Representative Peter King (R-NY) told us to on Wednesday that we need to be afraid, no, very afraid, of Muslims over the July 4th weekend. Why? Well, King, in his typical Muslim fear-mongering style, warned, “Because if there is a threat, if there is gonna be something happening, it’s gonna come from the Muslim community.”
Apparently King only sees a threat by Muslims to America. But while ISIS is a threat, how is he blind to the growing right-wing terror threat we see in this country? I have never seen a more alarming level of “chatter” and acts of terror by people on the right as in the last few weeks.
Here are a few recent examples of what I mean:
1. Calls for violence surrounding gay marriage: After the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that gay couples have the same freedom to marry as the rest of us, Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church called for the stoning death of any pastor who would perform a same-sex marriage. He also called for the murder of all LGBT people, stating, “I hate them with a perfect hatred… I count them mine enemies.”
And keep in mind we have heard other Christian pastors in recent times also call for gays to be “put to death” and make statements like “homosexuality is a death worthy crime.” Can we responsibly dismiss these people as “crazies” until someone actually heeds their call and kills gay Americans?
2. Black churches are burning: At least two of the six black churches that caught fire last week are believed to have been cases of arson.
This threat is so serious that the NAACP issued a warning this week urging black church leaders to take “necessary precautions” to protect themselves from other attacks.
3. Right-wing politicians’ alarming rhetoric could radicalize people: After the Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage, we heard the shrill cries of victimhood by some conservative politicians. For example, Mike Huckabee remarked that he expects civil disobedience by some Christians in light of the court decision. Let’s be blunt, this is Huckabee’s attempt to inspire civil disobedience. We also heard Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal describe the Court’s ruling as “an all-out assault” against the “rights of Christians.”
The words of political leaders can inspire people to do good and to do bad. We saw that during the civil rights movement, when the inflammatory rhetoric of people like George Wallace validated the views of scared white people that equal rights for blacks was a threat to our nation as well as to them personally. The response to these words, by some, was violence against blacks and even white supporters of the civil rights movement. Similarly, the constant drumbeat we hear today from some conservative politicians that gay marriage is a threat to our nation and an attack on Christianity could possibly incite a person on the far right to violence.
4. We have 784 hate groups on U.S. soil. Per the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), hate groups have grown by 30 percent since 2000. These groups, as the SPLC notes, include the Klan, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, border vigilantes, and others. In fact, the SPLC is so concerned by the threat posed by these homegrown terror groups that last week it sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to hold “hearings on the threat of domestic terrorism.”
Adding to my concerns is that we just witnessed a terrorist attack on our soil on June 22 in Charleston, South Carolina. And yes, I am aware that the U.S. government has not as of yet classified, and may never classify, this incident as “terrorism” under federal law. (How the assassination of a state senator and the execution of eight black people by a man who wanted to start a race war is not considered terrorism is truly mindboggling.) Putting aside the debate over the T-word, the killer, per his own manifesto was radicalized at least in part by the racist words of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a right-wing hate group per the SPLC.
And keep in mind that domestic terrorists have been killing far more Americans than Islamic-related ones over the past 14 years. As The New York Times reported last week, “since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics, and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.” Dr. Charles Kurzman, a terrorism expert, explained in that article: “Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists.” Consequently, we need to be just as concerned when a person posts images associated with white supremacist causes on Facebook as when a person posts images supporting ISIS.
These facts truly deem the government’s warning of a potential terror attack on U.S. soil that much more credible. Let’s hope they are wrong. But if a terrorist attack is committed by a right-wing actor, we can’t claim there were no warning signs.