Police offices add to the flowers for the victims of Monday night pop concert explosion, in St Ann's Square, Manchester, Tuesday May 23, 2017. A 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with Monday's Manchester concert bomb attack. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Tuesday for the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande show that left over 20 people dead and dozens injured. ( Martin Rickett/PA via AP)
The excruciating facts keep on coming in. Twenty-two are dead, many of them children. About five dozen others are wounded, such that the death-toll may climb. The Islamic State jihadist network, having exhorted its willing Western-based recruits to attack in place, has claimed responsibility. And now comes the revelation that the suicide-terrorist, Salman Abedi, is yet another known-wolf—a young Muslim man in Britain who was on the radar screen of security services as a potential threat.
The 22-year-old bomber was a British-born son of Libyan refugees, who grew up in the Whalley Range neighborhood outside Manchester—an area that became notorious when two girls, honor students at the local high school, moved to Syria to live under Islamic State rule. Abedi carried out the atrocious bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester with an improvised explosive device that sprayed high-speed nails at his victims. The bomb type is commonplace in what Muslim terrorists like to call “the fields of jihad”—Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and so on. It is too soon to tell what kind of paramilitary training Abedi may have had. What we do know is that he roamed free because he was judged by the British government not to pose an “immediate” peril.
Once a Western society is infiltrated by a critical mass of sharia supremacists, there are barely enough investigative resources to cover the immediate perils—especially when inquiries into their ideology are condemned as racist “Islamophobia.”
It was to confront head-on that self-defeating approach that, following the San Bernardino jihadist attack that killed 14 Americans, candidate Donald Trump announced his much-derided intention to impose a temporary ban on Muslim immigration. As night follows day, Trump was branded an Islamophobe―a classic demagogic slur developed by the Muslim Brotherhood precisely to thwart examination of sharia-supremacist ideology. But the candidate’s intention was never to bar all Muslims from entering the United States; what he had in mind was a temporary measure until a workable policy solution could be devised (“until our elected representatives can figure out what is going on,” as he put it).
The policy solution Trump arrived at was enhanced vetting (which he at times calls “extreme vetting”). I know this not just from the now-president’s plethora of statements on the matter; I served on the commission (put together by Trump campaign adviser Rudy Giuliani) that counseled Trump. The point was never to ban Muslims, as has been misrepresented in press coverage and legal arguments over Trump’s so-called “travel ban” orders. The point was to ban those beholden to what Trump has called “radical Islamic” ideology (I prefer the more precise description “sharia supremacism”).
The strategy is based on what should be a widely known fact but, after a generation of willful blindness, remains obscure: Sharia supremacism, which demands that societies be governed by classical, repressive Islamic law (sharia), is a totalitarian political ideologyunder a religious veneer. It should not be regarded as a merely religious belief system as that concept is understood in our law.
Once this core premise is accepted, the legality of heightened vetting is plain to see. The United States has a long history of barring admission to political radicals who seek to overthrow our constitutional system. Indeed, to this day the oath taken by naturalized citizens requires a pledge of loyalty to our Constitution.
The public debate over this aspect of Muslim immigration has been numbingly uninformed. Federal courts and Islamist apologists have challenged the administration over the travel ban―a temporary measure to block entry into the United States by aliens from six Muslim-majority countries that are high-risk because their regimes are incapable of, or unwilling to, cooperate with U.S. immigration authorities. Ignoring the president’s sweeping constitutional and statutory authority to impose such temporary bans on national-security grounds, Trump Justice Department lawyers have been grilled on such diversions as the number of terrorist attacks committed against the United States by nationals of the six countries, and whether the president’s campaign rhetoric signals a closet agenda to ban all Muslims.
These questions miss the point. It is of course imperative to prevent the entry of trained jihadists who may have infiltrated groups of refugees and other aliens seeking admission. That, however, is a secondary problem.
The threat we face is not merely terrorism. The main threat is the ideology because of which terrorism thrives. As we see in Europe, and are reminded of in Manchester, enclaves of assimilation-resistant aliens adherent to sharia supremacism become the safe-havens in which jihadism takes root. It is there, among sympathetic residents, that the message of groups like the Islamic State has resonance―making the enclaves fertile ground for jihadist indoctrination, recruitment, training, fundraising, and harboring.
Yes, we must root out the terrorists of today. But we must be at least as concerned about the 10-, 13-, or 16-year-old who will become the Salman Abedi of tomorrow—a young Muslim who slides seamlessly into jihadism because of the anti-Western ideological precincts we have come to indulge.
To prevent that fate, we have to be prepared to scrutinize aliens for sharia-supremacist ideology. That means heightened vetting for aliens who seek to enter the United States from any country, city, town, or enclave where this anti-constitutional ideology—so hostile to liberty and equality―is prevalent. The objective is not, and has never been, to ban Muslims just because they are Muslims. As the president correctly noted in his speech on Sunday in Saudi Arabia, jihadist terror regularly kills and persecutes Muslims. The objective is to protect the religious liberty of all Americans from sharia supremacists―ideologues who systematically discriminate against both non-Muslims and Muslims who do not adhere to fundamentalist construction of Islam.
In an essential analysis of sharia encroachment in Britain, the Gatestone Institute’s Soeren Kern detailsthe push by growing Muslim enclaves for autonomy to govern themselves under sharia, rather than British law. Sharia courts are proliferating. Increasing percentages of Britain’s Muslim population (now 3.5 million, about 5.5 percent of total population . . . and climbing) express sympathy for jihadists. There have been cover-ups of sexual-assault scandals and the pressure put on women to conform to Islamic mores. In Manchester itself, residents have received leaflets in their mailboxes from a Muslim group calling itself “Public Purity,” demanding a ban on dogs (which are considered unclean under classical sharia). A 23-year-old Manchester man, Raphael Hostey (a.k.a. “Abu Qaqa al-Britani), joined the Islamic State and became a key recruiter―of both jihadist fighters and jihadist brides.
It would be the height of folly to believe that what is happening in England cannot happen here. This is why the president’s travel-ban orders have been inadvertently counterproductive.
Because of the base allegations of anti-Muslim bias, the White House, Homeland Security Department and Justice Department have been goaded into defending themselves, in court proceedings, by claiming that the orders have nothing to do with Islam. The president’s orders, they maintain, relate strictly to the security shortcomings of the six particular countries cited. Indeed, the administration has bragged that the vast majority of the world’s Muslims (over 80 percent) are unaffected, and that the revised order scaled back the number of affected Muslim-majority countries from seven to six.
But how are we ever to avoid the influx of anti-American sharia-supremacists if our security personnel do not screen aliens seeking entry for ideological hostility? And how can that happen unless the Trump administration says, honestly and without apology, that we seek to subject Muslim alien visa seekers from sharia-supremacist hotbeds to enhanced vetting, in order to promote fidelity to the Constitution, assimilation, and the religious liberty of all Americans, including Muslim Americans—all of which are proper and essential goals of sound immigration policy?
Atrocities such as the Manchester bombing are always shocking, but that does not make them unpredictable. Suicide bombers are enabled by suicidal policies.
Andrew C. McCarthy is a former chief assistant U.S. attorney best known for successfully prosecuting the “Blind Sheikh” (Omar Abdel Rahman) and eleven other jihadists for waging a terrorist war against the United States – a war that included the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a subsequent plot to bomb New York City landmarks. He is a recipient of the Justice Department’s highest honors, helped supervise the command-post near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan following the 9/11 attacks, and later served as an adviser to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. His several popular books include the New York Times bestsellers Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad and The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. He is a senior fellow at National Review Institute and a contributing editor at National Review. He is a frequent guest commentator on national security, law, politics, and culture in national media, and his columns and essays also appear regularly in The New Criterion, PJ Media, and other major publications.