How Trump’s “Muslims gone wild” rhetoric is helping terrorism worldwide

After he was called out by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd this weekend for failing to deliver any tangible evidence that “thousands” of Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks on America, Donald Trump decided to go all-in with his childish and fabricated lie, telling a crowd of supporters that “Everybody admits that worldwide, the Muslims were absolutely going wild.”

In actuality, Muslims worldwide were in mourning following the attacks. Even in Iran, 60,000 soccer fans showed their condolences by observing a moment of silence. The Ayatollah himself expressed grief over the 9/11 attacks.

Muslims across the world were showing that they didn’t condone these attacks. That’s apparently “going wild” in Trump’s mind. But as if that weren’t enough, Trump also determined that the president had to be held accountable for the words he used when it came to terrorists. Because, as we all know, words matter to Republicans (except when they don’t, like when they refuse to stop insisting that Planned Parenthood is a murder factory, only to deny any responsibility when a terrorist attacks a clinic using their words). Said Trump, quoted by Politico:

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

We have a president that won’t even mention the term or the name. I don’t know what his problem is. Nobody understands it. He won’t mention radical Islamic terrorism. He won’t mention it. It could be from a different planet as far as he’s concerned. And you’re not going to solve the problem unless you’re willing to talk about what the problem is. I’m willing to talk about what the problem is.

Yeah, why DOESN’T the president use the words “radical Islamic terrorist”?! This has been a line Republicans have tried to pin on him before. In their minds, the president is protecting the terrorists by refusing to call them what they are.

But reality, once again, doesn’t match what Republicans say it is. There are two reasons why President Obama refuses to call these people “radical Islamic terrorists,” and they make complete sense once you hear them. The first, from the Huffington Post:

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he refuses to describe the Islamic State and al Qaeda as groups fueled by “radical Islam” because the term grants them a religious legitimacy they don’t deserve.

“They are not religious leaders; they are terrorists,” Obama said during remarks at a White House event on countering violent extremism. “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

And the second, from Eli Lake:

Pressed by NPR’s Mara Liasson, [Press Secretary Josh] Earnest explained to reporters that the terrorists tried to “invoke their own deviant, distorted view of Islam in order to justify” the attacks.

It’s easy to see the absurdity in saying that men who shout “Allahu Akhbar” before they murder Jews, cartoonists and French policeman are not radical Muslims. But Earnest was not freelancing, he was articulating a longstanding U.S. policy, not only for Obama but also his predecessor, George W. Bush. Both administrations have said repeatedly since Sept. 11, 2001, that radical Islam is not Islamic.

There is a reason for this: The long war against radical Islamic terrorists requires at least the tacit support of many radical Muslims.

Calling terrorists in the Middle East “radical Islamic terrorists” gives legitimacy to their cause and offends the very leaders we need on our team in order to effectively fight them. What’s more, their beliefs aren’t what most Muslims adhere to. Calling those terrorists “Muslim” is akin to calling any number of mass shooters in America “Christian.”

Here’s a good example of what I mean: GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a stalwart of the pro-life movement, has rightly called the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attacks an act of domestic terrorism. But why did he stop short of calling the shooter a “Christian” terrorist? It’s simple: the terrorist isn’t representative of the Christian community.

“What he did is domestic terrorism,” Huckabee said on Sunday, “and what he is did is absolutely abominable, especially to those of us in the pro-life movement, because there’s nothing about any of us that would condone or in any way look the other way at something like this.”

Words do matter. And Huckabee deserves kudos for calling out the Planned Parenthood attacker for what he is: a terrorist. (To be clear, he also deserves to get called out for not missing the opportunity to remind everyone that, hey, Planned Parenthood kills babies too — exactly the kind of rhetoric that conservatives are using to justify the attack.)

President Obama does the same thing for people who are taking Islam to its worst extremes. He does call them terrorists, but again: words matter. Calling them “radical Islamic terrorists” empowers their cause and weakens our relationship with the enemies of our enemies. In other words, it both helps the Islamic State and hurts us in the long run.

I’m more satisfied with a president that refuses to give into terrorists in that way than one that is hasty with the terms he uses to describe them. It shows a greater understanding of what’s at stake, and that he’s actually serious about solving the problem at hand.

Chris Walker has been a political writer for more than ten years, contributing freelance opinion pieces to several online publications as well as managing his own blog, Political Heat, for more than six years. With a B.A. in Political Science and Journalism, Chris tries to bring a unique angle to every article he produces, including Millennial perspectives on the issues he's covering. Chris resides in Madison, Wisconsin, and proudly owns both a cheesehead and stock in the Green Bay Packers.

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