Saturday, February 20, 2010

Yerrorism, Redefined

Terrorism, Redefined

WASHINGTON, DC (MASNET) Feb. 20, 2010 - When nearly 200 Internal Revenue Service workers in Austin, Texas reported for work last Thursday, most of them were probably not expecting the experience of being attacked by an airplane that intentionally crashed into their workplace. But that is exactly what happened when Joseph Stack, a mild-mannered and seemingly innocuous engineer, piloted his Cessna aircraft and, in apparent rage, flew it into the downtown office building that housed the IRS office in the city-after setting his own house afire and writing a rambling screed condemning that most American of organizations.

By God's grace, only two persons, including Stack, were killed in the attack, while several others were critically injured. But what is interesting about the media characterizations of the incident is the absence of the word "terrorism" in describing the action.

We are left to wonder: what is Mr. Stack were an Arab Muslim, and not a middle-class Caucasian? What if Islamic literature were found in the remnants of his burned-out house? And what if he attended a local mosque?

Despite the (thankful) absence of massive casualties, the media view of the event should give us all some food for thought. Since "terrorism" is generally defined as violent attacks perpetrated against non-combatants that are motivated by political grievances, it would seem logically that Stack-who had major personal beef with the tax system-might have been, logically, called a terrorist. But he will not be.

And that brings me to my second point. Muslims who merely view pro-Jihadist websites, or who travel to places where violence is part of the social currency of resistance, are routinely surveyed, arrested, and even convicted of "conspiracy" against the State. They don't have to crash planes into buildings ( as the 9-11 criminals did): they are suspect, and convicted in the court of public opinion, not for what they do, but because of the fear of what people assume they might harbor within themselves.

Will the FBI send an investigation team to the late Mr. Stack's church? Or will they monitor his travel and telephone call records or put his widow in an interrogation cell and pump her for information about their associates?

Probably not. Because while murder is an evil no matter who commits it, collective guilt by association seems to be, sadly, something that some groups of people must worry about more than others. Criminality and violence may come in all social identities, but the labeling of acts of violence is an editorial decision.

As a Muslim, I am sorry about the tragedy of Joseph Stack's terrorist attack in Austin, Texas. And equally, for the sake of so many of my coreligionists, I am thankful that he cannot be associated in any way with Islam.

Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

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