Conservatives frequently criticize President Barack Obama for not referring to the Islamic State, and other terrorist groups and sympathizers, as “Islamist.” Turns out, there’s a good reason he doesn’t.
At a CNN town hall event on Wednesday, a Gold Star mother asked Obama why he does’t use the term “Islamic terrorist.” Obama explained that he avoids it “to make sure that we do not lump these murderers into the billion Muslims that exist around the world, including in this country, who are peaceful, who are responsible, who, in this country, are fellow troops and police officers and fire fighters and teachers and neighbors and friends.”
“These are people who’ve killed children, killed Muslims, take sex slaves, there’s no religious rationale that would justify in any way any of the things that they do,” he said of groups like ISIS. “If you had an organization that was going around killing and blowing people up and said, ‘We’re on the vanguard of Christianity.’ As a Christian, I’m not going to let them claim my religion and say, ‘you’re killing for Christ.’ I would say, that’s ridiculous. That’s not what my religion stands for. Call these folks what they are, which is killers and terrorists.”
His comments come just weeks before the nation will decide whether or not to elect a man who has pledged to ban all Muslims from the U.S. Donald Trump’s campaign has been quick to connect terrorism to Syrian refugees in particular.
“It’s a big problem! We don’t know anything about them,” Trump said earlier this year. “We don’t know where they come from, who they are. There’s no documentation. We have our incompetent government people letting ‘em in by the thousands, and who knows, who knows, maybe it’s ISIS.”
But actually, we do know where they come from. The vetting process for refugees is one of the most rigid aspects of the U.S. immigration system. It requires biometric scans, interagency security checks, and months (even years) of waiting. If there are any potential red flags, it’s highly unlikely the United States government would miss them.
Trump’s insistence that anyone who follows Islam― a religion of 1.6 billion people ― has the potential to be a terrorist isn’t just inaccurate; it’s dangerous. New research shows that politicians’ hateful rhetoric can directly contribute to a rise in hate crimes.
The report, from California State University-San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, found that violence against Muslims increased last year after Trump announced his plans to ban them. The report also found that after former President George W. Bush gave a speech urging Americans not to take out their grief over 9/11 on Islam, Islamophobic attacks declined.
“There’s very compelling evidence that political rhetoric may well play a role in directing behavior in the aftermath of a terrorist attack,” Brian Levin, the author of the report, told The Atlantic. “I don’t think we can dismiss contentions that rhetoric is one of the significant variables that can contribute to hate crimes.”
“We are not at war with Islam,” he said last year. “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”