Small World: Terrorism and racial strife


Henry Precht

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

I hate to take sides, but I think Donald Trump and his followers are pretty far off base in blaming terrorism on Islam and Moslems — unless their real intention is to create a war fever against a very large segment of humanity. Islam may be the answer to many questions for many of its believers; it is not the answer for the question of what causes acts of terrorism.

Nor are hoodies — whether pulled up or down — or loose belts — no matter how far drooping — the answer to the roots of racial strife in this country.

In fact, both the terrorism labeled Islamic and the criminal acts labeled racial have the same origins. Strip away the facile, fear-generating popular descriptions and we find conflicts nourished by the same conditions. American or European or Middle Eastern, the young men — mostly — caught up in these struggles are the detritus of societies that scorn their personalities and their needs and ignore their potential.

Their societies cast them aside as worthless for social investment; wasted lives lie ahead of them. For many, drugs and petty crimes are the opening acts of rebellion — whether here or in France or Belgium. Searching for answers, for justice, they listen to voices that urge them to combat their abusers under the banner of Islam or justice.

If, applying Trumpian principles, the forces of law and order seek to destroy these rebellious youth — whether under the banner of Islam or “Black Lives Matter” — they will only succeed in expanding and embittering the resistance movement. Law and order must be maintained, to be sure. But it cannot stand alone as the only expression of a society’s interest in the rebels — in the alienated.

The accusation will be raised that the police here and abroad are infected by racism or Islamophobia. That is obviously true in some cases. It couldn’t be otherwise under prevailing conditions of continuing hostility with “the enemy” or from attitudes acquired in the surrounding society. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, we can trust and rely on our police to act neutrally and to protect all of us.

It is hard for those of us without the experience of living on the under side of society to conjure up what the lives of these youth are like. They weren’t born to hate; they learned those lesson in their neighborhoods. And for Middle Easterners, Islam wasn’t always the vehicle for revolt. Decades ago Westernized, secular, often Left-leaning leaders led the struggle against imperialism. Only when the secular socialists and nationalists failed did preachers take up the banner of Islam to assert leadership. To blame religion for rebellion is wrong; the responsible agency is the oppressor — whether from outside or inside.

The leadership of our societies have themselves to blame for the tensions boiling in this country and Western Europe. Decades ago, we needed labor to keep our economies expanding. So workers were imported from the U.S. South and from North Africa to work in the factories. When output slowed, factories closed, yet families continued to grow. Little was done by national leaders to address the problems of these trapped, surplus young people. We should have learned that years of ignoring the problem means the job of societal integration becomes that much harder in subsequent decades.

But it cannot be ignored — not without increasingly dire consequences. I don’t expect to hear the demand for improved education and jobs for minorities from Trump platforms, but that should be the cry. (Sentence written before the Trump speech. Shows how wrong I can be.) Plus, most important, the increased provision of population control therapies. Unhappily, the reverse of these needs will be the prescriptions from too many platforms.

All too often with hotly debated issues, clear thinking, honest analyses and the courage to follow through are absent from the agenda of our political leadership here and abroad.

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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