by Jonathan S. Tobin
Earlier today I wrote about the need for Americans who wanted to think clearly about the Boston Marathon bombing to make a clear distinction between prudent monitoring of radical Islamists and prejudice against all Muslims. The major obstacle to this is not so much the desire of a small minority of Americans to stigmatize every Muslim as a terrorist as the refusal of some influential figures and institutions to face facts about what appears to be the source of the Tsarnaev brothers’ motivation for their crimes.
An excellent example of this bizarre form of political correctness came from Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC. Harris-Perry has attracted attention lately for her promo video in which she says we have to understand that children belong to the community, not their parents. But she has followed up that chilling manifesto of collectivism with her pronouncement, during the course of a dialogue with radical writers Zaheer Ali and Michael Dyson, that any focus on the religious fervor of the Tsarnaev bombers is illegitimate:
Michael Dyson: We fill in the blanks with what makes us feel most comfortable that this is an exceptional, extraordinary case that happened because they are this. So you take one part of the element, that he’s Muslim. But he also might have listened to classical music. He might have had some Lil Wayne. He might have also gone to and listened to a lecturerIt is easy to dismiss this sort of talk as just the public mutterings of the radical left, but it would be foolish to ignore it. The efforts of groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to muscle the federal government into excising a discussion of militant Islamism from our approach to combating threats is part of a campaign to prevent Americans from connecting the dots between terrorists and the belief systems that motivate them. The effort to make us pretend that the Tsarnaevs’ approach to their faith is as irrelevant to the atrocities they committed as the songs on their iPods is not absurd; it’s dangerous.
Harris Perry: I keep wondering is it possible that there would ever be a discussion like, ‘This is because of Ben Affleck and the connection between Boston and movies about violence?’ And of course, the answer is no.
Of course no one will even think this is about those things. But at the same time there’s something, I appreciate the way that you framed that as the one drop. Like, because given that they’re Chechen, given that they are literally Caucasian, our very sense of connection to them is this framed-up notion of, like, Islam making them something that is non-normal. It is not us. The point is that it’s important to say, ‘That’s not us, you know, this is not American. This is not who we are.’ Because we couldn’t potentially do what they did. But if they’re more like us, the point you were making earlier, if they’re just like us, they grew up in the same neighborhoods, they listened to the same kind of music, they talk to the same kind of people.
Of course, if groups of organized classical music lovers had been carrying out terrorist attacks in the name of their beliefs Harris-Perry’s brand of moral relativism might make sense. But in the real world in which the rest of us live, the source of the terror threat of the last generation has been Islamist.
The desire to deny that Islamism is the driving force behind homegrown terrorists and their crimes is rooted in the myth of a post 9/11 backlash against Muslims. That entirely fictional idea that Muslims were subjected to widespread discrimination has no basis in fact, but it is an article of faith in certain sectors of the left and in the mainstream liberal media. It is one thing to try and delegitimize pro-active vigilance against Islamism by falsely alleging bias in the actions of the government or even the general population. It is quite another to deny, as even leftist comedian Bill Maher pointed out last week, that “There’s only one faith that kills you or wants to kill you if you renounce the faith.”
The effort to expunge the word “Islamist” from the style guide of news organizations or to educate FBI personnel about the beauty, as opposed to the danger, of jihad is all part of this same campaign of denial. Acknowledging this reality needn’t set off a wave of discrimination, which, contrary to those still decrying the mythical backlash, hasn’t happened and won’t occur in pluralistic America. But the more we try to ignore the reality of Islamism, the easier it will get for killers to escape scrutiny before they strike.
Jonathan S. Tobin
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