Politics & Policy

Another Mysteriously Motivated Attack

Why is it so hard to tell the truth about the origin of terrorism?

A couple of weeks ago, on the occasion of the annual hajj, in which 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims fulfill their obligations to travel to Mecca, prominent Muslim clerics from Asia, Africa, and Europe, along with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq, denounced violence in the name of Islam and issued a manifesto, signed by all, declaring that “murder of innocents is never justified and violates the teachings of Islam.”

If you haven’t heard about this, it’s because it never happened. I conjured it to clarify the nature of the problem. Well-intentioned non-Muslims never tire of asserting that Islam is a religion of peace. Muslims themselves are a lot less forthright. (The Council on American-Islamic Relations has issued formal denunciations of terrorism, but coming from an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing case, such pious declarations are worthless.)

Still, before considering the response to the latest outrage, perpetrated by a jihadi convinced that mass murdering Americans gathered to light the Portland Christmas tree would land him in Paradise, it’s important to pause and notice that while Muslim leaders leave a lot to be desired, average Muslims are heroes in this story.

The L.A. Times reports that the FBI was alerted to 19-year-old, Somali-born Mohamed Osman Mohamud’s increasing radicalization by someone who knew him well. Other sources suggest that Mohamud had quarreled with his family and felt “betrayed” that they did not support his violent ambitions. Reading between the lines, it seems likely that one or both parents (both of whom, by the way, are described as loving America) alerted the FBI.

Further, the elaborate sting orchestrated by the FBI had to involve agents posing as Islamic radicals. I’m guessing here, but it seems unlikely that the agents were non-Muslims. There are probably too many subtle things a non-Muslim would get wrong. So kudos to whoever tipped the FBI to the danger, and to the (presumably) Muslim agents who saw the thing to fruition and arrest.

On the other hand, those Americans who think that respecting the majority of non-violent Muslims requires a mealy-mouthed denial of reality are doing no one any favors.

Some criminal lit a fire at a Corvallis mosque a day or so after Mohamud’s arrest. This elicited a scolding declaration from U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton. Did he denounce the resort to violence by anyone? No. He intoned, “The fact is that violent extremists come from all religions and no religion at all. For one person to blame a group, if that’s what happened here, is uniquely anti-American and will be pursued with the full force of the Justice Department.” Of course whole groups should not be blamed for the actions of individuals. Yes, the Justice Department should pursue the arsonist. And, yes, violent extremists can be motivated by all sorts of things. But it is fatuous to pretend that Islam is no more likely than Buddhism or Christianity or Judaism to produce mass killers. When a Christian says “Praise God,” people nod politely or in agreement. When a Muslim shouts “Allahu Akbar,” everybody ducks.

If a Christian or a Jew suddenly becomes more devout, there is very little chance that he or she will become violent. Quite the contrary. But religious zeal among Muslims is often expressed with bombs and the blood of innocents. Thousands of imams worldwide preach violent jihad, Islamic schools instill contempt for other faiths, and terrorists actively recruit killers willing to commit massacres for Allah.

Yet Attorney General Eric Holder could not bring himself to say, under questioning before Congress, that terrorists might be motivated by “radical Islam.” The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security banned the words “jihad” and “mujahideen” from official statements about terrorism. And the president removed the term “Islamic extremism” from the National Security Strategy.

Why is it so hard to tell the truth? The truth is that while the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding, there is a powerful strain within the religion that encourages murder and mayhem. Muslims, sooner or later, must deal with this, along with the rest of the world. But to suggest that acknowledging Muslim extremism amounts to bigotry, as this administration seems to, is both dishonest and cowardly.

— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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