Some counterterrorism experts say the anti-Muslim sentiment that has saturated the airwaves and blogs in the debate over plans for an Islamic center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan is playing into the hands of extremists by bolstering their claims that the United States is hostile to Islam.This sort of reasoning doesn't just miss the forest, it misses all but about 1.2 trees. All sorts of things "play into the hands" of extremists. According to this logic, the best route for leftists would be to downplay anti-Muslim rhetoric on the right. "Surge of Islamophobic bigotry? Never! What gave you that idea?" At all costs, don't write "To equate these moderate Muslims with that horrific act is pure bigotry, a bigotry that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former Gov. Howard Dean sadly signed on to"--it might fuel extremism. I understand that in Al-Qaeda circles the anniversary of the publication of The Israel Lobby is now a holiday called "Eid Al-Mearsheimer" the blessed day when the meeting of their recruiting goals became assured for decades.
Opposition to the center by prominent politicians and other public figures in the United States has been covered extensively by the news media in Muslim countries. At a time of concern about radicalization of young Muslims in the West, it risks adding new fuel to Al Qaeda’s claim that Islam is under attack by the West and must be defended with violence, some specialists on Islamic militancy say.
"I know people in this debate don’t intend it, but there are consequences for these kinds of remarks," said Brian Fishman, who studies terrorism for the New America Foundation here.
He said that Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric hiding in Yemen who has been linked to several terrorist plots, has been arguing for months in Web speeches and in a new Qaeda magazine that American Muslims face a dark future of ever-worsening discrimination and vilification.
"When the rhetoric is so inflammatory that it serves the interests of a jihadi recruiter like Awlaki, politicians need to be called on it," Mr. Fishman said. [...]
You can't regulate the great American political conversation to avoid fueling the suspicions of extremists. Extremism is nothing if not resourceful in identifying paranoia-fodder, otherwise it would be a pretty anemic extremism. The West's job is not to be anemic in promoting its values and interests and fighting its enemies.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad