Islam in America: Islam and Terrorism; Myth vs. Reality

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ISLAM IN AMERICA: Islam and Terrorism; Myth vs. Reality

terrorism, n. the use of terror and violence to intimidate, etc., esp. as a political policy

At the time of this writing, a controversy has erupted within the Muslim-American community regarding comments made at a U.S. State Department forum by the leader of an organization known as the "Islamic Supreme Council of America." The speaker, Mr. Hisham Kabbani, spoke on the issue of extremism and U.S. national security. The core of Mr. Kabbani's message, intended or not, was that 80 percent of the Muslim-American community represents a potential danger to the U.S., due to the presence and influence of "extremists."

Given the present climate in the U.S. and much of the world regarding resurgent political Islam, Mr. Kabbani's remarks were incendiary and unfortunate -- and will, no doubt, be used to justify even more draconian policies vis á vis Islam and the Muslim world (see box).

In the Sept. 22, 1997, edition of The Washington Post, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote an op-ed piece entitled "Limits to What the U.S. Can Do in Bosnia." Kissinger's commentary opened with a very revealing and provocative observation: "Every American foreign policy setback, from Indochina to Somalia, has resulted from the failure to define objectives, to choose means appropriate to these objectives, and to create a public opinion prepared to pay the necessary price over the requisite period of time." (emphasis mine)

One can argue that public opinion has been so deviously manipulated in America, that for the average person the words Arab, Islam, Muslim and terrorism have become almost synonymous. And the consequences have been enormous. As Voltaire once said, "Those who can make us believe absurdities, can also cause us to commit atrocities."

FACTS ON TERRORISM

In his book, My Life As A Radical Attorney, William M. Kunstler wrote (p. 317): "In recent years, I have taken on many Muslim clients and have earned myself even more hatred and disapproval than for my representation of black [political] defendants. Today Muslims are the most hated group in the country; the moment a Muslim is accused of a crime the specter of terrorism is raised, and everyone panics." But is the panic justified? You be the judge.

On Feb. 10, 1995, a counterterrorism bill drafted by the Clinton administration -- The Omnibus Anti-Terrorism Act of 1995 (which would later become law) -- was introduced in the U.S. Senate as S.390 and in the House of Representatives as H.R.896.

The legislation was immediately assailed, in certain quarters, on the grounds that it posed numerous serious threats to constitutional rights. One such criticism came from the Center for National Security Studies: "The administration's proposal begins with nearly eight pages of `findings' that are seriously misleading, because they omit some key facts: that terrorism in the United States, especially terrorism of international origin, is very rare, and that terrorism abroad, including terrorism against Americans abroad, continues to decline."

Muslims and Muslim organizations were also justifiably concerned about the proposed legislation, for it was clear to all that its primary targets were Muslim activists, and what has commonly become known as political Islam. Indeed, even before the bill was introduced, President Clinton issued an executive order on Jan. 24, 1995, "Prohibiting Transactions with Terrorists who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process."

Unfortunately, time and space limitations will not permit me to provide detailed information on how this constitutionally questionable policy has been implemented in the U.S. Suffice it to say that in addition to removing the standard presumption-ofinnocence rule in law, it has been very oppressive to law-abiding Arabs and Muslims, to say the least. The facts on terrorism in the U.S. are as follows:

In 1994, the year before the Anti-Terrorism Act was adopted, there were no terrorist incidents in the United States (nor were there any attempted but prevented incidents), according to statistics maintained by the FBI. …