Mar
16
2011

On Islamist Terrorism, WSJ Entitled to Its Own Opinions–But Not Its Own Facts

Rep. Peter King

Rep. Peter King

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial (3/11/11) defended the Peter King hearings on Islamist terrorism against "our friends on the left [who] are busy portraying them as the McCarthy hearings and Palmer Raids rolled into one."

The editors argued that in fact, the focus on Muslims is justified based on the facts:

Since 9/11, there have been more than 50 known cases, involving about 130 individuals, in which terrorist plots were hatched on American soil. These include plots to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, an office tower in Dallas, a federal court house in Illinois, the Washington, D.C. metro, and the trans-Alaska pipeline. Most of these schemes were foiled at an early stage, though the Times Square bomber failed only at the moment of ignition. The worst attack was Major Nidal Hasan's November 2009 murder of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood.

In a useful report published by the Rand Corporation last year, terrorism expert Brian Michael Jenkins notes that the plotters were a "diverse group" that included Caucasians, African-Americans and Hispanics as well as immigrants (or their children) from about 20 countries. Yet all but two of the plotters were Muslim, and those two sought to offer their services to al Qaeda.

So much, then, for the notion that it is bigoted for Mr. King to focus on Muslim radicalization. This is where the current threat lies.

This is a complete misrepresentation of the Rand report. The report is exclusively about Muslim radicalization and jihadism, not about domestic terrorism in general, as the WSJ would lead you to believe–if anything, it's surprising that there are any non-Muslim jihadist plotters. (The exceptions were two men who agreed for their own secular purposes to collaborate with undercover FBI informants purporting to work for Al-Qaeda.)

The vast majority of "homegrown" terrorist attackers–those of all ideologies who successfully carry out an attack–are not Muslim, the report finds: Of the "83 terrorist attacks in the United States between 9/11 and the end of 2009, only three…were clearly connected with the jihadist cause." The other jihadist plots referred to by both the report and the WSJ were disrupted by authorities–quite often because those authorities themselves helped generate them.

One key point of the report, in fact, is to say that homegrown jihadism is not nearly as big a threat as it's made out to be–exactly the opposite of the argument that the WSJ is trying to make.

"Americans are entitled to an assessment of how serious a threat this is," wrote the WSJ editors. I agree: It's about time they and the rest of the King hearing supporters (that includes you, Bill O'Reilly) stop unjustly demonizing American Muslims and present the facts.

About Julie Hollar

Managing Editor of Extra! Magazine
Julie Hollar is the managing editor of FAIR's magazine, Extra!. Her work received an award from Project Censored in 2005, and she has been interviewed by such media outlets as the Los Angeles Times, Agence France-Presse and the San Francisco Chronicle. A graduate of Rice University, she has written for the Texas Observer and coordinated communications and activism at the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas. Hollar also co-directed the 2006 documentary Boy I Am and was previously active in the Paper Tiger Television collective.