BECAUSE THEY WERE AMERICANS
Daniel Pearl. Nicholas Berg. Paul Johnson. All publicly murdered by would be theocratic fascists in a particularly gruesome manner. Because they were Americans. The murders were of a piece with the fate of those four contractors in Fallujah, the Ranger (or was it more than one Ranger?) whose body was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by a mob. Close to three thousand noncombatants died in the Trade Towers on 9/11 following a coldblooded unprovoked attack on a "target" completely unrelated to anything military in which the attackers committed suicide with the express purpose of taking as many of us with them as they could. More died on the USS Cole, in the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in the indiscriminate attacks in Riyadh and Khobar... The list goes on. Because they were Americans.
These are the images our adversaries wish to project to the world. They obviously believe that this makes them appear strong and that the US will be convinced that we cannot prevail over such people. For a while, they succeeded in convincing us, and we pushed Israel to moderate its response to terror. But flying an airliner loaded with unarmed civilians into a unprotected building filled with more unarmed civilians is not an act of strength. Nor is sawing off the heads of men you have captured or hiding a bomb in a car. These are no more acts of strength than Michael Moore's dissent (if you can call it that) in a land where dissent is protected, if not cherished, is an act of bravery.
Our opponents openly state that their religion justifies (indeed, requires) their utter intolerance of anyone who does not believe precisely
as they do. They cite verses from their holy writings to support those contentions.
And our side? (Yes, Virginia, there are sides in this conflict.) Our side writes "news" articles like this
under the headline "Beheadings fuel fresh backlash against Muslims":
EAGLESWOOD TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (AP) -- The recent beheadings of two Americans in the Middle East have added fuel to the angry backlash against Arab-Americans and Muslims that began after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
An angry backlash against Arab-Americans and Muslims that began after the attacks of 9/11? Really? I missed it completely. Silly me, I thought President Bush told
a joint session of Congress in November of 2001 "I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them." So just what was this horrendous backlash that CNN claims to exist?
The murders of Paul Johnson and Nicholas Berg triggered hate mail, verbal attacks and anti-Muslim signs. Muslims received death threats and their mosques were vandalized.
"Since 9/11, every time there is an incident overseas attributed to Muslims or Arabs, we go on orange alert ourselves," said immigration lawyer Sohail Mohammed.
I love that: "incidents" which are "attributed to Muslims or Arabs." As if the people to whom the "incidents" were "attributed" were not murdering people and boasting about it.
"There are individuals here who are off the wall, who think that every woman who wears a hijab or every man named Mohammed is out to blow things up."
True. And there are individuals, groups and even governments "out there" who are off the wall, who think that murdering thousands of people will somehow result in the return to the Middle Ages and the Caliphate. A choice has been forced on us between those two. We have to choose or die. Which do you prefer?
Sohail Mohammed is a lawyer in New Jersey. An article in Mother Jones
describes him as having cases related to traffic tickets and tells us that he "established the Human Rights Education and Law Project (HELP) to serve as a clearinghouse for the legal concerns of area Muslims." What do you want to bet that Mr. Mohammed doesn't run HELP for free? What do you want to bet that Mr. Mohammed has a vested interest in making sure that there is in fact a backlash that he can HELP ameliorate?
The Mother Jones piece laments that, "[a]lthough there were no anti-Muslim riots, the dozens of calls that came into Mohammed's office told of a community under siege. Federal agents were interrogating Muslim Americans in and around Paterson, near where some of the hijackers had lived. Ali Erikenoglu, an electrician, said four FBI agents entered his home without removing their shoes, walked on the carpet he uses for prayer, and demanded, 'What kind of an American are you?' Others recounted being pulled over by police for wearing religious headdress as they approached the Lincoln Tunnel. At least 20 people were held indefinitely by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in county jails following routine traffic stops or anonymous tips. In some cases, families had no way of knowing where they had gone, since court records were sealed and detention locations kept secret. Nationwide, the number of people detained on INS charges topped 180."
Oh no! Dozens of calls! Dozens! In a community of 100,000 plus. The FBI agents asked questions! And they did not take off their shoes
! People were pulled over in traffic stops! INS actually enforced laws that have been on the books for decades! More than 180 people (more than five percent of the people murdered on 9/11!) were detained in accordance with that law! Clearly civil liberties in America have gone the way of the dodo bird.
Back to the CNN piece: Hate mail? CNN provides no examples, so I am left to wonder why they claimed that hate mail was involved. Verbal attacks and anti Muslim signs? You mean people actually expressed opinions concerning the murder of two of their fellow citizens? Good God, what will become of us?
Vandalism and death threats are another matter. Vandalizing property and threatening someone's life are crimes and should be (and in fact are being) investigated. But, once again, CNN declines to say whose life was threatened and in what manner. Did it really happen? We can't tell from this article. Graffiti? I might be wrong, but I don't recall CNN, HELP or CAIR being so outraged by anti-semitic graffiti on American synagogues or anti-American graffiti on American WWII graves in France.
Al-Qaida-linked militants in Saudi Arabia decapitated Johnson, an American engineer, after warning that they would kill him if the Saudi government did not release jailed comrades. Berg, a businessman, met a similar fate last month in Iraq.
How sporting of them to warn us. I guess they weren't in a sporting mood on 9/11, when there was no such warning. And for God's sake, why can't they call someone who publicly boasts of violent crimes committed for the purpose of creating terror a terrorist?
Following Johnson's death, anti-Islam signs surfaced around the rural New Jersey neighborhood where he once lived. One read "Stamp Out Islam" next to a drawing of a boot over a crescent and star. Another, hung on a mailbox next door to Johnson's sister's home, was more detailed.
"Last night I wasn't a racist, but today I feel racism towards Islamic beliefs," it read. "Last night Islamics had a chance to speak up for Paul Johnson, but today it's too late. Islamics better wake up and start thinking about tomorrow."
The holy writings of the vast majority of Americans allow Christians and Jews to take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Yet I must have also missed the reports of the beheadings of American Muslims and Arabs in response to the Berg and Johnson murders. The response in both Iraq and Saudi Arabia was to go after the people who actually boasted of committing those murders.
The New Jersey attorney general sent bias crimes investigators to the area, along with stepped-up state police patrols. The signs are gone now, replaced with hand-lettered placards on utility poles that say "Our prayers are with the Johnson family."
Mohammed is right in that every society has its nutballs. Our nutballs post signs which might be offensive and are investigated by our own police to see if there is any possibility that they might go beyond posting signs (and the signs themselves are replaced with inoffensive ones). Islamic nutballs murder thousands and are stopped, if at all, by armed force imposed from outside. Given that nutballs are inevitable, which flavor nutball would you prefer: the sign-posting/investigated-by-the-cops nutball or the beheading/fly-the-airliner-into-a-skyscraper nutball?
But more anti-Muslim graffiti appeared Thursday on a Muslim man's home in Egg Harbor Township.
The article complains that the police have failed to prevent the additional graffiti. Just how were they supposed to do that without violating the civil liberties held so dear by HELP?
"It's really our fear coming true," said Faiza Ali of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It indicates a hatred that could turn into something violent."
Strong emotions generated by acts of unbelievable barbarity and violence could cause people to become violent? Who knew?
Relatives of Johnson, in a statement made through a church pastor after a memorial service Saturday, said that they hope his legacy is one of peace in the land he grew to love during more than a decade abroad.
"When history is written on the war on terrorism, let Paul's death be the catalyst that led to thousands more Westerners working in harmony with people in the Middle East to ensure fear and barbaric acts against free peoples come to an end," the Rev. Kyle Huber of Greentree Church said.
The day after Johnson's death, a coalition of Muslim groups held a rally to condemn the killing in Paterson, the heart of New Jersey's Arab-American community.
Good. Has it happened again since that time? It needs to be done at least weekly until this war is over. And this war will not end for quite some time. I believe that American Muslims and Arabs are Americans first, that they are on our side. But I start to wonder about that conclusion when I read that they are offended at the very idea that the police think it might be possible that they might know someone who knows someone who knows something about someone in their community who intends us harm.
A few days later, vandals tossed empty liquor and beer bottles at a mosque in Union City as congregants inside mourned a teenager who died in a car crash.
Assuming that this was related to the Berg and/or Johnson murders, it was stupid and offensive. But its still one hell of a lot better than taking a hostage, chopping his head off and posting video of the beheading on the internet, ain't it?
"If they are throwing empty bottles today, they could be throwing rocks, or worse, shooting at us tomorrow," said Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's New Jersey chapter.
Yes, it's theoretically possible. Just as it is theoretically possible that, if your co-religionist are beheading us today, it is possible that you will be beheading us tomorrow. Both are unlikely. And I would suggest that the most effective thing that can be done to avoid such outcomes would be to identify and deal with those who are the incitement to such outcomes from "your" ranks and "ours." The US is doing what it can to prevent a backlash. Is Islam, doing everything it can to prevent the incitement to that backlash? Not when we hear complaints that FBI agents didn't take off their shoes.
Two mosques in Florida were vandalized in the days after Johnson's killing. In the Tampa suburb of Lutz, someone broke into the Islamic Community Center and scrawled "Kill All Muslims" on the mosque's interior walls, then smashed windows. In Charlotte Harbor, someone vandalized a mosque's sign and left threatening phone messages.
In the St. Louis suburb of Ballwin, Missouri, vandals painted a swastika and the word "Die" on the wall of the Dar-Ul-Islam mosque.
In Texas, dead fish were dumped near the entrance sign to a mosque under construction in a suburb of Houston.
And in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park, residents urged officials this past week to reject a mosque's building application. A Baptist pastor told a public hearing he feared it would attract Islamic extremists and violence. The center was approved over boos and catcalls from the audience.
But it was approved, no?
"I believe the time is coming when Muslims will not be safe inside the U.S. borders," one man wrote to the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. "I see nothing wrong with us doing the same things to them that they are doing to innocent people."
Well, I believe that the time is actually here
when non-Muslims are not safe within the borders of Muslim nations. And who wrote that second sentence in the quotation? The guy who was writing to CAIR? Is he complaining about a a backlash and then saying that a second backlash to the first one is acceptable?
"It is high time you people wake up and smell the blood," another man wrote to Assaf's group in New Jersey. "Turn in the terrorists. They are your relatives, in a lot of cases. Cousin Omar. Uncle Mohammad. You know what I mean. Until you come forward to help us stamp out this vermin, you are as bad as they."
Cited after a long list of graffiti and vandalism intended to make the writer look bad. The fact of the matter is that no one disputes that the terrorists of 9/11 and Fallujah and Riyadh and Bali and Khobar and Chechnya and Madrid and Netanya and Algeria and Yemen (the USS Cole) and Nairobi and Dar es Salaam (US embassy attacks)... and ... and ... are without exception Muslim. The fact of the matter is that the best thing Muslims and Arabs can do to prevent the outcome they fear is to police their own ranks. And that means cooperating with the US in dealing with the fanatics among them.
Their failure to do so, can only result in more victims. What the hate mailers and graffiti "artists" are graphically pointing out is that the victims will no longer be exclusively on one side. This is a war. We didn't start it, but we are in it. There are only three possible outcomes: our surrender, our extermination, or our victory (which, according to the fanatics on the other side, means the extermination of the fanatics on the other side). We will not surrender. We will not cooperate by dying en masse. What's left is prosecuting the war through to victory. In that effort, American Muslims and Arabs can help, hinder or simply stay out of the way. Just like the rest of us, a choice has been forced upon them.
I think they should help.
Because they are