Is “Muslim extremism” a problem? Yeah, but it’s a problem in the same way that a leaky faucet is a problem in a house that is burning to the ground. By far, the greatest source of senseless violence in the world is not Muslim extremists or their terrorist groups. Nor is it white separatist groups or the KKK. Rather, it is state-sponsored violence commissioned and directed by governmental forces the world over. But when hundreds, thousands, millions of innocent people die at the hands of government power, especially if it’s a Western government, then that’s just geopolitics. That’s just the way the world works.
It’s never terrorism. Burning up hundreds of thousands of Japanese with the a-bomb is not terrorism. Murdering over a million Vietnamese is not terrorism. Invading Iraq and killing about a million Iraqis is not terrorism. Droning an entire population into submission by way of thousands of civilian “casualties,” that is certainly not terrorism.
Even the word “casualties” is worth pondering. Victims of state violence are always casualties — the word “casualty” comes from Medieval Latin casualitas which means chance occurrence. If you die from a government bomb, that is just misfortune. There’s no way anyone could have helped that. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time, so if it’s anyone’s fault that you were blown to bits, it’s your own. Nothing more than bad luck.
Meanwhile, the real danger, the real terrorism is coming from intermittent acts of violence committed by a pitiful assembly of dumb criminals, who themselves are often acting in response to state-sponsored death and destruction. There are plenty of people stupid enough to fixate on the leaky faucet while the inferno is consuming everything around them. These people will issue condemnations of the faucet. They will spend their life’s work on institutions and programs to fix the faucet. They will froth at the mouth in anger at the faucet and its damnable leak. But the house fire? Well, there’s two sides of that issue and sometimes houses just burn down and we should really not lose focus on the real problem: the drip, drip, drip of that faucet.