The thwarted attack against the participants of an exhibit of prophet Muhammad cartoons made the latent threat of domestic Islamist terrorism come true. The one we have been hearing about for a long time and that is said to be awaiting the right incentive to turn a person into a religiously-motivated murderer.
In the United States, there are hundreds or thousands of people like Texas perpetrators Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi. They are people from the U.S. who communicate with ISIS associates via social media, and who are capable of killing whoever they consider a heretic or dying as martyrs. The federal authorities are warning local police departments to be on the lookout for this dangerous possibility.
The situation is worrisome but not surprising. Religious fanaticism and freedom in an open –albeit armed to its teeth – society certainly constitute a dangerous breeding ground. Still, we must not lose perspective and allow exaggerated threats – such as the case of the Ebola virus – drive us to panic.
Unfortunately, our society has not needed religious extremists to have its share of massacres where innocents such as schoolchildren and moviegoers are slaughtered. For the dead and their surviving families, it does not make a difference if the killer was mentally ill or a religious extremist.
The worst part is that these circumstances create opportunities for manipulation and the promotion of self-interests: The organizers of the cartoon contest and their associates are accused of promoting fear and hate against Muslims; politicians promise tough measures against an undefined enemy; and some even take the opportunity to bring up immigration in this context.
When asked about the thwarted attack, presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul suggested that the border needed to be secured. It did not matter that the attackers were from the U.S. or that they actually entered Texas from the north. The Republican’s reply reveals a convenient dissociation from reality when it comes to analyzing the facts, going off on a tangent favorable for his electoral campaign.
The U.S. knows terrorism, both domestic – as in the Oklahoma bombings – and imported – as in 9/11 and the Boston marathon attack –. It is good to be aware and cautious about the environment around us, but we must not fall into the traps set by those who seek to obtain political benefit or by the media, who use fear to raise their ratings.