Today’s New York Times is unusual in having five of its six op-ed pieces (including the two main editorials) about the missteps of Donald Trump. Besides a good piece on “The cost of Mr. Trump’s wall” (probably $20 billion and $500 million per year upkeep; a real loser in terms of cost-benefit analysis–and good luck in getting Mexico to pay for it), it also has a long piece on Trump’s new immigration policies, “I think Islam hates us.”
As I said recently, Trump’s proposed crackdown on immigration is hamhanded, and unlikely to improve the U.S., though arguably we should look at least a bit closer at visas issued to people from the Middle East. The “Islam” editorial is basically okay, but I wanted to point out three statements about that instantiate the liberal Left’s soft-pedaling of Islamic terrorism. Here’s one (my emphases in all excerpts):
. . . While Mr. Obama made significant progress in degrading this threat — the Islamic State has lost considerable territory in both Iraq and Syria — he did not put an end to violent extremism. Mr. Trump is now pledging to do more and better.
The problem is that his approach, as we know it, is more likely to further inflame anti-American sentiment around the world than to make the United States safer. Mr. Trump has not explained how he would destroy the terrorist danger. But his use of slogans like “radical Islam,” which echo the views of his closest advisers, implies a naïve reading of the threat from about 40,000 extremists, while demonizing and alienating many of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.
Naïve reading? What, exactly, is okay with “violent extremism” and not okay about “radical Islam”? Do the 40,000 “extremists” happen to share a certain religion?
It is in fact radical Islam that is behind most of the terrorist acts in question (or does the NY Times think that religion isn’t involved?), and why would peaceful, nonviolent Muslims be demonized and alienated by referring to terrorism coming from “radical Islam”? Should peaceful Christians be demonized and alienated if “radical Christians” kill abortion doctors, which sometimes happens. What about “radical Baptists” picketing the funerals of soldiers? Does that demonize all Baptists? Or “ultra-Orthodox Jews” biting off the foreskins of children, giving them herpes? Does that demonize all Jews? No, it’s only the world’s Muslims we must fear alienating, for they have learned to play the offense card well, and are prone to retribution. It is that religion alone we mustn’t alienate, and that itself tells you something about how it’s insulated itself from criticism. And, in the end “radical Islam” simply means “extremist Islam.”
In fact, later on in the piece, the Times tells us how to defeat the Terrorism Driven by The Religion Whose Name We Cannot Speak:
The United States undoubtedly must find more effective ways to defeat terrorists, including by undermining their message. If Mr. Trump can do that, it will be to his credit. But to a great extent success will depend on long-term cooperation from Muslim leaders and allies.
But what has been the message of these terrorists? It’s an Islam-based criticism in the West. Did the Times read the article in ISIS’s magazine Dabiq, ““Why we hate you & Why we fight you”? (Article here, my post on it here.) They might start by reading that, and then see how to undermine their message without mentioning Islam—even in the mealymouthed trope that ISIS doesn’t represent “true Islam.” There’s simply no way to undermine a terrorist message by completely ignoring the religion behind it, or emphasizing that there can be a less violent version of that religion. (The latter is, of course, the message of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz.)
Finally, Trump wants to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. That is at least arguable given that it’s been designated as such by some Middle Eastern countries and that Hamas, which is a genuine terrorist organization, is simply the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. (On the other hand, the Brotherhood explicitly renounces the use of violence–though it seems to spawn it.) But the reason that the NYT gives for not going the Trump route is weird:
Some experts see the move as a chance for the Trump administration to limit Muslim political activity in the United States. But since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a NATO ally, sympathizes with the Muslim Brotherhood, such a step would further complicate that fraught alliance.
I’m sorry, but what we need to be doing now is criticizing the hell out of the Erdogan government, which is itself repressive, anti-free-speech, and poised to foist an onerous theocracy on Turkey. If you’re thinking of labeling the Muslim Brotherhood one way or the other, look at the facts, but don’t be conditioned by trying to osculate the rump of a government that itself is dismantling what democratic institutions it had in the name of Islamist autocracy.