The media response to the vehicular terror attack in New York on Halloween gets high marks for political correctness, but failing grades for honesty and moral clarity. Both the mayor and governor of New York swiftly acknowledged it as an act of terrorism, but were equally quick to characterize it as a lone wolf attack and to ignore or downplay the perpetrator’s ideology.
In so doing, they followed the same strategy employed by the former Obama administration to create a buffer between radical Islam and its core religious foundation. But there should have been no confusion about the philosophy of a terrorist who shouted “Allahu Akbar” after running down innocent pedestrians or his allegiance to a terror organization – ISIS – which routinely exhorts its followers to use motor vehicles as weapons to kill “infidels.”
Major news networks were just as willing to shift the story away from the agony of the victims and the terrorist’s doctrinal motivations, and to focus instead on the threat of an anti-Muslim backlash that never seems to materialize despite the dire warnings of progressive apologists. Less than a day after the attack, the principal storyline in a report by NBC was the Muslim community’s fear of reprisal – not the dead and injured, not the shock of the witnesses or horror of the survivors, and not the radical beliefs of Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant who carried out the attack and then reportedly asked for an ISIS flag to be hung in his hospital room. Many in the mainstream media echoed similar sentiments, warning of Islamophobic repercussions that never came.
This strategy of deflecting attention from the doctrinal impetus for much of today’s terrorism was institutionalized by Barack Obama and adopted by media allies who idolized him and shielded him from critical scrutiny. They used the threat of Islamophobia to obfuscate the ideological motivations for the Fort Hood shooting, the San Bernardino attack, the Orlando nightclub massacre, and multiple beheadings and honor killings that have occurred in the US since 2009, though there was no real anti-Muslim backlash following any of these incidents. Even after the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, there was far more paranoid conspiracy chatter about the supposed complicity of Jews, Israel and even the US government – particularly from the progressive left – than about the faith communities that produced, nurtured and protected the perpetrators.
In contrast to his predecessor, President Trump has shown no qualms about condemning radical Islamists, and he was quick to identify the Halloween massacre as an act of ISIS-inspired terrorism. But his detractors did what they have done to terror watchdogs since the days of the Obama administration – they downplayed the attacker’s religious impulses and accused Trump of racism (though Islam is a religion, not a race).
In addition, they sanctimoniously declared that New York’s Halloween parade, the New York Marathon, and other seasonal events would not be cancelled because doing so would constitute giving in to terrorists and advancing their agenda. Though intended to signal fortitude and resolve, such statements only showed how little the guardians of political correctness have learned since the Twin Towers came crashing down on 9/11, and how they enable Islamism by refusing to call it by name or acknowledge its underlying goals and doctrines.
Islamist radicals do not seek through terrorism to disrupt parades and marathons or make westerners cower in their homes, but rather to advance the goals of jihad, expand the reach of Sharia, and subjugate “infidels.” Secular westerners do not seem to comprehend the implications of a doctrine that divides the world into two halves – “dar al-Harb” (the house of war) and “dar al-Islam” (the house of submission) – and which envisions a future where the latter subsumes the former. These terrorists do not want us to curtail our daily activities or hide behind closed doors. Their aim is to rid the world of “nonbelievers” and they seek to accomplish this by waging war that demands total victory and the submission or elimination of all whom they consider to be infidels.
It’s refreshing to have an administration whose first reaction after attacks by terrorists is not to defend their faith or vouch for the integrity of scriptures that most Americans (including apologetic politicians) have not read and do not understand. Political correctness still controls public discourse regarding radical Islam, however, and it fuels a revisionist narrative that is actively promoted by progressives and passively reinforced by all who are afraid of being labelled racists and xenophobes by activist journalists and multicultural zealots.
The left is especially prone to crying racism against advocates of immigration reform. But immigration policy is relevant when analyzing the events leading up to the Halloween massacre because the perpetrator, Sayfullo Saipov, came to this country through the “diversity visa lottery,” a program that provides fast-track approval for potential immigrants who lack the job skills or close family connections generally required for obtaining legal residency in the United States. The lottery aims to foster migration from countries that are underrepresented in the general immigration pool, many of which also happen to be centers of extremism. Its intent is to promote immigration diversity based on country of origin, but the result is an annual influx of approximately 50,000 immigrants who have few job skills or American family connections and who are vetted poorly if at all.
Critics of the diversity lottery believe it compromises national security because it truncates the normal immigration approval process, discourages adequate vetting, and facilitates a disproportionate flow of immigrants from countries known to grow and export extremism. Though the program accounts for a relatively small proportion of total immigration on an annual basis, the percentage of “diversity” immigrants who come from countries that breed terrorism or who have potential extremist ties is reported to be disproportionately high.
When President Trump criticized the program, he was condemned as racist and Islamophobic by progressives – particularly those who promote open borders and the rights of undocumented migrants over those of citizens, and who seem to believe the US Constitution grants rights to foreign nationals who have never set foot on American soil. However, there is no Constitutional or statutory right to immigrate to the United States, and the Constitution confers no benefits on alien nationals who live abroad. There is also no legal prohibition against denying entry to those who may pose threats to national security, or against vetting potential immigrants who come from terrorist hot zones.
Liberal defenders of the diversity lottery and open borders seem to conflate all immigration issues and demonize any criticism of a system that is clearly broken – regardless of whether such criticism is valid. However, pointing out the shortcomings of the diversity lottery has nothing to do with other immigration issues, such as whether to grant amnesty to undocumented migrants from Latin America, or to enhance border security, or to penalize sanctuary cities for ignoring immigration laws on the books and releasing noncitizen criminals from custody without notifying federal authorities.
And it should be lost on nobody that defenders of weak immigration policy are often the same people who deny the ideological foundation of Islamist terrorism and make excuses for its foot soldiers. They use moral equivalency and historical revisionism to characterize terrorism as an understandable (if extreme) expression of legitimate grievances against the West – a view that ignores the history of unprovoked jihad that roiled Europe for more than two centuries before Europeans ever marched into the Middle East.
Despite an administration that sees the strategic and moral value in identifying the root cause for much of today’s terrorism, progressive politicians and their media allies continue to obscure its ideological motivations and to characterize its perpetrators as lone wolves or attribute their actions to mental illness. This is not to say that all Muslims are extremists who condone or support terrorism – indeed, many are good neighbors, patriotic citizens, and innocent victims of terror themselves; only that it is impossible to combat terrorism effectively if its ideological motives are ignored, denied, or stripped of intrinsic meaning and context.
The response of progressive journalists and politicians to the Halloween terrorist attack and those that preceded it shows that even now – sixteen years after the United States declared war on terror – many of those who control the halls of power and the flow of information will not honestly discuss the dogmatic beliefs of terrorists who use religion to justify their actions. The question left hanging is whether the Islamist threat can truly be defeated if its victims refuse to recognize what fuels it.