Who Are the “True Muslims?”

Following the terrorist attacks in France, Colbert King wrote in the Washington Post, “The post-attack narrative is always the same: Radical Islamists do not represent Islam’s true nature, which embraces justice, equality and compassion; those who believe their barbarism is divinely sanctioned are, at best, misinterpreting Islam or, worse, using it to justify acts of violence for their own ends; and it’s wrong to fear, hate or condemn a religion because of the misguided actions of a few.”

Apologists go further and label anyone who has the temerity to suggest that Muslim terrorists’ actions are rooted in their Islamic beliefs are “Islamophobes.” As Asra Q. Nomani, an American Muslim born in India, also wrote in the Post, “honor corps” — a loose, well-funded coalition of governments and private individuals “tries to silence debate on extremist ideology in order to protect the image of Islam.” It “throws the label of ‘Islamophobe’ on pundits, journalists and others who dare to talk about extremist ideology in the religion. … The official and unofficial channels work in tandem, harassing, threatening and battling introspective Muslims and non-Muslims everywhere. … The bullying often works to silence critics of Islamic extremism. …”

The question that I would like to see the defenders of Islam answer is a simple one: who are the “true Muslims” and how can we distinguish them from the perverters of Islam.

  • How about the authorities of Shiite Islam running the Islamic Republic of Iran, and their followers who oppress their own people, sponsor terrorism around the world and issue genocidal threats against the Jews?
  • What about the Muslims in Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Syria who are blowing up each other’s mosques and slaughtering each other by the thousands?
  • How about the Boko Haram in Nigeria, which kidnaps children and massacres its opponents?
  • Egypt’s current leaders have no trouble labeling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group and yet the United States and others were prepared to accept it as a successor to the Mubarak government. Are these extremists “real” Muslims?
  • Hezbollah has killed more Americans than any other terror group (with the exception of al-Qaeda on 9/11) and is now killing its co-religionists in Syria. Are its members real Muslims?
  • How about Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which rain missiles on innocent civilians and send suicide bombers to blow up cafes, shopping centers and social halls?
  • What about the Taliban and its ongoing efforts to terrorize the people of Afghanistan?
  • How do we judge the “moderate” Saudis, who are treated as allies even as they engage in floggings, amputations and beheadings, practice gender apartheid and have been described by U.S. officials as the leading sponsors of international terrorism?

If you start to add up all the members of these groups, suddenly the number of Muslim extremists cannot be reduced to a handful of “lone wolves,” or groups like ISIS that have drawn widespread condemnation. In fact, the number is in the tens of thousands, and includes Shiites, Sunnis and Wahhabis throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and a growing number in other parts of the world.

Hypocritically, many of the same people who say that Islam’s teachings are contrary to the acts of the extremists also defend terrorist groups such as Hamas whose members say they are acting in Allah’s name. Rice University religion professor David Cook stripped away the pretense that radicalism has no basis in Islam: “To say that ISIS doesn’t have anything to do with Islam is just the statement of an ignoramus or an apologist. There is support for the things that ISIS does inside the Koran.” The same can be said for other radical Muslim groups, which cite the Koran to justify their bloody deeds.

Of course it is wrong to generalize about all Muslims, but, as Thomas Friedman noted, “it is not good for us or the Muslim world to pretend that this spreading jihadist violence isn’t coming out of their faith community.”

Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 24 books including The Arab Lobby and Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews.

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.