September 15, 2010
Islam and the American PublicBy J.R. Dunn
Questions are flying hot and heavy as to why anti-Muslim fervor is appearing now, nine years after 9/11. Observers note correctly that there was no backlash following the attacks. (The sole victim was an unfortunate Sikh, Balbir Singh Sodhi, murdered by an ignorant cowboy in Arizona. Other claimed incidents actually involve robberies and the like.) Why should the threat arise today?
There's no real mystery. The same, identical process occurred in the 1940s regarding the communists. The blame lies not with Americans in general, and not with everyday Muslims, but with incompetent and disingenuous authorities.
The 1930s were the peak decade for American communism. The party achieved a direct membership of 100,000 with several million "fellow travelers" following the communist example without joining up. Many found work with the government by way of New Deal programs with the blessing of Harry Hopkins and Rexford Tugwell.
The 1940s promised to be an even more promising decade with the USSR attaining the status of "ally." (Actually, the Soviets were co-belligerents; allies share at least some major goals, as did the U.S. and U.K. The USSR shared nothing.) Federal organizations such as the Office of War Information worked overtime to drum up support for the Soviets while communists operated openly in various Lend-lease offices.
This golden age ended with the declaration of the Cold War by Stalin in early 1946, followed in short order by the execution of the Polish democrats, the fall of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the Berlin Blockade, Mao's conquest of China, and the invasion of Korea. In the U.S., revelations of espionage by Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs provided clear evidence of how deeply the USSR had penetrated official circles. Communism was threatening the peace and costing American lives. What was the public supposed to think about a government that dismissed their fears, supported communists, and employed an unknown number in its own bureaucracies?
But even as the revelations unfolded, serious steps had been taken to contain the threat. Harry Truman shared none of FDR's illusions about communism, and his cabinet included a number of anti-communists such as Secretary of State James Byrnes. He began cleaning house in short order. Alger Hiss, who had worked his way into a position of influence under Roosevelt (he had accompanied FDR to Yalta for talks with Stalin in February1945) was shifted to a sinecure position with the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. More to the point, Truman initiated a loyalty program for federal officials, featuring a loyalty oath and boards to examine suspect employees. Over six hundred communists were uncovered and fired, with hundreds of others quitting of their own accord. If you're looking for the king of the Red-hunters, Harry Truman is hard to beat.
But the discovery of so many subversives threatened to do serious damage to the Democrats. So Truman dissembled, refusing to make any public comment or explain his actions. Most of his efforts occurred under the table, with little or no publicity. (The Democrats have not been eager to take credit in the decades since, either.) An understandable stratagem, though it did plant the seed of later problems.
Joe McCarthy, William Jenner, and others who embarked on anti-communist campaigns at the close of the decade were late to the festivities. Most communist infiltrators had been cleaned out years before. Enough low-level party members remained in minor positions to sustain the impression of a real threat. But none were of any consequence. The Soviets had already switched to professional spy networks operated by trained espionage agents such as "Rudolf Abel" (Vilyam Fisher). McCarthy did uncover an active communist in the Government Printing Office. Unfortunately, just as McCarthy was about to announce this catch, he learned that the man had been fired -- for running a betting operation in the office. A Marxist bookie -- top that, Moscow.
The Red hunts of the early 1950s discredited the anti-communist cause and created serious political rifts that lasted for years. It all could have been avoided with a little honesty and forthrightness from government officials, from Truman on down. Eventually it will be discovered that the same genetic complex that encourages people to make jackasses of themselves by becoming politicians in the first place also assures that they will lie when it does them the most damage.
Fast-forward to the 21st century. The major attribute of the 9/11 attacks was shock. They came out of nowhere -- literally from a clear blue sky. Only a handful in the intelligence community had any clear idea of what was involved. For the rest of the country, surprise and bewilderment were the rule. Under such circumstances, any tendency toward mob action, lynch law, or xenophobia would have burst forth immediately. No such thing happened. Americans had achieved enough in the way of tolerance, sophistication, and simple wisdom not to respond to such a provocation. The jihadis were undoubtedly hoping for a vindictive reaction that would set the Muslim world ablaze. Its failure to materialize marks an unheralded but real victory.
The institutional response, on the other hand, was and remains a disgrace. On the short list, we have George W. Bush's insistence on Islam as a "religion of peace"; the unofficial recognition of CAIR, closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadi groups as the spokesman organization for American Muslims; media exposure of counterterrorist methods and programs; attempts to peddle silly claims of insults to Muslims (e.g., Michael Isikoff's "Koran in the toilet" story); the extension of citizen rights to terrorist killers by the nation's courts in cooperation with such outfits as the "John Adams Project"; the unwillingness of government, media, academics, and other officials to utilize the terms "Islam" or "Muslim"; the pusillanimous response to the Mohammed cartoon disturbances; and even such elements as the Muslim symbolism in the Shanksville Flight 93 memorial or the spate of films such as Syriana which openly praise terrorist activity. (John Nolte has links to many others in his recent piece on Big Hollywood.)
A common premise here is that Americans are filled with hair-trigger anti-Muslim feelings that can be controlled only by wise and constant intervention from their betters -- intervention that, by its very nature, must extend into every last corner of American life. This premise was derived wholly from the doctrine of political correctness -- that all whites are oppressors, all nonwhites victims, no matter what the circumstances. The victims were not all white by any means, the perpetrators not exactly nonwhite, but that didn't matter. Institutional attitudes were driven by the most divisive, meretricious, and worthless doctrine of the late 20th century. That remains the case to this day.
The touchstone was the Nisei relocation of WWII, in which 100,000 Japanese immigrants were shepherded into internment camps for the duration of the war. What was forgotten was that the crime against the Nisei was carried out solely by government, with the concurrence of FDR, California governor Earl Warren, and Interior secretary Harold Ickes. There was no public demand for such an action and no need for it. It was April 1942 before the relocation occurred, five full months after Pearl Harbor. If an anti-Japanese pogrom was in the works, it would have occurred months before.
Muslim authorities also failed in the post-9/11 period. Not a single expression of regret or sympathy was heard from a Muslim organization for several years after 9/11. (I believe the first occurred three years later, but I'm willing to be corrected.) Muslim notables evidently thought they could lie low until things cooled down, which might well have worked but for a spate of foolish lawsuits claiming "discrimination" and attempting to force American companies and organizations to adapt to Muslim legal and social norms. The Muslim-American elite, instead of encouraging assimilation, consciously adapted the PC model, opting for confrontation when confrontation was not called for. In doing so, they rendered a disservice both to their own people and to the nation as a whole.
It goes without saying that things got worse when the Great Conciliator entered office. Obama injected a sense of pure weirdness into proceedings. The bowing to a Saudi potentate -- a first in the history of the presidency -- has been overshadowed by the public uncertainty about precisely what Obama's actual religious identity might be. Obama has been unable to clarify effectively what would seem to be a straightforward fact. His own rhetoric and behavior -- the repeated public invocations of the Muslim catchphrase "peace be unto him," his refusal to attend a church since leaving Trinity United in Chicago -- are in large part responsible. As a result, up to one-fifth of all Americans -- that is to say up to 60 million people -- believe Obama to be Muslim.
It is apparent from Obama's books, published under his name and approved by him, that he was for all practical purposes raised as a Muslim and became a Christian in adulthood, when he was baptized in Jeremiah Wright's church. A simple statement of this fact could have saved him a lot of trouble -- but simple statements and Barack Obama don't seem capable of coexisting under the physical laws governing this universe. Again we see dissimulation creating problems where none need exist. (I myself don't think he's a Muslim. I don't think he's a Christian, either. I think he's a prime example of the standard-issue secular that the higher-educational system turns out in ton lots.)
Add the question of Obama's Twilight Zone religiosity to such things as Eric Holder's asinine attempts to duck an admission to Congress that Islamist terrorism exists, John Brennan's incessant repetition of the "religion of peace" line, the Cairo speech, and the metamorphosis of NASA's mission from exploration and research to "Muslim outreach," and it's no challenge to see how public concern and confusion arose.
At the same time, domestic terror attacks resumed after a lengthy hiatus under the Bush administration. Failed attacks occurred over Detroit, in Dallas, and at Times Square. At last, the inevitable occurred with a successful attack at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan, an unstable Army officer who had closely consulted with overseas jihadi elements. Each case gave rise to serious official dissimulation. Plausible eyewitness evidence of conspiracy involving Detroit bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was ignored. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who simply can't be as dense as he seems -- he's a billionaire) publicly speculated that the would-be bomber was likely to be a "right-winger" angered by ObamaCare.
But it was Hasan who proved to be the watershed. Investigation revealed that he had been spouting jihadi propaganda and displaying sympathy for terrorist aims for years with no official notice being taken. After the attack, all connections between Hasan and terrorism were deliberately downplayed by the military, government, and media, which instead attempted to portray the attack as a run-of-the-mill mass shooting, although Hasan had repeatedly shouted, "Allahu akhbar!" as he mowed down his victims. The official Army report failed to mention Islam or jihadi terrorism at any point.
So as 2010 opened, we had an absurd government policy involving Islam, a president denying his obvious and well-attested Islamic background, a rising level of terrorist violence overwhelming a dormant counterterror effort, serious irresponsibility among the American Muslim hierarchy, and the American people as a whole being treated as a combination of children and crazed backwoodsmen. A more deeply strained situation would be difficult to imagine.
Into this seething pool of gasoline pranced Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, juggling a half-dozen blazing flares while wearing a blindfold. Shady as a tropical rainforest, Rauf was a slumlord with a number of substandard properties dotting the North Jersey area and unexplained connections with terror-related organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood (his own father was a member). To top it off, he was employed in some murky fashion by the U.S. government.
What Rauf actually thinks he's doing is anybody's guess. He cannot conceivably believe what he says, or that he could have gotten away with his mosque project without public opposition. His organization is broke (with about $18,000 available) and has as much business planning a hundred-million-dollar mosque as it does a mission to the Andromeda galaxy. It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that Rauf deliberately courted controversy for his own purposes, perhaps in hopes of generating funding from sources such as the U.S. government, overseas Muslims, and the inevitable liberal guilt donations. The entire business having blown up in his face, it does not appear that such funding is in the cards (except possibly from Michael Moore, who has offered to assist him in fundraising). At this point, it is unlikely that the mosque will ever be built.
So which side did the government take? You need to ask? Mayor Bloomberg, in a rare formal speech, appeared before the Statue of Liberty with a phalanx of ferocious religious figures. Obama, in his insistence on rushing in every time a dog bites a postman, offered endless helpful comments. Both based their support for the project on the 1st Amendment's establishment clause, a first for liberal politicians in this century. At the same time, they were effectively reducing the matter to a question of legality, insisting that Rauf had a "right" to continue, setting aside factors such as respect, dignity, and propriety.
The media, with its sure touch every time an opportunity arises to shame the country, leaped in with both feet. The stabbing of an honest New York Muslim cabbie received heavy play as the pogrom's first atrocity until it developed that the perp was a lefty film student with a serious drinking problem, at which point the story vanished. The media desperately needed a counterweight to Rauf, a Christian clergyman who could be presented as even worse. They found one: Terry Jones, complete with Hulk Hogan mustache, polyester suit, and a congregation of fifty. He promised to burn a Koran, an idiot's notion of a cheap publicity stunt. It was nothing new -- the charming Westboro Baptist Church, taking a break from its customary missionary activity of howling insults at the families of dead American soldiers, had burned one years earlier with about as much response as to a rock thrown into a pond. But times were different. The media needed Jones. (Every time I hear the name, I think, call in Cleese and Idle.) No one else did, though you wouldn't know it from the response he got. As the countdown to 9/11 continued, he heard from Gen. David Petraeus, Obama, and personally from defense secretary Robert Gates. Having attracted attention, he called the public burning off. A few cranks of similar hue burned some pages on the 11th. The world ended not. The media moved on, leaving Rev. Terry to think about what he'll do when those strange cars start driving past at all hours.
Similar incidents may well continue, growing in intensity until serious disorder results. Since the authorities have without exception collapsed, it will be left to people of goodwill on both sides to see us to safe harbor. And don't doubt it for a moment -- the majority do meet that standard, both Christian and Muslim.
We do not want a confrontation with the Muslim minority in this country. Nothing would please or benefit the jihadis more. The Bloombergs and Obamas will continue to posture. Let them. The media will continue shrieking for a showdown. Ignore it. Jones has had his fifteen minutes. Let him contemplate his eternity. The same could be said for Rauf. He should be encouraged to make a complete tour of the Muslim holy places. On foot. Starting from the Antarctic plateau. (Thanks exclusively to Rauf's antics, a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, involved in a legitimate expansion effort has encountered serious opposition in recent weeks. That's how these things spread.)
These uproars are part of the human condition. We must learn to deal with them.
One lesson we can accept is that institutions often fall apart in the face of crises that they themselves have generated. The federal government refused to address the legitimate concerns of the public. Too many in the Muslim-American leadership chose to play both ends against the middle. As always, the legacy media has behaved unspeakably, at the very lowest level of human deportment. Institutions in this country have created the very situation they insist they wished to avoid. The time has come for them to get out of the way. We can take over from here.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Military Thinker.