Commentary

Greensboro columnist looks at whether NC is a terrorist hotbed

Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record adds his name this morning to the growing list of observers who have detected a hard and unpleasant truth about terrorists and North Carolina — namely, we’re just as likely to produce them as import them from elsewhere. Here’s Clark:

“Our ugly secret is out.

‘Forget Syria. The most dangerous religious extremists are migrants from North and South Carolina,’ a headline in the online magazine Slate proclaimed Monday.

Author William Saletan noticed a pattern with the arrest of Robert Lewis Dear, the alleged gunman responsible for last week’s shootings at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic. Dear lived in the North Carolina mountains before moving west.

‘For two decades, the Tar Heel State has been a hotbed of religious extremism, fueled by clerics who preach holy war,’ Saletan wrote. ‘The result is a stream of interstate terrorism.’”

Clark goes on to point out that Saletan’s list of North Carolina grown terrorists is actually incomplete, leaving out as it does, the 1979 Klan murderers in Greensboro. But Clark also pivots from this observation to raise a larger and more important point:

“Do these examples prove Saletan’s premise that North Carolina is a ‘hotbed of religious extremism’? No. I don’t think significantly more of these dangerous extremists have come from North Carolina than from other Southern states. I also don’t consider these people to be “religious,” no matter what they might claim. They certainly aren’t all Christian….

Yet Saletan is making a larger point. North Carolina political leaders almost universally reacted to last month’s Paris terrorist attacks by calling for the government to stop the Syrian refugee program until assurances are made that no terrorists will get into the country and our state by that route.

Yet these examples show there are very dangerous people already here — apart from the routine criminals, of whom there are far too many.

Much has been said about Muslim immigrant communities, such as the Molenbeek district of Brussels in Belgium, becoming breeding grounds for Islamic extremism. What’s happening within those populations needs to be addressed. But the same was once true in North Carolina where entire communities nurtured and sustained violent extremists. You only have to recall Ku Klux Klan lynchings witnessed by hundreds of people — where not one of the murderers was ever brought to justice. That was terrorism!

Those dark days are gone, but there are still individuals who hold the same, discredited attitudes. Their gathering places are more likely to be extremist websites — where I trust the appropriate law-enforcement agencies are keeping close tabs on them.

As for Robert Lewis Dear, North Carolinians shouldn’t feel too guilty. The most trouble he caused here, apparently, was berating neighbors with crazy rants and letting his dogs run loose. Yet he had a history of assaulting women in South Carolina in the 1990s, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported, although no convictions.

His alleged outburst of violence wasn’t easy to predict, which is one problem with terrorists. They’re not always who we, and politicians, think they are.”

Click here to read Clark’s entire column and here to read Saletan’s.

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