The phrase Islamophobia is all the rage right now, even gracing a recent cover of Time magazine, with erudite scholars disdaining the uneducated, irrational fear of Islam which is apparently permeating American society. They bemoan the undercurrent of the ordinary American’s suspicion of Islam, yet the Muslim community itself does nothing at all to combat those suspicions.
The dictionary defines “phobia” as “a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.” Thus, if I saw a single picture of John Wayne Gacy dressed in his “Pogo” get-up and then went out of my way to keep my children clear of anyone wearing face paint, I’d have a phobia of clowns. But what if ol’ Pogo was the tenth or fifteenth serial killer who went to children’s parties as a clown? What if every time someone discovered dozens of dismembered boys in a basement, next to it was a clown suit and an advertisement for birthday party fun? Would I be irrational to avoid clowns at my son’s next birthday? Or prudent?
Yesterday the “Time’s Square bomber” was sentenced to life in prison, and given a free podium to spout his hatred: In part, 31 year old Faisal Shahzad told a federal judge, “Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun. Consider me the first droplet of the blood that will follow. We are only Muslims trying to defend our religion, people, homes and land, but if you call us terrorists, then we are proud terrorists and we will keep on terrorizing you until you leave our lands and people at peace.”
And with that, the American public received a one-sided dose of what the “average” Muslim believes. Is it any wonder that the ordinary American is suspicious of Islam? After all, we’ve pretty much reached the fifteenth clown stage.
There’s a ridiculous axiom that says, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim.” This, on its face, is about as ignorant a statement of the phenomena of terrorism as could be made, but with a slight twist, it holds a kernel of truth: Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists who attack American interests are Muslim. Apart from Timothy McVeigh fifteen years ago, every major attack against the USA has been perpetrated by a Muslim, and fueled by Islam. And people are confused as to why the guy drinking Busch light and watching NASCAR is suspicious of Islam? Really? You don’t get it? The only time average Joe even registers that there is, in fact, an Islamic faith is when he’s watching the repercussions of an attack. There shouldn’t be any mystery in his suspicion. The mystery is why the overwhelming majority of peaceful Muslims allow these twisted lunatics to steal the pulpit of their religion.
Why don’t we ever hear from clerics denouncing these actions? Why isn’t there a constant drumbeat of moderate Muslims countering the propaganda of the few radicals? In their silence, they breed a notion of complicity, which further fuels American suspicion.
Strangely, Islam could learn a thing or two from the Catholic Church. After sticking its collective head in the sand as the sex abuse scandals exploded around it, the church is finally admitting the travesty and attempting to restore its tattered reputation. In essence, they’re saying, “It happened, but that’s not US.”
Which is where we stand with Islam. Currently, the American Muslim community has its head in the sand, hoping the problem will just go away. But it’s not going away. Much like the Catholic Church, the longer they wait, the worse it will get. Every time an attack occurs, America’s one-sided view of Islam is solidified a little bit more. To counter that, the moderate Muslims need to stand up and fight. Every time a bin Laden tape comes on TV, there should be a Muslim discussing its flaws in the eyes of Islam. Every time a bomber spouts off at trial, there should be a cleric on TV right next to the legal analyst, giving his opinion on what true Muslims believe. Even the Vatican gets this now, as organizations such as FOX News have a Priest on tap that routinely comes on to discuss religious issues.
Instead of spending his time defending the importance of the Ground Zero mosque for religious harmony, why doesn’t Imam Abdul Rauf denounce the actions of radicals who are creating the very fear he purportedly wants to defuse? Why don’t we ever hear anyone in the Muslim community say anything against the terrorists who have hi-jacked their faith? Rauf had all the time in the world to blather on about why the Ground Zero mosque was critical to prevent the radicalization of the Muslim youth of the world, but he doesn’t have a single second to spend condemning the statements of Faisal, a member of those same radical youths. This, even given that Faisal, by his own words, took his actions in the name of the very religion of which Rauf supposedly wants to engender a greater understanding. Why is that? When will moderate Muslims come out with one voice and say, “It happened, but that’s not US”? While they remain silent, the majority of Americans wonder if, in fact, it is them.
Make no mistake, it’s an information fight, and one that al Qaida knows very well. I have no misperceptions about the intentions of the vast majority of Muslims, but I’m in a distinct minority, because I’ve had the experience of working and living with Muslims from Bosnia to Iraq. The average American does not, and relies on what he sees. With the sentencing of Faisal for the aborted Time’s Square attack, Joe Six Pack’s seeing another clown suit in the basement, and it isn’t phobia he’s feeling. It’s prudence. If the Muslim world truly wants to co-exist, they need to get off their ass and start countering the radical propaganda spewed by the Muslim lunatics who permeate the news. By not doing so they not only concede the information fight to the very enemies of Islam they purport to despise, but their silence, much like happened with the Catholic church, implies a tacit consent.