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The Muslim Moment

The Muslim Moment

Author: Fred Barnes
Publication: The Daily Standard
Date: November 1, 2001
URL: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/000/437fawvi.asp

American Muslims should act boldly and show that their radical, anti-American leaders are wrong.

The Image Of American Muslims has been badly bruised since September 11--this, despite vigorous efforts by President Bush and others to defend their loyalty and protect them from threats and violence. Muslim leaders (but not grass-roots Muslims across the country) are at least partly to blame. Why? For starters, rather than express support for Bush's war against terrorism, they've spent much of their time in the past seven weeks condemning American bombing of the Taliban in Afghanistan, opposing anti-terrorist legislation, and emphasizing their victimhood. Then, there's the case of the Muslim cleric in New York who fabricated a story of persecution and fled to Egypt, where he accused Jews of plotting the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and Jewish doctors of poisoning Muslim children. And there are countless examples of American Muslim leaders indulging in hate speech to attack Israel.

I could go on. Suffice it to say tough criticism of the Muslim community has ensued. In Commentary, Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia argues that American Muslims aren't as patriotic as other Americans: "It is not accurate to say, as President Bush said of the Islamist leaders with whom he met on September 17, that they 'love America as much as I do.'" In the Wall Street Journal, Muqtedar Khan, director of international studies at Adrian College in Michigan, says "American Muslims must avoid the impulse to
blame the U.S. (or Jews or Hindus) for all Muslim miseries."

All this is backdrop to an extraordinary opportunity Muslim leaders and organizations have to promote America and democratic values in the war against terrorism--in other words, to come to the aid of their country. I don't mean just cooperate with the investigation of radical Islamic terrorism in this country. That's goes without saying. Besides, helping investigators is largely passive, a matter of answering questions. American Muslims need to be proactive.

They should begin by trumpeting the president's oft-repeated point that America is not at war with Islam. Living here, they know it's true. So why not say so in their press conferences and public statements and resolutions and speeches? Timing and location are important. Now is the moment, and the place to appear is the Islamic world. If American Muslims show up in Pakistan or Egypt or one of the Persian Gulf states and make that point, it's bound to have enormous impact. They'd be credible.  They could also make themselves available to Al Jazeera, CNN International, Sky News, the BBC, Voice of America, and other broadcast outlets heard in Muslim nations.

Next, American Muslims should demand of Muslim countries what they thrive on here: tolerance and pluralism. As things stand, the Saudi government is free to build mosques and schools all over America. But build a church in Saudi Arabia? Not a chance. Practice Christianity in Iran? Only if you're ready for jail. American Muslims could single out the Taliban for criticism, since it is holding eight Christians from the West for evangelizing.

This last suggests a bigger step American Muslims should take. Now, they are coming forward to complain about any post-September 11 harassment. This is proper, but it needs to be extended. When Islamic terrorists in Pakistan kill 16 people in a Christian church, as they did last week, Muslim leaders in the United States should be the first to denounce the attack. When Muslim rebels seize American missionaries in the Philippines, they should immediately respond.

Finally, it's important for American Muslims to police their own. When a cleric like Fawaz Damra of Cleveland is shown to have labeled Jews "the sons of monkeys and pigs," they need to criticize him, if only to protect themselves from being thought of as bigots.  (Damra did apologize.) Nor should they tolerate the trashing of Muslims, such as Sheikh Hisham Kabbani of the Islamic Supreme Council of America, who dare to criticize the hate speech of other Muslims.

No doubt, most Muslims in America don't think they need to affirm their patriotism. And they're right. But some in the Muslim community don't fairly represent the rank and file. Instead, they seem to champion Islam, even radical Islam, at the expense of America. Of course that's just how it appears, and appearances can be deceiving. Now's the time for American Muslims to show it isn't so.

(Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.)
 


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