On August 25, 2016, the Lantern, the student newspaper for Ohio State University, published an interview with a young Somali Muslim refugee, Abdul Razak Ali Artan. “I just transferred from Columbus State,” he told the Lantern. “I wanted to pray in the open, but I was scared with everything going on in the media. I’m a Muslim, it’s not what the media portrays me to be. If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen. But, I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads.” Artan had only immigrated permanently to the United States in 2014, after living seven years in Pakistan.
On November 28, Artan allegedly rammed his car into a group of innocents, then leaped out of the car and began hacking at them with a butcher’s knife, injuring eleven people, including one critically, before being shot by an Ohio State University police officer. In the moments immediately before that, Artan wrote on his Facebook page that he had hit a “boiling point,” referred to “lone wolf attacks,” and cited Anwar al-Awlaki, the terror cleric killed by the Obama administration in a drone strike. More specifically, he wrote, “I am sick and tired of seeing [Muslims] killed & tortured EVERYWHERE. . . .I can’t take it anymore . . . America! Stop interfering with other countries . . . [if] you want us Muslims to stop carrying [out] lone wolf attacks. . . . Let me ask you this question if the Muhammed peace and blessings upon him and his Sanaba were here today wouldn’t the western media call them terrorists? To conclude by Allah, I am willing to use a billion infidels in retribution.” Just last week, ISIS called on terrorists everywhere to participate in lone-wolf attacks.
This means that one of two things is true: Either Artan was radicalized between his complaints about Islamophobia in August and November, a span of three months or so; or he was a radical when he gave that statement to the Lantern, and merely took the final steps over the last three months.
The latter story is certainly more plausible. If it’s correct, that means that Artan, like other terrorists, used the cover of Islamophobia as a form of projection — Artan actually hated the West and that hatred drove him to murder. In order to justify violence against others, people generally have to consider themselves victims. It’s difficult to see how a refugee like Artan could consider himself a victim of the land that took him in — a land so welcoming that he could pray openly on campus without even the mildest consequence — but clearly he did. To do so meant building a story about American nastiness that could justify his actions. That’s why the leftist media consistently jumps to a perverse narrative by which every terror attack becomes the font of the next terror attack — terrorists are only victims of Western society, and the proof of that is their terrorism. If they weren’t victims, why would they kill innocents? This cyclical thought process works this way: claim Islamophobia as a rationale for terrorist backlash, then use every sign of backlash against terrorism to reinforce the Islamophobia narrative. This is the Left’s self-fulfilling prophecy of hatred.
The Islamophobia narrative can also be used as cover for actual radicalization. By driving Americans away from asking hard questions about the impact of radical Islam — by instead mouthing platitudes about Islam as a religion of peace and foreign-funded mosques as teaching institutions for that beautiful philosophy — leftists allow radicalization to proceed apace.
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That’s why radical groups and philosophies can masquerade as mainstream ones — too many Americans have been cowed into silence with calls of “Islamophobia.” This week, Twitter granted verification to Ikhwan Web, the Muslim Brotherhood’s “official” English-speaking feed. As Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) put it, “Verifying the Muslim Brotherhood’s Twitter feed helps further their narrative of civilization-Jihad. This maneuver makes the Brotherhood seem like a legitimate group while providing them cover to spread their radical version of Islam.” Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood–associated groups such as the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) continue to have credibility conferred on them by the White House. According to Fox News, CAIR “has held hundreds of meetings with White House officials on a wide variety of community issues and has sought to present itself as a mainstream Muslim organization.” In less radical Muslim lands, governments have no problem calling CAIR what it is: the United Arab Emirates has designated it a terrorist organization.
But in the West, fears of appearing Islamophobic prohibit such practice. They also inhibit Westerners from taking notice of potential terrorist activity. Omar Mateen, the Muslim terrorist who shot up a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., was reported by a coworker for racist and homophobic comments; management ignored it. Before the San Bernardino terrorist attack, a man working near the couple who perpetrated it said, according to a local news report, that “he noticed a half-dozen Middle Eastern men in the area in recent weeks, but decided not to report anything since he did not wish to racially profile those people.” In today’s America, does anyone really want to be accused of Islamophobia?
Focus on Islamophobia — and the perception of victimhood it creates — is both a necessary precondition for terrorist action and a cover for it. There’s no excuse for targeting innocent Muslims, or lumping all Muslims together under some sort of broad “terrorist” rubric. But no one with real concerns about radical Islam should be cowed into submission by the Islamophobia slur.
— Ben Shapiro is the editor in chief of the Daily Wire.