in Paris yesterday, or in Iraq and Syria over the last year, or in London in 2005, or in Madrid in 2004, or in Bali in 2002, or in New York City and Washington in 2001, etc. But those important caveats should not give way to the mindless repetition of a flawed mantra in order to shield a politically correct narrative against unpleasant realities. This form of denial is frightening and self-defeating. Left unchecked, it's societal suicide.