Country must pay closer attention to extremist beliefs

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The heinousness of an act of terror doesn't vary depending on who committed it, or what their motives were. We'd be as shocked and outraged if the bombs at the Boston Marathon had been planted by neo-Nazis, Buddhist nuns, or the Jamaican bobsled team.

The culprits were two young Muslim men, the latest in an all too familiar pattern. There have been 10 incidents since 9/11/2001 the U.S. government describes as "acts of terror." In seven, the perps were Muslims. Authorities have foiled 53 other terror plots by Muslims since 9/11, according to the Heritage Foundation's count.

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are Chechen immigrants. The U.S. and Russia are investigating a trip Tamerlan made to southern Russia for six months last year to determine whether he may have connections to a terror group in Chechnya. Since the heinousness of an act of terror also doesn't vary depending on whether it was committed by an individual or a group, or by whether the terrorist(s) is(are) "home grown" or foreign, this is relevant chiefly in assessing threat. A group with outside support is more likely to commit subsequent acts of terror.

A "lone wolf" with no history of antisocial behavior is all but impossible to stop beforehand. But authorities can monitor those who have suspicious associations. So these facts also are pertinent in assessing how well we're being protected.

President Barack Obama cautioned us Friday to "take care not to rush to judgment -- not about the motivations of these individuals; certainly not about entire groups of people."

Liberals fret the Great Unwashed, frightened and angered by an act of terror, may lash out at Muslims indiscriminately. The "backlash" liberals dread exists only in their feverish imaginations. Americans know the difference between Tamerlan and Dzhokhar on the one hand, and Uncle Ruslan on the other, just as our parents and grandparents knew the difference between Nazis and Americans of German ancestry.

It's liberals who have difficulty distinguishing between the vast majority of Muslims here who aren't trying to kill us, and the small subset among them who are. Had the circumstances not been so appalling, the puzzlement expressed by anchorbabes on CNN and MSNBC about why such apparently nice young men would commit so terrible an act would have been hilarious.

Some are as clueless as they appear. Few who could have been rocket scientists go into journalism. The others were straining to avoid mentioning the elephant in the room.

The Muslims who've plotted terror against us vary considerably in ethnicity, education and socio-economic status. More have been "home grown" than foreign. What they have in common is a desire to establish a "caliphate" governed by Islamic law, in which non-Muslims would be second-class citizens or, as in the case of Jews, exterminated.

This may more aptly be characterized as a totalitarian political ideology, like Nazism, which it resembles. But adherents think it is commanded by their religion. Which is why they're called "Islamists."

But not by the Associated Press, which has banned the term. Or by the FBI, which has purged its counterterrorism manuals of all references to religious motivations for acts of terror committed by Muslims.

It would be more insulting, it seems to me, if we didn't distinguish between the vast majority of Muslims here who either do not wish to replace our secular democracy with a religious dictatorship, or who are unwilling to commit mass murder to usher it in, from the handful who do.

Whether we regard Islam with admiration, suspicion, or indifference, if we don't understand why those who are trying to kill us are trying to kill us, we aren't likely to stop them before they strike.

"Make no mistake. What happened in Boston was jihad," said former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. But FBI agents are forbidden to say so. Have they also been forbidden to consider jihadis a threat?

Indications Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sympathized with jihad were ample and obvious. But the FBI agents who interviewed Tamerlan in 2011 found nothing amiss. There may have been nothing amiss then. But it was about that time the FBI purged its training manuals of references to the prime motivation for Islamic terror. Did the FBI overlook the elephant in the room?

For most Muslims, Islam may indeed be a "religion of peace." but it is foolish and dangerous to pretend those who think it commands violence against "infidels" don't exist.

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Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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