Thursday, May 7, 2015

Texas shooting, DHS, Muslims, Jews and the US govt

On May 3, 2015, two gunmen were killed by police in Garland, Texas. The two had opened fire at a guard in front of what has been described an anti-Islam gathering (“Former terror suspect well known to the FBI is named as one of two gunmen shot dead by cops after attack on anti-Islam 'draw Muhammad' art contest near Dallas”, The Daily Mail, May 4, 2015). After the incident, the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the shooting (Jane Onyanga-Omara and  John Bacon, “Islamic State claims responsibility for Texas attack”, USA Today, May 6, 2015).

After ISIS did that, US officials hesitated. They said they weren’t certain that ISIS was involved, even though at least one of the shooters was Muslim, and at least one of them spoke of Islam in his last tweet.  US officials said they couldn’t tell if IS had played an ‘inspirational’ or an ‘operational’ role in the attack (ibid).

But is that the only reason the US has hesitated to accept the ISIS claim? Is there another reason?

To understand why the US government might have a another reason for not connecting this attack to Islam, you have to go back three months to a White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. At that Summit, whose aim was to discuss how to counter violent extremism (most of which today is Islamic), the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spoke. He spoke because his DHS mission is to protect America against violent attack.  

But while speaking, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said something startlingly unusual. He declared that he would become the ‘voice’ of Muslims in America (“Homeland Security Chief: My Job Is To “Give Voice To The Plight Of Muslims,” patdollard, February 15, 2015)

This is what DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said while speaking about fighting terrorism:

“We in the administration and the government should give voice to the plight of Muslims living in this country and the discrimination that they face. And so I personally have committed to speak out about the situation that very often people in the Muslim community in this country face. The fact that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and the Islamic faith is one about peace and brotherhood (sic)”.

I don’t understand the Secretary’s remarks. What’s the link between protecting America against terror attacks and becoming the voice for the plight of Muslims in the US? Do Muslims in the US face dangers that are greater than other minorities?  Is the discrimination Muslims face demonstrably greater than that faced by blacks, American Indians or poor Latinos? Are hate crimes against them more frequent than against others?

One might argue that Muslims in the US are indeed victims of religious hate crime. Certainly, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has made a living railing against ‘anti-Muslim hysteria’ in America (“CAIR's “Hate Crimes” - The Investigative Project on Terrorism”,, no date). But if hate crimes are the Secretary’s motivation, he should be declaring his desire to speak for the plight of Jews in America, not Muslims. Why? Because of all hate crimes (in latest year available, 2013) motivated by religion, 59.2 per cent of attacks were against Jews/Judaism, and only 14.2 per cent were against Muslims/Islam.

In 2013, Jews were the victims of a hate crime four times more often than Muslims (Daniel Greenfield, “FBI: Jews 4X More Likely to be Victims of Hate Crimes than Muslims, Less Likely to be Investigated”, Front page Mag, December 12, 2014). Why is the Muslim plight more serious than the plight of Jews?

If he’s concerned about discrimination, why must he, the chief of DHS, speak out about that? That’s not his job.

The Secretary’s job is to protect the US—all citizens of the US—from terror, not discrimination. Since when did his job become to give voice to the plight of Muslims alone? Why does DHS single out Muslims for special notice?

When you look again at the Garland, Texas shooting through the prism of this extraordinary declaration, you might want to ask a question: does the US government’s hesitancy to link the Texas attack to Islam have anything to do with an official desire to provide Muslims (or Islam) with some kind of special ‘shield’? That would be extraordinary because, currently, there’s no evidence to support the need for such a shield. Have Muslims in America been granted a special ‘protected status’? Is that what we’re looking at here?

After the shooting, DHS requested “the public not misdirect anger and suspicion at other Muslims simply because of their religious faith” (Francesca Chambers, “Texas shooting WAS terrorism says White House: Obama spokesman says 'attempted' attack is a reminder of why law enforcement continues to be vigilant against threats”, The Daily Mail, May 5, 2015).

Does DHS exist to remind Americans not to direct anger or suspicion at Muslims? DHS is supposed to protect all of America against terror attacks. Why, after a violent attack, does it focus on protecting Muslims?

Is the US government changing? Should American Jews take notice?

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