In the wake of the Boston bombings, many conservatives have been upset by an apparent unwillingness on the part of the White House to specifically name acts of terror and their sources.
Two prominent voices, Bill O’Reilly and Charles Krauthammer, expressed dismay and anger over why the President refuses to call out radical Islam as the dominant source of terrorism in the world. Krauthammer (whom I normally respect on most subjects) called the President’s avoidance “weird” and “embarrassing.”
O’Reilly identified the Boston bombers as Muslim jihadists and said that the president was seriously wrong about cautioning people not to name them as part of this group.
Since the bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, told investigators that he and his brother were motivated by religion, what could possibly excuse the President’s unwillingness to name and renounce radical Islam as the primary source of terror?
While I don’t claim to know the motivations behind the decision not to name radical Islam, (and I don’t accept conspiracy theories about the President actually being Muslim), I still consider it best that he does not mention radical Islam.
I don’t believe that the President of the United States should dignify radical fringe groups by naming them. The kind of people in such groups would take twisted pleasure and perhaps draw more to their numbers by gaining White House attention. High-level attention would sadistically inspire these kinds of people and possibly fuel their efforts to recruit others to do evil. Refusing to mention them could actually help to cut off some of their polluted oxygen.
When those in power downplay the significance of hardened antagonists, the criminals sometimes become careless in their efforts to gain attention. These kinds of people typically thrive on attention and will go to bizarre measures to gain it.
I am suggesting that we should not hastily assume that refusal to name a group means that the president does not take the threat of domestic terrorism from radical Islamists seriously. If, on the other hand, the President gives us clear reasons for doubting that he takes seriously this source of terror, he must be held accountable.
But when a radical few claim association with a much larger group that does not endorse their behavior, a leader as powerful as the President must be cautious not to incite indiscriminate guilt on the whole group. I can’t imagine that it has been an easy time for peaceful Arab Americans when they fear that others look at them with suspicion because of their skin or religious affiliation.
This kind of wrongful guilt by association is similar to those who accuse everyone who does not support gay marriage as being an extension of the radical and hateful group from Westboro Baptist Church. This is sheer manipulation that is unworthy of honorable people.
There is a group that I think should be more explicit about radical Islamic militants. I wish that Muslim leaders throughout the world (and particularly in the US) would come out in large numbers to renounce the atrocities of those who commit violence in the name of Islamic faith.
It would help greatly if these leaders unequivocally distanced themselves from the radical fringe. Although it’s clearly wrong for people to engage in guilt by association, silence from religious leaders in Islam is not helpful and could possibly deepen public suspicions about the true agenda of Islam.
In providing good reasons for the White House not to mention Islam in association with terrorists, I don’t pretend to know the actual reasons. I hope for the best. I also hope that the current administration is not working off a naïve assumption that it’s possible to placate terrorists by being nice to them.
And it would be especially naïve to think that we’ve caused terrorists to become who they are (or share some of the blame for their actions) by our involvement in Middle East conflicts. I hope that this kind of misguided abrogation of leadership has nothing to do with the current disposition toward terrorism. The President would be wise to firmly distance himself from these naïve and dangerous notions.