Terrorism is a real threat and we need to take steps to defeat it. What we do not need is mass hysteria.
Americans living in the United States are as likely to be struck by lightning as they are to be killed by a terrorist attack. Terrorism is not an existential threat. Yet today, over half of Americans fear they will be attacked by a terrorist group.
The word terrorism is instructive; it works by instilling fear in mass groups of people. The horrific recent mass shooting in Orlando is an example; the shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS, giving the group the ability to use non-stop media coverage of the attack as free advertising. The attention after the attack is what it prizes most because it is bait.
Calling for a total ban on all Muslims entering the U.S. is mindless hysteria that takes the bait.
There are over 2 million Muslims already living in this country. Since 9/11, Muslim attackers or people claiming to act in the name of Islam have killed fewer than 100 people (including Orlando); but during that same time, 180,000 Americans were murdered for non-terrorism reasons by non-Muslim killers.
Yet now we have the Republican Party’s presidential nominee calling for a ban on Muslims. ISIS wants western countries to persecute Muslims and engage in more wars abroad because they think those are steps which will lead to a final apocalyptic battle between the community of Islamic faithful and everyone else.
But while it wants to appear strong, in reality it is weak.
Like San Bernardino, the Orlando attack was inspired by ISIS, but not directly planned by the group. ISIS is resorting to appeals for individuals to carry out attacks on their own because it doesn’t have the capability or resources to plan and carry out any attacks against us directly.
It lacks that capability for two reasons: because our military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been successful at capturing or killing would be attackers abroad, and the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims have rejected its call for more attacks.
Not only that, the U.S. military has Muslim-Americans serving on active duty today. I served with them for 10 years here at home and in Iraq. A Muslim ban tells those service men and women — defenders of our country — that they are no different from ISIS. Such a ban is nothing less than a knife in the back to those who have fought to defend our country.
A person who would stick a knife in the back of our own military members does not deserve to be commander in chief.
Jason Belcher of Harold is an Iraq War veteran.