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Glenn Greenwald: Making “Islam” Synonymous with “Terrorism”

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald, has written another great piece on his blog at, I urge all to keep up with his writing. He discusses how the media has made a concerted and boneheaded effort to make the word “Islam” synonymous with “terrorism.”

Making “Islam” synonymous with “terrorism”

(updated below)

No matter how many times you see it, the capacity for people to believe what they want to believe, rather than what is actually true, is astounding — and those who want to depict Islam as the ultimate evil seem to grant themselves special license to live that way:

From Jeffrey Weiss, Politics Daily, today: “And we’re still left with a terrible problem for a free and multicultural society: Even though 99.999 percent of Muslims abhor attacks on innocent civilians on moral and theological grounds, 100 percent of attempted terrorist attacks on the U.S. (and, with the exception of the Basques in Spain, terrorists attacks on all Western nations) since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing have been committed by people claiming to act in the name of Islam.”

Compare that claim to reality:

1998: Dozens die in Omagh bombing:  At least 27 people are feared dead in the worst paramilitary bombing since the start of the Northern Ireland conflict three decades ago  The blast in the market town of Omagh, County Tyrone, at around 1500 BST on Saturday, left more than 100 people injured or maimed” — BBC.

September 21, 2000:  A rocket attack on MI6 headquarters in London is believed to be the work of dissident Irish republicans” — BBC.

“In a series of court documents that were at turns chilling and bizarre, federal investigators said U.S. Army microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins misled government agents investigating the 2001 anthrax mailings, sent emails with language closely matching the handwritten letters sent to victims and had access to the strain of anthrax used in the crime. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says the evidence, including hundreds of pages of unsealed documents, proves that Dr. Ivins was the sole person responsible for the 2001 anthrax mailings . . . The most compelling evidence points at Dr. Ivins and his laboratory at the U.S. Army biodefense facility at Fort Detrick, Md.” — Wall St. Journal, August 7, 2008.

“Olympic bombing suspect Eric Robert Rudolph — wanted in attacks that killed two people and injured more than 100 in the Southeast — was arrested early Saturday in western North Carolina and faces a Monday morning court date. Rudolph has been charged in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, Georgia; 1997 bombings at a gay nightclub and a clinic that performed abortions in the Atlanta area; and a bombing at a clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1998” — CNN, May 31, 2003.

U.S.-born Jewish terrorist suspected of series of attacks over past 12 years: The authorities have arrested a resident of the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel for suspected murder and a role in a string of murder plots, according to details of an investigation revealed Sunday after a gag order was lifted. Yaakov (Jack) Tytell, who was arrested last month, is suspected of involvement in the murder of two Palestinians and the rigging of a bomb that seriously injured a boy from a Messianic Jewish family in Ariel. . . . Some of his actions were allegedly motivated by hatred for gays and lesbians” – Haaretz, November 3, 2009.

“The Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday charged alleged Jewish terrorist Yaakov (Jack) Teitel with two murders, three attempted murders and other acts of violence. “It was a pleasure and an honor to serve my God,” said Teitel at the Jerusalem courthouse. “I have no regret and no doubt that God is pleased” — Haaretz, December 11, 2009.

“Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally Saturday night in Tel Aviv’s Kings Square, a top aide confirmed. He was reportedly shot in the arm and back by a Jewish man in his mid-20s who is allegedly affiliated with right-wing extremist groups. . . . Amir confessed to the assassination and reportedly told investigators, ‘I acted alone on God’s orders and I have no regrets‘.” — CNN, November 4, 1995.

The chairman of the Jewish Defense League and a member of the extremist organization are accused of a bombing scheme aimed at the office of an Arab-American congressman and a prominent Los Angeles mosque. JDL chairman Irv Rubin, 56, and Earl Krugel, 59, were held without bail Wednesday after being charged with the failed bombing plot.  Authorities said the two men held a series of meetings in October to plan the bombing of the King Fahd Mosque and the San Clemente office of freshman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif” — Fox News, December 13, 2001.

“Professor Zeev Sternhell knows as much as anyone about the current threat from Jewish terrorism. His right leg is recovering from shrapnel caused when a bomb, believed to have been the work of right-wing Jewish extremists, exploded outside the front door of his Jerusalem apartment last week. While Arab-Jewish violence is common, the attack on the 73-year-old historian has shocked public opinion in Israel because all the evidence points to it being intra-Jewish. ‘I consider it an act of Jewish terrorism,’ he said in an interview from the modest apartment where the bomb exploded” — Telegraph, October 3, 2008.

“A doctor who performed abortions was shot to death by a sniper in his western New York home Friday night in an attack denounced as ‘terrorism’ by the state’s governor.  ‘It’s beyond a tragedy. It’s really an act of terrorism and, in my mind, a cold-blooded assassination,’ Gov. George Pataki said of the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian.’ — CNN, October 22, 1998.

“A white supremacist suspected of targeting blacks, Jews and Asians in a deadly Independence Day weekend drive-by shooting rampage from Chicago to Bloomington, Indiana, died after a high-speed chase in Salem, Illinois on Sunday night, police said Monday” — CNN, July 5, 1999.

Mountaineer Militia leader Floyd Looker, convicted in an alleged plot to blow up an FBI fingerprint complex, was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison Friday” — Ocala Star-Ledger, October 11, 1996.

I could spend all day listing more of the same.  And that’s using the narrowest definition possible of “terrorism” — i.e., excluding any state-sponsored terrorist acts.  We’re currently at various forms of war in five different Muslim countries, so it’s not surprising that some of the violence directed at us is from Muslims.   But to claim that “100 percent of attempted terrorist attacks on the U.S. (and [other than Spain], terrorists attacks on all Western nations)” since 1995 are by “people claiming to act in the name of Islam” is so blatantly, demonstrably, obviously false that you really have to wonder about a person who would utter such a thing.  And while most don’t veer quite as deep into the falsehood department as Weiss did, one would get the sense from listening to our standard political discourse that “Terrorism” and “Islamic-inspired Terrorism” are synonymous.  It’s the kind of myth-based demonization that is as familiar as it is false, dangerous and repugnant.

UPDATE:  To his credit, Weiss has added an update noting the false nature of his claim.

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  • IbnAbuTalib

    Dolly: Without terror islam would fade away in a very short time.

    And without Islam, you professional bigots would be unemployed.

  • Mark Scrottum

    the first word”terror” was media reported when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuked!

  • Ryan

    terror is a new development. Islam will thrive without terror

  • Dolly

    Without terror islam would fade away in a very short time.

  • Nissa

    @Sanity inspector- you have lumped all Muslim militant movements into the ‘global jihad’ movement when it is nothing of the sort. The Chechens have been fighting for independence for a century- religion only became a factor after the first Chechen war when their cause got some actual air time in the global press and they got foreign money for their efforts.

    The Thai rebels are not popular amongst the Muslims of Southern Thailand and actually do target the Thai government. Filipino rebels also target the government and it targets them right back- there were Muslims in the Philippines before the Spanish colonised it and marginalised them.

    How exactly are Frech (they are French fyi!) youths rioting because of a lack of socio-economic opportunities part of the ‘global jihad’?

    Someone without any knowledge of the history and political contexts of all the examples you gave might buy what you’re saying but your whole argument is so full of wholes because you ignore the local and global aspects of where these movements came from and attribute it to them simply being Muslim.
    And ‘stealth jihad’- oh please, that totally gives you away as an paranoid Islamophobe.
    It is also hilarious that you have insinuated Muslims are the barrier to world peace….HA!

  • Talha

    Thanks for this. If only people had more insight like this then the world would be a far better place. Very useful!

  • I find it fruitful to consider who do terrorists consider to be their enemies? RW militias in the U.S. hate the federal government. The IRA hates Britain. The Tamil Tigers hate the Sri Lankan government. The ETA hates the Spanish national government.

    But Islamic jihadists attack everyone. Chechen jihadists attack Muscovites. Thai and Filipinio jihadists attack their nominal co-nationalists. Arab jihadists take it as a religious duty to attack non-dhimmified Jews. French “youths” burn cars, among less visible mischief. British jihadists are only the most visible part of the stealth jihad in that land. “Islam has bloody borders”, as someone once said.

    That doesn’t include all Muslims, certainly. But it includes enough of them to constitute a serious problem for the peace of the world. There’s nothing directly comparable to the omni-fronted Jihad in any other militant movement in the world, not since the fall of expansive communism.

  • To say nothing of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Christian terrorist group that has killed at least 100,000, and the Fighting Christian Front, which targets Muslims in Italy.

  • George Carty

    Adam Tooze’s The Wages Of Destruction makes the argument that the country Hitler feared the most was not the Soviet Union but the (in his view Jewish-controlled) United States. Hitler’s invasion of Russia was not a goal in its own right, but a project to capture the resources (chiefly the farmland of Ukraine and the oil of the Caucasus) that would make Germany comparably powerful to the United States.

    Now fast-forward to the present. For the neocons, is conquest of the Middle East an end in itself (to guarantee Israel for all time), or is it way of curbing the terrifying economic power of China (by cutting off its oil supply)?

  • The Neo Cons and those who shared their dream of Pax Americana, try to obfuscate the real issue of people reacting to their military adventures and pretend that it is Islam because they hope they can garner support against Muslim countries, which happen to be their prime enemies.

    As if people are not aware that if China suddenly decided to do the same and sent military bases around the globe and started a war with America, Americans too would be indulging in “terror” attacks.

  • AF

    Here in Italy there have been terrorist attacks by the “Red Brigades” (a comunist terrorist group), N’drangheta, Sicilian Mafia, Camorra, and other sparse groups. The Mafia is very fond of the Virgin Mary, they are all fervent catholics, when they captured Bernardo Provenzano, which was basically the Mafia’s “Bin Laden”, he had on the table beside his bed a Bible and various images of the Virgin Mary.

    Some Loon like Pamela Geller, if Provenzano was a muslim, would’ve immediately linked his religion to his criminal actions. But that has not been the case with Provenzano. Apparently this “line of reasoning” works only with Islam and Muslims, where the criminal acts of a tiny minority is pinned upon the rest of the huge majority and their whole religion.

  • Schlaftius

    Let’s not forget to mention all the various terrorist attacks performed by Mafia and Camorra in Italy, Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Hindutva in India, Maoists in Nepal, and separatists allover the world in Corsica, Greece, Russia, Tibet etc,…

  • Biz

    Excellent article!

  • leonora

    It’s not that he wrote what was factual, but that he chose to write the facts specifically on this topic. It’s all about what facts you choose to point out.

  • Ustadh

    For writing this Greenwald will be labeled a leftist who doesn’t know anything, and is in alignment with Terrorists.
    He wrote a fact but people will complain that he is falling for the victimhood status.

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