Terrorism? What Terrorism?

Leftist poster boy and university folk hero Al Gore, having misled filmgoers on climate change, also practices his wiles on the reading public. In his most recent book, The Assault on Reason, Gore claims that “terrorism relies on the stimulation of fear for political ends. Indeed its specific goal is to distort the political reality of a nation by creating fear in the general population that is hugely disproportionate to the actual danger that the terrorists are capable of posing.” Given his appeasing rhetoric in the face of Islamic terror, I sometimes think the former vice president’s name should be changed to al-Gore.

This is essentially the same argument developed in Ian Lustick’s Trapped in the War on Terror. Lustick, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that the threat has been grossly exaggerated, that the fear factor has been exploited by business and government for profitable ends, that terrorism is mainly a European problem, and that 9/11 was a one-off attack, forgetting that it was owing to sheer dumb luck that 40,000-50,000 people did not perish in the inferno -- and, indeed, only by grace of a miscue that the Madrid attack did not claim thousands of victims. Conveniently, he pays no heed to the many subsequent terrorist attempts, not only in the UK and Germany, but in Canada and the U.S. that have been foiled by alert surveillance. Canadian author Howard Rotberg has aptly countered Gore’s and Lustick’s trendy prattle in Second Generation Radical, where he writes that “the situation is not that the fear of terrorism is disproportionate to its danger, but that the danger is disproportionate to the fear. … ‘Fear’ is not the problem; the problem is delusional responses to that fear.”

A more recent example of the spurious argument involves former CIA case officer Marc Sageman, who, according to his bio, holds various positions at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland. In a review of his Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, Daniel Pipes has pointed out how easily numbers and statistics can be manipulated to support a partisan thesis. Sageman contends that America’s presumably softer, assimilationist approach to its Islamic community gives it an advantage over Europe’s alienating tendencies, thus reducing the threat of internal jihad. “The rate of arrests on terror charges per capita among Muslims is six times higher in Europe than in the United States,” Sageman claims, explaining that the difference lies “in the extent to which these respective Muslim communities are radicalized.”

However, the actual figures suggest the very reverse of his conclusions. To begin with, his numbers are completely skewed. He asserts that since 9/11 “there have been over 2,300 arrests connected to Islamist terrorism in Europe in contrast to about 60 in the United States.” But Europol’s official figures posit 1,400 European arrests and the U.S. Department of Justice shows 527, actually a low-ball figure. The misconception grows even more interesting when one considers relative percentages. Contrary to President Obama’s inflated census of Muslim Americans pitched in his Cairo speech, the Muslim population in the U.S. is only around 14% of Europe’s, which means that, proportionally speaking, the American arrest rate is between two and three times higher than that of Europe. Given that the U.S. has indeed made more strenuous efforts to assimilate its Muslim population, Pipes’ logical conclusion is the opposite of Sageman’s: integrating the Islamic community exacerbates rather than diminishes the likelihood of terror.

Another instance of this tendency to reduce the sense of the terrorist menace in the collective psyche is furnished by Douglas E. Streusand, a professor of Islamic studies at the American Military University, and Purdue University graduate Harry D. Tunnell IV. In "Choosing Words Carefully: Language to Help Fight Islamic Terrorism" (since posted on the Islamist CAIR website under the heading “Cultural Ignorance Leads to the Misuse of Islamic Terms”), the duo takes a slightly different tack. It is terminology that is at issue here. The essential argument is that the term "jihad" has been misunderstood and wrongly applied by the West, that our Islamic enemies are only a misguided offshoot of a noble spiritual struggle and should properly be called "mufsidim" (evil or corrupt persons, “spoilers”), separating them from mainstream Islam so that we do not offend our Muslim friends and allies. In this way our “experts” seek to soft-pedal the magnitude of the conflict in which we are engaged.

The authors of this piece of dysmorphic twaddle are clearly developing the thesis of Middle East studies pedagogue John Esposito, head of the Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. Esposito is one of Islam’s chief apologists and a rainmaker for the terrorist cause, who asserts in The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? that jihad is “a spiritual experience only, not a menace,” discounts the “stereotypes of activists as fanatics” whom he claims “share a common call for the transformation of society” through an apparently justifiable “response to the present” -- a most interesting formulation in the incendiary circumstances -- and wishes to draw our attention away from the global conflict that threatens to engulf us toward those “many Islamic organizations [that] today espouse liberalization and democratization.” Esposito serves his paymasters well.