Friday, June 17, 2016

Focus on Muslims Misplaced After Shooting

Focus on Muslims Misplaced After Shooting

Nicholas Johnson

Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 17, 2016, p. A5

[This column appeared in the Press-Citizen's online edition as Nicholas Johnson, "Focus on Muslims Misplaced After Shooting," Iowa City Press-Citizen (online), June 16, 2016, 6:51 p.m. It draws upon the earlier blog essay, "Keeping Up With ISIS; There Is Another Explanation for Orlando," June 14, 2016. The column to which today's [June 17] column refers and responds is Ian Goodrum, "Finger-Pointing After Orlando Massacre," Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 15, 2016, p. A9.]

Ian Goodrum has reminded us, with writing befitting our City of Literature, of both the causes of the home-grown mass violence in Orlando, and how such tragedies are seized upon by those promoting political or other causes. (“Finger Pointing After Orlando Massacre,” June 15.)

He notes the killers’ “common denominator” is that they are “young, angry men,” and then provides insight into the pathology of their anger.

Among those promoting causes, he observes, are “bloodthirsty pundits and politicians” now calling “for state-sponsored discrimination against believers in Islam, along with a general ramping up of our military presence in the Middle East.”

Goodrum’s right on all counts, as I see it. Our enemy is not Islam. It’s a few of our home-grown, American “young, angry men;” mostly citizens, with a diversity of histories, persuasions, mental conditions, motives, weapons and targets. More domestic hate crimes involve perpetrators who would claim to be Christian than Muslim. Their targets are no more predictable than where a lightning strike may hit — federal buildings, universities, African-American churches, gathering spots for Latinos, Asians, Mormons, Catholics, Jews and the LGBT community.

To reduce mass violence, we must focus on our young, angry men. Our mission: to treat their anger before we have to treat their victims.

That is but one of the reasons why focusing on Muslims is counterproductive. Even if it were not unconstitutional and inhospitable, as President Barack Obama points out, it is precisely what ISIS wants us to do — confirm their assertion that we have declared war on Islam and its 1.6 billion followers, giving an enormous boost to their recruiting.

The “bloodthirsty pundits and politicians” who think more troops and bigger bombs are the answer are clearly not our friends. This is a high-stakes whack-a-mole drama in which all the world is ISIS’ stage, where for every bomb we drop more actors come on stage to respond with creative acts of violence.

ISIS has proven creative and adaptable. When we X-ray passengers for guns, they switch to plastic shoe bombs. When they lose a city, they move elsewhere. When they begin to lose on every battlefield, they invite and train terrorists to execute ISIS-orchestrated slaughter in Europe and elsewhere. When the West’s intelligence capabilities to track their messages, movements, and money begins to interfere with such organized efforts, they need a new strategy.

Here it is.

Our State Department describes Abu Mohammed al Adnani as the “official spokesman and a senior leader of Isis." In September 2014 he used ISIS’ sophisticated communications networks to propagate the following message:

"If you can kill a disbelieving American or European, French, an Australian or a Canadian, then rely upon Allah, and kill him. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place. Don’t try to communicate with us. Don’t expect our help, he said. Just do the killing, and pledge allegiance to ISIS."

Since that time, in each of those named countries, using the itemized means of murder, followed by declarations of allegiance to ISIS, there have been killings.

Goodrum is right that the Orlando shooting wasn’t the result of “direct involvement or orchestration by” ISIS; as were Orlando officials’ conclusions the shooter wasn’t a “member of ISIS.” But ISIS’ latest strategy may have been at play.

None of which changes the numbers. One day in Orlando, 49 were gunned down. But every day in the U.S., nearly 100 die from guns. An Islamophobic focus on this carnage is both self-defeating and close to statistically irrelevant.

Meanwhile, somebody better tell those “bloodthirsty pundits and politicians” who didn’t get the memo that they’re three strategies behind ISIS, running a trillion-dollar program as old as Windows 95.
Contact Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City through

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