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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776
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Is Fear of Blaming Islam Greater than a Need to Fight Terrorism?

Middle East and Terrorism scholar Barry Rubin points out that most current policy makers and opinion shapers prefer to avoid considering Islam as the motive for terrorism. The fear of short term pain is indulged at the expense of preventing the real danger that will follow. And we are being lied to - "albeit for virtuous reasons" - by the politicians and the mainstream press.

Victim being treated after Boston marathon terror bomb blast.

Victim being treated after Boston marathon terror bomb blast.
Photo Credit: KTVU

“These are persons operating inside the United States without a nexus” to an overseas group, the Washington Post quoted an unnamed U.S. intelligence official. That makes us feel safer, if it’s just two whacky Chechens acting on their own, rather than some connection between what happens in a scary far-off place and people amongst us who are acting according to a grand plan.

An ABC news report headline: “Simple Boston Bomb Plot Hatched Without Foreign Help, Authorities Believe,” is followed up with “authorities also told ABC News it is increasingly likely that the older of the brothers, Tamerlan, devised the plot and did most of the work in pulling it together.”

But how can the “acting alone” theory be offered with a straight face when we already know that the older Tsarnaev brother was under surveillance by Russia, and that the FBI questioned him at the behest of Russian authorities who were alarmed by Tamerlan’s growing radicalization?

The FBI is already on record as having said that a foreign government — later identified by legislators as Russia — had asked for information on Tsarnaev “based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.”

And Andrew McCarthy, the prosecutor of the Blind Sheik and his accomplices in the first World Trade Center bombing, told The Jewish Press that it was “ridiculous” for anyone to repeat the disconnected terrorist theory as a likely one, “this is way too early in the investigation to place any credence on a statement like that.”

And so Rubin’s analysis – and dire prognostications – gain reinforcement from the each new turn in the dominant narrative.

Rubin is used to watching America get it wrong repeatedly.  He told The Jewish Press that in the early 1980’s he obtained a small grant and used it to begin studying the policy implications for terrorism.  When he went to renew the grant, he was told by the funding source, the Ford Foundation, that his application was going to be denied because, “we don’t think terrorism is going to be a problem in the future.”

The irony, Rubin said, is that from the 1970s through the 1990s the United States was not a terrorism destination spot because “terrorists were used to dealing with non-democratic governments and they thought it would be difficult to operate within the United States, where they thought they would be kept under close scrutiny and find it hard to succeed.

“Terrorists did not realize the ease with which someone can, for example, look Middle Eastern or be a Muslim and yet sign up for flight school and only ask to learn about takeoff, but not care at all about landing,” as we later learned, with our jaws dropping at the naivete, was the case with the 9/11 terrorists.

“Ironically,” Rubin said, “it was only when the terrorists discovered that there was not much ‘Islamophobia’ in the United States that they realized it was easy to act effectively.

While it is the case that the post 9/11-America has wised up to many tricks of the terrorists’ trade, “in other ways America is still missing obvious clues,” according to Rubin.

AMERICA ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL?

The older Tsarnaev brother, who didn’t seem to have any source of employment, and into whom the FBI had been asked to look by Russian authorities just a few years earlier, traveled to Russia for six months, and yet no alarm bells went off anywhere.  Actually, that’s not quite true.  An alarm bell “pinged,” but it was turned off!

In testimony before a Senate panel on Tuesday, April 23, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano explained that while DHS was aware of Tamerlan’s trip to Russia – “there was a ‘ping'” – by the time he returned to the U.S. the original information about him had expired, so they closed the case and did not follow up. Really.

WHAT CAN BE DONE

So what can be done?  Rubin, in a subsequent and also excellent article, points out that there are currently two kinds of people who are being heard in the discussion about Islam and politics.  The first is the largest and contains the most powerful institutions, such as the government and the mainstream media.  This group insists “Islam is the religion of peace.”  There is no problem here, so there is nothing to be done, except, of course, to ensure that Islam or Islamism not be linked to terrorism.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com


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