FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the agency has made about 100 domestic terrorism-related arrests since October 1, 2018, and that the majority were connected to white supremacy ideology.
”I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence, but it does include other things as well,” Wray said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
One example of this is a document appearing on an online message board just before 22 people were murdered in a shooting rampage in El Paso, which spoke about an “invasion” of Latino immigrants. This manifesto also stated the writer agreed with the terrorist who murdered 51 Muslim worshippers in March at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Widespread doubt about the future in America, Great Britain, and Europe leads to anxiety and “scapegoating” politics, with worldwide extremist political/religious sects on the rise. Anxiety has split Americans in half — 49 percent to 49 percent — on whether “America’s best days are ahead of us or behind us.”
This anxiety had produced three major scapegoats: immigrants, Jews, and the religion and people of Islam, as can been seen in a major rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the United States and Great Britain.
A recent poll reports [2/18/19] that 35 percent of British people think Islam is a threat to the British way of life in the wake of 2017 terrorist attacks; and that anti-Semitism on the political left is an increasing issue in the United Kingdom.
The anti-fascist group, Hope Not Hate, has produced their annual “The State of Hate” report, based on a survey of 10,383 Brits and conducted in July 2018; it found that anti-Muslim prejudice has hardened in the past eight years and, among far-right groups, supplanted fears of increasing immigration.
The report also pinpointed left-wing anti-Semitism, particularly in the Labour Party, as a critical problem. The authors cited conspiracy theories and tropes about undue levels of Jewish power, as well as dismissing allegations of liberal anti-Semitism as a right-wing or Zionist plot.
Thirteen percent of the British surveyed agreed that Jewish people have an unhealthy control over the world’s banking system. Almost half of people surveyed said this was a false statement, and about 41 percent said they did not know.
Attacks on Britain’s 280,000 Jews and 2.5+ million Muslims, including assault and harassment, soared by more than 60% over the past year, London police statistics show. The Metropolitan Police dealt with 483 anti-Jewish incidents in the 12 months between November 2014 and November 2015, a 62% increase over the same period last year. The London police also recorded a similar 64% rise in anti-Muslim incidents, for a total of 818 such attacks.
The fact that there was an almost identical rise (60%+) in hate crimes against both Jews and Muslims is evidence that the source of these hate crimes springs from within a small minority of the majority population that is scapegoating both Jews and Muslims after years of high unemployment and economic distress.
And widespread negative attitudes toward Muslims does nothing to discourage those who turn economic and social anxiety into xenophobic scapegoating and dislike into hateful acts of harassment and violence.
A good example of the confluence of the worldwide scapegoating paranoia is the suspect in the Sabbath shooting at a synagogue near San Diego, California; a 19-year-old white man named John Earnest, who murdered one person and injured three others.
Unfortunately, the shooter was not a loaner with a personal grudge. A manifesto in Earest’s name was published that Saturday morning on an online message board popular with the far-right white nationalists. The writer of the manifesto took credit for an unsolved arson at a mosque the month before in Escondido, nine miles away from the Poway synagogue.
The Escondido arsonist left a note at the scene praising the shooter Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques last month. The Poway manifesto also praises Tarrant.
The Poway document also praised Robert Bowers, the accused gunman in last year’s Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. Eleven people were killed in that attack, which took place six months to the day before the Poway shooting.
All this teaches us that everyone should be constantly reminded that religious political extremism is ultimately self-destructive to both itself and its supporters. In the words of the poet W. B. Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
Coming together as one
The time has come for all the best of religious conviction, to denounce and denigrate the activities and beliefs of those who are filled with the worst of religious convictions, before they desecrate and diminish all believers in the one God of Abraham.
Our religious and political leaders could help improve interfaith relations by constantly repeating the important lesson taught by the German Protestant theologian Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power; and their subsequent purging of their chosen targets, one group after another:
First they arrested Socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Socialist.
Then they arrested Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they arrested Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Our religious and political leaders could also help improve interfaith relations by constantly repeating the important lesson taught by the eleventh century Spanish Muslim theologian Al-Ghazali:
Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see – Egoism, Arrogance, Conceit, Selfishness, Greed, Lust, Intolerance, Anger, Lying, Cheating, Gossiping and Slandering [scapegoating]. If you can master and destroy them, then will you be ready to fight the enemy you can see.”
There are already many interfaith activities and groups established in larger population centers, including Muslim-Jewish solidarity groups. These can be expanded and maximized. Imams and rabbis should encourage their members to take part and contribute to planning such events and relationships. We must come together as one if we are to defeat the rise of white supremacy and hatred.