What Police Shootings and Jihad Have in Common
I’m going to do something unexpected today. I’m going to agree with anti-police activists from the political left. But the activists probably won’t be happy about it.
Anti-police activists claim the many unjustified killings of black men by police officers show a systemic problem. They say these killings aren’t unconnected, disparate events caused by a handful of bad apples; instead, these incidents illustrate a problem within police culture. Even if the majority of police are good, the fact that so many bad ones unjustifiably kill people proves the entire system is corrupt. The activists argue that good police officers who don’t stand up to denounce bad ones are themselves part of the problem.
I’ve been a cop for over twenty years. I’ve argued that the shooting of Michael Brown was justified, and that NYPD didn’t intend to kill Eric Garner. I’ve defended police culture in general. Even so, I think those anti-police activists have a point.
Now I’ll get to the part that anti-police activists, and the larger left-leaning population behind them, won’t like:
Doesn’t this same logic apply to Islamic terrorism? Most Muslims are peaceful, but a small number carry out many, many acts of terrorism. Those acts of terrorism aren’t denounced by enough peaceful Muslims, and are quietly supported by a huge number (up to 195 million, according to a Pew Research poll). How do people point to a string of isolated murders by police and conclude police culture has a problem, then point to a string of murders by jihadists but conclude Islam doesn’t have the same problem?
I don’t ask this question as a devout Christian conservative who despises Islam. I ask this as an agnostic political independent who’s had overwhelmingly positive experiences with Muslims. I lived as a UN civilian police officer in a Muslim country, worked daily with Muslims, had many Muslim friends, learned their language and culture, didn’t hide my beliefs, and never felt the least bit threatened. In Afghanistan I risked my life with and for Afghan Muslim soldiers, who risked their lives with and for me. Yes, Taliban tried to kill me, and I tried to kill them; that didn’t change my feelings about the Muslims beside me.
Here at home I’ve served with American Muslim cops and soldiers, and maintain friendships with many Muslims outside my professions. I helped a Muslim friend with her first novel. Not long ago I attended a murder-mystery party held by a Lebanese Muslim friend and her white Christian husband for their son, who had just been hired as a police officer. The guests were white, black, Hispanic and Arab, included Muslims, Christians and at least one guy who rejects all religion, and we had a great time together (by the way, at any party hosted by an Arab the food is awesome).
Unfortunately, despite my personal experience, Islamic terrorism is a threat. That’s objective fact. We’re all aware of the 368 innocent people slaughtered by jihadists in San Bernardino, Sinai and Paris, but we don’t often realize those attacks are relatively small potatoes compared to the unending campaign of murder outside the western world. In the last two years terrorism, nearly all of it Islamic, has killed over fifty thousand people worldwide. Al Qaeda’s decades-old threat has been supplanted by ISIS, an organization with tens of thousands of adherents and funded by forty to fifty million dollars per month in extortion, oil and tax money. ISIS has declared war on us, and someday we’ll figure out that war doesn’t require agreement from both parties. When war is declared on you by thirty thousand religious fanatics with weapons, combat experience, hundreds of millions in capital and a burning hatred for anyone who doesn’t agree with their beliefs, you’re at war whether you like it or not.
Yet many in our nation choose to be willfully blind to the threat of Islamic terrorism. The New York Times published an article in June asserting that homegrown extremists have killed more people in America than Muslim extremists since 9/11, which conveniently begins counting just after we lost 3000 apparently unimportant victims to jihad. The Washington Post reported on November 23rd that car accidents, heart disease, cancer, suicide and other problems are far more dangerous than terrorism, and in fact, “You’re more likely to be fatally crushed by furniture than killed by a terrorist”.
I’m sure the victims in San Bernardino were thankful no furniture fell on them as they were being mowed down by Islamic terrorists.
Health risks resulting from lifestyle choices are voluntary. Accidents are brutal, tragic and accidental. Intentional acts of violence against the innocent are different. We have a stronger reaction against the kidnapping and murder of one child than a car accident that kills two children. Because one is a blatant expression of pure evil, the other is an unintentional happenstance than can be caused or suffered by literally anyone. Laughing off threats of genocide from dedicated murderers because we’re more likely to die of a heart attack or car accident is pretty stupid.
Yes, I get it. There’s very little chance we’ll be killed by jihadist suicide bombers. There’s also very little chance of dying in a mass shooting by a white anti-government extremist. There’s little chance a black man will be killed by a police officer. Yet every act of violent right-wing extremism provokes a (justifiable) uproar, and after every mass shooting the President and many others demand major legislative changes. Every unjustified police shooting of a black man sparks demonstrations and demands for change. If the slim chance of dying in a mass shooting from an anti-government zealot demands acknowledgment and action, and the slim chance of being murdered by a police officer demands public demonstration, so does the relatively slim chance of dying at the hands of Muslim terrorists.
In the last week I’ve heard two people, one a college professor and one an elected representative, minimize the threat of Islamic terrorism. The professor emphasized that almost all American Muslims oppose terrorism, and claimed Muslims themselves have stopped hundreds of attacks since 9/11 by turning in the plotters. The representative made the same point, and said nearly every week peaceful American Muslims turn in extremists trying to carry out jihadist attacks. The professor said America’s three million Muslims are overwhelmingly peaceful, the representative said the same thing but put the number of American’s Muslims at eight million.
So approximately one or two percent of our population has plotted hundreds of unsuccessful attacks since 9/11 and fails in a new plot nearly every week, and that’s supposed to convince me the threat is negligible? And that’s not including the small number of successful attacks like the Boston Marathon, Chattanooga or San Bernardino. It doesn’t take into account the American-born Muslims who saw videos of ISIS burning and decapitating prisoners, learned about their campaign of legitimized rape, heard the call to kill their neighbors, decided “That all sounds good to me,” and joined the jihad.
This isn’t hypothetical. One of those American-born Muslims went to school with my daughter. He traveled overseas to join ISIS, came home to visit family, and got caught. He’s not in jail. I now have an aspiring ISIS murderer living just minutes from my family.
We’ve seen, over and over, that intelligent, educated, wealthy Muslims who grow up in the west or live here for years can still turn against us. We saw it when nineteen wealthy, privileged Muslim men flew airplanes into our buildings. We saw it when a doctor from a British hospital rammed a car bomb into Glasgow International Airport. We saw it when an educated, foreign-born American Muslim engineer killed five American service members in Tennessee. We should have learned by now that some Muslims live in our culture, experience our freedom and opportunity, and still want to destroy it.
Yet as a nation we still embrace the narrative of the poor, oppressed victim who had no option but to blow himself up. Our most senior officials sometimes refuse to even acknowledge Islam as a factor in Islamic terrorism. After the Charlie Hebdo attack and massacre of Jews at a kosher café that followed, our President referred to the cafe victims as having been randomly shot even though the killer himself said he targeted them because they were Jews. Despite The San Bernardino attack’s immediate indicators of Islamic terrorism, the President resisted acknowledging the obvious and only did so after ridiculously asserting “this could have been workplace-related”. As if an employee had an argument with a coworker, went home, put on military gear and armed himself with an AR-15 and pistol, built pipe bombs, grabbed his wife, and drove back to work to carry out an obviously planned mass murder.
Islamic terrorism is a huge threat. We need to stop dancing around that fact. The very small Muslim population of America, even though it’s mostly peaceful, generates attacks and failed attacks at a rate far out of proportion to its actual numbers. According to at least one report, 69 planned jihadist attacks against the United States have failed since 9/11. And since Islamic terrorism kills far more Muslims than anyone else, aren’t we putting peaceful Muslims at more risk by not addressing the threat they face?
Just as we’ve acknowledged a problem integral to police culture, we need to acknowledge the problem within Islam that leads so many of its adherents to commit horrible crimes. By acknowledging that problem, I don’t have to turn against Muslims who aren’t a threat. My friends aren’t the problem. The millions of American Muslims who oppose terrorism aren’t the problem. But hiding among those millions are a small number who do want to destroy us, who are in fact Muslims and do in fact wish to murder us in the name of their religion. Acting as if the elephant isn’t in the bedroom isn’t helping us, and ultimately doesn’t help peaceful Muslims either.
Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).
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Tags: Islam, san bernardino, terrorism