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Are Muslim terrorists? It’s a loaded question, to be sure, and one that is phrased in an unfair way. The answer is no. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Just as we debunked the myth of Muslims being evil, we will also do the same with the false belief that they are terrorists.

Any individual member of the Islamic religion has very little chance of committing an act of terrorism in their lifespan, especially when you consider that there are nearly 2 billion believers in the world today.

As with any other religion, only a very small fraction of people hold extremist views and may act violently because of them. Yet we know through extensive research that the very people who become terrorists are often less faithful than others and fail to practice the basic precepts of their faith, as found in a report by MI5.

It’s wrong to assume that terrorism is a matter of faith rather than extremist beliefs, especially since Hollywood has created such a strong stereotype of the modern-day terrorist.

Extremism in All Religions

Terrorists that commit violent acts in the name of the Muslim religion are best described as Islamist rather than Islamic. This makes it clear that they are extremists, much like the term Christian Supremacist is used to describe people who commit violent acts in the name of Christianity. While a terrorist may have a religious motivation rather than a political or financial one, the fact remains that they hope to achieve control and incite fear among others.

This has led to a common misconception that leaves people asking, “Are Muslims terrorists?” despite how offensive the association can be to billions. While Islam is often stereotyped as a violent religion that somehow encourages these acts, it’s simply untrue. The vast majority of Islamic scholars, sects, and individual members of the religion actively speak out against terrorism rather than supporting it in any way.

Even religions commonly portrayed by the media as completely peaceful or non-violent have struggled with their own extremist elements. For example, Buddhism is often listed as a non-violent religion. Yet radical monks and violent sects like the Bodu Bala Sena regularly attack or harass Muslims living in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

All of the world’s major religions discuss peace and finding common ground with non-believers, including Islam’s Quran, and to say any of them are inherently violent is a mistake. It’s more than the nature of human belief, and group dynamics tend to lead some people to extremism, even when the scriptures are telling them to be peaceful instead. It’s not unlike the many misconceptions about Jewish people that have led to anti-semitism.

Violence in Islam

The Quran has much to say about being peaceful, but it also mentions defending oneself and one’s loved ones when attacked. Much like the Christian Bible, it encourages the members of the faith to stand strong and trust in God’s protection while not letting themselves be hurt or attacked by others. Some have misinterpreted the verses in the Quran about self-defense and dealing with one’s enemies to be a call for violence toward others.

However, this requires a clear twisting of words taken directly from the source. This has been a problem in every major religion for centuries, with entire new branches of Christianity and Hinduism arising from disagreements about scripture. When it comes to the Islamic code of conduct and belief system, it’s clear from a simple reading of the Quran that peace and tolerance are encouraged far more than any kind of violence. The verses clearly state that others should not be coerced into following Islam, nor should they be treated to violence or declared war upon for that reason.

Charity and Community Support

Rather than being a threat to local communities, Muslim faith organizations tend to uplift and improve their surroundings. It’s a major part of Islamic religious practice to support the poor and needy by donating 2.5% of your income if you can during Ramadan.

This has a huge impact around the world. For example, the Muslim Pakistani population in the UK alone donates over $1 billion per year to charitable causes both in the UK and Pakistan. There are also many other charitable acts that are encouraged in order to bring the believer closer to God. By doing what they can for others around them, Muslims are a powerful force for good in their communities.

Harmful stereotypes that link Muslims and terrorism together hurt everyone. Understanding the facts about the Islamic belief system and that only a small percentage of all religious people commit violent acts will help you see things in a new light. The next time you hear someone asking, “Are Muslims terrorists?” you’ll know how to answer the right way to spread love rather than hate.