Double Standard on 'Terror' Counterproductive, Offensive Attack on Texas IRS office not called 'terrorism,' despite fitting definition
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 2/22/10) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), along with other national Muslim organizations, today held a news conference in Washington, D.C., to express concerns over a perceived double standard on the use of the label "terrorism" as it relates to acts of political violence committed by people who are not Muslims.
[Other Muslim groups taking part in the news conference included MAS Freedom and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Council for Social Justice.]
CAIR's news conference was prompted by coverage of last week's politically-motivated airborne suicide attack on an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office in Austin, Texas, which the Muslim civil rights and advocacy group called an act of terror."
In a statement read at today's Capitol Hill event, CAIR Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili said:
"American law defines 'terrorism' as 'premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets' or as 'the unlawful use of force against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.'
"When an act that fits these definitions is carried out by a Muslim individual or group, there is and should be no hesitation in labeling that act 'terrorism.'
"Regrettably, when an act fitting the legal definitions of terrorism is carried out by someone who is not Muslim, there seems to be a general reluctance on the part of commentators, public officials and law enforcement agenciesto use the term.
"Last week's attack on the IRS office in Texas perfectly fits either legal definition of terrorism, yet it has not been labeled as such. This apparent double standard only serves to render the term 'terrorism' meaningless and imbues it with a sense of religious and ethnic bias that is both counterproductive and offensive.
"As Glenn Greenwald wrote on Salon.com, 'The term now has virtually nothing to do with the act itself and everything to do with the identity of the actor, especially his or her religious identity.'
"Failure to label the IRS attack in Texas an act of terrorism has had real consequences. Supporters of the Austin terrorist on Facebook and Twitternow claim he is a 'true American hero.' This support would likely not have materialized if the attacker's Internet fans believed they were supporting terrorism.
"If we are, as a nation, to achieve the safety and security we all seek, the terms used to describe the acts of those who would attack the innocent in order to achieve political or religious goals must be free of bias and applicable to all perpetrators, regardless of race or faith.
"Republican Congressman Mike McCaul, who represents Austin, Texas, is correct when he said 'any time you fly an airplane into a federal building to kill people, that's an act of terror.' America should identify such acts as terrorism whenever they are committed, wherever they are committed, whoever commits them."
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.