In the aftermath of the conclusion of the traumatic week of terror in Boston, the inevitable questions about the religious motivations of the two Chechen immigrants who were the perpetrators are being asked. Unfortunately, many of them are certain to be obfuscated. While everyone needs to be careful not to associate the millions of honest, hard-working and loyal Americans who are Muslims with the crimes of the Tsarnaev brothers, the politically correct impulse to ignore what appears to be the latest instance of homegrown Islamist terrorism could lead to a repeat of the same mistakes that were made after the Fort Hood shooting, when the government went out of its way to ignore the implications of the murderer’s reasons for committing the crime.
As former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote this past weekend in the Wall Street Journal, there is good reason to worry that the FBI interrogators of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been infected with the same determination to refuse to think clearly about jihadist ideology that has characterized much of the way the mainstream media thinks about terrorism.
As Mukasey writes:
At the behest of such Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups as the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR] and the Islamic Society of North America, and other self-proclaimed spokesmen for American Muslims, the FBI has bowdlerized its training materials to exclude references to militant Islamism. Does this delicacy infect the FBI’s interrogation group as well?
The real issue right now is not so much the legal question of whether Tsarnaev is designated as an enemy combatant or just a garden-variety domestic terrorist—though that is an important issue—so much as whether Americans understand that pro-jihad Islamist adherents are a source of such fearful crimes. The most important thing for Americans to realize right now is that there is a difference between prudent monitoring of sources of Islamist propaganda and prejudice against Muslims who deserve the full protection of the law.
The stories being reported about the behavior of the Tsarnaevs make it all the more important that police forces not be deterred from intelligence work because of efforts by groups like CAIR to silence efforts to discuss Islamism. If Tamerlan Tsarnaev was, as the Boston Globe reports, disrupting events at his local mosque when moderate speakers appeared, it bears asking whether greater vigilance might have connected the dots between this behavior and this man’s trips to Russia that had already triggered interest on the part of Moscow’s intelligence agencies and the FBI.
Aggressive surveillance and investigations of possible meeting places for potential homegrown Islamist terrorists by New York City police have been bitterly criticized in the past. But as much as we must be careful about second-guessing law enforcement agencies for having missed any potential warnings about the Tsarnaevs, what happened in Boston last week should reinforce the need for the NYPD to keep thinking about terrorism, and for other departments to emulate their practices.
Above all, it is vital for this case to be discussed frankly without the knee-jerk impulse to ignore the role of religion in this atrocity. Being able to do so should not be considered prejudicial by definition, as those groups like CAIR have tried hard to establish. Our problem is not just the terrorist threat these Islamists clearly constitute to the safety of the United States—as Boston has again demonstrated—but that too many in our government seem unwilling to face up to the implications of the growth of a hateful ideology with Muslim Brotherhood origins and connections to al-Qaeda and other terror groups. That has occurred because of the influence of CAIR as well as the predilection of some in the foreign policy establishment to embrace the Brotherhood elsewhere. Until we address these problems, we will find ourselves asking the same questions after the next Islamist terror attack on our soil.