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While it may seem contradictory on the surface, I do not believe that Islam and the Quran are the cause of Radical Islamic Terrorism.

I have not read or studied the Quran, so I cannot use the book’s text to make my point. However, the Quran’s content is probably irrelevant.

If every piece of literature that contained incendiary language or what may be interpreted as calls to violence (both of which I imagine are contained in the Quran) caused people to behave violently, our species would have never made it this far. The Bible, especially the Old Testament, contains similar language. Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings do too.

For kicks, why not read tweets from leftists any time an event takes place in the era of Donald Trump? I highly doubt the Quran is even remotely as repulsive, and you don’t see post-menopausal feminists suicide-bombing markets very often.

There is also an inconvenient truth about the Islamic World that makes blaming Islam for Radical Islamic Terrorism nearly impossible: the Islamic World is largely illiterate.

Take a look at the literacy rates (via UNESCO) of the world’s 29 nations with populations made up of 90% or more Muslims:

NationLiteracy RateNationLiteracy Rate
Maldives99.3%Sudan75.9%
Mauritania52.1%Azerbaijan99.8%
Afghanistan38.2%Tajikistan99.8%
Tunisia81.8%Libya91%
Iran86.8%Uzbekistan99.6%
Iraq79.7%Pakistan56.4%
Morocco72.4%Senegal55.7%
Yemen70.1%Kosovo91.9%
SomaliaNo DataGambia55.5%
Turkey95%Mali38.7%
Comoros77.8%Jordan96.7%
Niger19.1%Turkmenistan99.7%
Algeria80.2%Bangladesh61.5%
Saudi Arabia94.7%Egypt75.2%
DjiboutiNo DataWorld86.3%

As you can see:

  • 16 of the 27 nations that have available data are below the world average in literacy
  • Iran, Libya, and Kosovo are below 92% (lower than Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar)
  • Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Jordan are well below 99.2%, the average rate of the developed world

Now take a look at the same nations with an additional metric: their scores on the Global Terrorism Index (GTI):

NationLiteracy RateGTINationLiteracy RateGTI
Maldives99.3%No DataSudan75.9%6.66
Mauritania52.1%0.07Azerbaijan99.8%0.35
Afghanistan38.2%9.44Tajikistan99.8%3.09
Tunisia81.8%4.96Libya91%7.28
Iran86.8%3.95Uzbekistan99.6%0.15
Iraq79.7%9.96Pakistan56.4%8.61
Morocco72.4%0.89Senegal55.7%2.6
Yemen70.1%8.07Kosovo91.9%2.21
SomaliaNo Data7.55Gambia55.5%0
Turkey95%6.74Mali38.7%6.03
Comoros77.8%No DataJordan96.7%2.86
Niger19.1%6.68Turkmenistan99.7%0
Algeria80.2%4.28Bangladesh61.5%6.48
Saudi Arabia94.7%5.4Egypt75.2%7.32
DjiboutiNo Data1.78World86.3%

After crunching the numbers:

  • The 4 high literacy nations with available data have an average GTI score of 1.27
  • The 15 below average literacy nations with available data have an average GTI score of 5.47
  • The six nations that are above average in literacy, but are still well below the developed world, have an average GTI score of 4.74

While correlation does not necessarily equal causation, this data suggests that being able to read at a high level is associated with lower levels of terrorism while low literacy rates are associated with higher levels of terrorism in the Muslim World.

If the Quran encourages terrorism, why would the best readers in the Muslim World commit the least amount of terror?

Additionally, consider the opinion polls often cited by the likes of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Bill Maher to show that Muslims are sympathetic to terrorism at alarmingly high rates. If such a great portion of Muslims are illiterate, how is it fair to 1) assume they understand the Quran and 2) assume they fully understand the survey questions they are being asked?

Beyond literacy, we must learn to hold individuals responsible for their actions instead of the words and environments that surround them.

After the Columbine Massacre in 1999, politicians, media pundits, advocacy groups, and others tried to blame the incident on the music the perpetrators listened to, namely the always controversial Marilyn Manson. But it wasn’t the music that made the killers kill. They made a decision on their own and could have found justification anywhere. As The Who’s Pete Townshend brilliantly put it, “If some shit head with a guitar tells you to go shoot up a school and you actually go do it, then that person is a shit head themselves and would’ve done it anyway.”

Stupid, weak, aimless, angry, and hateful people don’t need a reason to commit evil. It’s just a matter of time.

In the Muslim World, US foreign policy has provided low-hanging fruit for such individuals. By occupying and bombing their countries for decades on end, the federal government and its allies have come as close as one can come to legitimizing terrorist activity by Muslims. While it still comes down to the individual to do what’s right even in a world full of so much wrong, it’s not hard to imagine that some people will allow themselves to be driven over the edge when their families and nations are destroyed in combat and as byproducts of pointless and unrelenting warfare.

And for a nation that claims to value Democracy (though it shouldn’t), does the US imagine that killing and removing leaders of Muslim nations will not result in blowback? Putting your Trump Derangement Syndrome aside for a moment, how would you feel if a more powerful foreign nation forcibly removed your elected leader and used propaganda and force to elect someone easier to manipulate and profit from?

The only reason anyone should fear Islam is another likely cause for terrorism and other forms of violence in the Muslim World. That fear is political Islam. In a world or nation governed by Sharia Law, hatred, anger, idiocy, and poverty would fester.

But this is not unique to Islam or Sharia. Any people tyrannized by human enforcement of the supposed will of any so-called divine or faith-based tenets will respond negatively. This is why the Framers of the US Constitution used the first clause of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights to say that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

Islam is not why terrorism exists, and it is not the enemy. Neither is Christianity, Scientology, Communism, Atheism, or whatever set of beliefs you can muster.

The enemy and the cause of terrorism is stupidity.

It is stupidity that allows you to blame words and books for the violence of the human animal. It is stupidity that allows you to be tricked into waging ‘Jihad’ while your tricksters sit on their gold. It is stupidity that allows you to initiate violent force for nonexistent ends. It is stupidity that allows you to think you know what is best for others. And it is stupidity that allows you to convince yourself that you have the power to fix the massive imperfections of the world without the world’s consent.

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