Radical Islamic Terrorism — Not the Beard

The most preposterous claim involving the radical Islamic terrorists who killed 14 people in San Bernadino, California last week came from the attorney for the family of the male shooter, Syed Rizwan Farook.

Lawyer David Chesley at a press conference on Friday, after challenging a connection between Farook, his wife, Tashfeen Malik and terrorism, said: “There was information about the fact that his co-workers kind of made fun of him, for example, for his beard.”

Chesley would have us believe this was a workplace dispute.

Really? Farook and Malik amassed 6,000 rounds of ammunition, obtained two assault rifles and other guns, had 13 pipe bombs at the ready as a reaction to Farook’s co-workers having “made fun” of his beard? That’s why husband and wife went and massacred them?

Chesley made his claim as evidence was mounting that radical Islamic terrorism—not facial hair—was the issue. This included Malik pledging allegiance to an ISIS leader in a Facebook posting shortly before she and her husband went on their rampage and records of Farook having contacts with people linked to terrorist organizations outside the U.S.

Chesley’s denial is by no means unique.

“Our president doesn’t want to use the term ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’” Donald Trump, would-be Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency, declared at a Republican Jewish Coalition Conference last week. “There is something wrong with him that we don’t know about.”

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, in a debate between Republican aspirants for the presidency in August, said “we need a commander-in-chief that speaks the truth. We will not defeat radical Islamic terrorism so long as we have a president unwilling to utter the words, ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’”

What’s Obama’s problem? What’s the problem with many politicians in the U.S. and other countries when it comes to identifying the terrorism committed by radical Islamists as radical Islamic terrorism?

Fran Townsend, former homeland security adviser to U.S. President George W. Bush, describes as “ridiculous” Obama limiting himself to speaking of “violent extremists” or simply “terrorists.” She told CNN in February: “I think this is political correctness over accuracy. Look, these are not Buddhists or Hindu extremists. These are Islamic extremists.”

“Why Obama Won’t Talk About Islamic Terrorism?” was the title of an article in The Atlantic magazine in February, one of many on the phenomenon. The piece by senior editor David Frum states, “The Obama people, not being idiots, understand very well that international terrorism possesses an overwhelming Muslim character…The huge effort to deny this truth is its most ironic confirmation.” But in seeking “partnership-building” notably with Muslim communities, the Obama administration suppresses the linkage.“The refusal to acknowledge the aims and direction of Islamic terrorism is central to the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism policy,” writes Frum.

“The Democrats’ Problem with ‘Radical Islam’” was the title of an article on www.foreignpolicy.com last month. It was subtitled: “It’s time to call a spade a spade, and move on to real solutions of dealing with the Islamic State menace.”

This piece, by Kim Ghattas, stated: “It’s ironic that while U.S. officials and Democratic politicians refuse to say ‘radical Islam,’ these very words, in fact, are commonly used in Arabic across the Middle East: Islam mutatarrif. When I asked a handful of friends in Beirut—Muslim and non-Muslim—what they thought of Democrats refusing to use those two words to describe what drives militant groups like the so-called Islamic State, they seemed puzzled by the apparent obfuscation.”

Daniel Pipes, president of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, wrote an essay in March titled: “Why Politicians Pretend Islam Has No Role in Violence.”

Pipes wrote: “Prominent non-Muslim political figures have embarrassed themselves by denying the self-evident connection of Islam to the Islamic State (ISIS) and to Islamist violence in Paris and Copenhagen, even claiming these are contrary to Islam. What do they hope to achieve through these lies and what is their significance?”

Pipe’s piece not only includes references to Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on their avoidance of saying Islamic terrorism, but also points to Howard Dean, former Democratic governor of Vermont, who once sought the U.S. presidency, as saying ISIS is “about as Muslim as I am.” And among non-U.S. politicians, he quotes French President Francois Hollande as saying “the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher criminals ‘have nothing to do with the Muslim faith.’ His prime minister, Manuel Valls, concurs: ‘Islam has nothing to do with ISIS.’”

Pipes went on: ’Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte echoes the same theme: ‘ISIS is a terrorist organization which misuses Islam.’ Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a left-wing German politician, calls the Paris murderers fascists, not Muslims. From Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agrees: ‘Extremism and Islam are completely different things.’”

Pipes stated: “Summarizing these statements, which come straight out of the Islamist playbook: Islam is purely a religion of peace, so violence and barbarism categorically have nothing to do with it; indeed, these ‘masquerade’ and ‘pervert’ Islam….But, of course, this interpretation neglects the scriptures of Islam and the history of Muslims, steeped in the assumption of superiority toward non-Muslims and the righteous violence of jihad.”

Pipes asked, “Why, then, do powerful politicians make ignorant and counterproductive arguments, ones they surely know to be false, especially as violent Islamism spreads (think of Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and the Taliban)?”

“Cowardice and multiculturalism play a role, to be sure, but two other reasons have more importance: First, they want not to offend Muslims, who they fear are more prone to violence if they perceive non-Muslims pursuing a ‘war on Islam.’ Second, they worry that focusing on Muslims means fundamental changes to the secular order, while denying an Islamic element permits avoiding troubling issues. For example, it permits airplane passenger security to look for weapons rather than engage in Israeli-style interrogations.”

Pipes’ “prediction: Denial will continue unless violence increases.”

There’s something murderous happening and on a mass scale—and it has nothing to do with Syed Rizwan Farook’s beard.

About the Author
Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury who has specialized in investigative reporting for 45 years. He is the host of the TV program “Enviro Close-Up,” the writer and presenter of numerous TV documentaries and the author of six books.