Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Terrorism & Religion

Why are we so ready to see "terrorist" violence in a religious light if the religion in question is Islam? Islamic & Terrorist are colloquially linked like peanut butter & jelly. Sure there have been violent actions taken by Muslims which we have all decided to call terrorism. Some of those Muslims have given religious justifications for their actions, though generally there are far more prominent political justifications. But we fixate on the religious aspect. Osama Bin Laden, according to popular understanding, is trying to kill us because of his radical Islamic beliefs, not because as he has often said America has interfered politically in Saudi Arabia.

This distorted view we have of terrorism is really bizarre when it just outright contradicts the facts. It is not just that we emphasize the "Islamic" character of certain terrorists, but we start to define terrorism as a Muslim phenomenon which flies in the face of all the evidence. Jeffrey Weiss today, said that "100 percent of attempted terrorist attacks on the U.S. (and, with the exception of the Basques in Spain, terrorists attacks on all Western nations) since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing have been committed by people claiming to act in the name of Islam."

Um. No they haven't. Firstly not all terrorist acts committed by Muslims have been done "in the name of Islam". Most terrorist actions, study after study has found, are predominantly politically motivated. Palestinians who blow up buses in Israel cite things like the illegal wall, settlements, and retaliation for violence by the Israeli military as their reasons long before they cite Islam. Secondly, there have been scores of "terrorist" acts committed in the time frame he gives by non-Muslims. Greenwald gives a good sampling:

"1998: Dozens die in Omagh bombing: At least 27 people are feared dead in the worst paramilitary bombing since the start of the Northern Ireland conflict three decades ago The blast in the market town of Omagh, County Tyrone, at around 1500 BST on Saturday, left more than 100 people injured or maimed" -- BBC.

"September 21, 2000: A rocket attack on MI6 headquarters in London is believed to be the work of dissident Irish republicans" -- BBC.

"In a series of court documents that were at turns chilling and bizarre, federal investigators said U.S. Army microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins misled government agents investigating the 2001 anthrax mailings, sent emails with language closely matching the handwritten letters sent to victims and had access to the strain of anthrax used in the crime. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says the evidence, including hundreds of pages of unsealed documents, proves that Dr. Ivins was the sole person responsible for the 2001 anthrax mailings . . . The most compelling evidence points at Dr. Ivins and his laboratory at the U.S. Army biodefense facility at Fort Detrick, Md." -- Wall St. Journal, August 7, 2008.

"Olympic bombing suspect Eric Robert Rudolph -- wanted in attacks that killed two people and injured more than 100 in the Southeast -- was arrested early Saturday in western North Carolina and faces a Monday morning court date. Rudolph has been charged in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, Georgia; 1997 bombings at a gay nightclub and a clinic that performed abortions in the Atlanta area; and a bombing at a clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1998" -- CNN, May 31, 2003.

"U.S.-born Jewish terrorist suspected of series of attacks over past 12 years: The authorities have arrested a resident of the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel for suspected murder and a role in a string of murder plots, according to details of an investigation revealed Sunday after a gag order was lifted. Yaakov (Jack) Tytell, who was arrested last month, is suspected of involvement in the murder of two Palestinians and the rigging of a bomb that seriously injured a boy from a Messianic Jewish family in Ariel. . . . Some of his actions were allegedly motivated by hatred for gays and lesbians" - Haaretz, November 3, 2009.

"The Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office on Thursday charged alleged Jewish terrorist Yaakov (Jack) Teitel with two murders, three attempted murders and other acts of violence. "It was a pleasure and an honor to serve my God," said Teitel at the Jerusalem courthouse. "I have no regret and no doubt that God is pleased" -- Haaretz, December 11, 2009.

"Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally Saturday night in Tel Aviv's Kings Square, a top aide confirmed. He was reportedly shot in the arm and back by a Jewish man in his mid-20s who is allegedly affiliated with right-wing extremist groups. . . . Amir confessed to the assassination and reportedly told investigators, 'I acted alone on God's orders and I have no regrets'." -- CNN, November 4, 1995.

"The chairman of the Jewish Defense League and a member of the extremist organization are accused of a bombing scheme aimed at the office of an Arab-American congressman and a prominent Los Angeles mosque. JDL chairman Irv Rubin, 56, and Earl Krugel, 59, were held without bail Wednesday after being charged with the failed bombing plot. Authorities said the two men held a series of meetings in October to plan the bombing of the King Fahd Mosque and the San Clemente office of freshman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif" -- Fox News, December 13, 2001.

"Professor Zeev Sternhell knows as much as anyone about the current threat from Jewish terrorism. His right leg is recovering from shrapnel caused when a bomb, believed to have been the work of right-wing Jewish extremists, exploded outside the front door of his Jerusalem apartment last week. While Arab-Jewish violence is common, the attack on the 73-year-old historian has shocked public opinion in Israel because all the evidence points to it being intra-Jewish. 'I consider it an act of Jewish terrorism,' he said in an interview from the modest apartment where the bomb exploded" -- Telegraph, October 3, 2008.

"A doctor who performed abortions was shot to death by a sniper in his western New York home Friday night in an attack denounced as 'terrorism' by the state's governor. 'It's beyond a tragedy. It's really an act of terrorism and, in my mind, a cold-blooded assassination,' Gov. George Pataki said of the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian.' -- CNN, October 22, 1998.

"A white supremacist suspected of targeting blacks, Jews and Asians in a deadly Independence Day weekend drive-by shooting rampage from Chicago to Bloomington, Indiana, died after a high-speed chase in Salem, Illinois on Sunday night, police said Monday" -- CNN, July 5, 1999.

"Mountaineer Militia leader Floyd Looker, convicted in an alleged plot to blow up an FBI fingerprint complex, was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison Friday" -- Ocala Star-Ledger, October 11, 1996.

This is just a selection. What kind of blinders are we wearing that "Islam" and "Terrorism" have become so closely identified? Why aren't people who bomb abortion clinics in Kansas called "Christian Terrorists"? Is it surprising that some terrorist violence directed against the US comes from Muslims when we are engaged in war in a variety of predominantly Muslim nations? Are we seeing straight at all?


Doug Hagler said...

Speaking of terrorism - in the only actual study of suicide bombers I'm aware of, the person conducting it found that the majority of suicide bombers are Marxists and not even Muslims. The Islam-Terrorist connection is, I think, largely the product of neoconservative obsession and the perception of some that we are engaged in a "culture war".

Paul Wise said...

Humanity is an inherently violent species. There is something broken in us. In human nature itself. From the megapastor to the Senator to the terrorist to the dock worker to the prostitute, we are a broken people, ever prone to misunderstandings, to violence, and to hatred of one another.

I'd call this 'sin.' Some might call it 'dangerous evolutionary baggage which we may presently shed.' Either way, we're pretty messed up.