By Dina Rabie, IOL Staff
“If this person was a Muslim or a person of colour, they would have immediately called it an act of terrorism,” professor Greenberger told IOL.
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s refusal to acknowledge last week’s plane attack at a government facility in Texas as terrorist shows a double-standard approach to what does and does not constitute an act of terrorism, with the label seemingly being reserved exclusively to acts committed by Muslims.
“It should definitely be classified as a terror act,” Professor Michael Greenberger, Director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) at the University of Maryland, told IslamOnline.net.
On Thursday morning, Joseph Stack, a 53-year-old software engineer, deliberately crashed a small aircraft into the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) building in Austin, Texas, engulfing it in flames and killing at least one person in addition to himself.
In a suicide note left behind, Stack railed against the US government, complaining about being taxed twice by the IRS and losing tens of thousands of dollars.
Stack wrote that he ultimately resolved that “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.”
Still White House press officials refused to describe the attack as an act of terrorism and the Department of Homeland Security denied “a nexus” to terrorist activity.
Austin police chief insisted that the attack was not an act of terrorism.
But law and security experts affirm that flying an aircraft into a building full of people because of personal grudge against the government or for making a political statement should undoubtedly be labeled as terrorist.
“If we look at the books then this act is clearly an act of terrorism,” maintains Greenberger.
“Terrorism is defined as committing a terror act with the aim of changing the government policy. While the criminal act is a purely personal action which affects individuals and which is not meant to change a public policy.”
Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an Oklahoma-based organization that fights extremism and hate crimes, agrees.
“If a person does an action to make a political statement or driven by ideology, it is counted as terrorism,” he told IOL.
“Clearly ideology motivated, at least partially, this man’s act.”
Greenberger, also a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Law, says Texas attack shows how the use of the terror label should be utterly objective.
“If this person was a Muslim or a person of colour, they would have immediately called it an act of terrorism,” he asserted.
“But in these matters, we should not judge based on the person’s colour or race.”
Rights groups link the official reluctance to label the attack an act of terrorism to the fact that the attacker does not fit what has become the standard profile of a terrorist.
“If the attacker’s name was Abdullah Mohamed, it would have been branded terrorism immediately,” Nihad Awad, National Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), told IOL.
“But because it is Joe Stack it is automatically not.”
CAIR is organizing a press conference on Monday to express concerns over what it describes as a double-standard use of the “terrorism” label as it relates to acts of violence committed by people who are not Muslims.
Awad says terrorism should be terrorism, regardless of the faith, race or ethnicity of the perpetrator or the victims.
He called upon officials to stop using the term terrorism as a “political football” and get over the perceived notions about who is a terrorist.
“We need to give meaning to terms like terrorism. And we either use it correctly or do not use it at all.”