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Terrorism, Fear & Islam

Posted by Jim Johnson on
Jim Johnson

The images are difficult to accept and even more difficult to erase from our collective memory…

Methodical, cold-blooded murderers casually reloading weapons on the streets of central Paris exclaiming that they have avenged the blasphemy of Muhammad by slaughtering innocent journalists…

Black-clothed ISIL fighters appear on a stark remote Syrian desert next to orange-clad hostages moments before the latter meet a most gruesome and inhumane death, allegedly in the name of Islam…

A lone wolf roves the halls of the Canadian Parliament after killing a soldier, proclaiming his actions to be in furtherance of an ill-defined Islamic cause…


How is it possible that the second largest religion on this planet has seemingly decimated stability in the Middle East and waged a holy war against infidels who will not convert to Islam? 

How is it that Muslims are attempting to take control of European cities in which they have created dozens of “no-go” zones? 

How have we permitted Muslims to infiltrate our judicial system in the United States to create Sharia law courts which seek to establish Islamic law in our states and undermine American sovereignty? 

How did these events occur within the past few years leading us to the devices of a caliphate which will soon follow? 

The answer is amazingly simple: not one of the above-referenced events are accurate. Due to Fox news and right-wing talk radio, however, a calculated program of misinformation encourages the politically illiterate in the United States to believe the grand conspiracy behind these events.

The most intellectually vulnerable among us are ever so easily manipulated by the malicious intentions of a few. The setting is made easier and is in fact exacerbated by inherent weaknesses in our democracy.

The reality is of course, that the attacks in Paris and Ottawa were no more “Islamic” than the bloody terrorism of Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City or the massacre led by Jim Jones were representative of Christianity. In each case, they represent the worst aspects of extreme politically motivated acts which seek to justify horrific actions in the names of great religions.

The fact that such tactics are deemed “religious” in nature is more emblematic of the degree to which Americans are politically illiterate. The events themselves are captured by the far right self-described media and distorted to further a political agenda.

It is clear that Fox and voices like Limbaugh, Beck and especially Hannity care far more about their political ideology than they do about meaningful intellectual discourse or more importantly, the truth.

Simple minds crave simple solutions to complex problems.  When combined with an unfortunate degree of unsophistication, a message from “perceived authorities” becomes gospel in the minds of many. Truth becomes the first and greatest casualty.

To a viewer of Fox or a listener of the hard right, the era of Joseph McCarthy is alive and well. The only thing which matters is a message consistent with what a muddled mind wishes to hear. For those the truth is less important and often inconvenient.

Consider the following:


Earlier this month, Fox News and Sean Hannity presented a self-described “terrorism expert,” Steve Emerson, multiple times on multiple platforms.  Following the Paris attacks, Emerson details the nightmare that Muslims have created in Europe. Specifically, he announces that in the British city of Birmingham, the city “has become entirely Muslim and is now completely a no-go zone for non-Muslims.” 

He further states that “Muslim religious police patrol the streets of Birmingham and beat anyone not dressed in proper Muslim religious attire. Hannity reiterates the “message” of this expert for several days.

The problem, of course, is that the city of Birmingham, with a population well over 1,000,000 people, is comprised of 46% Christians, 25% who claim no religion and 22% Muslims.  British Prime Minister Cameron states that when he learned “of the incredible statements made by Emerson on Fox, he almost choked on his porridge.” Cameron then referred to Emerson as “a complete idiot.”

Within hours Fox began to retreat, apologizing four times. Hannity did not. Emerson for his part issued a statement saying, “I have clearly made a terrible error,” and then as only a mindless conservative would think to do, he offered to write a check to a Birmingham charity. The message however, resonated well with American marginally literate listeners who according to recent surveys still believe the statements of Emerson to be accurate. The damage had been done.

Clearly the only “no-go zones” which exist are institutes of higher education not linked with the letters “.com” for the radical right.


The terrorists responsible for the Paris slaughter were “MINOs” (Muslim in name only), similar to the RINO version found throughout the US. They did not live or act according to the tenants of Islam or the Quran. They avenged nothing.

FACT: Not one single provision of the Quran provides for death as a penalty for the blasphemy of Muhammad.  Not one. In fact, the Quran clearly states that prosecution of blasphemy is the domain of Allah (the very same God worshipped by Christians and Jews) and it is Allah who will judge on the final day. 

The Paris terrorists lived instead, very un-Islamic lives involving the use of drugs and alcohol.  They succeeded in defaming the very cause they ostensibly stated they sought to defend.


FACT: ISIL is about as closely aligned with Islam as Bill Buckley was with the ACLU. Calling yourself “Islamic” does not a Muslim make. The vast majority of those killed by ISIL are real Muslims. And apparently someone forgot to inform ISIL that the Quran only provides for defensive war, not offensive aggression.

And yet in this country the far right media feeds the conspiratorial hysteria which provides the currency so readily found in Fox and similar progeny.


FACT: 34 of the 50 states have introduced or passed state legislation to prohibit Sharia law from overtaking American law in our judicial system. States like Oklahoma sought to ban Sharia by an overwhelming public referendum. This despite the fact that not one single case could be produced where an Oklahoma court sought to apply Sharia law.

In North Carolina the state legislature like their Okie counterparts immediately passed a now unconstitutional statute banning Sharia in the Tar-Heel State.

In Tennessee, it is even worse. The state legislature in the Volunteer State created a statute which makes it a felony to assist Islamic activity. Since what constitutes assisting Islamic activity is not defined one jurist has opined that a painting contractor could be indicted for a felony should he sign a contract to paint the trim on a Mosque.

What makes these measures so insidious is that the United States Constitution already prohibits the conduct they so greatly fear through the Supremacy Clause.  Ignorance, however, trumps knowledge and truth among the fringe right and 34 states (including Michigan) are attempting to create a solution in search of a problem.


Democracies respond poorly to crisis situations—far more so than other forms of government. In his 2005 book Perilous Times, former University of Chicago Law School Dean and Constitutional Professor Geoffrey Stone discusses the seemingly contrarian manner in which democracies in general and our democracy specifically have handled crisis.

He traces it throughout our history, from the 1790 war with France, to the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798, to the nightmarish attacks on free speech committed by the Wilson administration during WWI to the internment camps of WWII.

From the egregious behavior of the FBI during the anti-war movements of the 1960s to the abandonment of individual liberties pursuant to the Patriot Act following 9/11, our democracy has not responded well to exigent circumstances. 

As Stone writes, “the first casualty in a crisis is individual liberty, the second is truth.”  Stone cites Mr. Justice Lewis writing a SCOTUS opinion in 1927, “Fear breeds repression and only courage in the face of fear becomes the secret of liberty.”

Justice Lewis was correct. What is needed is intellectual honesty to address the global issues of transnational criminal behavior committed in the name of a gentle and innocent religion.

As long as 17% of the American populace continue to believe that their president is a Muslim, as long as 11% surveyed believe that “reptile people” control our government, and as long as 9% have a favorable opinion of the legislative branch of government we have little hope of restraining unbridled fear.

It is fascinating—the very same right-wing chickenhawks who love to support a war so long as they do not have to serve, are fomenting rampant fear which will long remain the enemy of civilized behavior and global understanding.

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Veteran journalist Andy Rapp has been hosting Currently Speaking since 1999.

Each week, he's joined live in the studio by journalists, academics, and experts. Along with viewers at home, they tackle the local, national, and global issues that matter most.