Like many people, it crossed my mind early in the Beltway Sniper case that this might be a terrorist attack. I reserved judgment, realizing — unlike the armchair experts who flocked to fill airtime on cable news channels — that I did not know all of the facts available to the police. But the moment I heard the suspect’s name, John Muhammad, the conclusion was obvious. These killings were motivated by a version of the same Islamic ideology that has inspired mass murder around the globe.
So why are the government and the mainstream media rushing to avoid that judgment?
The evasion of Muhammad’s Muslim connection is brazen. The Los Angeles Times speculated that the sniper may have been motivated by such momentous causes as a “stormy relationship” with his family. For a while, CNN even stopped using John Muhammad’s Muslim name, which he legally adopted a year ago, calling him by his former name of John Allen Williams. Reuters, continuing its work as the European branch of Al-Jazeera, gave this case the most brazen spin. Ignoring the sniper’s Muslim beliefs altogether, Reuters suggested that his U.S. military training was to blame.
Meanwhile, the facts continue to pile up. John Muhammad was known to acquaintances as an especially devout Muslim; he was a member of the Black Muslim separatist group Nation of Islam, whose leader is famous for touring the Middle East to show his admiration for Muslim dictators; Muhammad praised the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington; and now, investigators have connected him to a shooting in May at a synagogue in Tacoma, Wash. It doesn’t require an FBI profiler to see what pattern this fits.
For the left, which includes the mainstream media, ignoring such patterns is an article of faith — a secular faith known as “multiculturalism” and peddled under the slogan of “diversity.” This is the dogma that it is “racist” to judge cultures — except for the “white European” culture of America, which is judged to be hopelessly racist and oppressive.
This double standard is the basic pattern of mainstream reporting and analysis of Islamic terrorism.
First, reporters must be uncritically accepting of the culture, ideas and customs — no matter how barbaric — of any group of non-whites. Thus, the fact that Islam is linked the world over with bloodshed, tribal warfare, religious intolerance and dictatorship must be pasted over with the empty bromide that Islam is “a religion of peace.” And the fact that American Muslim leaders — who insist that the snipers “weren’t motivated by any religious or political agenda” — have a history of supporting Palestinian terrorism, is not considered worth reporting.
At the same time, acts of violence by white Americans, especially if there is any conceivable connection to the political right, must be trumpeted as an indictment of American values. Does anyone remember the press coverage of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber? Washington Post columnist Carl Rowan was typical, rushing to blame McVeigh’s killings on such far-right firebrands as Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole. In fact, McVeigh’s few statements of his motives, later on, included his outrage at America’s supposed brutality against Iraq — a view shared by today’s anti-war left.
In keeping with this bias, the media must regard America as the world’s real source of racial and religious intolerance. Hence the suggestion that the U.S. military is responsible for making John Muhammad into a killer. This is also why the media’s main concern, every time a new Arab or Muslim killer is caught, is to prevent the supposed persecution of Arab and Muslim Americans — despite the actual absence of an anti-Muslim pogrom.
The conservatives have done a good job of documenting this bias — yet the right is itself partly responsible for the whitewashing of Islam. Having told Americans for decades that we need to renounce secularism and bring old-time religion back into politics, they do not want to admit what old-time religion really looks like. They stick their heads in the sand and proclaim, in the words of Bush adviser David Forte, that “Nothing this evil can be religious.”
More than a year after Sept. 11, we face a continuing terrorist onslaught. The killers strike as groups or as individuals, in large attacks and small, from Bali to Moscow, from Kashmir to Maryland, from Jerusalem to Los Angeles. But they are united by one thing: the religious ideology of Islam.
To refuse making that judgment is to blindfold ourselves at a moment of mortal danger.