Assessing Responsibility for the OSU Attack

How would a normal leftist assess what just happened at Ohio State University? As you know by now, the attacker was a Somali born Muslim man. Not long ago, he was featured in Ohio State’s student newspaper, The Lantern. In the story he said,

I mean, I’m new here. This is my first day. This place is huge, and I don’t even know where to pray. I wanted to pray in the open, but I was kind of scared with everything going on in the media. I’m a Muslim, it’s not what the media portrays me to be. If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they are going to think, what’s going to happen. But I don’t blame them. It’s the media that’s put that picture in their heads so their just going to have it, and it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable. I was kind of scared right now. But I just did it. I relied on God. I went over to the corner and just prayed.

Reading that quote, you might come away feeling a little sorry for Artan. He feels uncomfortable because people have a misconception of Islam and being Muslim. What would that misconception be? Presumably, that Islam is a violent religion that creates terrorists.

A question arises. How did Artan turn from the guy who said the above quote, concerned about the aforementioned misconception, into the guy who drove a truck into people and stabbed them? The leftist steps in, with conviction that is easily mistaken as knowledge, and says he was radicalized because of the media fervor around the election, and Trump, and all the nasty things that Trump and his supporters say about Islam and Muslims.

How dangerous and backward an answer this is! We know that Islam has a radical element to it, and even though most Muslims are peaceful (and quite irrelevant), far more terrorists are inspired by Islam than any other ideology or religion currently does in our culture. Yet, when Donald Trump and his supporters identify these terrorists as belonging to “radical Islam”, they are labeled bigots. To fail to label terrorists as followers of radical Islam, and to label those who do as bigots actually helps create the very environment of fear and discomfort that they blame conservatives for creating. Because the left acts as though Islam, whole cart, is a peaceful religion, we are hindered in distinguishing peaceful Muslims from those with radical tendencies (to say nothing of those with radical beliefs, which, as it turns out, is not a minority). Peaceful Muslim Americans often feel like they have to look over their shoulder, because the rest of us can’t tell whether they are radicals or not.

I feel bad for the Somali Muslim community in Columbus, many of whom are kind and good, no doubt. They undoubtedly feel uncomfortable when in the larger public, especially after attacks like the one carried out by Artan. They are now more likely to suffer from harassment. The end result is that they circle the wagons even tighter and engage the surrounding culture even less, resulting in an environment even more hospitable to radicalization. It is the left that is largely responsible for creating the environment in which these events are too likely. “Bigots who hate you and think you’re evil and violent are lurking behind bushes and hiding in shadows,” leftists repeat. And you know what? Peaceful Muslims start to believe it. And once they do, they are more likely to think that, hey, maybe my radical brothers and sisters are right; maybe driving trucks into crowds and slashing people with machetes is what these bigots deserve.

Walter Montgomery

Walter is a philosophy graduate student in New Hampshire. He sometimes wishes he was a lawyer, and other times wishes he was a basketball coach. Some of his favorite childhood memories involve traveling with his immediate family, grandparents, and cousins’ family in big gas-guzzling vans towing campers. He sees philosophy as a tool for getting at Truth, and thinks too many contemporary philosophers see it as a tool for advancing their ideological preferences.

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13 Comments

  1. To prove that Muslims are not violent, Artan runs over people with a car and stabs them. The more violent Muslims are the more the left considers them victims. Liberals are insane.

  2. “even though most Muslims are peaceful (and quite irrelevant)”

    (I take this to mean that it’s their peacefulness and not them that’s irrelevant.) Irrelevant to what exactly? I can think of all sorts of things that their peacefulness is irrelevant, but also some things that it is relevant to. If we can pin down exactly what is relevant and irrelevant in this context (the putative relation between Islam and violence), then a lot more people might be on the same page about the nature of the enemy/threat, so that we can *get it right* about whom and what we should be targeting. We should encourage tamping down on rhetoric that might make Muslims feel threatened themselves (under the presumption that they are likely to be in the great majority, with its being the great majority being irrelevant to some things and relevant to others). We should also want very much to be able to correctly identify the nature of the enemy.

    We know that with ISIS-types, we have people whose MO is violent and based on a certain interpretation of Islam, and there appears to be a wide and irreconcilable difference in the public dialogue between those who interpret in different ways (namely with respect to violence, and perhaps with respect to women’s rights and other things where the West and the Middle East tend to differ, such differences arising from religion and maybe some other cultural elements). Clearly these differences in interpretation lead to a major problem of violence in the Islamic world, and that’s a truly politically-correct way of putting it. This doesn’t mean that it’s determined which interpretation is correct; it allows for either. And it’s a battle of ideas that it is incumbent upon the peaceful Muslims to partake in and not simply push aside as not being real Islam. (This is where there peacefulness could be very relevant.) Anyway, our real national-security concern isn’t Islam but this particular interpretation or strain of it, and these violent groups draw upon the Koran and hadith for support of their ideology. This particular group has been misnomered as “radicalized” when more properly we should say something like “jihadized” or simply “violent”. (Radical pacifists are not a danger to others….) We might also rightly use the term “Islamist” to distinguish those promoting a politicized variant of Islam and to identiy “violent Islamists” as, well, ISIS-types. To use that term we would first need to draw the correct and clear distinction between a Muslim and an Islamist.

    • Hi Ultimate,
      Irrelevant with respect to whether or not Islam is inspiring a disproportionately high number of its followers toward acts of violence. I think I agree with what you are saying in your first comment. Regarding your second comment, yeah, sure, the attacker is responsible. Is he solely responsible? Well, in terms of prosecuting someone, yes, but not in terms of influences that contributed to him having the beliefs he had that led him to do what he did. We can’t know what all those individuals are for a given individual, but my contention here is that liberal PC culture has helped create an environment in which radicalization of our Muslim citizens, and OSU-like attacks done because of radicalization, are more likely. This is a bad thing!

  3. Also, I just spotted this party foul:
    “How would a normal leftist assess…”
    I mean, I guess you could say Chomsky is reasonably normal (as a human being anyway), and I guess you could say that he’s a leftist of sorts (and leftists do tend to like him quite a bit). But this seems like stretching things some.

    • I don’t think I’m following you, here. What, exactly is the foul? Calling leftists ‘normal’? Read ‘normal’ as ‘typical’ here.

  4. What about a president-elect who in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on foreign soil claims to have personally seen “thousands and thousands” of Muslims celebrating on 9/11 in Jersey City? When pressed to bear the burden of providing evidential support the president-elect changes his claim and personally attacks his critics for having the audacity to question his claim. Wouldn’t you call such a person a bigot? Wouldn’t you place that person at the front of the line of being liable for creating an unbearable environment for a minority population when emotions were raw?

    • Trump has said ridiculous things like that 2016 is the worst time in history to be African-American. Do you believe him? Of course you don’t, and you wouldn’t try to argue that this is seriously what Trump believes, because saying something that shows concern for contemporary African-Americans, that is something you can’t make Trump out to be a monster with. Instead, you simply do what most people do: you realise its an exaggeration and don’t take it too seriously.

      Trump exaggerates. Trump supporter know he exaggerates. YOU know he exaggerates, but that doesn’t stop you from taking an exaggeration literally if there is a chance you can make him out to be a monster with it.

  5. News reports did in fact claim that people were seen cheering in New Jersey. Also, Trump never said he saw anyone cheering–he just said that both he and they were there when he saw the Towers fall. So you first need to get your facts straight; take a breath and don’t get your burqa in a bunch.

    That being said, did Trump know that thousands were cheering? Of course not. This is just Trump being Trump and exaggerating to suit his purposes. But is it crazy to think that there thousands who were happy in that area. Is it? Look at the Pew Research data on Muslims around the world and the percentage who support Sharia and worse. Most Muslims aren’t terrorists, but a whole helluva lot of Muslims support terrorist organizations.

  6. I think you understate the issue. Trump wasn’t merely inaccurate or speaking in hyperbole. That description owes its existence to Trump surrogates who supply secularised “taqiya” exemption cards in spades. He was lying. Not only did he lie about what he claimed to see, but he doubled down on his lie when challenged by critics. He never saw (either personally or on tv) Muslims celebrating by the thousands in Jersey City (or anywhere else in New Jersey) nor were the celebrations confirmed by the press. If anything, mass Muslim celebration rumours were roundly disputed. The latter fact is googleable for anyone who cares to look it up.

    Take the above point in stride with the fact that at one point Trump wanted to bar foreign Muslims from entry, the fact that he wants to put Muslims on a registry, and the fact he wants to shut down mosques on the flimsiest basis. The only plausible interpretation is bigotry. To say less is to ratchet down the threshold of what a bigot is for the sake of Trump. I’m unwilling to do that. Even if he doesn’t fit the definition of a bigot on a necessary and sufficient conditional analysis, he’s willing to express ideas that are intolerable towards Muslims. That’s all I need to make my point stand.

    To my point: Trump isn’t some obscure right-wing political wonk or some mouthy shock jock on some AM dial. He’s soon to assume the role of chief commander and possess the executive power to nominate judges to the Supreme Court. His public expressions about Muslims and plucked-from-the-rear policy proposals have contributed to the anxiety at root in Artan’s letter. An assessment of responsibility would loop back to Trump. At least we know lefties don’t have a monopoly on environmental toxicity.

    I can’t speak for Artan but I’ll speak for myself. I think it’s disgusting that after everything Americans have fought for (on the battle field and in the court of ideas), in 2016 Americans elect a man who can’t speak about Muslims but in either the negative or in distorted terms.

    • Hi Derrick,
      I think you overestimate the issue. I don’t disagree with you when you say he never saw, whether in person or on television, Muslims celebrating by the thousands in Jersey City. I deny the statement is rooted in bigotry, and I deny that any number of Trump’s stupid statements have led to an increase in Islamic extremism.

      I also deny that wanting to bar foreign Muslim’s from entry is bigoted, especially when we know that a higher percentage of foreign Muslims are interested in committing terrorists acts against this country, and we easily decipher the ones with harmful intent from those without. That Trump’s calls for bans to be temporary is evidence that this isn’t rooted in bigotry. He often added something like “We need a ban UNTIL we really know who is coming.”

      Now, I find the idea of a registry, and shutting down mosques, to about as stupid as the idea of making a national registry for the purchase of certain kinds of firearms. I’m against both, but I find it odd to call either bigoted. But, if you want to call Trump a bigot for calling for a registry of Muslims, go for it. Just be consistent and call those who want to gun registries bigots too.

      I don’t doubt that Trump’s comments contribute to the anxiety in Artan’s letters. That anxiety could be somewhat alleviated if we dropped the PC nonsense and could call the terrorists ‘Islamic radicals’ and clearly distinguish them from those Muslims who are not.

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