The president says, “Muslims are our neighbors,” which, in fact, they are. Newspapers, including the influential Washington Post, have run stories extoling the virtues of Muslim refugees, Muslim soldiers, and Muslims as just-about-everyone, which, in fact, they are.
And because of that, perhaps, Americans have not exactly been on an “anti-Muslim” rampage since the San Bernardino jihadist attack that killed 14 people, despite the fear-mongering of CAIR. Americans don’t need condescending lectures by the president or threats by the attorney general. There are more than 318 million people living in the United States. In 2014, law enforcement totaled 1,014 religion-based hate crimes including 609 against Jews (60%) and 154 (15%) against Muslims. The FBI totals are slightly different: 1,140 crimes, of which 648 (56.8%) were against Jews and 184 (16%) against Muslims.
Using the law enforcement totals, there was a spike in crimes against Muslims 2001 to 481 (26%), and then a decline to 155 (11%) in 2002. The numbers until 2014 ran between 105 (11%) in 2008 and 160 (12%) in 2010.
Both the patriotism and the fear in the Muslim community are real, and a spike in 2015 is likely, so caution is in order. But Americans in general aren’t viscerally — or even notably — antagonistic toward their Muslim neighbors.
On the other hand, Americans have reacted very strongly against the possibility of bringing large numbers of Syrian refugees into the country, and strongly in favor of efforts to enhance the vetting of potential immigrants — even including calls to halt Muslim immigration for a time while the process is reviewed.
The president chalks it up to bigotry. But more likely, Americans have absorbed the understanding that not only are we fighting terror abroad, we are fighting it at home. It is not the shock of 9/11, the largest attack on the American mainland since the War of 1812, it is a growing and fully rational understanding amassed over time. News of terror-related arrests is sporadic and often not on the front page, but it appears Americans have come to understand that we and our country are targets of people who are not only willing to kill, but are willing to die to kill.
The Heritage Foundation has organized a useful timeline of Islamic-organized or Islamic-inspired terrorist activity in the United States since 2001. Analyst David Inserra chronicled 75 incidents — only those resulting in arrests and trial for terrorism and terrorism-related activity. A suicide bomber who blew himself up with a backpack outside Oklahoma University’s fully-packed football stadium (2005) was not included, for example, despite later evidence of his attendance at a Norman, Oklahoma mosque known for its radical teaching. Security guards had tried to check Joel Hinrichs’s backpack, at which point he left the entry to the stadium and blew himself up across the street. No direct connection, no arrest.
The fact that most, not all, of the incidents ended with arrests and no casualties simply reflects good police and intelligence work, not a lack of trying on the part of would-be terrorists.
There are incidents that stand out: the “shoe bomber” (2002), the “underwear bomber” (2010), the Times Square bomber (2010), and the Boston Marathon bombers (2013).
But there were also plots against U.S. landmarks and institutions including the NY Subway system (2005 & 09), Sears Tower (2006), the Brooklyn Bridge (2003), the Long Island Railroad (2009), DC Metro (2010), the Federal Reserve in Manhattan (2012), the Capitol (2011, 12 & 15), World Bank Headquarters (2005), JFK airport (2009), the NY Stock Exchange (2004), and the GOP convention (2004).
There were plots against American service personnel, including military hit lists (2010 & 15); Ft. Hood (2009); Ft. Riley (2015); Ft. Dix (2007) and Ft. Myers (2011); recruiting stations in Arkansas (2009), Maryland (2011) and Washington (2011); the Pentagon (2011); Quantico Marine Base (2009); National Guard facilities (2005, 08 & 09); U.S. Marshals (2013); and the NYPD (2015). There were plots against the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia (2011) and Pakistan (2004), and the Israeli Embassy (2011).
There were assassination plots against Presidents Bush (2003) and Obama (2011).
There were regional attacks planned for a Chicago Bar (2012), NY and Chicago-area synagogues (2009 & 10), an Oregon Christmas tree ceremony (2010), the Wichita Airport (2014), a Canada-NY train (2013), a Dallas skyscraper (2009), a Wyoming refinery (2006), the Florida Keys (2015), shopping centers in Ohio (2003) and Illinois (2007), and the University of North Carolina (2006). The Lackawanna (PA) Six (2002), the Lodi (CA) jihad training camp (2005), and the VA Jihad Network (2003) operated along with smaller-scale plots in support of al Qaeda (2002, 09 & 10).
That’s not all of them, but the sample gives an idea of the sheer breadth of plots in every corner of the country. Plots against symbols of American military, law, justice, and governance — as well as the trains, bars, and shopping centers that are symbols of everyday life — have had a cumulative impact on the psyche of Americans. We’re not bigots, we’re wary.
And the government isn’t helping.
Just last week, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Consular Affairs told a House hearing that the U.S. government had revoked more than 9,500 visas over terrorism concerns since 2001. That sounds reasonable, but when asked about the current location of those who lost their visas, she couldn’t confirm that they had left the country. “I don’t know,” she said. “You don’t have a clue do you?” asked the House committee chairman.
San Bernardino, with 14 people killed by a radical Islamist couple, was simply the catalyst for the underlying concern about terrorism and the government’s inability to protect us that have been growing for years. On a whole, it should be said, Americans have proven to be more tolerant than not.