Less than forty days after the Charlie Hebdo/Hyper Cacher attacks in Paris, freedom of speech has once again come under deadly assault and anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in Europe at the hands of Islamic radicals.
The attacks began when a gunman entered a cafe in Copenhagen that was hosting a conference on freedom of speech. The gunman silenced the conference by killing one man and injuring three police officers. The target of the attack was Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks who in 2007 (you guessed it) drew a cartoon of Muhammad. Over the years, Vilks has been threatened repeatedly, was once assaulted while giving a lecture and nearly had his home burned down. Fortunately, Vilks was unharmed.
However, the gunman escaped and made his way to Copenhagen’s Great Synagogue and began shooting again. When it was over, a volunteer guard was dead and two people sustained non-life threatening injuries. Eventually, police would catch up with the gunman and kill him. He was later identified as Omar al-Hussein, a Danish-born Muslim who had recently been released from prison after serving two years for committing bodily harm.
I don’t think we can expect to hear any more from President Obama about this attack than we did about Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher. And if we do would it come as any shock if the President characterized the synagogue shooting as random?
After all, Obama was famously absent from the rally in Paris on January 11 which featured scores of world leaders. Instead, the White House announced that day that it would be hosting a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism on February 18. This summit was originally supposed to take place in October, but was delayed without explanation. In reviving the summit, the White House announcement indicated it was “even more imperative in light of recent, tragic attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, and Paris.” However, the announcement made no mention of the religious and ideological motivation behind this violent extremism.
In the weeks that have followed the Charlie Hebdo/Hyper Cacherattacks and the announcement of the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, the Obama Administration has made a concerted effort to minimize the threat of violent extremism and suggest that violent extremism has no connection with Islam.
The very day the summit was announced, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke in India of the dangers of climate change. Kerry stated that climate change that was “violently affecting communities… around the world.” Twelve days later in Davos, Kerry said, “Obviously, the biggest error that we could make would be to blame Muslims collectively for crimes not committed by Muslims alone.” Between all this, Kerry went to Paris and foisted James Taylor upon the French. Nothing more need be said about this peculiar act of diplomacy.
Then it was President Obama’s turn. In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that aired on February 1, he said that 99.9 percent of Muslims reject radical Islam. Not to be outdone, during a speech before the Brookings Institution in which she outlined U.S national security strategy, National Security Adviser Susan Rice acknowledged that ISIS posed a threat but that the threat was “not of the existential nature we confronted during World War II or the Cold War. We can’t afford to be buffeted by alarmism and an instantaneous news cycle.”
No doubt Rice was echoing the sentiments of her boss. Although President Obama’s Vox interview did not come to light until last week, it was conducted on January 23; exactly two weeks before Rice’s foreign policy speech. When Matt Yglesias asked Obama if the media reaction to terrorism was overblown, he concurred comparing it to local crime stories in the TV news. Obama quipped, “If it bleeds, it leads.” It was in the same interview that he characterized the Hyper Cachershootings as “random” even though the man responsible called a radio station during the siege and said he had come to kill Jews.
Given the yeoman efforts made by the Obama administration to downplay violent extremism and not identify the violent extremists, how can anyone be expected to take this forthcoming Summit on Countering Violent Extremism seriously? According to the Obama administration, violent extremism isn’t as violent as climate change, Muslims alone aren’t committing acts of violent extremism, and those that are only represent 0.1 percent of the global Muslim populace. Furthermore, these acts of violent extremism aren’t an existential threat and are overhyped by the media.
So if the Obama administration believes this to be true, why have a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism at all? The fact they canceled it once tells you it wasn’t big on their priority list. The only reason I can see that the Obama administration is having the summit on countering violent extremism is to say that this violence is not representative of Muslims and that much of the anxiety surrounding this violence is sensationalized by the media and that we ought to be more concerned by icebergs than IEDs.
President Obama is, of course, wrong when he says 99.9 percent of Muslims don’t subscribe to radical Islam. A recent Pew Research poll found that 26 percent of American Muslims between the ages of 18-29 believed that suicide bombings against non-Muslims can be justified. As for the global picture, Daniel Pipes has long put this figure between ten to fifteen percent of the Muslim world that he describes as Islamists. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and counting. In a very short time, one out of every four people in the entire world will be Muslim. Ten to fifteen percent of that figure would put the number of Islamic radicals to be between 160 to 240 million Muslims. That is a staggering figure.
Yet let us assume for argument’s sake that President Obama is correct about the percentage of Muslims who subscribe to radical Islam. If only 0.1 percent of Muslims subscribe to radical Islam, that’s still 1.6 million Muslims. Nineteen radical Muslims participated in the 9/11 attacks, four radical Muslims were involved in the London and Paris attacks, two radical Muslims carried out the Boston Marathon bombings while the attacks in Fort Hood, Ottawa, Sydney, and now Copenhagen were carried out by a single radical Muslim. If 33 Muslim radicals could do this much damage then imagine what 1.6 million Muslim radicals could do.
With every new attack, comes an assault on life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. With every new attack, there are more martyrs followed by more recruits ready to take their place. With every new attack, despite our resolve that we won’t be intimidated, we engage in self-censorship for fear of offending Muslims. With every new attack, Jews in Europe are left with the choice of isolation or emigration. With every new attack, we retreat a bit further and bend over backwards to be circumspect with Muslims in the vain hope we won’t be attacked again. It is how President Obama can say with a straight face that ISIS isn’t Islamic. President Obama will not call violent extremism by its real name.
Unless the Obama Administration is willing to state that the violent extremism we are trying to counter is caused by an ideology based on Islam subscribed to by a small, but critical mass of Muslims, then this week’s White House summit will have been a complete and utter waste of time.
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