Right Goal—Wrong Strategy

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) held a ” title=”hate crime report” target=”_blank”>hate crime report, for 2009, revealed that, nationally, there were 1,303 religiously based hate crimes, of which 107 were directed against Muslims. Clearly a matter of concern, but, put in context — there were 931 hate crimes directed against Jews (a numerically comparable cohort nationally) that year — hardly a reason for a feeling of “psychological alienation.” Locally, the ” title=”Pew poll” target=”_blank”>Pew poll found that Americans were concerned about domestic Islamic extremism (the poll was conducted in the wake of the deadly Fort Hood Army base murders) — 79 percent of the public was “very or somewhat concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in the United States.” If four-fifths of the public is troubled by the rise of American-based Islamic extremism, and there are headline-making incidents to support that concern, one doesn’t have to be George Gallup to conclude that, like it or not, it will impact attitudes toward Islam and, likely, American Muslims.

Nothing justifies extrapolating from individuals to the larger group in terms of stereotyping and bigotry, but the events of the past decade have clearly put Americans’ tolerance to the test and attitudinal shifts — if not actions — can be the result; the death of bin Laden is but one step in the right direction. Fewer American Muslims heeding the siren call of religious martyrdom would help as well.

MPAC’s president, Salam Al-Marayati, in a post-bin Laden statement buttressed his hopeful message of a “new era” dawning with an analysis that concluded that bin Laden was essentially an outlier in the Muslim world: “His acts of senseless terror have been met with moral outrage by Muslims worldwide at every turn in the past decade.” The logic presumably being that if the outlier is gone, saner heads will prevail in the Muslim world.

If only that were true. The sad reality is that bin Laden had, and likely still has, a sympathetic audience for his fanaticism in large swaths of the Muslim world.

A largely ignored