We need to stop listening to the broken record arguments about terrorism


Laura McNally is a psychologist, author and PhD candidate and her article discusses the broken record arguments that we are forced to listen to repeatedly whenever we discuss terrorism.  After a terrorist attack, the most important issues are sidelined.  Instead of productive discussion about the problem, people focus on apportioning blame and making excuses.

Our discourse on terrorism is a bad record that has been stuck on repeat for decades. And it won’t matter whether I write this today, in a week, a month, or a year. Because with each new attack, the dialogue is only pushed deeper into discord and away from examining terror.

Rather than terror attacks inciting a more thorough and informed understanding of terrorism, there is a predictable tsunami of excuse-making, victim-blaming and sidestepping of the actual issue.

While it’s great that some people believe sharia law can be interpreted in a positive way, or that Muslim people are their best friends, this is not actually addressing terrorism. This political point scoring is increasingly blocking the public from developing better understandings of, and solutions to, terrorism.

Argument 1: Islam has nothing to do with terrorism

This kind of denial relies on the public to ignore all data on terror: the imams who preach hate, the holy texts that demand it, the statistics that show fairly significant portions of Islamic nations support terrorism, and the lists of registered terrorist groups wherein the vast majority are Islamic.

Instead, this argument relies on the theologians who insist that on some intellectual or spiritual level, their interpretation of Islam reflects peace. Certainly, that may well be their interpretation. But unfortunately that is not the reality for all followers.

Argument 2: Christianity is just as bad; it also has a history of violence

This is a tool to derail the discourse away from Islamic extremism and toward Christianity. Christianity, like all religions, has its failings and these are undeniable. However, the two religions differ in many ways.

For one, Christianity is practised mostly in countries that have reformed to separate state and church. So while Christianity has major faults including a few minor splinter groups committing violence in the US, griping about those issues during a dialogue on Islamic terrorism derails from the actual problem at hand. The critical issue is not Christianity-inspired terror attacks.

Argument 3: Muslim people are more likely to be killed in terrorism, hence terror is anti-Islam

Rather than this proving that extremists are anti-Muslim, it shows that they are anti-pluralism, believing that they are enacting the one true Islam. Whether this is actually true is debatable but unfortunately this debate is shut down by the incoherent reasoning that “terror has no religion”. This circular argument ensures we cannot move forward in examining the nuanced role of Islam in Islamic terrorism.

Argument 4: Divisiveness about Islam will inspire more recruits to join terrorist groups

If public opinion can create Islamic terrorism, this is a truly immense problem for democratic countries. After all, disagreement is at the heart of democratic politics and it very rarely results in terrorist attacks. The notion that public division inspires terrorists not only appears to be demonstrably false, it is also an effective victim-blaming tool that places responsibility for avoiding terrorism onto the public themselves.

Argument 6: Most terrorist attacks are not committed by Islamic extremists
In years gone by and in certain regions, this may have held true. Unfortunately across Europe this is no longer the case. In 2015 there were more Islamic terror cases than separatist terror attacks. Moreover, separatist terror attacks tend to have specific, predictable targets, such as political or military sites. Islamic terrorist attacks are increasingly selecting soft, random targets such as general public locations and events.

Argument 7: You are more likely to be killed driving a car, or from domestic violence

This is condescending and undermining. There are myriad reasons why people may be more fearful of terrorism than car accidents or domestic violence. For one, car accidents and domestic violence are issues that we can actively take steps to prevent as individuals, there are at least some methods and services to reduce these risks. There is absolutely nothing we can do to avoid being involved in a terror plot if we happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Telling the public they are more likely to die in a car does nothing to help increase knowledge to safeguard against terrorism.

Argument 8: Not all Muslims commit terrorism. Most Muslims are peaceful people

There is only a very small segment of the population who conflate Muslims with terrorism — Pew research says that only around 5 per cent of the UK population believes that all Muslims support IS. Moreover, the Left is often infuriated when conversations on male violence are derailed with the notion that “not all men commit violence”, yet they employ this exact approach on the topic of terror.

This ensures that we cannot focus on the small portion of people who do commit terror in the same of Islam.

Despite the increasing risk of terrorist attacks year upon year, this kind of denial and derailment has saturated the discourse. Those who speak out of line are swiftly repudiated. Our understanding of terrorism has not moved beyond this back and forth of circular arguments.

For the sake of innocent lives, we need to go beyond this horseshoe politics and find some common ground. Surely there can be agreement that terrorist threats are an urgent problem, one that requires debate, research, dialogue and discussion.

There must also be common agreement that attacks on everyday Muslim people are entirely unacceptable, creating suffering and halting progress. If people are feeling angry about the risk of terrorism, this needs to be communicated to our political leaders and not to random Muslim people on the street.

The reality is that terrorism is here. We need a collaborative and deliberative effort toward understanding this problem. This hamster wheel of denial is not making any person, of any religion, safe.


Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

If you agree with me that’s nice, but what I really want to achieve is to make you question the status quo, look between the lines and do your own research. Do not be a passive observer in this game we call life.

You can follow me on Gab.ai 

To read my previous articles click on my name in blue.