Why We Can’t Call The Paris Attackers ‘Radical Islamists’

In an outcry of anger and fear over the Paris attacks, the media has taken to the airwaves, throwing blame to Muslims and the nations of Islam, ignorantly claiming ISIS is part of Islam. While I can understand the hatred and fury that arises from the kind of horrendous violence seen in Paris, I can not accept that the media is so quick to push blame on Muslims. The truth about the religion of Islam is that they do not promote violence at all, they actually promote peace, and condemn the Paris attacks. While the media needs to find someone to blame for the atrocities in Paris, so as to understand how this could happen, they can not subject an entire religion to the actions of a terrorist group. Calling the Paris attackers of ISIS Radical Islamists completely objectifies, demeans, and distances an entire population of 1.6 billion Muslims from the rest of the world, creating an atmosphere of religious oppression.

Saying that the Paris attackers are a branch of Islam inaccurately represents the reality of the system of oppression from which they come from, promoting the kind of Anti-American mindset that creates terrorists in the first place. It discounts the world they grew up in, categorizing them into a sect of a religion that frankly has nothing to do with them. ISIS recruits new members in the same places where the United States send drones daily, benefiting from places where there is already an inherent fear of the Western world. If we continue to promote this animosity towards Muslims, the Muslim people will have all the more reason to join terrorist groups, rather than side with the U.S. And as Australian News Reporter Waleed Aly stated in a broadcast on November 17, “ISIS leaders would be ecstatic to hear that since the atrocity in Paris, Muslims have reportedly been threatened and attacked in England, America, and here in Australia. Because this evil organization has it in their heads, that if they can make Muslims the enemy of the West, Muslims in France, England, America, and here in Australia will have no where to turn but to ISIS. This is exactly their strategy”. He sees the ways in which ISIS is using these attacks to promote an environment of hatred towards them and towards Muslims, to link themselves with one of the biggest populations of religious peoples, and grow their supporters. It is simply uneducated and unfair that the media is condemning Muslims as a whole, when they are not even linked with ISIS. In fact, many Muslim Nations have condoned the violence in Paris and across the globe.

The White House and Obama’s Administration was quick to recognize the detrimental effects of calling these terrorists ‘Radical Islamists’. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest states that they understand that linking ISIS with Muslims would be politically incorrect and, “that the attackers’ view of Islam was “distorted” and “deviant,” and that most Muslims around the world condemn such attacks. Therefor the administration avoided using the term “because it does not accurately describe what happened.” The Obama administration sees the detrimental effects of linking one set of extremists to an entire religion. Obama’s America needs to remain allies with the Islamic nations, yet the media is completely framing them as part of ISIS. Because of the media, the American public now sees Muslims as ‘the other’, subjecting Muslims to a state of fear and anxiety about their own safety in the Western world. What else are the people who absorb mainstream media to think, when headlines read, ’Is Isis actually the beating heart of Islam?’? The reality is, that ISIS is not Islam, and millions of Muslims are taking to twitter to show solidarity with the Paris attacks, and to display that they are not promoting violence, but condemning it. One Muslim women tweets, “Getting over having to say #NotInMyName over and over again. FACT: these guys are a bunch of loons with a distorted perception of Islam.” As she shows through her tweet, the public’s perception of ISIS’s link to Muslims is completely skewed by the media. ISIS is being portrayed as a branch of Islam, and so all the Muslim masses can do right now is pour out their sympathy for the victims, their concern for their own state of safety in the world, and their frustrations with the media.

The media can no longer alienate the Muslim world. Calling the Paris Attackers ‘Radical Islamists’ does nothing but promote an environment of inaccurate hatred among American citizens towards Muslims, as well as fuel the fire for ISIS to recruit more members and make the U.S. more enemies. President Obama states, “It’s very important for us to align ourselves with the 99.9 percent of Muslims who are looking for the same thing we’re looking for-order, peace, prosperity…The Middle East and South Asia are sort of ground zero for us needing to win back hearts and minds…Not taking this into account would be doing ourselves a disservice in this fight”. Rather than creating a place of fear where there already is fear from the Paris attacks, the American media needs to educate people on the origins of ISIS, so as to show the ways in which we as a nation need to, in George W. Bush’s words, “declare a global war on terror”, and not a war against ‘Radical Islamists’. The media needs to show how all religions and nations are coming together in solidarity, condoning violence, and supporting a global mission for peace.


9 thoughts on “Why We Can’t Call The Paris Attackers ‘Radical Islamists’”

  1. Very interesting way to look at the way the media has consistently covered ISIS in the news over the past 2 years. It is absolutely typical of the media to find an opportunity to put a spin on anything they can to instill fear– or worse, hatred– in American people. It is unethical, inappropriate, and dangerous for the media to be correlating ISIS with Islam when the two are completely separate, unrelated organizations originating from actually opposing ideals. The quote from the Australian news reporter is very intriguing to me, as I never realized the political threats involved with the anti-Islamic attitude that many Americans are taking on due to a misrepresentation in the media. It is absolutely possible that if we continue to unjustly pair or even equate ISIS with Islam, that over time, it’s likely that Muslims will begin to reciprocate the American hatred toward them and feel that they have nowhere to turn other than ISIS. This would be catastrophic. It is so critical that we continue to publicize the skewed nature of the media in attempts to eradicate the anti-Islamic attitude that is developing in our nation and others as well. We, as a global community, need to carefully identify who the enemy is, rather than ignorantly combining two unrelated groups out of fear. Just as you said in the end of your post, this tragic situation is a war on terror, not at all a war on “Radical Islamics.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with your point that linking ISIS and Islam is an incredibly damaging correlation that poison’s both people’s perceptions of ISIS and of the overwhelming majority of practicing Muslims that have nothing in common with the terrorist state. It is in fact, the goal of ISIS to perpetuate this correlation in order for practicing Muslims to feel so alienated to the point where they find solace in the ISIS caliphate.

    I would be weary, however, to use the phrase “media” so broadly, as well as to place such heavy blame on the media for perpetuating this belief. In fact, the story you link is more an example of a individual columnist spewing his misinformed opinion rather than the voice of the publication. It is been my experience that, in print media especially (re: L.A. Times, NY Times, WSJ, etc.), is often weary and against linking Islam and ISIS, and are in line with the White House’s opinion of the phrase “radical islamist.” The media is not one monolithic boogie man, but multi-faceted. The link between Islam and terrorism is often from a hyper conservative base rooted in unwarranted fear, and those beliefs both survive and thrive independent of media organizations.


    1. First off I think you meant to say, “they actually promote peace, and… (condemn) … the Paris attacks”. This mistake is in the first paragraph, I assume you meant to say condemn, unless you are suggesting Islamists approve of the Paris attacks. Secondly, we technically can call the Paris attackers radical Islamists since they were members of ISIS. ISIS has claimed that they organized and carried out the attack. In order to join ISIS you must be an Islamist. In fact ISIS categorizes its potential new members in three categories; loyal, disloyal, and untrustworthy. In order to be considered either loyal or disloyal you must be a Muslim. If you are considered untrustworthy you will not be admitted into the organization. So yes, the attackers are technically ‘radical Islamists’. However, I agree with what I think you are trying to get to. The world should not call all Muslims terrorists. Not all Muslims are terrorists, by and large they are not terrorists. Thirdly, you make the claim Islam is not a violent religion, in fact, it is a religion of peace. This is not true. If you read the Quran there are over 109 verses promoting violence. In fact, in the scripture, a division between peaceful and radical Muslims is explained. The Quran asserts that the radical Muslims will have a better experience in the afterlife. Now, this does not mean I believe all Muslims are violent. They have a choice, this choice distinguishes them from those radicals who kill in the name of Islam however. This is not unique to Islam, Christianity also has verses which condone violence in effort to spread and defend the religion.



      1. The problem lies in the calling of ISIS Paris attackers, ‘radical islamists’, because it is fundamentally incorrect. I knew exactly what i was getting at. There are different sects of radical Muslims, in fact, that do not promote any acts of violence, and calling these attackers radical muslims paints them with one brush as branching from Islam. They are not stemming from Islam, and as I show in my article, Islam does not promote violence. It condemns (thank you*) it. Christianity had the Crusades, where they took a sect of teachings from the Bible, to justify killing hundreds of thousands of people. They were Radical Christians, because they were in fact branching directly from the teachings of the Bible. However, The Paris attackers can not be linked directly to Muslims, because, as the social media campaign shows, there are Muslims that are perfectly peaceful regular citizens. And the term ‘radical’ shows a stemming from Islam, where as stating that they are a ‘deviant and deformed’ version of a religion, breaks any ties to the region, thus relieving an entire religion from being grouped as ‘radical islamists’.


  3. I agree that ISIS in no way portrays Islam by the simple fact that the majority of their victims are Muslim. Defectors from ISIS themselves have stated that where one Saudi who ran away from them stated that he initially joined the group to fight the Syrian regime he saw none of their promises being fulfilled , he also stated that the majority don’t even know how to pray (a fundamental tenant of Islam). A prisoner of ISIS also stated that while he was there he never saw any sign to indicate that his captors were Muslim other than their flag, meaning no Quran (the Muslim Holy book). ISIS does not follow any of the teachings of Islam and their ultimate goal is not an “Islamic Caliphate” as they so state but rather political power. Another clue of how unIslamic they are is that they are destroying the ancient buildings, temples, churches, and artworks that the true Islamic Caliphate (hundreds of years ago) preserved.


  4. I also agree with your argument that it is wrong to associate the radical terrorism of ISIS with Islam. It is especially wrong to condemn Islam due to the horrible, crazed actions of a relatively small terrorist group, particularly when you think about how many peacefully practicing Muslims there are all over the world.

    I think the widespread bias against Islam speaks to the greater agenda that the American media wants to push. Like you suggest in your post, it is a fear tactic designed to rile up the American masses. We see similar kinds of generalizations being made about ethnic groups when a member of a group commits a horrific crime; for some misguided reason, one person’s actions are supposed to represent everyone else who looks like them.

    I find it especially sad that people should be blamed or held responsible for the actions of people that they have no relation or connection to, in countries thousands of miles away. It is time we acknowledge that evil deeds have been done in the names of all religions, including Christianity, and that those wrongdoings do not define an entire religion or an entire group at large.


  5. I completely agree. Just this morning I listened to a testimonial from a Southern Californian mother about this issue. Her daughter, Catholic, is friends with all the Muslim young ladies at school. However, they are all constantly being picked on because the young children in the school are linking being Muslim with being terrorists. That is so insanely damaging and insanely hurtful for all the Muslim youth. The little girl of the mother and the little girl’s friends eat in the classroom during lunch and recess because they get teased so other. Especially following the Paris attacks and, now, the shootings in San Bernardino which the FBI is possibly linking to terrorism, this will get even worse. If Isis individuals actually practiced the Muslim religion, then maybe they would not go as far as they do in their plots against humanity. The Muslim religion does not teach individuals to kill and bomb others, terrorism does. Like you mention, “as a nation we need to, in George W. Bush’s words, “declare a global war on terror”, and not a war against ‘Radical Islamists’.”


  6. In an ideal world it would go without saying that not all Muslims are terrorists; unfortunately, as you note, that is not our world. It is clear that the vast, vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people, but I think it is a nuanced mischaracterization to say that Islam is a peaceful religion. I don’t think Islam is a violent religion, or a peaceful religion, I think it is just a religion and its various interpretations are dependent upon what people bring to the table. Like all religions, Islam follows a holy text that says both peaceful and violent things; people cherrypick these texts to create their own instantiation of the religion. It is not inherently any way because it is so reliant on its reception by religious peoples.


  7. I appreciate your acknowledgement of the way the media has portrayed Islamists particularly in light of recent attacks. I definitely think that it is important for people to be sensitive to this issue and be careful to not stereotype Muslims as terrorists. However, believe that we can in fact call terrorists “Radical Islamists” because by including the word “radical” we are making the distinction that they are not regular islamists. In the same way that one could deem an action “Radical Christian” or any other religion. I definitely think that this post is important and this issue is something the public needs to remain aware of. My question for you however is, what do you think should be done across America to ensure that muslims do not feel that their image is being tainted by the acts of radicals. This is a new type of discrimination that must be properly addressed. Unfortunately we still live in a world full of racism and discrimination and Islam is undoubtedly a peaceful religion. Sadly since terrorists have taken this religion to an extreme, people must realize their actions are not characterized by the Muslim religion, but by how they have spun and interpreted it.


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