The biggest imponderable concerning the war on terror is whether the American people and their leaders are clear on a central question: Exactly who is the enemy in this war? We are, after all, not fighting some abstraction called “terror.” The truth is we are engaged in a death struggle with people who use terror – usually involving the deliberate murder of innocent civilians – as an instrument to advance their agendas.
As to precisely who those people are, the past twenty-five months have brought to light a bewildering array of terrorist organizations pursuing a variety of stated objectives, usually with help from this or that rogue state-sponsor. But one thing should be clear post-9/11: The most determined, numerous and dangerous of these enemies are radical, violent Muslims known as “Islamists.”
Most experts believe that the Islamists are, at present, a small percentage of the Muslim faithful worldwide. The danger is that, since there are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims, even a small percentage could mean there are millions available to serve as cannon-fodder for the radicals. Worse yet, all things being equal, their numbers will continue to grow, thanks in no small measure to the assiduous efforts of Islamist regimes in Saudi Arabia and Iran (the former of the Sunni Wahhabi stripe, the latter favoring Shiite extremism).
All too often, such efforts are accompanied – and systematically advanced – by an insidious disinformation campaign. Its main thrust is that anyone who dares to point out the threat posed by the Islamists is a racist, bigot or ignoramus. Why? Because, we are told, such observations impugn all Muslims.
This is, of course, absurd. Law-abiding and tolerant Muslims first and foremost understand that there are real differences between themselves and the Islamists – so much so that the radicals view their peaceable co-religionists with at least as much hostility as they do people of other faiths.
Among those most aggressively promoting the idea that Islamists are indistinguishable from any other Muslims are a number of Arab-American and Muslim-American organizations long associated with jihadists and their causes. Since 9/11, they have tried to obscure their true colors by promoting the fiction that they are defenders of all people of the Islamic faith, rather than what they actually are: apologists for the radicals among them, focused on initiatives that have the effect of excusing, protecting or otherwise benefitting the latter.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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