In an op-ed for The Washington Post published Friday, former CIA Director David Petraeus said increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States threatens to drive more “moderate” Muslims to terrorism.
For Petraeus, the rapid increase of ugly rhetoric against Muslims and Islam threatens to engulf even “moderate” Muslims. This is exactly what terror groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State want, as it supports their vision of the world as one divided between the forces of Islam and the forces of the decadent, satanic west. These groups then seize on a sort of “clash of civilizations” rhetoric to drive recruitment and push moderate Muslims into their ranks.
Muslims in the West are apparently so at risk of joining up with al-Qaida, that Petraeus thinks we need to police our own speech, as not to offend them and face the potential consequence of a growing, violent fifth column taking shape in the West.
“Rather than making our country safer, they will compound the already grave terrorist danger to our citizens,” Petraeus wrote. “As ideas, they are toxic and, indeed, non-biodegradable — a kind of poison that, once released into our body politic, is not easily expunged.”
“Setting aside moral considerations, those who flirt with hate speech against Muslims should realize they are playing directly into the hands of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State,” Petraeus added. “The terrorists’ explicit hope has been to try to provoke a clash of civilizations — telling Muslims that the United States is at war with them and their religion.”
Cooperation from moderate Muslims is a key element relied upon by the American intelligence apparatus to crush domestic terror threats. To alienate those Muslims would jeopardize the ability of law enforcement to keep the nation safe, as agents would lose important assets embedded in Muslim communities.
On the international front, Petraeus noted the successful utilization of Iraqis to fight al-Qaida during the initial stages of the Iraqi invasion. Presumably, this would not have been possible with anti-Muslim rhetoric. Without those allies, more U.S. troops would’ve been needed, resulting in more casualties.
“I fear that those who demonize and denigrate Islam make it more likely that it will be our own men and women who ultimately have to shoulder more of this fight — at greater cost in dollars and lives,” Petraeus said.
Petraeus’ arguments follow in the footsteps of newly elected Muslim London Mayor Sadiq Khan that if Trump doesn’t let in Muslims, Muslims will attack America.
RAND Corporation analyst Radha Iyengar also recently argued in a piece that anti-Muslim rhetoric increases security threats.
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