Lots of people are comparing ISIS to the KKK. Here's why they should think twice.


After the horrific attack by gunman Omar Mateen on the gay Orlando nightclub Pulse, many people appear to have concluded that Islam is an inherently violent religion.

Though most mass shootings in the United States are committed by white men, and though Mateen’s motives were muddled, some lawmakers were quick to blame “radical Islam” for the attack. The Islamic State, or ISIS, has indeed since taken credit for the mass shooting—but so far, officials suspect that Mateen may have been inspired by ISIS but not in communication with the terrorist group.

That possible relationship between Mateen and ISIS, plus the ISIS-led attacks on Paris and Belgium, have made it easy for some to blame violence on the religion itself, irrational though that might be. One example: Since the attack, presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s hypothetical ban on Muslim immigrants gained popularity, despite the fact that Mateen was born in New York.

To combat the notion that Islam condones acts of terror, some have started employing a simple analogy: Islam is to ISIS as Christianity is to the Ku Klux Klan. The concept has been thrown out on Twitter:

This analogy has been examined by some—including basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar—at length, and a few observers have expressed reservations about drawing the specific parallel.

Of course, there is something to be said in defense of the comparison. Most Christians would take offense at the assumption that the KKK’s racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic beliefs are inherently Christian, though the hate group has referred to itself as a religious organization. Using the KKK as shorthand for a hateful, hated group is an elegant way to illustrate the importance of following the golden rule.

But the analogy isn’t quite right, and writer Zaynab Shahar explained why in a brief series of tweets.

Shahar, who tweets under the handle @atypewritersing, explained that comparing ISIS to KKK implies that an equivalency can be drawn between the threat American Muslims with ties to ISIS pose to the public, and the threat that American Christians with ties to the KKK posed to the public, historically and today. Her argument is that the KKK was far more dangerous to the American public than ISIS is today, because so many lawmakers had ties to the hate group—and so few Muslims today hold positions of power:

You can think of it in terms of statistics, if that helps:

Plus, comparing ISIS to the KKK implies that the American-born hate group was always seen as a violent, terrifying, response to a violent and terrifying regime—when in fact the group was gently included in the mainstream, operating as a social club. Let’s not forget where we came from.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.

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