Newsweek Blames the Victim: Magazine Sees Anti-Islamist Politicians in Europe to Blame for Heightened Threats

"The State Department has issued a "travel alert" for Europe—underscoring the effect Muslim-bashing politicians have had on the terror threat on the continent," reads the subheadline to an October 4 Newsweek story by Christopher Dickey and Sami Yousafzai.

In "Turn On the Red Light," Dickey and Yousafzai went so far as to suggest that anti-Islamist politicians like the Netherlands' Geert Wilders actually wanted to goad radical Islamists into violent acts (emphasis mine):

For years jihadists have exploited a few persistent issues: NATO’s presence in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. What’s new is the rising power and influence of xenophobic, anti-Muslim parties that are making Europe an ever-more target-rich environment for the terrorists. “The far right and the jihadis need one another,” says anthropologist Scott Atran, who is frequently consulted by U.S. government agencies about the social and organizational characteristics of terrorist organizations. In Europe especially there’s a growing impression that Muslims with immigrant backgrounds are “being thrown to the wolves,” says Atran. That fear plays directly into the jihadists’ propaganda. “This is politics,” says an architect of French counterterrorist strategy, declining to be named talking about his bosses. “But it does not help stop terrorists.”

The most conspicuous provocateur at present is Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders. His anti-Islam, anti-immigrant Freedom Party is expected to have a pivotal role in the conservative coalition government still taking shape nearly four months after elections. Wilders first came to international attention in 2008 as producer of a film called Fitna, attacking Islam as a repressive ideology. “I think he hoped there would be riots, and nothing like that happened,” says Edwin Bakker of the Clingendael, Netherlands Institute of International Relations. Holland may have stayed quiet, but rage is still rising in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Wali ur-Rehman, a Pakistani Taliban leader linked to the attempted May 1 Times Square bombing, has been watching Wilders’s rise in the Netherlands. “The path that the Dutch government is following is very dangerous,” Rehman told a TV interviewer this August, as drones circled overhead in Waziristan. “They will have to pay the price for putting a ban on Islamic values and ridiculing them.”

Dickey and Yousafzai later castigated French President Nicolas Sarokozy and the French parliament for enacting a burqa ban, legislation the Newsweek duo decried as "gratuitous":

The anti-burqa law, passed last month, seems practically gratuitous. Among France’s roughly 5 million Muslims, only a couple thousand wear full-face veils, compared with the multitudes of Muslim women who can be found on the country’s beaches in bikinis. In fact, this new law is no more than a transparent ploy by President Nicolas Sarkozy to win far-right support before he runs for reelection in 2012. And because the law is aimed against a specifically Islamic custom, jihadists denounce it as an insult to Muslims everywhere, making France an even more tempting target for terrorists. “All the warning lights are flashing red,” said Squarcini.

Of course, there's a legitimate argument that a burqa ban is a betrayal of western values of freedom of religion and a policy which unduly injects the state into a matter of personal religious conscience of its citizens. But to argue, essentially, that the burqa ban is just inviting Islamist violence is in some way blaming the victims, or potential victims as the case may be, of terrorist violence. 

Muslims in France have the ballot box and court cases to peacefully challenge policies like the burqa ban. Those are the legitimate avenues for political action, not terrorist violence. Peaceful patriotic French Muslims would and shall pursue those avenues and decry the opportunistic radicals who would seize the issue as an excuse for terrorist violence.

It's a shame Newsweek sees blood on the hands of peaceful if wrong-headed European politicians working within the political system, when there's no excuse, ever, for radical Islamists to wage violence on civilians over political or religious complaints with a government.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters