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Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims

Learning from Paddock and Kelley

2017 has been one of the worst years for mass shootings in the US, perhaps second only to 2016 (this article explains some the ways different people add up the numbers).  Worse, one 35-day stretch saw two of the five deadliest shootings in American history, sandwiched around the NYC truck attack.

Why do people commit these horrible acts? President Trump insists that Stephen Paddock and Devin Kelley were mentally deranged, so that we should be more sympathetic than angry.

If Trump is right, then we must learn how to figure out who is unwell, and how to get treatment.  Maybe we should encourage each other to pay more attention to people around us who might be leaning in a bad direction. Maybe government needs to make it easier for sick people to get treatment.

But it’s not enough just for the President to say “We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries” without doing more to address mental health problems. The government is supposed to keep us safe. So if mental health is an issue, then the President and Congress need to talk seriously about helping people who may become violent.

From the “mental health” angle, Trump’s comments about the NYC terrorist Sayfullo Saipov make things worse. Saipov certainly has issues; like Paddock and Kelley, Saipov had no sane reason to try to attack innocent people.  ISIS is a kind of excuse, but ISIS did not turn him into a killer. Saipov, like the others, is just another example of a person who could have used some intervention.

If I know someone who gives signals that he’s thinking about violence, I need to decide whether to go to the police. But if I think that the police will hold my reporting against me or my friends, I’m more likely not to say anything.

This is the danger of linking Saipov’s crimes to immigration.  The people who are most likely to know and report guys like Saipov are the people who benefit from immigration, and who want to see the programs continue. When Trump talks about punishing immigrants because of a guy like Saipov, other immigrants will be slower to report people who may be on the road to violence.

Trump is taking a big risk with our security, because it turns out that Muslim immigrants are much less likely to commit mass murder than other Americans.  Saipov’s attack is the first mass terror attack committed by someone claiming to be Muslim in the USA since January (and I‘m not sure that one counts, as Esteban Santiago-Ruiz never claimed to be Muslim). On the other hand, mass gun violence in the US is now a daily occurrence: in 2017 thus far there have been 330 separate gun incidents in which four or more people were injured or killed – and only one committed by a “Muslim” (Santiago-Ruiz)! More than 13,000 people have been killed by guns in the US this year.  If we want to make Americans safer, this is where we need to look for progress.

Turning three million American Muslims into enemies can only make Americans less safe. It’s nasty to insist that every deranged Muslim is an enemy “terrorist,” while saying that mass murders who are not Muslims are simply troubled individuals worthy of sympathy. All communities have their share of people who have genuine mental health issues, just as all communities have individuals who are looking for an excuse to use violence. For whatever reason, American Muslims are less violent than non-Muslims.  So if we want to make American society as a whole less violent, it’s not very smart to suggest that Islam somehow makes people more violent.  The data points the other way.

Unless the amount of violence committed by Muslim immigrants increases a lot, we have no business stating or suggesting that Muslim immigrants are more violent than anyone else. If we really do want to reduce the amount of mass violence in America, let’s start by paying more attention to facts than to political demagoguery.

 

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This entry was posted on November 24, 2017 by .

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Helping modern readers engage with ancient biblical texts

Mark Biddle

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