Analysis: The Danger in Ignoring Non-Muslim Religious Terrorism

Hutaree militia membersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
Even though over a decade separates us from the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Americans continue to be heavily preoccupied with terrorism. But what is the face of terrorism in our time? Too often, the term ‘terrorist’ conjures up the stereotypical image of an Arabic-speaking Muslim male from the Middle East —viewed by many Westerners as an abstract geopolitical notion that erroneously includes Afghanistan. There is no doubt that Islamic-inspired terrorism is both very real and very dangerous. However, consciously or subconsciously associating terrorism solely with Islam is not only flawed, but also potentially dangerous for our collective security. In reality, all religious dogmas contain extremist elements. This includes religious doctrines that are widely considered peace-loving, such as Anabaptism, or even Buddhism. A case in point that is often overlooked by Westernern observers is Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese millenarianist cult inspired by Buddhist tenets. In 1995, Aum members used sarin gas in a large-scale terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway system, which killed 13 and injured close to a thousand commuters. In later years it was revealed that, prior to engaging in chemical terrorism, Aum had become history’s first known terrorist group to actively try to acquire nuclear material for tactical purposes. It was only after failing to obtain nuclear material that Aum’s leadership turned to sarin. This past Thursday, July 5, an interview of mine was aired on this very subject, namely the current state of homegrown, religiously-inspired terrorism in the United States. In the interview, conducted by the Reverend John Shuck, producer of Religion for Life, a weekly syndicated radio program broadcast on a number of National Public Radio member-stations, I argued that it is both unwise and unsafe for us to ignore the extremist potential of religious fanatics who are not Muslims. I spoke at length about the long history of Christian-inspired terrorism in the US, focusing on the Ku Klux Klan. I also explained the known connections between neo-Nazi doctrines and Timothy McVeigh, the notorious culprit of the 1995 Oklahoma Federal City bombing, in which 169 people perished, making it the worst terrorist atrocity on US soil prior to 9/11. I also discussed more recent examples of Christian-inspired extremism in the US, with particular reference to neo-confederate, racial supremacist, and militia groups. One of the more recent cases mentioned is that of the Michigan Hutaree, an armed group widely believed to be part of the Christian Patriot movement. The 25-minute interview can be accessed on YouTube, here.

3 Responses to Analysis: The Danger in Ignoring Non-Muslim Religious Terrorism

  1. Pete says:

    Hi Joseph

    A timely post and interview.

    The rightwing Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik who killed 77 people is another case in point. Though he wasn’t American there is frequently a copy-cat or learning curve tendency among terrorists which some Americans might try to emulate.

    President Obama, due to his ethnicity, might also make the threat from rightwing supremacists all the more likely and dangerous.



  2. intelNews says:

    @Pete: Your point is –unfortunately– valid. Current research shows that several far-right groups in the United States –the Klan, neo-Nazis, neo-confederates, etc– are joining forces due to their mutual opposition to President Obama. These groups usually operate in relative isolation from each other. The last time we saw something like this happening in the US was in the late 1950s and early 1960s, during the Civil Rights struggle. Thanks for your comment. [JF]

  3. The Klu Klux Klan is and always will be a terrorist organization…..the should be officially added with Al-Qaeda to the list.

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