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Misunderstanding Terrorism, Misrepresenting Islam

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This weekend, the FBI arrested a man for planting what he thought was an improvised explosive device outside Wrigley Field in Chicago. Sami Samir Hassoun had hoped to kill scores of spectators who were leaving Saturday night's Dave Matthews Band concert. Fortunately, Hassoun had been on the FBI's radar for quite some time - and had been provided with a dummy device incapable of exploding.

As a counter-terrorism professor, I can draw several lessons from this case: (1) successful terrorist attacks occur only when intentions are matched by capabilities, and the desired capability in this case - the bomb - continues to be a means that is just not readily available to terrorists; (2) groups do not have a monopoly on terrorism, with lone wolves like Hassoun often perpetrating acts of politically-motivated violence; and (3) there seems to be no shortage of idiot terrorists - for which we should count our blessings.

But let me not bore you with points I have made in the past.

This piece is not on the attack but rather public reactions to the attack.

I have been somewhat appalled by some of the comments I've read on Twitter regarding the Wrigleyville plot.

Here's just a sampling:

  • This is why illegals shouldn't be allowed a free ride - Sami Samir Hassoun Arrested In Alleged Chicago Bomb Plot.
  • some lebanese kid named samir hassoun tried to blow up wrigley field last sunday...someone get these dirty ass aliens out of our country.
  • Sami Samir Hassoun Charged in Bomb Plot Outside Wrigley Field. These MUSLIMS in America, ain't they somthin'?
  • Sami Samir Hassoun sounds like a christian name? LOL
  • A man was arrested yesterday for trying to blow people up at Wrigley in Chicago. His name? Sami Samir Hassoun. Yep, definitely Amish.
  • The guy just busted in a plot to blow up Wrigley Field is named Sami Samir Hassoun. Clearly, another Norwegian Lutheran fanatic.
Hassoun is a permanent legal resident of the United States. While he is a Lebanese citizen, he is in the U.S. legally. Suggestions to the contrary are wrong.

Moreover, the sarcasm of many of these tweets regarding Muslims is not just misplaced, it's inappropriate. For starters, Hassoun's motive was completely secular. The authorities have made it clear that he was not driven by extremist religious ideology. Instead, his gripe was with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Unfortunately, that didn't stop people from making cracks at the expense of Muslims.

Wake up call: Equating terrorism with Islam is worthy of a Nobel Prize in Ignorance.

Here's a news flash: not all terrorists are Muslims! Recall Timothy McVeigh, Scott Roeder, James von Brunn, and Joseph Stack? What did they all have in common? They all killed Americans for political purposes. Oh, and none of them were Muslims.

Here's another news flash: in trying to identify violent Islamic extremists, name, nationality, race, and sex are poor predictors of terrorism. How soon some people forget Jose Padilla, Michael Finton, Carlos Bledsoe, and Colleen LaRose (a.k.a., Jihad Jane)? Furthermore, let's not forget that the deadliest terrorist attack inside the U.S. since 9/11 was committed by an American citizen - not some "alien" - and, to boot, one entrusted with a position of trust in the U.S. Army: Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

This past weekend, Nick Kristof wrote a column in the New York Times publicly apologizing to Muslims for the bigotry to which they've been subjected. Kristof's point is not lost on me.

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