Were one to believe the rhetoric about seething anti-Arab sentiment in post-911 America, then one would expect there to be massive pogroms against Arab-Americans exploding throughout the nation. As one local protestor pined in last week's News-Letter, ".the Arab community has had to deal with so much harassment since the attacks." Posters decrying 'War and Racism" are all around our campus. Ridiculous comparisons with the internment of Japanese citizens during WWII abound. So exactly what are the terrible retributive attacks being made against Arab-Americans today?
In truth, retributive attacks by Americans against resident Arabs have been about as commonplace as the celebrations held by some New Jersey Arabs after hearing of the attacks on the World Trade Centers; that is to say, extremely isolated. One instance of discrimination against Arab-Americans made national news: Four Arabs were recently denied entry onto a domestic flight because their presence disturbed some passengers. That such an exceedingly minor instance of discrimination would make the national news is nothing more than a compelling testament to the overwhelming tolerance and goodwill displayed by Americans after the WTC attacks.
But in the ensuing war on terrorism, this tolerance and benevolence could blunt America's resolve. America has been attacked, and if she does not respond forcefully and thoroughly, her enemies will notice her weakness and attack again. More people will be killed and the stability of the nation and the world shall be shattered. Thus, when combating radical Islamic terrorism, Americans cannot afford to be "understanding." Americans do not hate, and thus responding properly to their enemies, who are possessed by hatred, shall be difficult. Yet, Americans must act strongly, because their enemies understand only power and fear.
President Bush and the major news networks have done much to assure us that Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda represent only a "fringe" element of Islam. But one of the most enduring qualities of radicalism is that it drowns out and destroys moderation. From the Jacobin days when brave Frenchmen sacked an empty prison and bloodied the streets of Paris, to those of the Bolsheviks in Russia, to those of the unsurpassed evil of the Nazi party, radicalism has drowned out the voices of reason and moderation, eventually seducing (or compelling) once moderate individuals to its standards.
An honest assessment of the Arab world leads one to conclude that it is in the process of being seduced by Islamic extremists. Moderation is increasingly suppressed and disdained, in both civil and official society. For instance, all readers must have seen or read of as least one radical Islamic protest in the news. The protesters chant "Death to Israel and America," and usually burn the Israeli Prime Minister and/or the United State's President in effigy, along with some American flags. Such protests are everyday occurrences in the Middle East. But have you ever heard of a protest against radical Islam in the Islamic world? No? That is because there has not been such a protest anytime in recent memory.
Radical Islamists are not afraid to use violence to achieve their objectives and silence their opposition. Moderate Moslems have become increasingly afraid of speaking out against radical Islam for fear of their very lives. Eventually, radical Islam, left unchecked, will completely drown out the forces of moderation and reason in the Islamic world.
The debate between prominent Moslem theologians might indicate how pervasive Islamic radicalism has become. This April, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, the nation's highest Islamic authority, Sheik Abdulaziz al-Sheik, condemned suicide bombers by saying, "The one who blows himself up in the midst of enemies is also performing an act contrary to Islamic teachings." His comment appears reasonable, but nonetheless provoked outrage amongst other prominent Islamic theologians. In response to this remark, the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar mosque, one of Islam's greatest teaching centers, countered that suicide bombings were indeed legitimate, but only if directed against Israeli soldiers.
Egypt's Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi was enraged by these previous theological interpretations, stating that the two above clerics were ".alien to Sharia (Islamic laws) and religion" for their positions against suicide bombings. Sheik Ikrema Sabri, Jerusalem's highest Moslem cleric (appointed by Arafat), agreed, stating, "That dying as a [suicide-bomber] has its reward - going to heaven."
Moderation is less and less popular in Moslem nations. Calls for jihad (literally struggle, but meaning holy war) abound in the Arab world today. From the lowliest cleric in Turkmenistan to Indonesia's top Islamic authority, calls are heard for all Moslems to unite in a jihad against America and its allies if Afghanistan is attacked.
Americans cannot understand radical Islam, they cannot reason with it. But if America does not stop radical Islam from spreading yet further in the Islamic world, then Islamic radicals will not only attack America and Israel with greater frequency, they may very well hijack Islam itself.
Many Moslems were offended when President Bush committed himself to a "crusade" against terrorism. But this crusade against terrorism is not against Islam, but rather can save Islam from the radicals who willingly pervert one of the world's great religions for their cynical political purposes.