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The Problem with Dividing
‘Good Muslims’ from ‘Bad Muslims’

| June 14, 2017

good muslim bad muslim

Not for you to judge. (Darren Johnson)

By Dina El-Rifai

All right, America. We need to have a talk.

The president recently returned from Saudi Arabia, where he gave his Muslim hosts a speech about the threats of “radical Islamist terrorism.”


Because Trump steered slightly clear of his usual vitriol toward Muslims — he’s repeatedly claimed in the past that “Islam hates us,” and never misses a chance to complain about “Radical Islamic Terror” — some folks in the media credited Trump for not saying anything “overtly” Islamophobic.

Even liberal-leaning outlets like The Atlantic and Vox judged the speech “politically correct” and “uncharacteristically inoffensive,” respectively.

They seem to have missed the fact that Trump’s language, while perhaps less direct than what he says to crowds of his supporters in the United States, was still drenched in the demonization of Muslims. And worse, the speech pointed to an escalation of militarism and violence against Muslim communities.

In other words, some folks are missing the forest for the teleprompter. Trump may have sounded more polite, but he advanced the same divisive ideas that make all of us less safe.

other-wordsRight-wing extremists are increasingly visible in the U.S. — from Dylann Roof in South Carolina to the man in Portland who recently stabbed three people for defending Muslims on a train. Yet Trump’s speech still characterized violence and extremism as an exclusively Muslim phenomenon.

Indeed, Trump seemed to cast the Middle East as the home and source of all terrorism, calling whole groups of people there “barbaric criminals” and “foot soldiers of evil.” For this reason he insisted that “Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology to oblivion.”

But since when is bombing people into peace a thing?

After all, the U.S. dropped 20,000-plus bombs on Muslim-majority countries just in the past year, and has terrorized and killed millions in the name of a war on terror. This country runs torture camps like Guantanamo and strips people of their civil and human rights. Who are we to define good and evil?

Yet once again, the world’s 1.7 billion Muslims are being divided into “good Muslims” and “bad Muslims.” The “good Muslims,” according to this idea, support those “war on terror” policies that result in the expansion of violence against mostly innocent people. The “bad ones” don’t — and so we’re called terrorists.

But Trump went a step further by defining good Muslims as the wealthy ones in business with the United States (or himself). Trump valorized those who will profit off the violence that he calls for, including through a $110 billion arms deal for Saudi Arabia to buy American weapons.

Those weapons will be used in Yemen, where a Saudi-led bombing campaign has killed more than 10,000 people and left 7 million civilians facing starvation.

So in his supposedly more polite and presidential speech, Trump defined whole groups of people as barbarians, and those who profit off the destruction and death of those people as civilized beacons of peace and goodness.

This isn’t some new, miraculously un-Islamophobic Trump. Just because his speechwriters know how to modify his word choice doesn’t change the hateful, violent, dangerous, anti-Muslim message that calls for the destruction of entire communities.

Dina El-RifaiA native of Cairo, Dina El-Rifai is the Public Policy Fellow in AFSC’s Office of Public Policy and Advocacy in Washington, D.C.Her work, writing, and activism, according to her bio at her website, focuses on resisting state violence, surveillance, and institutionalized islamophobia, and advocating for immigrant and refugee rights. Follow her on Twitter here.

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9 Responses for “The Problem with Dividing
‘Good Muslims’ from ‘Bad Muslims’”

  1. Patriot says:

    Stop whining. Call a spade a spade. Islam is behind the terrorism , bottomline end of discussion.

  2. beachcomberT says:

    I wish the writer had expanded her op-ed to include some specific policy recommendations. Would she have the US withdraw immediately from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, etc. and let the Muslim factions fight their civil war on their own? Should the US give up its effort to stop or at least slow down Iran’s development of nuclear weapons? Should the US stand by and do nothing when Christians and other religious minorities are slaughtered by ISIS? Do we declare neutrality in the hot/cold war about Israel’s borders? I find irony that the writer is able to express her an anti-US views fully by virtue of living in the United States and working for a peace movement supported by a non-Islamic religion. Would she enjoy this same degree of freedom and equality in any Islamic nation?

  3. r&r says:

    The good ones try to convince you they’re good but I don’t trust any of them.

  4. Bc. says:

    Radical Islam must be wiped out these killers must be sent to greet there 72 virgins sooner than later. They are no good to the world and no good to peaceful muslims. If you want to live in America live like an American or stay the hell in you country. And by the way dress like an American you might get along much better here in the USA.

  5. a tiny manatee says:

    Christians have killed way more in the name of God in the united states than Muslims, end of discussion. We need to recognize it as the religion of hate that it is and address the problem.

  6. George says:

    @Patriot
    People use the terrorism as an excuse to be racist and it’s accepted by American culture and proliferated by mainstream media.

    “For every one American killed by an act of terror in the United States or abroad in 2014, more than 1,049 died because of guns.

    Using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we found that from 2001 to 2014, 440,095 people died by firearms on US soil.”

    So when I walk down the street, I’m not afraid of Muslims mistakenly perceived to be Islamic extremist terrorists. I’m afraid of the trigger happy gun owners who aren’t motivated by religion to kill people, but anger, rage and stupidity.

    Is terrorism a real threat that we should take seriously? Absolutely. Is it nearly as bad as how the media and the President portray it? Not even close.

    You are 781 times more likely to die choking on your food than you are by a terrorist attack, are you going to not eat? Of course not.

    You are 15 times more likely to die by being struck by lightning than die in an extremist terrorist attack. Are you going to not go outside because it can happen? Of course not.

    “Police killed 998 people on average per year from 2013-2015. That’s roughly 312 times the average annual number of people killed by Islamic extremists since 9/11. The average number of people killed by Islamic terrorism in the last three years is 7.7 — including the recent shooting in San Bernardino — and by that parallel measure, police are still about 130 times deadlier than terrorists.” By all means, tell me why I should be terrified of every person wearing a hijab.

    “The CDC estimates that 44 people die per day from overdosing on pharmaceutical painkillers. Never mind that that number is almost 14 times the number of Americans killed by Islamic terrorism each year.” Once again, Americans killing themselves, and it’s 100% legal.

    “Stop whining. Call a spade a spade.”…it’s socially acceptable to have thinly veiled or even overtly racist views about Muslims in America today. It’s everywhere, on tv, social media, in our schools and homes, everywhere. That’s your spade. You don’t have to admit it, real Americans of any race, gender, religion, or political affiliation, real patriots can see it.

  7. Terminus says:

    I don’t trust any “religious” person. They all talk out both sides of their mouths. Christians kill. Muslims kill. Jewish people kill. People of all denominations kill in the name of their “benevolent” God. People of all denominations throw stones from glass houses. They spew vitriolic words towards those of difference. They wish death upon those that think, look, act, live, and love different. It’s all so exhausting. Why even try anymore? It’s not worth the effort changing minds or hearts. People believe what they want and almost refuse expanding their minds by not talking with others that are different. It’ll never change. Man kills man – they have since their emergence and they will continue until our species fades away, a distant memory, a relic of what once lived on this planet and destroyed life in and of its image. I won’t even touch on what man does to this planet, nature, and other living beings.

  8. ASF says:

    Everyone needs to take responsibility, EVERYONE. Including the author of this article. The obvious chip on her shoulder, however well-deserved she feels she is to wear it, will only backlash against the people she is supposedly trying to defend from “unfair criticism.” Just as White people need to take responsibility for the racist culture they are part of, and Jews need to criticize Israel when it is warranted, Muslims need to stand up against the jihadist extremism that is decimating Muslims more than anyone else.

  9. Sherry says:

    June 16, 2017 at 9:39 am
    Good point Terminus!

    The Nazi Holocaust- The vast majority of Germans were “Christians”. . . killing over 5 million people
    The Inquisition- A Catholic war against humanity- killing thousands

    Here’s a great analogy: The KKK is to Christianity. . . As ISIS is to the Muslim religion.
    They are all “terrorists thugs”. . . carrying out their HORRIFIC ACTS . . . while “hiding behind” some religious ideology!!! The bottom line is that there is “NOTHING” religious about “terror” and “murder”!!! But, I will say there is plenty of hypocrisy involved! Especially since we don’t hear such HORRIFIC acts being “LOUDLY CONDEMNED” “every single day from every single pulpit” !!!

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