The 2016 Republican presidential candidates claim to oppose terrorism. They say they’re motivated not by pro-Christian or anti-Muslim bias, but by a consistent ethic of calling out and confronting religious violence. But their reactions to two recent incidents belie that claim. The first incident was the July 16 attack on military recruiters in Chattanooga, Tennessee, allegedly by a Muslim. The second is the Nov. 27 attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, allegedly by a Christian. In each case, little was known at the time of the shooting. Yet the candidates treated the two cases quite differently. In fact, after the Colorado Springs attack, several candidates completely reversed the positions they had espoused after Chattanooga. Radical Christianity, unlike radical Islam, was given a pass.
The day after the Chattanooga attack we knew a few things about the alleged gunman, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez. According to the New York Times, he was a naturalized U.S. citizen. He had been “born in Kuwait to Muslim Jordanian parents of Palestinian descent.” He had written online that Muslims should “submit to Allah.” He had never been on any list of terrorism suspects. And he was due to appear in court on a three-month-old drunk-driving charge. The Times reported that Abdulazeez had “made several trips to Jordan,” but the paper also cautioned that investigators hadn’t yet determined whether he was connected to or motivated by a terrorist organization.