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Clay Farris Naff Headshot

Jihad, Crusade and Our Marathon Race Against the Neuron Bomb

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I hate to break ranks with my liberal brethren, but there is a clear pattern in the mass killings that this country has suffered over the past 10 years. If, as the evidence strongly indicates, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev took part in the mayhem in Boston, then that pattern extends right up to the moment. Liberal commentators like The Huffington Post's own Qasim Rashid may not like it, but there is no denying the data.

We are a nation under seige ... by students.

I don't for a moment mean to trivialize the suffering in my old hometown of Boston. All the same, I won't stand by and watch the tragedy misappropriated by Islamophobes. So let's see what happens when we apply their twisted logic to the data.

Of the 30 mass murders committed in the last decade, fully 20 percent have been committed by students. It's shocking, but true. They emerge at every level of the education system. Among the most infamous: graduate student James Holmes, who allegedly shot dozens in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.; Virginia Tech undergraduate Seung-Hui Cho, who shot more than 50 before taking his life; community college student Jared Loughner, who shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others at a public event; and 16-year-old high school student Jeffrey Weise, who shot more than a dozen at his home and high school before taking his life.

Considering the clarity of this pattern, it's a bit of a puzzle why the rightwing media is obsessing about Islam. Only 10 percent of U.S. mass killings in the last 10 years have involved Muslims. That's half the number committed by students. If you count recent graduates, like 19-year-old Robert Hawkins, who shot up the Westroads Mall in Omaha, the student-killer percentage goes even higher.

Yet, even as I write, colleges and universities are admitting millions of new students to their campuses. High schools around the nation will shortly graduate 3.3 million of them into our society, where they will be free to take jobs, join social organizations, and even vote or run for office. In short, students, who have a proven record of becoming mass killers, are infiltrating every sector of society. So why is the rightwing media ignoring this explosive story?

To listen to them, you would think it's all about jihad. Look for the not-so-subtle shift from radical jihadists to all of Islam throughout all of history in these excerpts from Andrew McCarthy's essay "Jihad Will Not Be Wished Away" in the National Review online:

First, there's the set up: "Brutalizing our own non-Muslim country has been the principal objective of jihadists for the last 20 years."

Really? So, the hundreds killed in the Bali nightclub bombings, the London transit bombings, the mass slaughter in Spain, the suicide bombings in Israel and Lebanon, the brutality in Mali, the tens of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan, the horror in Mumbai, and the hundreds dead just this year in the Algerian gas plant -- those were all just sideshows?

Nah. The truth is, we are the sideshow. The United States does not even rank among the top 10 countries targeted by terrorists over the last several decades. Among those that have suffered more terrorist attacks are five predominantly Islamic countries.

But who has time to think? No, it's on to the syllogistic smear:

[J]ihad ... stubbornly refuses to be wished away. It will have to be defeated. It was never a molehill we were exaggerating into Mohammed's mountain. After 1,400 years of aggression, we can safely say it is not anytime soon going to evolve into the ballyhooed "internal struggle for personal betterment" -- not for the tens of millions of Muslims for whom Islamic supremacism is, quite simply, Islam.

The doublespeak in the final line is breathtaking in its duplicitous malice. Though McCarthy may, in respectable company, claim he is merely speaking of an ideological struggle -- one might even say a sort of jihad -- against the belief of tens of millions of Muslims that Islam is the correct path for all of humanity, to bigots this is a clarion call for an armed crusade against imagined hordes of bomb-throwing Islamo-terrorists.

But wait. How do we know that this last line is not just my malicious fantasy about right-wingers? Well, not everyone on the right is as circumspect as McCarthy. Over at WND.com, the "exclusive" story amounts to this: the Boston Marathon bombings were part of a vast Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy, led by our Muslim-in-Chief Barack Hussein Obama, who want to take away your guns. Driving the point home, WND calumnyist Pamela Geller ("Defending the West"!), writes, "The enemedia are disarming the American people, inevitably leading sheep to slaughter." [Hey, lady, that's enemudslinging.]

Then there's Glenn Beck. In fine McCarthyite style (Joseph, not Andrew), Beck reacted to the bombings by saying he "has a feeling" that nearly 1-in-10 Muslims is a terrorist and then asking why the media isn't reporting this. (If you have a few minutes, watch Fareed Zakaria's dismantling of Beck's rant here.)

Terror such as that inflicted in Boston goes straight to the most primitive lobes of our brains. It reshapes our perceptions. Unless we employ active, accurate reasoning, even the most sensible of us is apt to slip into Juan Williams mode.

With that in mind, let's get to real issues. First, there are roughly 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Estimates of Islamist terrorists vary, but a generous (non-Beckian) quarter-century total is 100,000. At most, then, one in 10,000 Muslims is a terrorist. The remaining 99.99 percent? Not so much. In fact, the vast majority are not even sympathizers. Not only are most Muslims not terrorists, most terrorists are not Muslims.

That said, Rashid is simply wrong to assert that "America is not under threat from radical Islam." It is, and if not for the effectiveness of anti-terrorist law enforcement, the incompetence of various would-be jihadi terrorists, and the bravery of some citizens, the carnage would be vastly worse.

The difference between most student killers and Islamist terrorists is significant: Campus killers like Seung-Hui Cho of Virginia Tech are typically victims of defective brain chemistry, something that while scary is at least confined to the hardware in their heads. Islamist terrorists are usually people with normal brain physiology who been taken over by malicious software. And software, as we all know, can go viral. Hence, the paranoid fantasies of Beck and company.

Fortunately, most people have pretty good mental immune systems. All the same, history shows malicious ideological viruses can spread throughout a population (Hitler turned German mythology into an ideology that gripped his nation). It also shows that once infected an otherwise ordinary young man can be reprogrammed as a neuron bomb that can detonate in the most horrific ways imaginable. We should by no means be complacent about the spread of Islamist jihadi ideology.

The way to fight it, however, is not by crusading against all Muslims. It is by strengthening mental immune systems with reason. For now, though, whenever I see a young man hauling textbooks, I'm headed for the exits!