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Monday, October 23, 2017

Of course not.

Are all “radical Muslims” — whatever that means — terrorists?

Of course not.

“Terror” has gained a political weight this election cycle that it hasn’t had in at least a decade, since George W. Bush shortened it to a grunt — Terr! — and declared an impossible war on it, one that still hasn’t ended (and most likely won’t for a long, long time) and has so far left hundreds of millions of people less secure, homeless, or dead in its wake.

The so-called Global War on Terror also spawned a brutal and irrational torture program, detailed in even more depth in documents released this week from the CIA.

Terrorism has its own casualties, though they certainly aren’t in the millions. The University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database counts 3,264 terrorism deaths in the U.S. since 1995.

Terrorism is used to amplify the threat of its perpetrators. Every act is meant to publicize the danger of future acts. And, thanks especially to one presidential candidate, recent terror attacks have been extremely successful in that regard.

Donald Trump has made the threat of terrorism a central premise of his campaign, doing terrorists’ work for them by inflating the threat they pose. To steal a phrase from The Don Himself about this despicable rhetorical tactic: “He doesn’t get it, or he gets it better than anybody understands.”

Donald Trump does the facts a disservice. Nearly all Nazis alive today are not terrorists. They don’t use illegal violence to amplify a political message.*

And obviously, the vast, vast majority of Muslims are also not terrorists.

But that’s not the point: Even the vast, vast majority of those who express support for strains of so-called “radical Islam” don’t commit any acts of violence in the name of their beliefs. ISIS’s social media fan club is much larger than its fighting ranks.

Most ISIS supporters simply consume propaganda, to the great frustration of ISIS propagandists.

The “radical Islam” label is harmful because it focuses on what we fear, rather than what the real danger is. The government’s term for the real danger is “violent extremism.”

And that’s not “politically correct.” Think about the differences between the terms.

“Radical Islam” doesn’t define anything: What defines a radical? And whose Islam? The Orlando shooter claimed at various points to have been inspired by al Qaeda, ISIS, and Hezbollah — rival groups with wildly different interpretations of Islam, both amongst themselves, and, more importantly, from the vast, vast majority of Muslims. “Radical Islamic extremism” makes no mention of violence, and “radical Islamic terrorism” doesn’t account for the fact that non-Muslims are responsible for more terrorist violence in the U.S. than Muslims.

“Violent extremism” describes people who carry out violence as a result of their extreme views. That’s a lot closer, at least, to what we should be worried about. Though again, terrorism deaths are engineered to make us worry about our own safety much more than we logically should.

What’s extreme? Believing that violence against targets like abortion clinics, Black churches, and gay night clubs could be justified.

I bring this all up to address the awful analogy that many cite to explain the continued use of the term “radical Islam”. I will let Marco Rubio, at around 45 seconds:

Not only were many Nazis during World War II not German, most who follow “radical Islam” as Rubio defines it never do anything more than browse the internet.

As part of the global war on terror, our government has in fact made some attempt at a counter-propaganda campaign aimed at potential supporters of violent extremism, though there is clearly much more, and much better, work to be done.

The Republican nominee has something more blunt in mind: Turn the thing off. (And “bomb the shit out of ’em.”)

Donald Trump’s plan to “shut down” those parts of internet used for terrorist propaganda is not only logistically impossible, doing so would also silence a large chunk of his own support.

The largest destination on the Internet for white supremacists, Stormfront, has credited a huge increase in traffic to Trump’s “America First” brand. In 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that at least 100 hate crime murders had been carried out by the site’s users.

But, of course, the vast, vast majority of the site’s many hundreds of thousands of users aren’t radical Islamic terrorists violent extremists.

As with “radical Islam”: Not only are virtually no Muslims terrorists, nearly no “radical” Muslims are terrorists, either.

Don’t let the actual terrorists win. Don’t let them make you afraid. Don’t let politicians slander an entire religion or distort the facts about its slim ranks of crazies. Don’t be “politically correct” — just be correct.

 

Photo: Mass killer Anders Behring Breivik raises his arm in a Nazi salute as he enters the court room in Skien prison, Norway March 15, 2016.  REUTERS/Lise Aserud/NTB Scanpix

*(The definition of terrorism changes, a lot, depending on whom you ask.)

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