To the extreme: A look at religious extremism in the west

What’s the first image that comes to mind when the word ‘terrorist’ is mentioned? Are the first thoughts that come to mind Taliban, Osama Bin Laden, the Middle East? Since that fateful day in September of 2001, the media have burned this image of terrorism into our heads. And even now, almost a decade later, we still hold a prejudice against Muslims that is so strong it is borderline oppressive. But, there is a new kind of terror brewing here in the west, and while it’s still a religious battle, it has nothing to do with our friends in the east.

Our fear and prejudice stems from a misunderstanding of what exactly Islam stands for. Rather than explaining that the Taliban is a small group of Islamic Extremists, the terrorist label is slapped on the entire religion.

This belief has been so engrained in our heads that we make assumptions that every terrorist act must have been carried out by Islamic Extremists. Case and point, the tragic attacks in Norway on July 22 were first blamed on Muslim terrorists. The accusation was thrown out carelessly and without any evidence to back it up. Even now, over a month after the attack, the media is still hesitant to call Anders Behring Breivik anything outside of a political extremist. While the term isn’t completely false, it fails to recognize the drive behind his political activism: his right-wing Christian beliefs.

What’s more disturbing is the fact that most news sources are still hesitant to call this act that could be defined as terrorism more than an attack. If it’s fear and misunderstanding about the definitions of what terrorism is, and the Islamic faith, then maybe it’s time to set the record straight.

The US Code, which contains rules, definitions and tons of other complex legalities, has a definition of what terrorism is. This definition can be found in title 22, chapter 38, paragraph 2656f(d), which states, “the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents”.

The Norway attacks were acts of terrorism if they were to be defined by this description. So why are we so hesitant to call it what it is? It may have something to do with wanting to preserve the ‘squeaky clean’ image Christianity has here in the West.

This unwillingness to see past our idolization of Christianity has led to a very limited knowledge of any other religions. Without the proper knowledge it’s easy to stereotype and generalize. The ironic part of all of this is that Christianity and Islam come from the same roots, a belief in a man who came down as a messenger of god.

The Islamic religion is one that preaches peace and good virtues. As with most things, the extremism stems from a misinterpretation of all or certain part of the texts. The problem comes with the literal interpretation of the Jihad, which means to struggle in the name of God. This struggle is supposed to be against those who look to oppress the Islamic religion, but to only struggle against the leaders or those oppressing them and not to harm innocent bystanders.

However, it seems that the Taliban look at the West as a group, rather than having leaders who are trying to stifle their beliefs. To put it into perspective, Islam condemns the act of suicide, and says that those who perform such an act will be sent to hell. The misinterpretation of Jihad goes so deep that it is used an excuse to use extreme measures, such as suicide bombing, which go against some of their beliefs to struggle against their oppressors.

But this bias goes deeper than just choosing not to call an attack an act of terrorism. It seems we are overlooking dangerous trends happening right in front of us. The attacks in Norway were just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Christian extremism and the lengths they will go to.
People were shocked and appalled when they heard that one of their own, a Christian, could sink to levels of shooting youth and blowing up buildings. But this isn’t the first time a strong belief in Christianity has driven a person to such lengths.

Flashback to 1995 and a man named Timothy McVeigh. He was the typical, all-American man, an army veteran who became the face of the new wave of terrorism. McVeigh was the man responsible for the most deadly terrorist attack in the United States before September 11th, and attack that has since become known as Oklahoma City Bombing. Using homemade explosives and a rental truck, McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Building killing 167 people and injuring over 600 more. Not long after came Eric Rudolph who was responsible for a series of bombings, including the Olympic Park Bombing and the bombing of an abortion clinic between 1996 and 1998.

“If it had been a Muslim it would have been all over the news for weeks,” says popular online writer, Andrew Lee.

So which of these two terrors is more dangerous? It’s hard to tell, says Lee, a long time atheist who writes for Daylight Atheism and has been cited in Richard Dawkin’s book “The God Delusion.” He posits that Islamic terrorism tends to be a bit more violent, but that that Christian extremism flies more under the radar.

This new wave of extremism is taking hold of the West, and fast. Many were aware of Sarah Palin’s strong religious ties. However, the media only scratched the surface when it came to their knowledge about Palin’s religious beliefs.

For example, she was anointed by Thomas Munthee, a Kenyan witch-hunter (yes, they still exist) to ask Jesus to fund her political campaign. While this is true, the most disturbing ties were not uncovered. Palin had strong ties to a group known as NAR (New Apostolic Reformation), a right wing Christian group with goals of ‘reforming’ America and its socialist laws.

Sound familiar? That’s because their goals are not so far off from those of the Taliban.
The NAR believes in the Seven Mountains mandate which dictates that all of the following areas should be under Christian rule: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion. The leaders of this group have even gone so far as to brag online about the destruction of religious artifacts of Native Americans. They have grown so powerful that they have convinced certain Native American religious leaders that their path is the most righteous and had them destroy the relics of their past.

This one-mindedness is something to be feared, especially with popular political leaders popping up like Rick Perry, current governor of Texas, who has some major ties to powerhouses in the NAR.

The separation of state and church is a freedom well carved in democratic nations, but in the past decade or so, that line has been blurred, especially with Canada’s neighbors to the south. The beliefs of these groups resonate with the national pride every American seems to possess, which gives it a strong hold even with people who aren’t practicing Christians.

The agenda is hidden with clever words and even new ideas that could seem just modern enough to get the youth on board. But these ties should be examined, and exposed. NAR is looking to replace democracy with a religious dictatorship, not necessarily because they believe their values to be any better, but to help prepare earth for the return of Christ. That’s right earth. This group has grown exponentially since it first came into light through its work with Palin, so much so that it now has global ties.

The connections between the Taliban and NAR go on and on, and yet no one seems to want to point it out. Our own Taliban is rising, slowly and almost silently without any real investigation from the mainstream media. With NAR growing so quickly, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more McVeighs and Roudolphs running around in the near future.

So which one is more dangerous? It really is a tough call. It seems to rest on the shoulders of the media to give a more balanced and fair account of both sides and to not be so blind to ties between politicos and extremist groups. The least they can do is recognize that our religious fanaticals, who are just as dangerous, are no better than those in the East.

All we can do is wait it out and see what happens. “Only time will tell,” says Lee.

“Although I am optimistic.”

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