Another horrific terrorist attack has struck France after a month of terrorist slaughter from Bangladesh to Iraq to Saudi Arabia to Turkey to Israel to the United States.
Other attacks have been prevented. For example, twin brothers in South Africa were arrested Saturday, July 9, and charged with plotting to bomb Americans and Jews.
The targets of the violence vary by nationality, wealth and religion, and the murderers use different weapons and tactics, including the brutally effective truck attack that killed at least 84 people in Nice on Bastille Day. The application of a terror method increasingly popular among Palestinians who want to kill Israelis demonstrates that where there is a will to kill, there is a way, regardless of efforts to control guns, track bomb-making materials or use metal detectors to screen for knives.
There is an unavoidable commonality among the perpetrators of these vicious operations: their religion. Over and over and over again, we see bloodshed in the name of a particular strain of Islam.
Islam itself is not evil, nor are most Muslims bad. Muslims form by far the largest group of victims of terrorism. Most people of faith, including Muslims, share a reverence for life and a love of humanity. Appreciation for the common bonds of mankind naturally flows from a faithful study of Scripture.
But a twisted interpretation of Islam motivates and justifies the slaughter of innocents. It’s denying the obvious not to call Islamist terrorism what it is.
We’re told it’s dangerous to connect the words “Islam” and “terrorism”; people even resist using the name of our biggest terrorist threat, Islamic State. There’s a fear of sparking Islamophobia if we who are under attack call Islamist terrorism what it is.
But there’s no evidence of a rise in Islamophobia. Polling in the United States shows increasing sympathy and appreciation for Muslims. It’s easy to find individual anti-Muslim incidents, just as it’s easy to cite examples of anti-Semitism, but those are the actions of sick people who will always find an excuse to express hatred.
President Barack Obama is correct that there’s nothing magical about the words “Islamist terrorism.” Saying them won’t stop the killing.
But what does not saying them accomplish?
Consider two responses to the truck massacre:
- “We are in a war that will last, with a threat that is constantly renewing itself. Adapting and continuously strengthening our plan of action against Islamist terrorism remains a top priority.”
- “I condemn in the strongest terms what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France. … We have offered any assistance that they may need to investigate this attack and bring those responsible to justice.”
The first statement, from former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, acknowledges that we are at war and names the enemy, Islamist terrorism.
The second statement, from Obama, condemns the attack but treats it as a criminal act, requiring investigation to achieve justice, rather than an act of war.
That’s not good enough. Obama is right that Islamic State’s battlefield losses are driving it to more terrorism, but that means, as Sarkozy said, that we must adjust our tactics. We can’t do so if we’re not willing to acknowledge that Islamic extremism is motivating and unifying the enemy — the enemy of hundreds of millions of Muslims as well as Jews, Christians, Hindus and anyone else who just wants to live in peace.