How Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Helps The Cause Of Those That Would Kill Us

America's obsession over the fate of the Burlington Coat Factory in Lower Manhattan, and a general rise in anti-Islamic rhetoric, plays right into the hands of the people that are actually our enemies.

While America spends August engaged in a rather bizarre debate about land use in Lower Manhattan, some are saying that the rhetoric surrounding the Park51 community center/mosque project, as well as other protests against mosques elsewhere in the United States, is exactly what those who would use Islam as a rallying cry for terrorism want to hear:

WASHINGTON — Some counterterrorism experts say the anti-Muslim sentiment that has saturated the airwaves and blogs in the debate over plans for an Islamic center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan is playing into the hands of extremists by bolstering their claims that the United States is hostile to Islam.

Opposition to the center by prominent politicians and other public figures in the United States has been covered extensively by the news media in Muslim countries. At a time of concern about radicalization of young Muslims in the West, it risks adding new fuel to Al Qaeda’s claim that Islam is under attack by the West and must be defended with violence, some specialists on Islamic militancy say.

“I know people in this debate don’t intend it, but there are consequences for these kinds of remarks,” said Brian Fishman, who studies terrorism for the New America Foundation here.

He said that Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric hiding in Yemen who has been linked to several terrorist plots, has been arguing for months in Web speeches and in a new Qaeda magazine that American Muslims face a dark future of ever-worsening discrimination and vilification.

“When the rhetoric is so inflammatory that it serves the interests of a jihadi recruiter like Awlaki, politicians need to be called on it,” Mr. Fishman said.

Evan F. Kohlmann, who tracks militant Web sites at the security consulting firm Flashpoint Global Partners, said supporters of Al Qaeda have seized on the controversy “with glee.” On radical Web forums, he said, the dispute over the Islamic center, which would include space for worship, is lumped together with fringe developments like a Florida pastor’s call for making Sept. 11 “Burn a Koran Day.”

“It’s seen as proof of what Awlaki and others have been saying, that the U.S. is hypocritical and that most Americans are enemies of Islam,” Mr. Kohlmann said. He called the anti-Islam statements spawned by the dispute “disturbing and sad” and said they were feeding anti-American sentiment that could provoke violence.

While this argument does make a certain amount of sense, Daniel Drezner is among those who thinks that “this will help the terrorists” arguments should be abandoned:

You know what? Let the terrorists win.

I’m getting really sick of “the terrorists will win” line of criticism being levied against those wishing to prevent construction of the mosque.

You know, I remember oh so many years ago the constant use of “if you say X, or criticize policy Y, or challenge official Z, then the terrorists win” kind of discourse.  It was horses**t then, and it’s horses**t now.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to see debate in the United States circumscribed because of fears of how Al Qaeda will react.

I’m not sure that anyone is saying that debate should be circumscribed, but I do think it’s fair to point out that how we treat Muslims, or Islam in general, here in the United States can become a potential rallying cry for those who would do us harm:

Mr. Awlaki, whose Web diatribes calling for attacks on the United States have turned up repeatedly in terrorism investigations, has sought to counter the notion that American tolerance extends to Muslims.

In a March posting, Mr. Awlaki, who lived in the United States for nearly 20 years, predicted that America would become “a land of religious discrimination and concentration camps.”

“Don’t be deceived by the promises of preserving your rights from a government that is right now killing your own brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Today, with the war between Muslims and the West escalating, you cannot count on the message of solidarity you may get from a civic group or a political party, or the word of support you hear from a kind neighbor or a nice co-worker. The West will eventually turn against its Muslim citizens!”

Dalia Mogahed of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies said the outcry over the proposed center “plays into Awlaki’s arguments and Osama bin Laden’s arguments” by suggesting that Islam has no place in the United States.

She said that extreme anti-Muslim views in the United States ironically mirror a central tenet of extreme Islamists: “That the world is divided into two camps, and they’re irreconcilable, and Muslims have to choose which side they’re on.”

Ironically, there is a striking, often distressing, similarly between al-Awlaki’s insane ranting that Muslims in America are under threat of persecution and what you hear from Americans like  Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer who have made themselves known as leaders of the “anti-Islamization” movement, and who have allied themselves with far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who’s been known to say things like this:

Wilders is best known for his criticism of Islam, summing up his views by saying, “I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam”.[61] Although identifying Islamic extremists as a small 5–15% minority of Muslims,[77] he argues that “there is no such thing as ‘moderate Islam'” and that the “Koran also states that Muslims who believe in only part of the Koran are in fact apostates“.[58] He suggests that Muslims should “tear out half of the Koran if they wished to stay in the Netherlands” because it contains ‘terrible things’ and that Muhammad would “… in these days be hunted down as a terrorist“.[81]

On 8 August 2007, Wilders opined in an open letter[82] to the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant that the Koran, which he called a “fascist book”, should be outlawed in the Netherlands, like Adolf Hitler‘s Mein Kampf.[83] He has stated that “The book incites hatred and killing and therefore has no place in our legal order”.[84] He has also referred to Mohammed as “the devil“.[23] In September 2009, he made a public speech advocating a €1000 a year ($1500) excise tax on wearing headscarves.[85]

He believes that all Muslim immigration to the Netherlands should be halted and all settled immigrants should be paid to leave.[61] Referring to the increased population of Muslims in the Netherlands, he has said:

Take a walk down the street and see where this is going. You no longer feel like you are living in your own country. There is a battle going on and we have to defend ourselves. Before you know it there will be more mosques than churches![86]

The rhetoric of Wilders, Geller, and Spencer is repeated by Fox News hosts like Sean Hannity, politicians like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani, and echoed in anti-mosque protests in Lower Manhattan, but also in Staten Island, Florida, California, Wisconsin, and Tennessee. Is it really that hard to believe that this rhetoric makes it’s way around the world to be exploited by men like al-Alwaki who wish to convince their fellow Muslims that the West is at war with them ?

The right in this country has adopted the rhetoric of people who believe that we are in a religious conflict with all of Islam. That isn’t true, but when you start saying we are and people start believing you, it has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that’s a future that nobody should look forward to.

FILED UNDER: Islam, Religion, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    Do you really think that bothers the Muslim haters?

    Quite the opposite…

  2. floyd says:

    So dwell on it.

  3. Wrong premise lead you to the wrong position. Radical Islamists already hate us and would kill us given the slightest chance. Regardless of anything we do. Appeasement only makes it easier for them.

    http://libertyatstake.blogspot.com/
    “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

  4. matt says:

    What are you calling appeasement?

  5. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Doug, I just thought you were opinionated, wrong but opinionated. Now I find you are either damage or just anal. I find it hard to believe anyone who lives in America and was watching television September 11, 2001 cannot understand way a vast majority of Americans do not want an Islamic center built so close to the site where 19 Muslims murdered nearly 3000 Americans. So close in fact the landing gear of one of those planes used to kill not only all on board the plane but those in one of the twin towers landed on that former Burlington Coat factory building. Most of America has said no. This issue is not about religious freedom it is about offending the sensitivies of Americans. After 9/11 Muslims were not subject to government crackdowns. America has freed millions of Muslims from tyrants. America has saved God knows howmany from death in the Balkans due to ancient grudges. America has had the strength to take from Muslim lands the resources they sell to us at inflated prices. So, Doug, if you think we need to kowtow to them because of some cowardice in you, go ahead. If you are secretly a Muslim, admit it. If they want to fight, bring it. All I can ask is WTF is wrong with your thinking? If you wanted to build a bridge to understanding, why would you build it in a place which would piss off most of the people you claim to want understanding from? Answer that one.

  6. steve says:

    Col. Lang has some lectures on his blog for those who want a better basic understanding of Islam, especially within a military context.

    http://turcopolier.typepad.com/the_athenaeum/2008/11/polymath-lectur.html

    http://turcopolier.typepad.com/the_athenaeum/2007/03/lecture_on_isla.html

    For those who are unfamiliar with him, Col. Lang was the first Professor of Arabic Studies at the Army War College IIRC.

    Steve

  7. Herb says:

    “This issue is not about religious freedom it is about offending the sensitivies of Americans. ”

    I didn’t know you were such a supporter of political correctness….

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Idiot Herb, this is not politics at is the place where Americans died at the hands of some people who believe if they kill us and die in the process they will go to heaven and have the services of 72 virgins. You started off with a premise just as false as the one Doug did Herb. You stated you thought. Now anyone who reads your comments knows you do not think but just echo what you get from the Lame Stream Media. I would be suprised Herb if you did not hold some advanced degree in some usless humanities faux science.

  9. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    There are some arial photos of the site showing how close the Mosque or rather cultural center and terrorist training camp Memorial to the 19 Martyrs proposes to be built available at Patterico excellent site. Herb, I suggest you skip on over there and join the conversation, if you are so sure of your arguement.

  10. Juneau says:

    “The right in this country has adopted the rhetoric of people who believe that we are in a religious conflict with all of Islam.”

    No, the right has no problem pointing out that Islam believes it is in conflict with all of the West. You have it exactly backward.

  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    The same people who think talking up a war against Islam is not counterproductive are exactly the same people who thought the invention of “Islamofascism” and invading a muslim country et al was not going to create more terrorists. But they never learn do they? .

  12. Brummagem Joe says:

    “No, the right has no problem pointing out that Islam believes it is in conflict with all of the West.”

    There are 1.6 billion of them, so they are all in conflict with the west are they, including those in nations allied with us like Indonesia?

  13. Herb says:

    “Now anyone who reads your comments knows you do not think but just echo what you get from the Lame Stream Media.”

    Ha. Oh, I’m hearing echoes alright…echoes of Sarah Palin’s Facebook page.

  14. ponce says:

    “There are some arial photos of the site showing how close the Mosque or rather cultural center….”

    Doesn’t look very close to me…

  15. sam says:

    @Juneau

    “No, the right has no problem pointing out that Islam believes it is in conflict with all of the West.”

    @jJoe

    There are 1.6 billion of them, so they are all in conflict with the west are they, including those in nations allied with us like Indonesia?

    Juneau: Indonesia is the capital of Indiana.

  16. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anywhere else Sam you would be labeled a troll. Here you are a regular. Go figure.

  17. sam says:

    Well, Zels, anywhere else, you’d be labeled an idiot. Here, you’re an moron. We can all figure that out.

  18. mannning says:

    Yet another post from Doug that does nothing to enlighten people on the real story. Froth about Islam and invective for any American that disagrees with this line here. Doug, I think you are thin on the ground here with this seeming echo post.

  19. Juneau: says:

    @Brummagen

    “There are 1.6 billion of them, so they are all in conflict with the west are they, including those in nations allied with us like Indonesia?”

    Wow! There are 1.6 billion Islams? Once again, you lefty lightweight thinkers can’t seem to understand the difference between the religious doctrines of Islam – and why it is antithetical to a democratic republic (or a parliamentarian system like the UK). The doctrines of Islam – theocratic rule, capital punishment for leaving Islam, capital punishment for blasphemy, supremacy of fatwa over civil law, etc. are the enemy of the very religious freedoms you profess to be supporting by defending Islam.

    War is based upon more than differences in how another country decides to treat its citizens. Under your facetious interpretation of my statements, you could just as easily ask, “Why are we not at war with China over the Tibet issue?” Clearly an undesirable trade partner, but reason enough to go to war.

  20. Juneau: says:

    @ sam

    If you do not understand the inherent incompatabiity that Islamic law presents to western society, I suggest you look at Great Britain and France. To use your own, somewhat senile phrasing; about two minutes of time doing a Google search will show that you haven’t a clue as to what you are talking about.

    I’ve been to Indonesia, including Jakarta and outlying areas by the way, and seen the way that Islam “honors” the rights and life of non-muslims. You have picked a poor example. Of course you wouldn’t know that, would you?

  21. G.A.Phillips says:

    I support the Muslims but I oppose the Islam…..

  22. Grewgills says:

    Anywhere else Sam you would be labeled a troll.

    Irony meter broken

  23. matt says:

    Juneau : Anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty would realize that Great Britain and France are home to isolated groups of Muslims. The Muslims in those countries are not well integrated into mainstream society. America on the other hand haven’t had issues because our Muslims are much much more integrated into the mainstream. You on the other hand are trying to push us towards the European standard by stigmatizing and hating Muslims in general.

    Juneau : Over the course of the last week posters on this blog have presented link after link of Christians and such commiting the very acts that you’re hating on Muslims. You refuse to acknowledge that local customs have a bigger effect on people then their choice of religion. You also seem to refuse to acknowledge that extremists of all kinds exist and all of them are just as fcking crazy. You’re just so hell bent on demonizing Muslims that you cannot see the beam/plank in your own eye…

  24. sam says:

    Poor Juneau. Mistakes someone ragging on him for that person taking his “arguments” seriously. I’ll have to go through the DSMV and find out what the technical term for this affliction is.

  25. Jim Treacher says:

    Who cares if plane parts hit the Burlington Coat Factory on 9/11? IT WAS A BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY.

  26. Grewgills says:

    Radical Islamists already hate us and would kill us given the slightest chance. Regardless of anything we do.

    You do realize that there are something like 1.6 million more Muslims and it is better for us to welcome them into our camp rather than driving them towards the radicals?