“Violence in the name of religious faith is far from new and the practice is far from dominated by Muslims.”
From the stories I’ve heard, people were freaking out when John F. Kennedy was elected president because he was a Roman Catholic. Presidents had always been Christian because America had always been a predominantly Christian nation. Even when diversity increased and so did the number of practiced faiths, holidays like Christmas were national and Hannukah was sidelined.
Now, the reality of our country struggles against these ideas. The growing presence of Muslims in America plays into all of America’s already established prejudices: people with darker skin and people who aren’t Christians. In the simplest of terms, Americans see Muslims and don’t see any commonality between their two lives.
If we could somehow engender some empathy in Americans for Muslim people, then the prejudice would lessen. This is where the news and media platforms come into play. Muslims are humans and it is their humanity that needs to be heightened in front of the eyes of the public.
Muslims now carry the weight of every person who has been or claimed themselves to be Muslim. I don’t think terrorists who act in the name of Muslim jihad are really acting violent because they love god, but because they hate America. They are extremists, just like the Westboro Baptist Church is a group of extremists.
Additionally, violence in the name of religious faith is far from new and the practice is far from dominated by Muslims; we could consider the Crusades as an apt example. Not every Christian wants to colonize the world in the name of Christ, just like not every Muslim wants to commit violent acts.
Islam is considered scarier than Christianity largely because it is understood less. Also, I think because Islam encourages some people to take the veil, it is seen as more extreme in it’s views. The veil serves as a ready-made marker of difference, indicating a lifestyle that Americans have very little exposure to.