How to Tell the Difference Between ISIS and Muslims

The GOP is demanding that the Democratic presidential candidates use the term “radical Islam” to refer to ISIS. Yet it’s hard to imagine them making similar demands that various acts of homegrown terrorism be called the work of “radical Christians.” Many would argue that simply committing such an act means one is not a true Christian. By the same token, ISIS is not Islamic, as Islam is understood and practiced by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims. So why insist on the label, unless you have an axe to grind about a faith you deem inferior? Why add to the Islamophobic backlash that has already led to a Texas mosque having its front door hit with feces?

ISIS thinks in terms of a “clash of civilizations,” and (surprise!) so do American right-wingers. Anyone framing this issue as The West vs. Islam is playing right into ISIS’s hands.


  • JoeBl

    You forget to add on the right. Agrees with isis on gay marriage. Agrees with isis that women cannot pray in the mosque. Agrees with isis that women should not be free to dress as they please. Agrees with isis that “church” and state should not be separate. Agrees with isis that women can’t be imams.

  • Alan Barta

    An interesting look into Moslem life can be found in Al Monsour’s Saudi film, Wadja. All a ten year old girl wants is a bicycle, but entire society is against it. Interesting. Even small dreams have huge obstacles unless women work together.

    • Jen Sorensen

      Alan, I’ve seen Wadja. Great film. Saudi Arabia is terribly repressive, and I saw a talk at SXSW that suggests a growing feminist movement there. Fortunately women in other Muslim countries like Turkey and Indonesia have considerably more freedom. Pretty much anything goes on the streets of Istanbul.

      • Alan Barta

        True. Like Judeo-Christianity (Catholic, Fundamentalist, Jew, Protestant), there are 4 basic forms of Islam: minor schisms, Shia, Sufi, and Sunni, the majority. Likewise, all have subdivisions based on beliefs, some exceptionally tolerant or extremely radical. It’s well to remember that religions are essentially political. Politics is nothing more than how you treat others, with religions quick to fill in the blanks. Saudi’s royal family backed the untra-conservative Wahabi clerics who incited violence in Yemen.

  • Jeff

    So sad the cartoonist is helping ISIS by creating a divide and making statements that if true are by such a small minority that I’ve never even heard. I’ve never heard anyone make a statement about all Muslims. She’s trying to be good liberal but is just helping ISIS, good job. Also she falsely states that if a segment of the Christian population took over part of the USA that we wouldn’t call them “Radical Christians”. I can speak for myself I would in fact use that term. I’ve said “hardcore Christians”, “dumb Christians”, “ignorant Christians” and many similar terms already when remarking about cults and other Christian related groups and churches and I am a Christian. Making a cartoon that is a lie to help the cause of ISIS is wrong. Now if she made a cartoon of how to tell the difference between conservative Muslims that are fine with killing gay people, beheading, and other things the West finds atrocious, with other Muslims that don’t feel that way, then that would be helpful. She won’t address the cultural issue of why there is such a high degree of disunity and killing in the region we call the Middle East. It has nothing to do with religion although they do kill each other in the name of the different sects. It’s a cultural and power struggle plain and simple.

    • Benjamin Schwab

      I recently read a good and disturbing piece that explains how anti-semitism can form from seemingly individually innocuous causes. It’s part V here: . Without committing on the rest of the work there, I share Mr. Alexander’s concern about building up a series of arguments against a particular group.

      The short of it is that several incidents happen which don’t refer to a particular Russian Jew (namely a Jew killing a Christian, particular Christian dogma against ancient Jews, a particularly offensive Jewish businessman, condemnation on the actions of Israel) and so that Jew doesn’t talk back because he is an exception to each incident. Then the particular Jew has his property stolen by his Christian neighbor but is helpless to fight back because the Christian neighbor could put the Jew in the context of all of the other stories.

      The problem with people criticizing particular Muslims here or there without addressing all Muslims is that this is still building an argument against all Muslims. Violence against uninvolved Muslims does increase in the wake of these terrorist attacks and I understand how annoying it is to make it explicit that one isn’t talking about all Muslims when one condemns the atrocities committed by a few, not doing so is dangerous when done repeatedly.

      I don’t know if Mrs. Sorensen has this concern or thinks about this the way Mr. Alexander does (you would have to ask her) but cartoons like this does serve the purpose of preventing the tragedy that Mr. Alexander is concerned with. I don’t know what exactly is the lie you refer to (you never tell us) (also, I have heard arguments that Islam is an inherently violent religion that at its heart preaches the killing to Christians and thus all Muslims are evil) but there is a good purpose behind this cartoon: discouraging an association of an entire group of people with unpopular representations of that group. I don’t think that particularly helps or hurts ISIS but it helps Muslims.

      • catherine todd

        I agree that this cartoon HELPS people distinguish Muslims from terrorists. I have no idea why “Jeff” is blaming the cartoonist for what people like Trump are doing and saying in the world. Jeff’s comments make no sense to me.

  • Jeff

    Take a look at the wiki link that shows the areas marked in Red for the countries that put gay people to death. Tell me that isn’t terrorism!! Tell me Red doesn’t cover almost the entire Middle East. North Africa only imprisons them, I guess you would be fine with that. So again please make a cartoon displaying how we can tell the difference. Please stop being a tool of RADICAL ISLAM.

  • Jeff

    oh hey, can you update this to help us tell the difference between homegrown islamic terrorists that get radicalized in Saudi Arabia where they hate western values and this is taught in their schools, thanks. Merry Christmans

Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer Finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.