The left characterizes non-liberals as extremists whether they are right-wingers or centrist conservatives, libertarians, independents, people of faith, or simply neutral critics of liberal social policy. This provides cover for Islamists.
Why are progressives so quick to disparage traditional Jews or conservative Christians who question the liberal agenda, yet so reluctant to criticize Islamists who oppress minorities and women, persecute those of other faiths, stifle free speech, and promote religious supremacism through jihad and genocide? Not only do they downplay the terrorist threat at home and abroad, but they deflect attention away from Islamic radicalism by focusing on a supposed right-wing terror menace that has been defined into existence more by questionable statistics than objective analysis.
The New York Times recently reported that fewer people have been killed in the U.S. by jihadists than by right-wing extremists since 9/11, citing among other things data from the International Security Program at the New America Foundation (“NAF”), which according to critics uses the term “right-wing” so broadly as to dilute its meaning. The NAF claims that jihadists have killed twenty-six people, while “homegrown non-jihadists” have killed forty-eight since September 11, 2001. The implication is that Islamist extremism is the lesser threat.
The problem with this narrative is that it fails to factor in the growing number of homegrown jihadist plots that have been foiled by law enforcement. Moreover, it excludes the 9/11 terror attacks themselves, which although perpetrated by foreign nationals, nonetheless killed three-thousand people on U.S. soil. It also makes no mention of honor killings of Muslim women and girls who are condemned for adopting western culture or refusing to submit to prearranged marriages.
The message of the story is used to tarnish Republicans, conservatives, and pro-Israel advocates, who are often described by progressives as fascists and loons. The left has a penchant for characterizing non-liberals as extremists whether they are truly right-wingers or are instead centrist conservatives, libertarians, independents, people of faith, or simply neutral critics of liberal social policy. This tactic is used to provide cover for Islamists – whom progressives often regard sympathetically as victims of European and American oppression – at the expense of domestic political opponents, whose expression of dissenting viewpoints is actually more in keeping with America’s constitutional and electoral tradition.
Despite their obsession with proving that the right is more dangerous than radical Islam, progressive partisans and their mainstream media flunkies have identified no monolithic dogmas or institutions that endorse global right-wing terrorism for the purpose of destroying western civilization. Neither have they exposed reactionary ideologies comparable to jihad that sanction the killing of innocents for doctrinal gratification, or rightist organizations analogous to ISIS, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, which aim to conquer and subjugate. Furthermore, Islamist terrorism is openly supported by state sponsors like Iran, whereas coordinated right-wing extremism is not.
If progressive alarmists truly wanted to show the existence of a global support network for non-jihadist terrorism similar to that which facilitates radical Islam, they would have to look back at the behavior of communist and socialist regimes over the years, including those in Russia, China and Cuba, which exported violence throughout the world and are estimated to have killed between 85,000,000 and 100,000,000 or more during the twentieth century. But to do so would require the acknowledgement that progressives have a long history of supporting brutal dictatorships.
According to a number of experts and resource organizations, the FBI has purged its anti-terrorism training manuals of material deemed offensive to Muslims. Nevertheless, the only consistent law enforcement warning regarding domestic terror these days seems to focus on Islamists – not right-wing zealots or anti-abortion fanatics. In a recent “60 Minutes”interview, for example, FBI Director James Comey warned that domestic attacks by the Khorosan group could happen “very very soon” and conceded the difficulty of preventing radicalized Americans from joining terror groups like ISIS on the battle field and returning stateside on their US passports.
These observations seem all the more prescient in the wake of the recent shooting deaths of a US naval officer and four marines by a Kuwaiti-born American Muslim in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Some have tried to draw comparisons between Islamist terrorism and the recent racist shooting that left nine African-Americans dead in Charleston, South Carolina. But as horrific as those murders were, they were not part of an international terror campaign to eradicate western culture and impose religious totalitarianism. Those murders were the acts of a depraved individual who was motivated by despicable racial hatred, not an extremist doctrine that preaches the destruction of liberal democratic society.
The White House’s knee-jerk tendency to discourage any discussion of the religious roots of Islamist terror bespeaks a willingness to rationalize abhorrent conduct that would not be tolerated if perpetrated by Christians, Jews, Americans or Europeans. However, government is not required to tolerate faith-based practices that threaten or harm others. There can be no excuse for honor killings, institutional degradation of women, or the suppression of other faiths in a pluralistic society like the United States, in which the Constitution mandates tolerance for the beliefs of all citizens but establishes no state religion.
America’s founding fathers conceived of a society balancing individual liberties and communal obligations regardless of personal religious belief. Generations of immigrants were able to embrace American culture without abdicating their ethnic or religious identities because the Constitution imposes no creed beyond the political ideals enumerated within it. Jewish immigrants were able to adapt to the general culture because of the concept of “dina d’malchuta dina,” or “the law of the land is the law.” In contrast, jihadist supremacism holds itself above the law of the land and contravenes the freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution.
It’s ironic that the Obama administration reflexively accuses its political opponents of demagoguery and zealotry, but seems to exempt from scrutiny the intolerant ideology of real extremists. This inconsistency does not only compromise American national security and integrity – it also undercuts the aspirations of those Muslims who come to the US in search of a life free from tyranny and oppression.
An objective discussion of the theological basis of militant Islam cannot be omitted from the debate no matter how hard the Obama administration attempts to restrict the dialogue. The reality is that radical Islamists are not a harmless minority, but a volatile element dedicated to perpetuating a state of holy war. This is the central doctrine that motivates ISIS in its goal of reestablishing the caliphate, and which fuels Boko Haram’s war against Christians in Africa. It galvanizes Hezbollah’s abuses in Lebanon, provokes Hamas’s genocidal hatred of Israel and the Jews, and informs Iran’s now unfettered nuclear ambitions.
Islamists will win if we restrict speech to avoid insulting them, give more credence to their cultural sensitivities than to our own beliefs and ideals, validate their revisionist grievances against the West, and behave with the meek resignation of the subjugated.
They will also win if we allow ourselves to be deluded by red herrings and bogeymen, including overblown reports of the right-wing terror threat, which obfuscate the true nature of their holy war against western society. Islamists can only prevail in this clash of civilizations if we modify our conduct to accommodate them. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the Obama administration has done – by refusing to acknowledge religious beliefs that sanctify terrorism, by minimizing the threat of ISIS, by ignoring strategic realities in Syria and Iraq, and by guaranteeing the nuclearization of Iran with a very bad deal after years of negotiating from an embarrassing position of moral weakness.
The dangers of Islamist extremism are real and will only be exacerbated by the failure to respond effectively. It will not disappear by ignoring it or referring to it generically as “violent extremism.” Nor will Islamic radicalism be defeated by welcoming its largest state sponsor – the Islamic Republic of Iran – into the community of nations while it continues exporting terrorism, working to develop nuclear weapons, exerting its influence throughout the region and beyond, and toppling other governments through its proxies.
The most clear and present danger to world order today does not come from some shadow right-wing conspiracy concocted by the administration and mindlessly parroted as immutable fact by its acolytes in the press. It comes from the purveyors of Islamist extremism. This is the reality, and it’s one that cannot be changed by wishful thinking, semantic disingenuity, political misdirection, or left-wing dissimulation.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Israel National News.