Focus on White Supremacists Should Not Obscure Threat of Islamism
Right-wing extremism is on the rise around the world, and we have seen the deadly consequences far too often in the United States. Here, especially, the agents of violence are primarily lone wolves whose hatred has led them to violence. It is a serious problem. I fear, however, that the much-needed attention to this phenomenon is distracting us from the larger global threat of radical Islam.
People often cite ADL reports documenting the growth of the radical right and the murders committed by white supremacists. But they often ignore the ADL’s report on domestic Islamist extremism, which noted that 13 individuals, 11 of whom are American citizens (the rest were also legal residents), were arrested in 2018 for crimes motivated by Islamist extremism — and that four of the arrests were associated with terror plots, one of which resulted in the murder of a high school student.
The ADL noted that near the mid-point of 2019, at least five Islamist-inspired plots were foiled, “including a plot to attack Federal buildings in Washington D.C., carry out a vehicular ramming at the National Harbor in Maryland, attack a white supremacist rally in California, attack a pro-Israel rally and the Israeli consulate in New York, and detonate explosives in Times Square in New York.” The ADL concluded by saying, “Islamist extremism remains a concern” and “the pervasiveness of the ideology makes for a continued threat.”
The toll of victims in Islamist bombings and other attacks exponentially exceeds the fatalities in the horrific attacks by white supremacists. The ADL noted, for example, that ISIS killed 253 and injured 500 in a single attack in Sri Lanka. More recently, Boko Haram killed at least 65 people at a funeral in Nigeria, and a suicide bombing at a wedding in Kabul killed at least 80 people and injured more than 160.
Islamists slaughter Muslims they consider apostates on almost a daily basis in the Middle East. Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah target Jews, as do Muslim extremists in Sweden, France, Germany, and other countries in Europe.
Leon Panetta, who served as President Obama’s defense secretary and CIA director, sounded the alarm this week in The Washington Post. “The Islamic State,” he noted “is gathering new strength” and “relentlessly target[s] the United States and other Western nations” as a “key part of their fundamental goal — control of a worldwide Islamic state.”
Without explicitly blaming his boss, Panetta admitted the mistake of withdrawing US forces from Iraq in 2011: “That left the Islamic State free to establish a caliphate that was the size of Britain and control the lives of up to 12 million people. We were forced to send troops back into Iraq and Syria to destroy the caliphate. We should not make that same mistake again.”
Panetta also made a point that is ignored by the cheerleaders for negotiations with the Palestinians. “The simple truth is that we cannot trust the word of terrorists,” he said. “Thus, the first principle of US policy used to be never to negotiate with them. But if we do, we certainly cannot assume that they will do what they promise.”
Israel has experienced this time and again in negotiations with PLO terrorists Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. And Abbas has increasingly echoed Muslim extremists. He recently said, “Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it’s for the sake of Allah. Every shahid (martyr) will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded by Allah’s will.”
Still, many peace process advocates ignore Panetta’s counsel, preferring to rely on faith rather than reality.
We should listen to a first-hand witness, the son of a Hamas leader who turned his back on the terrorist movement and said, “We cannot fool ourselves. There is an Islamic problem. Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, ISIS, Boko Haram. All of them are killing by the name of Allah. They are not killing by the name of Jesus. They are not killing by the name of Jehovah. They’re not killing by the name of Mahavira, or the Buddha or Lao Tzu. They’re killing by the name of Allah.”
He said we are not at war with individual Muslims, but we are at war with the Islamist ideology. He argued that we must encourage Muslims to reform their faith, because only they can move Islam away from its radical elements.
In the meantime, Panetta says we face a choice “between protecting our country or pretending that the threat has gone away.” We cannot ignore the scourge of white supremacism, but we also cannot forget that the larger global threat to America, the West, and the Jewish people comes from radical Islam.
Mitchell Bard is Executive Director of AICE and Jewish Virtual Library.