Dumb Things Westerners Believe about Terrorism: Part One


The barbaric murders at Charlie Hebdo magazine are the latest reminder that it's time for Westerners to jettison old myths, excuses, and practices concerning terrorism.

Myth One:  The label 'terrorist' is used only to describe Muslims and is a form of religious bigotry.

Believe it or not, the government calls these people terrorists as well
Nonsense! Roughly 875,000 Americans are on Homeland Security watch lists and it would be even more except that right-wing Republicans got pissed off when some of their looniest supporters appeared among then usual suspects. Even with the whittling the list of domestic terrorist organizations is large. (We presume the FBI has a long list as well, though it doesn't like to share.) If you think that only Muslims are seen as terrorists, you've been smoking too much medical marijuana.

The Black Panthers, Timothy McVeigh, the Weather Underground, the Unabomber, product tamperers (remember poisoned Tylenol), and lots of others have borne the label "terrorist." Groups currently monitored by Homeland Security include everything from anti-abortion groups and gangs to white supremacists and "paper terrorists" who use frivolous lawsuits and tax avoidance schemes to sabotage the federal bureaucracy. You'll find non-Muslim groups such as the Army of God (anti-abortion), Alpha 66 (Cuban exiles), the Animal Liberation Front, the Crips, the Earth Liberation Front, the Jewish Defense League, the Ku Klux Klan, the Phineas Priesthood (Christian terrorists), and various skinheads, hate groups, and neo-Nazi organizations on the list. And, yes, they are called "terrorists," not some euphemism.

Myth Two: Unless we respect all views, true freedom and a multicultural society are impossible.

That's what Noam Chomsky and the American Civil Liberties Union say–and it's rubbish. I stopped contributing to the ACLU back in the days when it defended Skokie, Illinois Nazis. The ACLU claimed that Nazi groups have rights too. My rejoinder is that freedom is in greater jeopardy when we give comfort to groups that, if successful, would eliminate freedom. Just look at fascism's historical record.

The principle extends to those seeking asylum or opportunity in the West. Those who  do not agree with the values or laws of the host nation, shouldn't immigrate there. Why should, for example, France, The Netherlands, or the U.K. accept an immigrant who believes in sharia law? This is a glaring inconsistency, as other nations do not reciprocate. Saudi Arabia, the Maldvies, and Yemen expressly forbid non-Muslims; numerous others persecute them. You certainly wouldn't wish to practice any non-sanctioned faiths in places such Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Laos, Sudan, or Vietnam. I suppose one could say, "We're better than that," but this misses the point. Sovereign nation-states–as opposed to lands under the grip of neo-tribal anarchy–define their civil codes. The very act of definition places limits on the outer boundaries of freedom. A "free" society is not one without rules or constraints; such conditions are the law-of-jungle antithesis of freedom. There is no multiculturalism in such lands, just conformity enforced by militarist might.

Myth Three: Islam is a religion of peace.

Not necessarily. Most of the world's Muslims practice peace, but Islam can be interpreted as militant.  The Qur'an–which I've actually read by the way–has numerous passages that (literally) sanction the forceful conversion, discrimination against, or killing of non-Muslims. The same is true of prophetic teaching collected as hadith literature.

Millions of Muslims view these passages as symbolic (as in overcoming temptation, or symbolically "slaying" the lure of other faiths), but we must acknowledge that much of political Islam interprets the Quar'an as literally as a Bible-thumping fundamentalist. Is there a difference? Yes. There is a pervasive return-to-the-Crusades mentality loose in today's Muslim world analogous to Christian Europe during the 15th and 16th century wars of religion, or indeed the Crusades Europe launched in the 11th century.

It's true that Muslims have no monopoly on violence, but when was the last time you saw scores of Christians or Hindus applaud using a 10-year-old girl as a suicide bomber? Many of the world's recent terrorist acts have indeed been done in the name of Islam: the seizure and beheading of hostages, the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the ritual killing of Daniel Pearl, 9/11, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the revival of anti-Semitism, the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, bombings across the globe (Boston, Indonesia, London, Madrid, India, Kenya…) And Islam has spawned barbarous groups such as Abu Sayaff, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, ISIS, the Taliban, and dozens more. There are far too many to be dismissed as "rogues." Over the weekend Boko Haram slaughtered 2,000 Nigerians.  The best way for those Muslims appalled by this to change global perceptions of their religion  is to annihilate hate groups. About which….

They must do so themselves. History reveals that not much good can come of spreading faith by the sword. It also tells us, though, that outsiders don't fix the problems of others. The West can restrict who it allows to enter its own borders, but it should give Muslims abroad wide berth rather than trying to direct internal wars. Disengagement runs counter to the paths of globalism and economic integration, but if Westerners were honest, they'd admit that Cold War politics and oil have mattered more than what happens inside Muslim lands. Memo One: The Cold War is over. Memo Two: Most Western nations don't need the oil anymore. Russia's Putin's a jerk, but Europeans would be better off buying from him than terrorism exporters such as Saudi Arabia or Nigeria.  (The U.S. is now self-sufficient.) Let authoritarians like China buy from the theocrats. Memo Three: The West needs to pay more attention to domestic terrorists and those who should be deported, not the internal affairs of others.

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