In her December 9 appearance on PoliticKING, California Representative Loretta Sanchez told Larry King that “there is a small group, and we don’t know how big that is…it could be anywhere between five and 20%, from the people that I speak to…that Islam is their religion, and who have a desire for a caliphate and to institute that in any way possible. And in particular go after what they consider ‘Western norms.’ Our way of life. They are not content enough to have their way of looking at the world; they want to put their way on everybody in the world.” Sanchez, a Democrat, is a Senior Member of the Homeland Security Committee. She was responding to a question about Obama’s reluctance to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”
There are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. Of that population, 5% would be 80 million, and 20% would be 320 million. Current estimates of the number of Islamic State group-affiliated fighters is 200,000. Even if everyone living in Islamic State group-controlled territory had been radicalized, it would still only be a few million people.
Perpetuating this kind of misinformation is risky. Sure, Sanchez also emphasized that America needs to acknowledge that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people and “this is not against all Muslims; this is not about Muslims in our country.” But during a time of increasing Islamophobia, which can be genuinely dangerous for Muslim Americans, we as a society need to be extremely careful that we don’t fuel a fire that doesn’t deserve to burn.