What's the Matter with Islam?

I have surveyed the unfolding saga of the Reverend Terry Jones with growing dismay and gloom.

Not because this man, who has an apparently miniscule flock, wanted to burn copies of the Muslim Holy Book. In a free state, especially one in which the sanctity of expression is nominally inviolable, that cranks and eccentrics will occasionally attempt such stunts is to be expected and even welcomed. It is surely, after all, a healthy society that tolerates such displays. Indeed, in a free and healthy society, most who would hear about Jones' plan would scratch their heads and say, "He wants to do what?" and then shrug and offer that sacred refrain, "Well, it's a free country," and then go about their business.

But that is not what has happened here at all. Instead, high government officials, including the President of the United States of America, his Secretaries of State and Defense, and his top general have deliberately and publicly attempted to dissuade this private citizen from exercising his freedom of expression.

Now you may say that they have merely tried to persuade, and have not coerced him or violated his First Amendment rights in any official way. Perhaps. But then, reportedly, a contingent of FBI agents personally visited Jones and "asked" him not to go ahead with his book-burning party.

Now I don't know about you, but when the Feds show up at your door and "ask" you not to do something, the line between coercion and persuasion seems to me to have been dangerously blurred. One may rightly ask: What damn business is it of the FBI's what this man does with his private property?

The answer that is given, of course, is that there is public safety at stake. Specifically, Jones is advised that his Koran-burning would prompt a violent reaction in the Muslim world, put our troops in danger, and perhaps expose the United States to increased risk of terror attack. Terry Jones is not responsible for the actions of Muslims at home or abroad; yet he is being treated as though he is.

In my more sublime moments, I daydream that I live in a world where the president, when asked about Jones' plans, responds, "I might not approve, but that man has every right to do what he wants with his own books, and if the Muslim world doesn't like it, tough." And the general in the field responds simply with "No comment." But we don't live in such a world. We live in a world where the adherents of one religion can hold the entire free world hostage with implied and explicit threats of violence.

The smart set in Washington are these days wringing their hands over recent polls showing the American people growing increasingly suspicious of Islam. Would that as much ink were being spilt asking what it is about Islam that inspires so much hate, violence, and death from one portion of its faithful, and so much shameful silence from the rest.

When years ago I read Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations, I was struck by a singular insight in that profound work. "Islam," Huntington wrote, years before 9/11, "has bloody borders." Kashmir. Palestine. Sudan. Burma. All around the world, where Muslims bump up against non-Muslim peoples, they make war or the poor man's version thereof, i.e., suicide bombs and other sundry acts of terror.

Why? Why were Muslims the world over -- yes, even some American Muslims -- dancing in the streets, openly celebrating when the Twin Towers came down? The same reason, I'd wager, that they are now attempting to build a monument to Allah in what once was the shadow of those towers.

Matt Patterson is senior editor at the Capital Research Center and the author of "Union of Hearts: The Abraham Lincoln & Ann Rutledge Story." Mpatterson.column@gmail.com