We knew within hours of the attack that the New York truck killer was a Muslim extremist, inspired by ISIS. In today’s climate, that means that NPR was hesitant to report that he had shouted “Allahu Akbar,” and Donald Trump thundered that our legal system is a “laughingstock” (he frets a lot about being laughed at) and that immigration is to blame.
The Left fears that any terror attack will be exploited to stoke animosity toward Muslims and immigrants. President Trump obliges by vowing to end the diversity lottery and fulminating about the death penalty (thus making it more difficult for prosecutors to secure capital punishment, but oh well). Trump embodies the caricature of the ignorant bigot. It’s a stark contrast to the prudent response of President George W. Bush to 9/11. Bush was resolute against our enemies yet determined not to scapegoat our friends.
The New York attacker apparently entered this country in 2010 and over the past several years became radicalized by ISIS propaganda he watched online. His phone reportedly contained 90 videos including instructions for bomb making, and pictures of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. If this man (I try to avoid naming mass killers in this column) had been a recent convert to Buddhism or Christianity, his religious convictions would have been a matter of zero interest to anyone but him because those religions do not justify mass killing. Yes, Christianity once did justify holy war. And when it did, it was dangerous. My Jewish ancestors, pillaged and killed by Crusaders, would attest to that if they could. But it hasn’t been the regnant ideology of Christianity for more than 700 years. That doesn’t mean some Christians don’t still commit crimes in the name of faith, but those who do — killing abortionists, for example — are extremely rare.
People love violence but also want to believe in their own virtue. That’s why ends-justify-the-means ideologies are so dangerous. The Communists taught that they were inaugurating a new and more benevolent world, and if some kulaks and bourgeois capitalists were liquidated in the process, it was all in a good cause. The Nazis promised that they were purifying humanity — eliminating the pollution. There is nothing so liberating to the sadists among us than to be offered the fig leaf of good intentions.
There is nothing so liberating to the sadists among us than to be offered the fig leaf of good intentions.
That’s still leaves room for a hundred million Islamists or tolerators of Islamism. Most, thank God, will never become suicide bombers or truck killers — the latest jihadi craze, as recent attacks in Nice, London, and New York illustrate. It is not bigotry to notice that the virus of extreme religious intolerance is virulent in Islam today.
The human capacity for atrocities is limitless, and philosophies that offer moral justification for them are particularly pernicious. Careful vetting of immigrants makes sense, while a meat-ax approach does not. This struggle may continue for decades or even centuries. Unlike in the contest with Communism, we in the non-Muslim world have limited influence. Our best hopes for countering Islamism are: 1) recognizing that it’s an ideology; and 2) remembering that moderate Muslims are indispensable allies.
— Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Copyright © 2017 Creators.com