Thursday, April 11, 2013

HuffPost Blogger Downplays Radical Islam

A Huffington Post blogger with the unusual name of SpearIt (yes, really) recently wrote a blog in the "Religion" section there about why radical Islam is not as dangerous as white supremacism. If this seems like a meaningless choice between two bad things, that's what I thought but apparently he needed to make his case.

SpearIt begins with a sad story about a Texas lawmaker who was killed by the "Aryan Brotherhood" in retaliation for the arrests and imprisonment of two of their buddies. He then says that this is terrorism because they were successful in intimidating an U.S. attorney from taking a case about them:
"This is textbook terrorism. At the very least, these events should awaken us to the formidable power of white supremacist gangs, both in and out of prison."
The growing number of murders by the Aryan Brotherhood is criminal and disturbing but I am not sure I would go so far as to call it "textbook terrorism." If you take a look at the targets of the Brotherhood in the above links, you will find that they are mostly members of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. The AB sounds to me like just another criminal organization with a racial bent to it. There does not appear to be any indication that they want to kill random people who are different from them (the Texas lawmaker whose death prompted the story was white.)

He then switches to Islamic terrorism in America, and uses statistics to prove that it isn't a problem:
"Reports from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Congressional Research Service (CRS) indicate that Islamic terrorism is declining after a brief spike in 2009. The Triangle Center charts a decline in the number of individual indictments for violent terrorist plots, while CRS charts a decline in the overall number of terrorist plots. Both data sets suggest a subtle shift from organization-oriented plots to individual actor or "lone wolf" operations....Both reports also indicate the relative rarity of deaths due to Islamic extremism. According to the Triangle Center, since 9/11, there have been 33 lives lost due to Muslim-American terrorism in the United States, compared to 180,000 murders committed by Americans in the same period."
Declining Islamic terrorism is always a good thing, you won't see me saying anything different. Nor is there any question that it has been declining since 2009. However, I do take issue with some of his logic.

First of all, the world is bigger than just America. This past year we were rocked by attacks on American embassies and the murder of our ambassador, which did not make the Triangle Center's list because it wasn't on American soil. Nor apparently does it sound like attacks committed by Muslims on Americans who weren't also Americans themselves. Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism remains a problem in other parts of the world.

Furthermore, comparing people killed by terrorism to garden-variety murders is a lesson in poor moral equivalence. A man going on a shooting rampage deals tremendous psychological damage to both his victims' families and people who hear about the attack. Just look at Newtown, even though more children have been killed by drownings then by gun violence by a large margin. To boil it down even further, it's okay for us to kill each other but not okay for you to kill us. That's why Muslim vs Muslim violence doesn't bother anyone but "Western conquest" is a justification for a holy war.

At this point SpearIt talks about the radicalization of Muslims in in prison. But I think he makes another logic error in his final paragraph:
"Even with such lessons learned the hard way, as a whole, these reports indicate the pulse of Muslim radicalization in the U.S. is weakening. Prisons are no exception, and with an estimated 350,000 Muslims incarcerated, the numbers emphasize just how few ever cross the threshold to extremist violence. In contrast, the latest string of suspected white supremacist violence involved at least one paroled prisoner and likely others in prison."
SpearIt is assuming that those 35,000 Muslims who are in prison right now (a) are in prison because they attempted to commit terrorism and (b) that they were all Muslims before they went in. As he himself has commented upon, prison conversions (like Malcolm X's) is a very common thing. It is not very unusual for someone who goes to prison for a typical garden-variety crime would convert to Islam and then become part of that statistic. They aren't all related.

However, I would now like him to compare the numbers of Jews, Christians and atheists who "cross the threshold to extremist violence." Do you think it will be greater or fewer? I am still not convinced that the murders committed by the white supremacists can be counted as "extremist" either instead of standard organized crime behavior.
"This unfolding drama should be a wake-up call for any who think that Muslims hold a monopoly on terrorism."
Don't worry, I know they don't. They do, however, seem to be the only terrorists who have Huffington Post bloggers run interference for them.

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