Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Tancredo's comments and militant Islam

Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo stirred up controversy a few days ago by suggesting that Islamic holy sites might be targeted in response to a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States.
The host asked Tancredo, "Worst case scenario, if they do have these nukes inside the border, what would our response be?"

The congressman replied: "There are things you could threaten to do before something like that happens, and then you have to do afterwards, that are quite draconian."

"Well," Tancredo continued, "what if you said something like, 'If this happens in the United States and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you could take out their holy sites.'"

Campbell: "You're talking about bombing Mecca?"

Tancredo: "Yeah. What if you said, we recognize that this is the ultimate threat to the United States, therefore this is the ultimate response."

The congressman quickly added, "I don't know, I'm just throwing out some ideas, because it seems that at that point in time you would be talking about taking the most draconian measures you could imagine. Because other than that, all you could do is tighten up internally."
One website is now attempting to profit from the controversy by selling nuke Mecca T-Shirts.

The controversy Tancredo's comments has generated goes to the heart of the debate regarding how we should fight the war on terror. President Bush has been criticized on the right for saying the Islam is a "religion of peace." While Osama bin Laden has attempted to enlist the world's one billion Muslims in a campaign of terrorism, President Bush is trying to separate the world's Muslim population from a small percentage of "militant" Muslims.

The problem with talking about "taking out" Islamic holy sites is that it frames the war on terror as a war between the civilized Western democracies and the entire Islamic community, rather than limiting the focus to the totalitarian Muslims who use terror as their main tactic. Clearly, the United States is backing the moderate Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq who are attempting to build democracy and the militant Muslims are trying to kill as many moderate (democratic) Muslims as they can.

Just as not every Catholic supported the Irish Republican Army's terrorist activities, not every Muslim supports Islamic terrorism. In fact, moderate Muslims are the primary victims of Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. Daniel Pipes has wrote that moderate Muslims are central to winning the war on terror. So, this issue goes beyond Tom Tancredo and his Presidential aspirations.