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Islamophobia and right-wing terrorism

Reasonable voices within the population should publicly shame bigots and marginalize their harmful messages that can provide terrorists with ideological underpinnings.

September 01, 2012
  • A Koran is held up during a protest last month in Berlin against a right-wing anti-Muslim group.
A Koran is held up during a protest last month in Berlin against a right-wing… (Sean Gallup / Getty Images )

Responding to an Op-Ed article Sunday on last year's mass killings in Norway and Islamophobia, Larry Shapiro wrote in a letter published Tuesday:

"Nathan Lean is more concerned by acts of vandalism against Muslim institutions, suggesting that these acts are inspired by various activists and writers who spread Islamophobia. His prescription is censorship. He suggests that right-wing terrorism is of greater concern.

"American terrorism carried out by the likes of David Koresh and Timothy McVeigh has nothing to do with Muslims. Koresh was a paranoid sexual abuser, and McVeigh was obsessed with the perceived intrusion by the federal government on our lives.

"Muslim terrorism, on the other hand, is totally faith-based. The 9/11 attacks were carried out as a jihad against the U.S. The July 2005 bombings in London that killed 52 people were also part of a religious war.

"Under no circumstances can concern about this violence be sloughed off as Islamophobia."

Nathan Lean responds:

My Op-Ed article on Islamophobia and the Anders Behring Breivik verdict sparked a lively debate. And that's a good thing. Conversations like this belong in the pages of prominent newspapers, not on the blogs of hate group leaders.

Shapiro falsely asserts that I prescribed censorship to combat a growing discourse of hate. Instead, what I advocated was that reasonable voices within the population should publicly shame bigots and marginalize their harmful messages so that there is a well-considered and persuasive counterpoint that drowns out their hate. If thoughtful people more frequently and more forcefully speak out against individuals who provided Breivik with his ideological underpinnings, one day, hopefully, they will be treated with the same derision as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups.

Shapiro belittles my claim that right-wing terrorism is of great concern. He psychoanalyzes domestic terrorists like McVeigh and Koresh as "obsessed" or "paranoid," discounting their violence as somehow less concerning than that carried out by Muslim terrorists, whose violence he views as a normal part of their ideological makeup. For those predisposed to judge Islam in this light, if violence is committed by a Christian or someone of another preferred identity, then he is an aberrant mental case, but if it is performed by a Muslim, then that is just how those people are.

This week's news of a plot by four Georgia-based members of the U.S. military to blow up several bases and other targets around the country and assassinate President Obama apparently did not calculate in his logic. Though some may believe otherwise, it's not the Muslim Brotherhood that's planning attacks or infiltrating America's corridors of power.

Just as many peace-loving Muslim imams condemn un-Islamic extremism and violence, it is incumbent on reasonable Americans to condemn the hateful extremism of our own fellow citizens. Nothing good can come from this mindless anti-Muslim rhetoric. Those who listen to it regularly and digest it will become violent.

I choose to stand on the side of pluralism and tolerance rather than bandy about prejudice and hate.

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