Peter Beinart writes this:
[Rep. Peter King] … will hold hearings this week on terrorism by American Muslims. Think about that for a second. King isn’t holding hearings on domestic terrorism; he’s holding hearings on domestic terrorism by one religious group. Is most American terrorism Muslim terrorism? Actually, no. Over the last decade or so, there’s been at least as much domestic terrorism by folks like Timothy McVeigh, Theodore Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph (who bombed the 1996 Atlanta Olympics), Bruce Edwards Ivins (the main suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks), and most recently, Jared Lee Loughner. But even if American Muslims are statistically more likely to commit terrorism than non-Muslims, it is still wrong to define the problem in religious terms. I’m pretty sure that in the 1950s, Jews—given their overrepresentation in the American Communist Party—were overrepresented as Soviet spies. Italians may have been overrepresented in organized crime. Yet for a member of Congress to define either Soviet subversion or organized crime as the province of a particular religious or ethnic group would still have been wrong.
But wait, you say, there’s a difference: It wasn’t their Jewishness that made Jews disproportionately join the Communist Party or their Italianness that made Italians disproportionately join the Mafia. Well, in a sense, it was. At a certain moment in time, certain aspects of Jewish-American or Italian-American sociology disproportionately predisposed Jews and Italians to certain problematic behavior. That may be true for Muslims today, but what the government should be targeting is the behavior, not the religious or ethnic group.
This argument is quite stupid.
Political Islam is a real and lethal phenomenon. Those who are carrying out attacks, like Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood killer, and Faisal Shahzad, who was charged in the attempted bombing in Times Square, are doing so in the name of Islam. The problem therefore inherently defines itself in religious terms, making it qualitatively different from the examples Beinart uses. There is nothing analogous to Islamism in Christianity or Judaism right now. Now you can believe, as I do, that al-Qaeda’s interpretation of Islam is perverted and corrupting — but to deny the role political Islam plays in terrorism is delusional.
The U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is now hiding out in Yemen, preached to several of the September 11 hijackers in a mosque in San Diego and had a role in prompting the attempted Christmas Day airliner bombing. And Faisal Shahzad told investigators that Awlaki’s online lectures urging jihad as a religious duty helped inspire him to act. “[Awlaki’s] mix of scripture and vitriol has helped lure young Muslims into a dozen plots,” according to the New York Times.
Even Attorney General Eric Holder said in an interview that the alarming rise in the number of Americans who are eager to kill their fellow citizens “is one of the things that keeps me up at night. The threat has changed from simply worrying about foreigners coming here, to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens — raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born.”
So are we supposed to pretend that terrorist attacks on Americans aren’t rooted in a particular strand of Islam?
Of course, the fact that terrorism is being done in the name of Islam creates complications. Bigotry against all Muslims is a danger, which is why it’s crucial to point out time and again that the vast majority of Muslim Americans are patriotic people who have no sympathy for those trying to killer their fellow citizens. But with these clarifications in place, it would be insane to refuse to look into domestic terrorism because a noxious form of Islam is the radicalizing agent. It’s one thing if political correctness leads to silliness on university campuses; it’s quite another if it has deadly implications.