Let’s unite to fight sectarian terrorism

For the second time in as many weeks, worshipers were attacked in a horrific, hate-filled assault.

Last week, it was Christians on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka as three churches and three hotels were targeted in suicide bombings carried out by Islamic terrorists allegedly directed by ISIS in attacks that killed at least 250 people. On Saturday, it was Jewish congregants at the Chabad of Poway, a synagogue about 25 miles north of San Diego, six months to the day after an attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh killed 11 and injured seven.

In March, Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, were attacked at two mosques during Friday prayers in assaults that killed 50.

More innocent victims, including nine slain in 2015 at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina., have died in what should be sanctuaries from worldly evil.

Saturday’s attack killed one 60-year-old woman who tried to protect Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who himself was wounded confronting the gunman. A 34-year-old man and a young girl were also injured.

His hands bandaged after being shot, Goldstein later said in an interview with NBC’s “Today Show” that “terror will not win.”

That message, and the rabbi’s inspirational courage in confronting the gunman, should resonate as the world faces the rise of sectarian hate.

In the U.S., the perpetrators are typically lone wolves — not those directly connected to larger terror groups — often inspired by white-nationalist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic or other extremist hate-laced rhetoric rocketing around the internet.

That appears to be the case with Saturday’s alleged assailant, identified as 19-year-old John T. Earnest. Like many attackers before him, Earnest was hiding his hate in plain sight, reportedly posting a racist, anti-Semitic rant online and on the internet message board 8chan. In it, Earnest claimed he received inspiration from the Tree of Life attack and the slaughter in New Zealand. He also claimed responsibility for a fire at a mosque in Escondido, California, in March.

The U.S. should be as bold as the synagogue’s rabbi in confronting this societal scourge and pledging that terror indeed will not win.

For political leaders, that means taking the rise of domestic terrorism more seriously, and not flinching out of fear it will be equated with the continuing controversy over President Donald Trump’s assessment that there were “very fine people on both sides” after racists, anti-Semites and white nationalists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. More recently, it’s troubling that the Department of Homeland Security has disbanded a group of intelligence analysts who had focused on domestic terror, according to a story first reported by the Daily Beast.

Elected officials need to stop kowtowing, if not cowering, before inflexible gun-rights groups like the National Rifle Association and instead listen to the overwhelming majority of Americans calling for common-sense gun legislation. And high-tech executives must do more to police their sites and eliminate hostile, hateful rhetoric, some of which clearly inspires some attackers. It’s not enough to express remorse after a site is hijacked by hate; more resources and innovative solutions are required.

American citizens can take inspiration from the heroism of Rabbi Goldstein, who offered this message after Saturday’s attack: “Everyone needs to be a hero, and everyone needs to step up and do something in the face of terror.”

— Minneapolis Star Tribune

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