Christian and Islamic extremists have both differences and similarities. The differences lie in several factors such as each group's political enemies and geographic location. But a prominent similarity can be found in their world views, which are often rigid interpretations or skewed versions of particular religions. These misinterpreted teachings often result in actions that lead to violence.
When Christians resort to violence they bridge the gap to extremism and become a whole different beast. While certain incidents are perpetrated by individuals, often it is a group that organizes and carries out violence. One example is the Hutaree Militia, a Christian extremist organization. They believe in defending themselves against the current state of the world and often cite prophetic verses that refer to the end times and the second coming of Jesus Christ. It is this belief that prompts them to use explosive devices and other destructive tools. There are similar active groups such as the Christian Identity, who believes in a similar defense of Christian values, and has strong racist undertones and a propensity for violence.
Like Christian extremism, the Islamic version often calls for a return to ancient times and practices. These extremists believe in and practice a range of ideologies, including those who simply believe that Islam should be at the center of politics and society, and those who believe that enemies of their religion need to be eliminated with physical force. The latter group are the most easily recognized as their terrorism pervades the news. Al-Qaeda and various other groups allow the name of Islam to become synonymous with terrorism and violence, but they do not comprise the entirety of the faith.
When Violence Becomes an Answer for Some
Certain religious individuals are not content with quietly pursuing their beliefs when they become displeased with the current state of political or social affairs. These extremists often choose violence as an expression of their discontent and as a device with which to draw attention to their cause. Abortion clinics receive some of this violence as shooting and bombings occur relatively frequently. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, explained that there are "extremists in every movement.... I think that extremists opposed to abortion got frustrated, felt they were losing the battle and felt it was incumbent upon themselves to resort to violence." Mahoney offers one view of extremists: they are unwelcomed groups within larger, peaceful religious organizations. Extremists range from suicide bombers to murderers of doctors who perform legal abortions; with a variety of religions at the source.
What Fuels Extremism
Religious extremism is not arbitrary and is fueled by a variety of motivations. Dr. Dick Hamilton cites three main causes for this phenomenon. Fear of change can lead some groups to become steadfast in antiquated beliefs until they become violent. The belief that a particular religion is the ultimate one can also lead some people to engage in extremist behavior in order to eliminate the "opposition." Lastly, their particular holy book might outline some sort of ultimate reward that one might receive upon the completion of a certain violent and extreme act. Regardless of the specific religion, the underlying sentiment and motivation are often similar and fall into one of these three categories.
- Anti-Defamation Leage: Hutaree Militia Fact Sheet
- Washingtone Post: Clinic Killings Follow Years of Antiabortion Violence
- Understanding Radical Islam: Medieval Ideology in the Twenty-First Century; Brian R. Farmer
- Evansville Courier & Press: The Roots of Religious Extremism
- Christian Identity Ministries: More About Us
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