A recent post on Facebook showed a picture of present-day Muslim extremist fighters in their black veiled Arab dress, and a picture of Ku Klux Klan members in their conical hats, robes and masks. It posed the question: as no-one thinks the Ku Klux Klan is representative of Christians, why do so many people think the jihadists are representative of Muslims? The juxtaposition of these two pseudo-fascist groups is interesting. While it may convey the message of the danger of associating many with the crimes of a few, it also raises questions about fundamental differences between the two groups.
There can be no doubt about the fundamentally religious nature of the jihadist movement in Islam. With a long and contiguous history from the writings of Sayyid Qutb in the 1950s, through Ayman al-Zawahiri’s al-Jihad and the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida and the Islamic State, there has been a constant call to restore Islam to the pristine condition of the time of the Prophet. The stated goal is to see the whole world administered as an Islamic state under Sharia Law.
By comparison, the aims and objectives of the Ku Klux Klan seem trivial and parochial. In their three manifestations since the late 1860s, they have focussed their anger first against black Americans freed from slavery, then in the 1920s against Jews and Catholics and more recently against the Civil Rights Movement. Their scope was American rather than global and their motivation was racist rather than religious. Nobody, not even themselves, ever thought of the KKK as representing the whole of Christianity, or promoting a new world order based on the parables of the New Testament.
While virtually all American Christian denominations have officially denounced the KKK, numerous radical imams preach support for jihad, and Moslem masses in many Middle Eastern countries fill the streets in celebration of what they see as the victories of al Qaida and ISIS. In short, while most Christians certainly oppose the KKK, the jihadists enjoy widespread support amongst Moslems. While the Ku Klux Klan proved capable of disturbing the peace in some states of the USA, the jihadists have succeeded in spreading their terror to most major countries, including Russia, China, India, the USA, France, the UK and Australia.
Although support for jihad has been described as widespread, it is still a minority aspiration and should rightly not be ascribed to all Moslems. To preserve this sense of balance, the comparison of the jihadists with the KKK may be useful. But outside of the USA the Ku Klux Klan is regarded as a purely American manifestation and ridiculed rather than feared, whereas the jihadist threat spreads serious concern in every land.