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August 12, 2015 0

From Charleston to Chattanooga: The Face of Terror in America

By Oren Segal and Mark Pit­cav­age
Direc­tors of the Anti-Defamation League’s Cen­ter on Extremism

Ter­ror­ism is some­times referred to as the “face­less enemy,” but it has hardly been face­less in the United States this sum­mer.  Too many peo­ple have emerged from the shad­ows to inflict death and suffering.

The parade of vio­lence has seemed unend­ing, from Elton Simp­son and Nadir Soofi, who attacked police offi­cers pro­vid­ing secu­rity for the so-called “Muham­mad Art Exhibit” in Texas in May, to John Houser, the Hitler-admiring man obsessed with the moral decay of Amer­ica who recently opened fire at a Louisiana movie the­ater show­ing the movie Train­wreck.

Of the var­i­ous killers and would-be killers this sum­mer, two stand out.  The first is Dylann Storm Roof, the white suprema­cist who allegedly con­fessed to the June mas­sacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Car­olina, that left nine African-Americans dead.dylann-storm-roof-gun-confederate-flag-600

The sec­ond is Muham­mad Youssef Abdu­lazeez, who in July engaged in a shoot­ing spree tar­get­ing a Chat­tanooga mil­i­tary recruit­ing cen­ter and a nearby naval reserve cen­ter.  Abdu­lazeez, who may have been inspired by rad­i­cal Mus­lim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed five people—all mil­i­tary personnel—before being killed by police.

In many ways, Roof and Abdu­lazeez per­son­ify America’s ter­ror­ist threat; they are the faces of the “face­less enemy.”  Most obvi­ously, each rep­re­sents a major source of ter­ror­ism.  Roof was a white suprema­cist who allegedly hoped to start a “race war” in which whites would pre­vail.  White suprema­cists have for decades been the most pro­lific source of domes­tic extremist-related lethal vio­lence.  Along with the other main seg­ment of the extreme right, anti-government mili­tia groups and sov­er­eign cit­i­zens, they are respon­si­ble for the great major­ity of extremist-related deaths in the U.S.

Abdu­lazeez, on whom there is less infor­ma­tion regard­ing moti­va­tion, may well have latched onto the ideas of al-Awlaki—including his encour­age­ment of attacks on mil­i­tary targets—as a way to atone for some of his per­sonal demons, includ­ing drugs and alco­hol.  Domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists have in recent years attempted or con­ducted a large num­ber of ter­ror­ist plots, con­spir­a­cies and acts, despite being fewer in num­ber than right-wing extremists.

Both men also chose tar­gets typ­i­cal of their move­ments.  For Abdu­lazeez, it was the mil­i­tary; here he fol­lowed in the foot­steps of Abdul­hakim Mujahid Muham­mad, who killed a sol­dier at a recruit­ing cen­ter in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, in 2009, and Nidal Malik Has­san, who killed 13 peo­ple at Fort Hood, Texas, that same year.  Other Islamic extrem­ists have also recently plot­ted attacks against mil­i­tary tar­gets in the U.S., though with­out success.mohammad-youssef-abdulazeez

Roof went on a shoot­ing ram­page against African-Americans.  Sprees of vio­lence against racial, eth­nic, or reli­gious minori­ties are a com­mon type of white suprema­cist ter­ror­ism.  In recent years, there have been a num­ber of such episodes, includ­ing Fra­zier Glenn Miller’s attacks on Jew­ish insti­tu­tions in Over­land Park, Kansas, in 2014; Wade Michael Page’s ram­page at a Sikh tem­ple in Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin, in 2012, and Keith Luke’s attacks on African immi­grants in Brock­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts, in 2009.

Both Roof and Abdu­lazeez used firearms for their attacks, which is also typ­i­cal of Amer­i­can ter­ror­ism.  Although the pub­lic usu­ally thinks of ter­ror­ism in terms of bombs, ter­ror­ists like Ted Kaczyn­ski and the Boston Marathon bombers are rare in Amer­ica.  The vast major­ity of extremist-related mur­ders involve guns—easy to acquire, sim­ple to use, and deadly.  This is why Charleston and Chat­tanooga num­ber among the 10 dead­liest extremist-related attacks of the past 50 years.  Indeed, with the excep­tion of the Okla­homa City bomb­ing, the “top 10” attacks all involved firearms.

Abdu­lazeez and Roof were both young men, dis­af­fected, fac­ing per­sonal stresses of dif­fer­ent kinds (Abdu­lazeez also suf­fered from men­tal ill­ness).  Although ter­ror­ism knows no age limits—Nidal Hasan was 39 at the time of his Fort Hood ram­page, while white suprema­cist James Von Brunn, who attacked the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­ial Museum in 2009, was in his late 80s—many of the attacks and plots in recent years by both Islamic and right-wing extrem­ists have been com­mit­ted by men in their mid-20s or younger.

Like Abdu­lazeez and Roof, a num­ber of these extrem­ists com­mit­ted their attacks as lone wolves, unat­tached to any par­tic­u­lar group.  Over­all, the num­ber of lethal lone wolf attacks in the past two decades has been fairly low, num­ber­ing only a few dozen, but in recent years, lone wolves seem to have been emerg­ing at a faster rate.  One rea­son may be the increas­ing role played by the Inter­net in facil­i­tat­ing self-radicalization.  It was through the Inter­net that Roof edu­cated him­self in white supremacy; it was via the Inter­net that Abdu­lazeez down­loaded record­ings of al-Awlaki.

Here one can see a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between right-wing extrem­ists and domes­tic Islamic rad­i­cals.  While they can both eas­ily immerse them­selves in a sea of on-line pro­pa­ganda designed to instill and rein­force extreme views, right-wing extrem­ist Inter­net sources are pri­mar­ily based in the United States and, there­fore, must watch what they say.  White suprema­cists who openly use the Inter­net to encour­age vio­lence and ter­ror­ism open them­selves up to crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion and, if vio­lence occurs, pos­si­ble civil lia­bil­ity; as a result, their encour­age­ment of vio­lence is often more implicit than explicit.

Domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists, in con­trast, receive most of their rad­i­cal­iz­ing mes­sages from abroad, from ter­ror­ist groups and like-minded sup­port­ers who are freer to use the Inter­net to call for vio­lence and ter­ror­ism within the U.S.  Pro­pa­ganda from Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, for exam­ple, was an inspi­ra­tion for the Boston Marathon bomb­ing.  In the past two years, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken such tac­tics to a new level alto­gether, employ­ing a vir­tual army of on-line recruiters who use social media plat­forms to reach and rad­i­cal­ize sus­cep­ti­ble indi­vid­u­als across the globe.  Seek­ing to instill a deep sense of com­mu­nity and pur­pose, ISIS sup­port­ers encour­age Amer­i­cans to come to the Mid­dle East to help it fight its wars—many of the 80+ U.S. res­i­dents linked to Islamic extrem­ist activ­ity since 2014 have made such attempts. But ISIS also urges peo­ple to launch attacks in the U.S.

Roof and Abdu­lazeez were both cold-blooded killers.  Their attacks deeply affected the cit­i­zens of Charleston and Chat­tanooga and, indeed, the whole coun­try, though not always in the same ways.  In par­tic­u­lar, the Chat­tanooga shoot­ings, like some sim­i­lar attacks before them, stirred anti-Muslim sen­ti­ments directed at America’s entire Mus­lim com­mu­nity, a dis­turb­ing phe­nom­e­non for which there is no par­al­lel with regard to white suprema­cist attacks.

But their attacks were sim­i­lar in that they were both essen­tially futile, able to achieve lit­tle but death and mis­ery.  Indeed, the reac­tions to the attacks illus­trate just how inef­fec­tive they actu­ally were.  The Chat­tanooga attack, for exam­ple, inspired an out­pour­ing of sup­port for the U.S. mil­i­tary. The Charleston response was even more pow­er­ful.  Far from start­ing a “race war,” Roof’s slaugh­ter not only brought Charlesto­ni­ans of all races together but also resulted in a bipar­ti­san effort to remove the Con­fed­er­ate flag from the South Car­olina capitol.

Amer­i­can extrem­ists, of what­ever stripe, can hurt and even kill, but the one thing they can’t do is win.

Mr. Segal is an author­ity on Islamic extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism in the United States; Dr. Pit­cav­age is an expert on right-wing extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism in the United States.

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November 19, 2014 0

Don’t Hand the Bigots Another Victory

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in The Huff­in­g­ton Post

 

For more than three decades, white suprema­cist and for­mer Klans­man Fra­zier Glenn Miller Jr. wore his hatred on his sleeve — some­times literally.

But now that he has traded his swastikas and Klan regalia for an orange prison jump­suit, one would have hoped that his record of hate­ful venom against Jews and other minori­ties would have been safely sequestered — and silenced — behind bars.

Not quite.

Miller, cur­rently await­ing trial on cap­i­tal mur­der charges in the April 13 shoot­ing ram­page out­side of a Jew­ish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Over­land Park, Kansas, is not one for hold­ing back his vir­u­lent anti-Semitic beliefs.

When asked why he car­ried out the attack — which killed physi­cian William Cor­poron, 69, and his grand­son, Reat Under­wood, 14, out­side of the Jew­ish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter, and Terri LaManno, 53, an occu­pa­tional ther­a­pist vis­it­ing her mother at a nearby senior cen­ter — Miller told The Kansas City Star that he was moti­vated both by his deeply held con­vic­tion that Jews must die and a sense of his own immi­nent mortality.

He had recently been admit­ted to the emer­gency room with emphy­sema and felt his life was com­ing to an end.

“I was con­vinced I was dying then,” Miller said in the Star’s exclu­sive inter­view pub­lished online Sat­ur­day. “I wanted to make damned sure I killed some Jews or attacked the Jews before I died.”

“Because of what I did, Jews feel less secure.”

Though Miller intended to kill inno­cent Jew­ish civil­ians, the tragic irony of his hor­rific crime is that he suc­ceeded in killing no Jews. Miller, 73, fired indis­crim­i­nately at any­one who crossed his path. Those sense­less deaths ter­ror­ized not only the Jew­ish com­mu­nity, but every­one in the greater sub­ur­ban Kansas City area — and beyond.

Miller did not wait for trial to con­fess his crimes, choos­ing instead to tell his story, laden with anti-Semitic tirades in the media rather than a judge or jury. The Kansas City paper devoted more than 2,500 words to a jail­house inter­view with Miller.

In the inter­view, Miller proudly described how he care­fully planned the shoot­ings, vis­it­ing the sites days ahead of time and cov­er­ing his tracks on the Inter­net so that law enforce­ment would be thrown off by his actions. And he rehashed his life story as a career bigot.

Miller rel­ished the effect he thought his vio­lence would have on the Jew­ish community:

“Every Jew in the world knows my name now and what I did. As for these… white peo­ple who are accom­plices of the Jews, who attend their meet­ings and con­tribute to their fundrais­ing efforts and who empower the Jews, they are my enemy too. A lot of white peo­ple who asso­ciate with Jews, go to Jew­ish events and sup­port them know that they’re not safe either, thanks to me.”

These sen­ti­ments are indeed shock­ing, but not sur­pris­ing to any­one who has fol­lowed his sor­did career of out­spo­ken big­otry. As early as 1985, Miller told ABC World News Tonight that, “now every­where I go peo­ple are agree­ing with me that the Jews do in fact con­trol this country.”

While the pub­lic has a right to know what moti­vated Miller, is there a need to give him an open micro­phone for those views? Many of these details would have come out dur­ing the trial. Why do we, as a soci­ety, feel the need to stare so long and so hard at the haters and big­ots among us?

Per­haps we should be look­ing in the mirror.

I, for one, was dis­ap­pointed with the Star’s deci­sion to give so much atten­tion to Miller and more dis­ap­pointed that it allowed him to spew his hatred. And I am annoyed and angry at the prison offi­cials who so read­ily made him avail­able to speak at length in a series of phone inter­views to a journalist.

Pub­li­ciz­ing Miller’s hate-filled tirades do not serve a com­mu­nity still emo­tion­ally bat­tered by his self-serving vit­riol. The Jew­ish com­mu­nity, the Cor­poron and LaManno fam­i­lies and the entire Greater Kansas City region can cer­tainly live with­out more of Miller’s hate speech.

More than a decade ago, Louis Far­rakhan, the anti-Semitic and racist leader of the Nation of Islam, was invited to appear as a guest on NBC’s Meet the Press. At the time I remem­ber being sur­prised that any respectable news pro­gram would give some­one with such deep ani­mos­ity toward Jews and oth­ers a plat­form where he could sell him­self as a mod­er­ate leader.

I appealed to the great Tim Russert, the host at the time, not to give Far­rakhan a plat­form on the network’s pres­ti­gious Sun­day news pro­gram, argu­ing that his sta­tus as a racist and a bigot made him a pariah and a poor sub­ject for an inter­view. The appear­ance went ahead, but not with­out Russert ask­ing pointed ques­tions about Farrakhan’s his­tory of hatred toward Jews.

Years later, after a series of hate-filled anti-Semitic speeches in which he has ful­mi­nated against Jew­ish power and blamed Jews for every­thing from pro­mot­ing the African slave trade to con­trol­ling Hol­ly­wood, Far­rakhan has achieved the sta­tus of a true out­cast. I hope that no legit­i­mate, main­stream news out­let would give him a voice.

The same rule should hold true for the anti-Jewish big­otry of Fra­zier Glenn Miller Jr.

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April 17, 2014 2

Westboro Baptist Church to Picket Kansas Shooting Victims’ Funerals

Shirley-Phelps-RoperThe vir­u­lently anti-gay, anti-Semitic West­boro Bap­tist Church has announced that it plans to picket the April 18 funer­als of two of the vic­tims allegedly killed by white suprema­cist Fra­zier Glenn Miller in Over­land Park, Kansas. The group sent out faxes, includ­ing to sev­eral Anti-Defamation League offices, declar­ing their inten­tion to protest at the funerals.

West­boro, based in Topeka, Kansas, is noto­ri­ous for hold­ing up hate­ful signs near the funer­als of sol­diers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They also draw atten­tion to them­selves by protest­ing at funer­als of vic­tims who were killed or died under other tragic circumstances.

Despite the March 2014 death of Westboro’s founder and leader, Fred Phelps, the group is clearly con­tin­u­ing his legacy of hate and divisiveness.

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