The hypocrisy of terrorism needs accountability

Feb 09

Guest column: The hypocrisy of terrorism needs accountability

Published in the Florida Times Union, Feb 7, 2021.

by Parvez Ahmed

When terrorists claiming to act in the name of my faith attacked the homeland on Sept. 11, 2001, Muslims in America were not only targeted for surveillance, they were also repeatedly asked to condemn terrorism even when the only thing they shared with the terrorists was their religion. Frenzied protests were mounted when a group of Muslims wanted to build a spiritual community center not far from the World Trade Towers.

At a personal level, I recall with pain, my own saga going through the process of being confirmed as a Human Rights Commissioner for the city of Jacksonville. City Council members grilled me on “Islamic” terrorism and cared little about my views on human rights. During the confirmation hearing one Republican council member went as far as asking me to pray to “my God” before voting against me.

Despite having no material connections to any terrorists, many Muslims were hounded by the media, their loyalty questioned in public and frequently discriminated at work. The frenzy reached its peak when candidate Donald J. Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. and followed up with his first executive action to essentially criminalize my faith by enacting a travel ban from several Muslim majority countries. The U.S. Supreme Court later upheld a watered-down version of this discriminatory policy. Post 9-11 realities, from government-sanctioned detentions at airports to privately ginned up “protests” by hate groups, have left a deep scar in ways unimaginable. All this in the name of national security.

Fast forward to the Capitol attacks on Jan. 6. The rioters, far from being an impromptu flash mob, were incited by repeated assertions of a big lie that the presidential election was stolen. They planned in plain view to storm the Capitol. They wanted to kill or kidnap the next two in the line of succession to the President – Trump’s own Vice President and the Democratic Speaker of the House. A report released in October 2020 concluded that white supremacist groups pose a grave danger to the nation. And yet no one is asking all elected Republican officials to put out clear statements of condemnations. No one is demanding that Republican voters explain why their side is aiding and abetting terrorism. No security agency is engaged in surveillance of Republicans.



Despite my trauma of being harassed and surveilled, I am not advocating for its reciprocation. I am weary of additional intrusive laws against domestic terrorism that could lead to stereotyping and when the inevitable abuses happen, Black and Brown communities will be its primary victims. However, it is hard to miss the contrast in the treatment of Muslims versus Republicans, both Americans.

That White perpetrators of terrorism are being treated differently than Black or Brown perpetrators, is no accident of history. This is the outcome of our caste-based system so graphically and eloquently outlined in Isabel Wilkerson’s bestseller “Caste – The Origins of Our Discontents.”

The long arc of American history is not just the rosy stories we tell ourselves about the triumphs of justice but the stories we hate to admit – the perpetuation of our caste-based society where “a fixed and embedded ranking of human value” is based on, “the presumed supremacy of one group against the presumed inferiority of other groups on the basis of ancestry and often immutable traits.”

If not the presumed superiority, what explains the hypocrisy in the way terrorism committed by Muslims is distinguished from terrorism committed by Whites who responded to the incitement of a Republican President? It appears that once again as a society we are failing to hold White supremacy accountable for its sordid history of violence and sedition.

Parvez Ahmed is Director for Diversity and Inclusion and Professor of Finance at UNF’s Coggin College of Business. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of UNF or the Coggin College of Business.
You can read more about the author here.

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