Counter-Terrorism: American Exceptionalism

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March 31, 2015:   Since September 11, 2001 there have been no large scale Islamic terror attacks in the United States. There have been lesser attacks by individuals or small groups that have left 65 dead. These include the 2009 Fort Hood murder of 13 people by a Moslem officer who made clear why he was doing it while he was shooting people, but the government, in an unpopular and inexplicable decision tried to convince everyone that this was a case of workplace violence and not Islamic terrorism. The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing killed four but this time the government did not try to call it anything but Islamic terrorism. Moreover only 40 percent of the terrorism related deaths since 2001 (including the 2009 Fort Hood incident) were because of Islamic terrorism, the rest were non-Moslem terror groups.

Europe has not been so fortunate. In 2004 a multiple bombing by Islamic terrorists in Spain killed 191 and in 2005 Islamic terrorist attacks in Britain killed 52. Meanwhile in 2011 an anti-Moslem terror attack in Norway killed 77 people, most of them leftist activists and none of them Moslem. Europeans like to blame the discrepancy on geography; Europe is closer to the Middle East and has more Moslems. But a closer look at the situation shows that it is more than geography at work here.

While there have been some American Moslems who have embraced Islamic terrorism, the rate at which Muslims in America act on those beliefs is far lower than in other Western countries. American Moslems are not only more loyal to their adopted country, but do better economically than Moslems in other Western nations. Part of this is because the United States has always been more receptive to migrants than other nations. American Moslem politicians are also more into the local culture than Moslem politicians elsewhere in the West.

One example of this was Keith Ellison, the first Moslem to be elected to Congress (in 2007). After he won he announced that he would take his oath of office using Thomas Jefferson’s own copy of the Koran. While widely viewed as a way to diffuse criticism from arch-conservative Christians, the move also sent a subtle message to Islamic extremists as well. The Jefferson Koran is in English. Old school Moslems consider translating the Koran from the original Arabic blasphemous. For example, the centuries long tension between Arabs and Berbers in the Sahara is partially fueled by the Berber use of a translated version of the Koran.

Another factor in all this is the number and composition of American Moslems. Only one percent of Americans are Moslem compared to 7.5 percent of the population in France, five percent in Germany and 4.5 percent in Britain.  As a black American who converted to Islam, Ellison personifies a significant, if usually unpublicized, rift in the Moslem community in the U.S. Perhaps 30-40 percent of American Moslems are African Americans, many of them former “Nation of Islam” adherents who became mainstream Moslems. They are often regarded as “second class” Moslems by co-religionists of recent immigrant origins, and particularly so by Moslems with Arab roots. Race certainly plays a part in this, as black slavery was once common in much of the Arab world, and Arabs usually consider Moslems of other ethnicities as inferior in any case. Thousands of black Africans are still held as slaves by Arabs in Africa which in the West is most consistently criticized by American Moslems and Christians. Al Qaeda has long noted these different attitudes and before the September 11, 2001 attacks the 19 terrorists (most of them from Saudi Arabia) assigned to carry out those attacks were warned to avoid American Moslems, who were prone to turning in Islamic terrorists.

 But there is more. African American Moslems usually have a much different world view than do Moslems of other ethnicities. To begin with, they tend to see themselves as Americans first and have a much firmer grasp of the nature of American society, the political process, and the complexities of living in a pluralistic environment. They also adhere to some “American” cultural values. Black American Moslems differ from their immigrant co-religionists in that they are much more committed to securing a niche in mainstream society. They are also much more socially liberal; the most socially conservative Republicans seem like revolutionaries compared with most orthodox Moslems.

 

 


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