Why ignoring the religious beliefs behind the threat is foolish—and dangerous.
In 1983 when I was the U.S. attorney in New York, I used the word “Mafia” in describing some people we arrested or indicted. The Italian American Civil Rights League—which was founded by Joe Colombo, one of the heads of New York’s notorious five families—and some other similar groups complained that I was defaming all Italians by using that term. In fact, I had violated a Justice Department rule prohibiting U.S. attorneys from employing the term Mafia. The little-known rule had been inserted by Attorney General John Mitchell in the early 1970s at the behest of Mario Biaggi, a congressman from New York.
I had a different view of using the term Mafia. It reflected the truth. The Mafia existed, and denying what people oppressed by those criminals knew to be true only gave the Mafia more power. This hesitancy to identify the enemy accurately and honestly—“Mafia” was how members described themselves and kept its identity Italian or Italian-American—created the impression that the government was incapable of combating them because it was unable even to describe the enemy correctly.
Similarly, you may hear about ISIS or ISIL or Daesh, but make no mistake: The terrorists refer to themselves as members of Islamic State. Just as it would have been foolish to fail to use the word Mafia or admit its Italian identity, it is foolish to refuse to call these Islamic terrorists by the name they give themselves or to refuse to acknowledge their overriding religious rationale.
Yes, it is essential to emphasize to the public the distinction between Islam and Islamic terrorists. That education has been in progress in the U.S. at least since 9/11. I recall that during my last press briefing on that horrific day, I urged New Yorkers not use the barbaric attacks to attach group blame—for doing so would mirror the sort of thinking that inspired the terrorists. President George W. Bush and New York Gov. George Pataki made similar appeals, and the American people overwhelmingly took that idea to heart, and still do. They knew that the attacks were the actions of people with a warped, evil interpretation of the Islamic religion.
Yet it is also essential to acknowledge that there are portions of the Islamic texts that are used by these terrorists to justify mass murder in the name and for the propagation of their faith. Unfortunately, this confusion between the religion and those who pervert its meaning is exacerbated by the Obama administration and others in prominent leadership positions who engage in euphemisms or misdirection regarding Islamic terrorism. They make it seem that they see no connection between the acts of terror and the terrorists’ interpretation of Islamic teaching and Shariah law.
For example: It was and is ludicrous for the administration to describe Nidal Hasan’s attack at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas in 2009 as “workplace violence,” particularly since as he was committing the murders he was yelling “Allahu akbar”—Allah is great. The administration was similarly reluctant to describe the San Bernardino attacks last week as terrorism, much less as Islamic terrorism, even as evidence mounted making clear the nature of the attack.
The failure to speak bluntly about Islamic terrorism opens the door to the vast generalizations that can steer the debate in a totally counterproductive direction. The idea of excluding all Muslims is unworkable and legally dubious. It will soon disappear. But it is clear that the Obama administration’s refusal to face up to the nature of Islamic terrorism is never going to change. That is more than foolish. It is also dangerous.Read the rest of Giuliani's op-ed HERE.
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