On San Bernardino, GOP plunges into “the dark heart of fear”

WASHINGTON-The families whose loved ones were murdered Wednesday in San Bernardino, California, are still in shock, but GOP presidential wannabes aren’t waiting. They’re exploiting the tragedy for personal advantage.

Completely ignoring the FBI and police reports, the candidates are scapegoating the Muslim community. They’re ranting about our nation being at war with “Islamic terrorists.”

ISIS and Al Qaeda are thanking them. By conflating terrorism with Islam, Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP bunch are propping up their pretense of being legitimate Islamic groups.

They are not. ISIS and Al Qaeda are to Islam what the KKK is to Christianity. They prey upon adherents and tear the fabric of their religions by pitting group against group.

The overwhelming, vast majority of Muslims believe Islam promotes peace among all peoples and acceptance among all religions.

Donald Trump is helping ISIS and Al Qaeda gain worldwide prestige. He has implied that somehow President Obama is in league with them.

Meanwhile, Obama is trying to bring the nation together. Standing in front of the fully lit national Christmas tree, he called for unity. He has assured the public that “we will get to the bottom of this,” and find out what motivated the killers in San Bernardino.

“It is possible that this was terrorist-related. But we don’t know yet,” Obama told reporters. “It is also possible that this was workplace-related.”

Working around the clock to discover a motive the FBI has taken over the investigation. Here is what we know for sure so far:

Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, went to a holiday party with his co-workers at the Inland Regional Center social services agency. He left and returned with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27. They killed 14 people with assault weapons and wounded 21. After placing a pipe bomb on the floor, they fled and were killed in a shoot-out with police after a car chase.

The pipe bomb, thankfully, did not explode. The police found several others, a stockpile of ammunition and more weapons at their house.

Farook and Malik had a 6-month-old daughter who they left with Farook’s mother before going on their rampage.

Why did they do it? Obviously the coupled had pre-planned their attack, but what was their motive?

Had they been pulled down into a vortex of misguided, mistaken religious fanaticism? Maybe.

The FBI and local police are working 24/7 to discover a motive. They have ruled nothing out.

Thursday night, NBC News reported that intelligences sources say that Farook and Malik “had communications with individuals overseas who are persons of interest to American authorities.”

Most of the “communications” were over social media. Like millions of couples around the world, Farook and Malik met over the internet. Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet Malik in person and bring her to the States. He was born in Illinois, the son of Pakistani immigrants. She is originally from Pakistan. Last year, they visited Pakistan and maybe other countries in the region.

Authorities stress that so far there is no hard evidence of a direct connection between the couple and any terrorist group. In fact, investigators interviewed some of the “persons of interest” and ruled out any possibility they were connected to the shootings.

That hasn’t stopped Fox News from airing “expert” after “expert” who have no inside knowledge about the tragedy but insist it must have been a terrorist action.

“Dark heart of fear”

Howard Fineman, global editorial director of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group, said these commentators and the GOP candidates are plunging into the “dark heart of fear.”

The hate-mongering is bearing fruit; rotten fruit.

Roshan Abbassi, assistant imam of the mosque where Farook worshiped, told MSNBC “I was at a friend’s house. There was a knock at the door, and I opened it. Someone pointed a gun at my face. What have I done to deserve that?”

Abbassi continued: “There are no guns in our mosque; no one even owns a gun. There is nothing ‘radical’ here. Islam does not teach hurting other people.

“We are like everybody else in this community. We are all heartbroken about what happened and have great sympathy for the victims and their families. We are praying for them. We are all American citizens and residents of San Bernardino.”

What the imam said should have been assumed without his feeling the need to say it. Nevertheless, he spoke for all Muslims in his community: they are living in fear of a pogrom.

Preventing future attacks

In a televised interview, President Obama told the nation “Don’t accept that nothing can be done to stop these attacks. It’s just too easy to get weapons. We must make it a bit harder.” He referred to the fact that there have been 350 mass killing in the U.S. this year alone.

What’s more, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a report saying that terror attacks from the domestic right wing pose a greater threat to the U.S. than groups like ISIS. DHS found that there have been 24 “sovereign citizen” terror attacks in the past five years.

That does not count the recent murders at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado because it happened after the report was released. Nor does it count the murders of African American worshippers at their church in South Carolina. For some reason, DHS does not classify that as a terrorist incident.

Regardless of the motives that led to the attacks, they all have one thing in common: the murders easily bought weapons.

Faced with this fact, Republicans have blocked every proposal for tightening of gun control laws, including a bill introduced in the Senate yesterday, one day after the San Bernardino killings.

Among other things, the bill would have made it illegal for people on “terror watch lists” to buy guns and explosives.

Republicans voted down the measure. They said the government could mistakenly place innocent people on watch lists, denying them their constitutional rights to purchase guns.

Muslims are on the front lines fighting terrorism.
After their fueling fear and hatred of Muslims, the right wingers’ concern for innocent people seems hypocritical.

Instead of attacking the U.S. Muslim community, all of our elected officials should embrace it and work to protect it from the haters.

Muslims have always been on the front lines fighting and preventing terrorist threats.

In the wake of San Bernardino, Hussan Ayloush, director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called a press conference to say “All Americans, Muslims, Jews, Christians, everyone, must unite in times like these.”

Photo: Two women comfort each other on Dec. 2 near the scene of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.  AP



Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.