Why Do Liberals and Muslims Not Criticize Islamic Terrorism?

I've thought about this question a lot lately, and I thought I knew the answer to it. The question is a lot more nuanced than to satisfy itself with only one answer, though. First, some people don't criticize terrorism because they're afraid of the terrorists. Others don't because they can't understand why the United States and others have exercised imperial dominion over the Middle East for so long.

But the most important answer to the question--which admittedly came as some surprise to me--is this: most liberals and Muslims do criticize Islamic violence and terrorism. You just have to know where to look.

Where Not to Look. One of the places that you can't look to find out what liberals and Muslims really think about radical Islam is the Rush Limbaugh show. Yesterday on his last hour, he attempted to lambaste Barack Obama for his willingness to have a dialog with the Iranians. Limbaugh made the mistake of letting Obama speak for himself and his own sensible ideas, beside which Limbaugh himself seemed like a sputtering, silly man.

Another place not to look: Jihad Watch by Robert Spencer. Benazir Bhutto, in her posthumous book entitled Reconciliation, called Spencer one of the most ill-informed people regarding the true nature of Islam. I've read one of his books, I've heard him speak on the subject, and I whole-heartedly agree.

Examples of Failure to Criticize. Admittedly, there are times when organizations don't have it in their best interest to publicize the fact that many Muslims abhor Islamic terrorism. A great example--perhaps out of their interest not to offend Saudi Arabia or the terrorist fringe itself--was the instance in which PBS would not broadcast the show "Islam vs. Islamists".

Liberals and Muslims Usually Do Criticize. Thinking I knew everything about liberals and Muslims, I received a different perspective as I read Madeleine Albright's recent book The Mighty & The Almighty. In her book, the former Secretary of State taught me that it is a matter of course for most liberals and Muslims to abhor terror, and they understand it to be completely not in keeping with the fundamentals of Islam. While they do speak out against it, they don't think they need to go around talking about a self-evident truth all the time.

Conservatives often claim that if radical Islam were to take over the United States, a lot of our freedoms would be destroyed. From a practical

While most liberals and Muslims do speak out against Islamic terrorism, they don't think they need to go around talking about a self-evident truth all the time.

perspective (i.e. the perspective not taken by Rush Limbaugh and Robert Spencer) there are so relatively few radical Muslims that it would be impossible for them to take over the United States.

So let's look at what really matters--what most liberals and Muslims apparently really think about Islamic terror. Here's what Secretary Albright has to say:
There is little generalized desire on the part of Muslims to involve themselves in violence. If they agree about anything, it is about the peaceful nature of their faith. Even when the Taliban held power...[it] was recognized diplomatically by only three of the fifty-three Muslim-majority countries.

The Mighty & The Almighty, p. 268
Her personal opinion is that
The invasion of Iraq certainly made it easier for radical imans to assert that all Muslims are under attack; but a sense of victimization provides no moral excuse for blowing up subway cars in London.

ibid., p. 234
Here's what Muslims are saying Islamic terrorism themselves:
The managing editor of a daily newspaper, a childhood friend of bin Laden, has written a denunciation of those who use the Quran to condem all Christians and Jews. Numerous columnists have lambasted Al Qaeda... Abdel Rahman al-Rashad, general manager of...Al Arabiya, has declared:

It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims... We cannot tolerate this...whatever suffering they claim to justify their criminal needs. These are the people who have smeared Islam and stained its image.

ibid., p. 210
If you want to know how Muslims and liberals feel about Islamic terror, you should probably ask a Muslim or a liberal. Because Rush Limbaugh, Robert Spencer, and people with axes to grind or bucks to make like them very likely won't give you the right answer.


  1. "While most liberals and Muslims do speak out against Islamic terrorism, they don't think they need to go around talking about a self-evident truth all the time."


    Couldn't have said it better myself. We see no need to belabor the points about which other ideologies understand. So we emphasize the truths that are less self-evident to others. This same logic applies to a number of other political/economic topics.

    Thank you for addressing the point.

  2. You're on the right track. You might have asked, "why do right-wingers talk about terrorism all the time while not doing anything to stop it?"

    IMHO they think the politics of fear will continue to pay off for them. Objectively, President Bush's policies have encouraged and increased terrorism. The GWOT has been a costly flop.

    The Bush administration is obsessed with trying to occupy Iraq and trying to invent an excuse to bomb Iran, while doing almost nothing to track down unaccounted-for fissionable material, for example, or to secure U.S. ports.

  3. Connie,

    Sheepitude never suited anybody.


    Sorry it took me a while to get around to seeing that point.


    Of the 5 steps listed in the linked article, I particularly liked this one:

    Exemplify the ideals we profess. Rather than telling others how to live, Americans should devote themselves to repairing their own institutions. Our enfeebled democracy just might offer the place to start.

  4. That last quote ("exemplify the ideals...") is a very good statement of one of the concepts to which I was referring in my post on moral responsibility.


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