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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776
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The Truths About Terrorism They Dare Not Speak

When it comes to terrorism, many quarters of American society act as if race, religion and national background are taboo.

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Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Ali Afifi.

Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Ali Afifi.
Photo Credit: MEMRI



But the authors cannot focus on this issue. Why not? Well, obviously they want to blame America first but also there is a big land mine there. Pointing out that immigrants—legal or otherwise—may bring with them hatred, grievances, and cultural formations inimical to America that makes a point in the immigration debate which would be the exact opposite of what they want.

Of course, different people bring different attitudes. It is the job of the immigration system to profile the immigrants to decide who is going to be a good citizen or even who should be let in. Was it a mistake that Tamerlan’s brother did become a U.S. citizen pretty easily? No, it was neither a mistake nor a conspiracy. It was the way profiling was defined that made it possible.

To have a serious discussion about why some immigrants become loyal, productive citizens and others become terrorists would be an important discussion. But it cannot happen at present because it would have to include factoring in such things as personal responsibility, gratitude to one’s adopted country, and even–totally unthinkable–the need to keep in mind the immigrant’s original home. The latter point is not to make it a focus to block people from the Middle East.

On the contrary, those who wanted to flee or had to do so were often motivated because they wanted to live in a democratic, free country and not under revolutionary Islamism. If you are in the United States, you will be meeting a lot more such people, especially from Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria very soon.

A second point would be to stress the benefits that the Tsarnaev brothers and their family were given. Among them were welfare payments, a scholarship, acceptance without bias into American society, permissiveness even when they violated its tenets and laws (beating up his girlfriend), not doing anything to them despite suspicion of being potential terrorists (unlike what would have happened in Russia), and so on. Against that long list of things, the article had to focus on the one setback as the key to everything.

Here, too, however, the New York Times article cannot go. For to step into this territory would require considering the failure of a historic policy to assimilate immigrants that has been replaced by Multiculturalism; the abandonment of patriotism and the distaste for America and its society daily expressed by the citizens of Boston met by the Tsarnaevs; and the idea of entitlement and the welfare state that pervaded their concept of America.

Yes, there is ample material for biographical and psychological writing. But what about, for example, this potential lead for the article:

Tamerlan Tsarnaev found in America a society that did not require him to become loyal to the country, to understand how well it treated his family, and how he could actually spend his time reading terrorist sites on the internet while his beaten wife worked 80 hours a week and his family collected welfare. Spoiled by good treatment from America he became more Islamic and turned to terrorism.

Why is such a theme inconceivable? Because of the reporters’ politics and ideology. Times reporter Deborah Sontag has won lots of awards. But in my neighborhood she’s best known as the reporter who covered Israel at a time when it was beset by the worst Palestinian terrorism. And then, after the Palestinian leaders had rejected peace and a two state solution, when they were fostering the deliberate murder of civilians she concluded that they, “blocked by bad treatment from [Israel]…turned to terrorism.”

The journalist Joan Walsh explained this ruling ideology from a different angle. All this stuff about Islam and Chechens, “In the end, it’s not important.” She added:

I really do think that this whole discussion…proves once again that race is entirely a political and social construct….We really don’t want to acknowledge these boys have as much in common with Timothy McVeigh and – actually, more to the point, with school shooters. The Columbine killers, James Holmes then really they do with hardened jihadis….They are a product of America as well as a product of alienation.

One wonders why Walsh didn’t say: “They are a product of America as well as a product of alienation, Islam, and a radical revolutionary Islamist movement.” She couldn’t say that as that would transcend her ideology and make her unpopular in her milieu. Her internal cultural-intellectual censor wouldn’t let her do that.

Barry Rubin

About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.


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