One of the persistent fallacies that emerges from the left side of the political spectrum after really any sort of mass atrocity, regardless of who perpetrated it or why, is that there is some sort of equivalence between violence in the name of radical Islam and violence in the name of, say, Christianity. As the Orlando shooting story has evolved, that has come in two forms: (1) arguments that equate Islam’s religious disapproval of homosexual sex and same-sex marriage and radical Islamic violence against gays with Christian religious disapproval of homosexual sex and same-sex marriage; and (2) arguments that equate “lone wolf”perpetrators of outrages in the name of Islam with “lone wolf” perpetrators of outrages in the name of other causes unless they can be proven to be formally affiliated with, and materially supported by, groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram.
This is dangerous nonsense that completely ignores the real-world context in two related ways.
First, there is no significant leadership in the modern Christian world – either religious or civil leadership – openly arguing for violence in the name of Christian doctrine, or providing it with a veneer of legitimacy. The leadership of the major denominations, from top to bottom, are foursquare against violence to enforce Christian morals, and the New Testament is notably short on violent punishments. “Yes,” I hear you say, “but Muslim leaders condemn violence too!” This is a debatable point in the specific case of violence against gays, as Andrew McCarthy has detailed, but even if you treat Islam-in-general as indistinguishable from Christianity-in-general in this regard, you still have to deal with radical Islam. Radical Islam is a significant, large-scale political movement around the world that is very much openly, proudly in favor of violence in service of the dictates of radical readings of Islamic law.
The radicals are not a small, isolated, fringe movement. They control territory, ISIS being the most extreme example, as well as Al Qaeda during its residencies in Afghanistan and Sudan. They have tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of volunteers, and larger numbers of sympathizers, such as the many people in Muslim countries who tell pollsters they support the death penalty for leaving Islam. (ThinkProgress touted a Pew study a few years ago finding that 57% of the population of 11 Muslim countries had a negative view of Al Qaeda – which means the people who didn’t have a negative view of Al Qaeda are a minority of the general population comparable to supporters of Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders in the United States.) They have varying degrees influence in any number of governments (e.g., Iran, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan) – the ten countries where homosexuality is punishable by death are all Islamic, including Saudi Arabia and Iran. They are well-financed, including by wealthy donors and the Saudi government and religious establishments. They have major support from radical pulpits and extensive networks on the web, connections to which turn up regularly in “lone wolf” cases. It is true that most any belief system or creed, religious or secular, inspires some crackpots who turn it to violence. There are some radical Christians. But it is not realistic to suggest that Christianity, or most other religious or political causes around the world, has an active global movement of this prominence, influence, resources and infrastructure that endorses the use of violence for the cause.
Second, drawing these parallels completely ignores the scale of the problem. The State Department issues an annual report on terrorism around the globe, and the carnage is enormous: over the past ten years (2006-2015), the State Department reports 115,023 terrorist attacks, resulting in 190,008 people killed, 329,782 injured, 73,758 kidnapped or taken hostage. The pace is escalating: the past two years (even with State’s annual caveat of “conservative estimates of terrorism in Syria”) have seen an average of 12,619 attacks per year, 30,528 killed a year, 35,056 wounded and 10,809 kidnapped or taken hostage. And the attacks are heavily concentrated in nations with active radical Islamic movements (albeit, in a few cases, with counter-movements that commit their own atrocities). The 2015 report noted:
Terrorist attacks took place in 92 countries in 2015; however, they were heavily concentrated geographically. More than 55% of all attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria), and 74% of all deaths due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Pakistan).
More than 60% of all attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Nigeria), and 78% of all fatalities due to terrorist attacks took place in five countries (Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria).
The first principle of U.S. foreign policy is triage. In the 21st century, the global scale of radical Islam and the death and destruction it leaves in its wake around the world far outweighs that inflicted by any other religious, secular or political movement. If you are not willing to face that reality, you are not part of the solution.