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From Times Square to Jacksonville: When Terrorism Is a Double-Standard

As we all know, the first of this month a crude bomb almost went off in Times Square. It was an attempted terrorist attack by a less than competent 30-year-old finance professional, an American citizen of Pakistani origin who'd recently lost his Connecticut home to foreclosure and gone radical. The man was caught 56 hours after the bomb was discovered. The hurricane of media attention lasted about two weeks. The political consequences of the attack continue, with the usual other radicals in Congress and their amen rabble on Fox seizing on the plot to declare America under attack and constitutional guarantees of due process an even bigger threat to America than terrorism.

Amazing how easily one-off dimwits with bombs can scare off the country that likes to think of itself as the strongest on the planet. That's what happens when the dimwits are Muslim and the targets are recognizably American. It's a different story when tables are reversed and Muslims are the target.

Few of you know that 10 days after the attempted terrorist attack in Times Square, an actual terrorist attack took place in Jacksonville when a firebomb exploded outside the city's biggest mosque, the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. Some 60 worshippers were praying inside when the bomb went off and started a fire. No one was injured. The bomber is still at large.

The Jacksonville Times-Union did an admirable job of covering the story and editorializing against whatever anti-Islamic motives are polluting Northeast Florida. But aside from the Times-Union and a few broadcast media in the city, that terrorist attack drew almost no attention from the national media and barely more than passing mention in state newspapers. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks every hate crime in the country, has yet to take note of the Jacksonville attack. The FBI is on the case, but even the $5,000 reward it put up looks half-hearted compared to the $12,000 the New York City Police Department put up in the search for the Times Square bomber. The FBI didn't put up the reward in Jacksonville until four days ago, and only when the mosque, a church and a national Islamic organization each put in $5,000 of their own.

Double standards are the collateral damage of that dumb war too many people continue to imagine as a "war on terror." You can't wage war on terror. Terror is a tactic. It's nobody's monopoly. On American soil, the terrorists-from the Oklahoma City bomber to the Fort Hood attacker to the Times Square bomber to, most likely, the Jacksonville bomber-are American. There's convenience in creating a false sense of security by identifying Islam as the evil and Americans as the good guys. But it's demonstrably not true.

The Jacksonville attack didn't happen in a vacuum. For several weeks in April and May a controversy was contrived out of the Jacksonville City Council's nomination of Parvez Ahmed to the city's Human Rights Commission. Ahmed is a Fulbright Scholar and a University of North Florida professor with decades of public service to his name, as well as a long history of condemning terrorism, starting with a September 14, 2001 letter in a Pennsylvania newspaper calling the 9/11 attacks "senseless" and any use of religious labels to describe terrorists "an affront." But Ahmed is a Muslim. Turn on the sirens.

"ACT! for America" is a hate group founded by Lebanese Islamophobe Brigitte Gabriel, who sees a terrorist beneath every turban. It's her way of selling books and making money. When her act gets cold, she scavenges a cause and cashes in on the publicity. She found one in Ahmed's nomination. Her Jacksonville chapter launched a McCarthy-era-like attack on Ahmed, concocting slanderous allegations about him having ties to terrorist groups by connecting more dregs than dots. Stupidity loves company. ACT's slanders found support on the Jacksonville city council, particularly City Councilman Don Redman, who shamed his city by demanding that Ahmed publicly "say a prayer to your God." It's only when the council began worrying that an image of intolerance might hurt business in Jacksonville that it approved the Ahmed nomination on a still-shameful 13-6 vote. One of those votes belonged to Glorious Johnson, who feared that Ahmed's nomination was dividing the city and causing others to refer to it, in her words, as "this hick town." Her vote was among the reasons why.

Less than two weeks later, Ahmed's mosque was firebombed. If the message wasn't directed exclusively at Ahmed, it certainly was at the region's 15,000 Muslims. This wasn't swastikas on a wall. It wasn't insults cowardly spat out of a speeding car. It was a firebomb. It was an act of terror against Muslims in Jacksonville. It's no different than if your local church or Times Square had been firebombed. But of course it's been different. When the target happens to be Muslim, whether it's Jacksonville or anywhere else in the world, the attack is beneath concern, because the last thing anyone wants to admit is that hate and terror have their American franchises in spades.

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