Terror is only terror when Muslims are responsible, according to South Carolina state Sen. Michael Fair (R-Greenville), who recently sponsored legislation that would ban Shariah law in the state’s courts.
That much was made clear again during a Hatewatch interview with Fair Thursday, a day after he told the Think Progress blog that “99%, probably” of all terror attacks worldwide in the last three decades was carried out by Islamic groups. That estimate isn’t even close to accurate, and serves no obvious purpose but to vilify hundreds of millions of people around the globe for political ends.
Obviously, the threat from radical Islamic terror groups such as Al Qaeda is very real. But terrorism is hardly limited to Muslims. The world has endured countless acts of terrorism committed by non-Muslim perpetrators in recent decades — from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka to Basque separatists in Spain to radical-right attacks in the United States, including the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. In the United States alone, there have been scores of other terrorist plots and attacks since that Oklahoma attack left 168 men, women and children dead. Just this March, a neo-Nazi activist was charged with attempting to use a homemade bomb to murder hundreds of Martin Luther King Day parade marchers in Spokane, Wash.
Countless experts on terrorism have pointed out the large number of non-Islamic terror conspiracies and attacks. The FBI reportedly has said that two-thirds of all terrorism between 1980 and 2001 in the United States was conducted by non-Islamic American extremists; from 2002 to 2005, a period when anti-Islamic sentiment exploded in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks, that percentage grew to 95%. Last year, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified to Congress that “home-grown and lone-wolf extremists,” including domestic jihadists, had come to constitute a threat as serious as Al Qaeda. More recently, Harper’s Magazine, citing the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said in its May 2011 issue that there had been 10 confirmed “terrorist plots against the United States perpetrated by Muslims in 2010,” while 25 came from non-Muslims.
So where did the senator from the Palmetto State come to believe that “99%” of all terrorism comes from Muslims? He said he has read enough books on the subject to make him an expert. “Jihad is an Islamic concept,” Fair told Hatewatch. “It comes from their books.” And anyway, he added, “I did not say that, I don’t think.” Reminded that his “99%” remark had been videotaped, he retreated. “Maybe I did say that, but what I thought I said was of any significance, large.”
In a bizarre moment, Fair told Hatewatch that Think Progress had misunderstood his comments. He wasn’t referring to Muslim terrorists but to “radical Islamic Middle Eastern men” — a distinction clear only to him.
Politically, it is understandable why Fair might feel comfortable painting terrorism as a purely Muslim phenomenon. In the last year, anti-Muslim sentiment has been burgeoning in the United States, where one state, Oklahoma, recently passed an anti-Shariah amendment to the state constitution (it is currently stayed by a federal judge). At least 13 other states have considered similar legislation to outlaw the use of Shariah, or Islamic religious law, in U.S. courts — even though legal experts agree that that would be impossible under the constitution. Several politicians, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, recently have bashed Muslims publicly as a way of building political support in certain quarters.
In his interview with Think Progress, Fair readily admitted his bill wouldn’t really change anything. “The bill we have is an affirmation. It would be an exclamation point behind the law. It says you will practice the law. If you need reminding, foreign law does not prevail over South Carolina law,” he said.