This week, Rep. Louie Gohmert’s stated, in the vulnerable context of the Boston bombings, that there are links between Al Qaeda and Hispanics. Gohmert said:
“We know Al Qaeda has camps over with the drug cartels on the other side of the Mexican border. We know that people that are now being trained to come in and act like Hispanic when they are radical Islamists. We know these things are happening. It is just insane not to protect ourselves, to make sure that people come in as most people do … They want the freedoms we have.”
In an effort to push an anti-immigration view, Gohmert managed to establish a relationship between Al Qaeda, Mexican Cartels, immigration and terrorism in an interview last Monday. He then proceeded to compare the U.S with Israel and suggested it would be appropriate to do as they did – build a fence. Gohmert concluded that terrorism is somehow linked to immigration in the U.S. and that terrorists now coming from Mexico.
And Gohmert is not the first to have this idea. Janet Napolitano has openly wondered what would happen if terrorists and drug cartels joined forces. Unfortunately for Gohmert – and luckily for Napolitano- these asseverations are not only false, but also unlikely to happen.
It is important to understand that a terrorist organization is a completely different institution from a drug cartel. Their bases, ideologies, philosophies, goals, and activities set them apart and make them like oil and water: unlikely to combine.
Al Qaeda is a radical fundamentalist organization based in a specific ideology and philosophy that derives from the sixth pillar of Islam: Jihad. The “struggle” represented in the Quran as Jihad implies a personal effort against “evil” to pursue the values of the religion. As the fundamentalist organization it is, Al Qaeda intends to promote and impose the Sharia (moral code and religious law of Islam) and pursues a political end through religious means. On the other hand, the drug cartels represent a complex form of organized crime with no ideology or philosophy behind it and one only goal: the sustainability and success of their business.
Al Qaeda has, at its core, a doctrine that provides logic and a complex rationale to every action of the organization to transform the pillars and goals of Islam into a way of life. Al Qaeda, like many other fundamentalist organizations, recruits followers of the same doctrine in order to assure the purity and authenticity of its jihad, aiming to construct a community under the Islamic precepts. Not only do drug cartels lack a doctrine that inspires and justifies their activities, but they are culturally divergent from those that inspire Islamic jihad. Even the so-called “acts of terror” carried out by the cartels simply represent a struggle of power within the drug system with no doctrine as background, and are not considered “sacred” in the way the Jihad is.
In this sense, recruiting, cooperating or assimilating drug dealers in the terrorist organization would contradict its essence and goals and could be considered shameful and sinful for its members. Islamists cooperate with other Islamists because at the core of their organizations lies religion. Even this statement is generalist since the varied branches of Islam differ radically from each other making the differences between Shiites and Sunnites an obstacle in the memberships of such organizations.
It could be argued that if one of the main objectives of Al Qaeda is the imposition of a moral code for life in community, the Cartel members’ lifestyle could be significantly contradictory and offensive to the principles of Islam. The violation to the integrity of the body that alcohol consumption, drug abuse and sexual activity represent is a core element of life in the Cartels, while it is considered sinful for adherents of Islam.
Therefore, terrorists do not have the need (or desire) to cross the border disguised as Hispanics. Al Qaeda has demonstrated that they have followers and entire communities of supporters and sponsors throughout the world. Many of them are even known to reside inside the United States legally and illegally. It might be time to recognize that Al Qaeda does not need Hispanics, or any other predominant group of immigrants, to pursue its goals and carry out its agenda in the U.S or elsewhere.
The imminent challenge that terrorist organizations pose to the State and rule of law today is alarming and dreadful. However, such a threat should by no means be entwined to establish an unrealistic relation to the immigration issue we are confronting today. It would be a shame that an accumulation of groundless hypothesis and conspiracy theories withheld the progress towards a comprehensive immigration reform.