ACCORDING to the FBI, a Florida doctor arrested after police found more than 15 homemade explosive
devices in his home allegedly drafted a detailed plan to blow up an Islamic educational center. The search of Robert J.
Goldstein's residence also turned up a list of about 50 Islamic worship centers in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area and other locations
in Florida. Attached to the criminal complaint against Goldstein was a three-page "mission
template" for an attack on an unidentified "Islam education center," which included a map of the center showing where bombs would be
Referring to Webster's Dictionary, "terrorism" is defined as "the unlawful use or threatened use of force or
violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or
governments, often for ideological or political reasons." According to the damning evidence against the Florida podiatrist, there
should be absolutely no hesitation in classifying Goldstein as a "terrorist." Yet, in news coverage from The Associated Press
to CNN, there was not one mention of the word "terrorist." However, if we change one facet of this scenario, we would have a
completely different ballgame.
Instead of Goldstein, let's say his name was Dr. Muhammad. Assume the same bomb materials were found in the
same Florida home. Instead of blueprints of Islamic centers and mosques, his house was littered with floor plans of more than
50 synagogues and Jewish day schools. In addition to the blueprints and the arsenal, there were scattered pages of his
manifesto that claimed to eliminate all traces of Judaism from America. Surely, one would be hard pressed to find one
person alive who would not consider the hypothetical man above a "terrorist."
So why the double standard? There was not one mention of Goldstein's religion or political affiliation in any of the media
outlets. It would follow a simple logical progression that his fiery hatred of Muslims was either fueled by a dogmatic or political
doctrine. Was Goldstein a Jewish extremist who wanted to rid this country of all "rags"? Was he a member of a militia group
aimed at targeting those affiliated with the terrorists of last September? We don't know, because no one made his political or
religious affiliation an issue.
On the contrary, the media wasted no time in classifying as a possible "terrorist" Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, the man responsible for
the shooting at the El Al counter at Los Angeles International Airport in July. Hadayet, a disgruntled limousine driver from Egypt,
was automatically categorized as a possible "terrorist" because he was an Egyptian Muslim. In a rare flash of brilliance, the FBI
cautioned the media against the classifcation. All evidence points to the fact that he was
just a discontented limo driver who unjustly took his frustration out on innocent civilians. There were no AK-47s found in his home,
no treatise on his hatred of a religious or ethnic group. Yet, Hadayet was vilified as a possible terrorist, while the extent
of Goldstein's vilification was that he was a "podiatrist from Tampa."
Not all terrorists are Muslims, and not all Muslims are terrorists. I know it's hard to believe, but mass violence in the
advancement of a personal, religious or political agenda is not something exclusive to the Islamic paradigm. Before Osama bin Laden
became the most infamous terrorist known to America, Timothy McVeigh used his perverted political agenda to slaughter 168 innocents,
including many children, who were playing at the day-care center in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on that fateful day in
1995. Last year,
Irv Rubin, chairman of the Jewish Defense League, plotted to blow up a Los Angeles mosque and the office of a U.S.
congressman. If these dastardly men are not guilty of terrorism, then no one can be honestly deemed a terrorist.
The incarceration of Goldstein shows quite vividly that terrorism knows no color or religion. If we want to be
consistent with the Justice Department's current trend in the "war on terrorism," we should send Goldstein to a military
brig in South Carolina. We should refuse him the right to an attorney and trample on his constitutional right to a trial by a
jury of his peers. We should also classify him an "enemy combatant" and relinquish his standing as an American. All of the
aforementioned un-American activities, we have performed on Americans even circumstantially linked to "terrorism."
Only when we rightfully classify Goldstein as a "terrorist" and afford him the same treatment that we have bestowed on
others charged with the same crime will I ever be convinced that this is indeed a war on terror and not on Islam.
Iftikhar serves as midwest communications director for the Council on American-Islamic
Relations, the nation's largest Muslim advocacy group. He is in his final year
of law school at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.