September 20, 2019

RIGHT GOAL—WRONG STRATEGY

By Joe R. Hicks and David A. Lehrer                                            

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) held a ” title=”report” target=”_blank”>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 most recent hate crime” title=”Pew study ” target=”_blank”>Pew study found that “favorable” attitudes toward Islam have, in fact, declined among Americans over the past five years (from 41 percent favorable to 30 percent). But to be fair to our fellow citizens, those attitudinal changes have occurred against the backdrop of a decade that began with 9/11 and includes a tragic list of attacks and terrorist incidents, both domestically and overseas, that will inevitably affect attitudes — unless someone lives in a hermetically “news-free” environment.

From Richard Reid’s attempt to bring down an airliner on a flight from Paris to Miami; to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s rampage at Fort Hood, Texas; to Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to explode a car packed with explosives in Times Square; to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian underwear bomber; to the Midwestern youths who traveled to Somali to train and fight with local extremists: These incidents — both tragedies and tragedies averted — would make anyone’s head spin and challenge almost anyone’s commitment to tolerance.

A 2009 ” title=”Pew poll” target=”_blank”>Pew poll that came out last week confirmed this fear. Despite its rosy headline — “Osama Bin Laden Largely Discredited Among Muslim Publics in Recent Years” — the numbers in the study belie the title’s optimism. While “confidence in Osama bin Laden” has declined in recent years in Indonesia (from 60 to 26 percent), Pakistan (52 to 18 percent), Egypt (27 to 22 percent) and the Palestinian territories (72 to 34 percent).  The actual number of those with “confidence in bin Laden to do the right thing in world affairs” in just those four population centers totals 183 million Muslims. That means that nearly 200 million people in the world have “confidence” in an avowed mass murderer who advocated religious war and genocide.

As one reads that fact, it is important to keep in mind that in recent history there haven’t been many mass murderers who explicitly boasted of their gory exploits; few preened about killing innocent men, women and children. They might use code words and metaphors, but open blood lust hasn’t been common practice. Bin Laden was an exception — there was no ambiguity in his goals. Nevertheless, he had/has hundreds of millions of admirers. Hardly the “moral outrage of the Muslim world” that MPAC described.

MPAC and its leadership have expressed admirable goals, to “turn the page on a decade of terror led by bin Laden and al-Qaeda … (whose) pro-violence messages have been exposed as bankrupt and misguided.” But turning that page is not advanced by reflexively claiming victim status, by decrying Americans’ response to terror and plots of terror, and by candy-coating what is clearly a serious problem in the Islamic world that won’t likely disappear with bin Laden’s demise.