I call your attention to a fairly recent op-ed in the Washington Post that was a masterpiece of equivocation and mealy-mouthedness, and then a response to it just published in Quillette by Jeff Tayler.
The Post article, published on December 21, was byAll terrorism acts are not connected. But terrorists want you to think they are,” it did everything it could to avoid mentioning religion (read “Islam”) as a contributor to terrorist acts (she barely alludes to a few of the groups as “Islamist,” or “reportedly the Islamic State”), saying instead that there are disparate causes of terrorism (of course there are: the mix is always different, but Islam’s is almost a constant factor), and then claiming that it’s a non-problem anyway because there is so much more domestic gun violence in the U.S. and Mexico That’s true, but some of us are trying to do something about that, and at least we recognize that one cause is the largely unregulated proliferation of firearms—something that Republicans love!undergraduate director at the University of Essex. Called “
Here are a few snippets from Ezrow’s piece.
This is a horrific spate of attacks, and it should disturb us all. As the scale of what had happened became clear, there was naturally some speculation that the attacks were somehow connected or coordinated. But although the headlines are certainly alarming, all the attacks occurred in countries facing very specific challenges. Rolling them into one “wave” of violence is misguided, and misunderstands the real nature of global terrorist threats.
In recent decades, terrorism was principally used by organized groups to strike against richer Western democracies. But today, 70 percent of all terrorist attacks are of the lone-actor variety, and terrorism is more commonly taking place in zones of conflict and instability. Although these conflicts are rooted in grievances of inequality and exclusion, each event is not linked to the other. Although it’s possible that some groups have been inspired by one another — the Tamil Tigers, for instance, pioneered the use of suicide vests — an act of terrorism in Cairo has nothing to do with the bombings taking place in Somalia.
Really? And that has nothing to do with that happened in Istanbul, Ankara, Berlin, and Boston? All separate and completely disparate incidents, with no common thread?
Ezrow concludes that the assumption that all the attacks have at least some commonality will mislead us:
So long as we go on assuming that terrorist attacks are connected and trying to link them to a global extremist threat looming on our doorstep, we misunderstand the unique problems facing each country — and what’s needed to defang them.
So, I suppose, Ezrow would urge us to stop monitoring Muslim email and phone traffic and what is said in mosques, stop worrying about Europeans defecting to ISIS, and so on.
What, then, would she have us to do stop terrorist attacks? Nothing. She doesn’t offer a solution. All she says is to stop looking for a common thread in terrorism. Shades of Reza Aslan!
In his piece at Quillette, “Free speech and terrorism—whatever you do, don’t mention Islam!“, Tayler (whose criticism of religion has moved from Salon to Quillette), simply takes Ezrow’s piece apart. I’ll give a few quotes, and have only one quibble with Tayler’s arguments, which are, of course, that we have to recognize Islam as a cause of terrorism, deal with that motivation, and not allow the right wing and the Trumpites to own the issue.
My quibble is that Tayler attributes Trump’s victory largely to fear of terrorism, and to the Democrats’ failure to address it:
This is not hyperbole. The data show that the “politically correct” regressive-leftist refusal to speak forthrightly about Islamist terrorism played a powerful — in fact, probably decisive — role in sending Trump to the White House. Last summer, a Pew Research Center survey found that eight out of ten registered voters considered terrorism “very important” in their decision about how to vote in November. Hillary Clinton’s stubborn obfuscation and puerile remarks on the subject surely did nothing to assuage their fears. Trump easily (and crudely) exploited this issue — indeed, made it a signature issue of his campaign — and defeated her.
But the data given by Tayler show that the economy was even more important (84% vs 80%), as were “foreign policy” and “health care” (75% and 74% respectively). One might have well said that the economy played the “decisive role”. But never mind, for Clinton’s failure to address terrorism surely cost her some votes, such as Asra Nomani’s. I’ll close with an excerpt from Tayler’s piece, and an admonition to the Washington Post to please pay attention to its op-ed pieces (Ezrow’s piece was reprinted from The Conversation site, an increasingly dire venue), and maybe commission its own op-eds instead of taking them wholesale from other places.
Since 9/11 Islam has been the principle [sic] motivation for terrorists across the globe. The FBI, as of May 2016, was tracking almost a thousand potential Islamist radicals in the United States, with 80 percent of them tied to ISIS. In Europe, the scale of the Islamist threat has overwhelmed the French security services, and that country, as a direct result of a spate of ghastly Islamist attacks, labors through its second year under a state of emergency.
In Austria’s case, crime committed by mostly Muslim migrants has been pushing politics to the right — the far right. (The Italians, though, have had enough and are set to ramp up expulsions.) With the defeat of ISIS on the battlefield looming, the Islamist threat to the continent looks set to worsen still. Fear of fundamentalist Shiite Iran acquiring nuclear weapons prompted the P5+1 countries to conduct nine years of negotiations with the Tehran regime to forestall a potentially apocalyptic eventuality. And again, with Islamist terrorism now affecting the outcomes of elections on both sides of the Atlantic, it is essential to protect our democracies and speak frankly about the ideology behind it.
And at least he offers one solution:
Let’s put Ezrow’s essay behind us. Shillyshallying, doubletalk, and outright lying about Islam should give way to frank discussion about the faith’s troubling doctrines of jihad and martyrdom and their propensity to incite bloodshed. Such clarity is especially important now, as the Age of Trump dawns, and would help progressives restore their reputations after having effectively given in to regressive leftists — thereby losing the U.S. to Trump. Well-intentioned but useless online grandstanding and virtue-signaling — for example, the proclamation by the filmmaker Michael Moore, a professed Catholic, that “We are all Muslim” or the tweeted willingness of non-Muslims to sign up on a future Muslim registry — might be abandoned in favor of actual street demonstrations in favor of First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion for all citizens, including Muslims and — critically — former Muslims and atheists.
Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion; free (critical) speech about religion has the effect of freeing people from religion. Today’s believers can be — and increasingly are becoming — the secularists of tomorrow, even in the Arab world.
Let the progressive movement return to the right side of history. Now that would be the best answer to Trump.
Believe me, it doesn’t make me happy to be allied with some Republicans on the issue of the causes of terrorism. And although these Republicans might be motivated simply by their own anti-Muslim Christianity, even a blind elephant can find some leaves. It’s time for the Left to recognize extremist Islamic “theology” (and its adoption by unsophisticated religionists) as a contributing cause of terrorism, and to combat that theology not just by calling out superstition in general, but Islamic superstition in particular. Leftists find little difficulty in criticizing those Catholics who rape children or kill abortion doctors, but have a lot more trouble with those Muslims who rape “infidels” and kill gays, apostates, and women.
It’s time for progressives to stop excusing the malfeasance of Muslims because they’re considered oppressed “people of color.” Pigmentation doesn’t guarantee morality.