This post has been cross-posted to DovBear: Don’t Judge A Group By It’s Extremists
The Westboro Baptist Church practices and preaches an extremely fundamental version of Christianity. They hold that God punishes American soldiers in Iraq because there are “Gays in the military”. They hate Jews because Jews are they killed Jesus and are the cause of fornication. They protest at shuls, Holocaust Museums and funerals of soldiers. They are fundamentalists and like many fundies are obscene, anti-social and hateful.
There are orthodox Jews who practice a very fundamental view of Judaism. They say that God killed the Haitians in a massive earthquake because of Gays in the military (or Lashon Hara) See: Why The Earthquake in Haiti Happened. They say that Hurricane Katrina was punishment for Mardi Gras. They have been known to murder innocent people for the sake of their beliefs They hate liberals because they allow for depravity such as gay marriage. They protest all over on behalf of their causes.
There are Jihadist Muslims who practice a very fundamental and oftentimes violent version of Islam. They wish to rid the world of infidels, including Jews. They have bombed and fired weapons and thrown rocks in favor of their cause. They hate pretty much everyone that is not exactly like them and have no desire to integrate into a democratic society.
There are environmentalists who believe in a very fundamental version of liberalism. They are super passionate about the environment and nature. They stand in front of bulldozers, destroy private property and call people names all to protect nature. They put their lives at risk for their cause and spend millions of dollars promoting their cause. They put their cause above all else (for example instead of procreating) See: Green Gone Wild.
In all these examples, the extremists make a lot of noise and find their way into the headlines. Would it be fair to associate these extreme elements with the more moderate practitioners of their ideologies? Of course not. I don’t want to be judged by the crazed acts of fundamentalist orthodox Jews and I am sure that moderate Muslims, Christian and Liberals feel the same way about the extremists in their ideologies.
Extremism is bad. Nobody likes it except the ones acting extreme. I find it disturbing that Islam is judged solely by its extreme and fairly recent activities. Prior to the 20th century, Muslims were far more benevolent to members of other religions than Christians were. Recently, extremists have become the face of Islam. I think that is unfortunate. It is our best interest to support moderate forms of Islam and help them fight against the extremists.
Are there dangerous forms of Islam? Yes. Are there dangerous forms of all faiths, beliefs and ideologies? Yes again. We should be working together to foster moderates who are tolerant of others in all walks of life.