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Monday, September 02, 2002

Squandered Sympathy after September 11

On September 12, I was very sympathetic to the plight of American Muslims.

I figured they were going to catch a lot of hell, that sundry assholes were going to take the present crisis as license to be assholes. There were, at the very least, going to be calls to have them rounded up and interned, etc. I wrote to a friend in California saying that I felt so useless there in Sydney; I wanted to come home and do something, anything. "Pick up a rifle and defend a mosque," was one of the things I wanted to do.

But then a miracle occurred---nothing of the kind happened. The President and infinite numbers of local leaders warned against it, warned it would not be tolerated. I read about people who did defend a mosque (although it didn't seem to need much defending) by surrounding it, and waving signs of support.

There were a few ugly incidents, but most were minor, and most of the remainder were hard to definitely ascribe to anti-Muslim sentiment.

But my sympathy evaporated by the end of September. By then an endless parade of Muslim "leaders" had trooped across the sets of CNN and Fox. Sure, they all condemned the attacks: "OhofcoursewecondemntheseattacksthesewerenottrueMuslimsIslamisareligionofpeace, they would say in one breath, then go on with but you must understand OUR RAGE!!" And then they'd spend ten minutes criticizing US support of Israel.

The smarter ones spent less time barking about Israel and more time in righteous anger at being unfairly stigmatized as terrorists. I think I saw the first of these less than 24 hours after the attacks. They spent a lot more energy pre-emptively condemning American bigotry than they did condemning any actual terrorists.

And then there were the more creative people who explained that Muslims were stigmatized as terrorist by Hollywood! Yes! One day Hollywood's schlockmeisters had awakened and realized that Nazis, Commies, mad scientists, crazed billionaires, and aliens were all old hat, and that the villains du jour would be...Muslims! It's true! (Of course, Hollywood is run by the You Know Who.) Before this Muslims never thought of being terrorist, as it is counter to the peaceful nature of Islam. But their rage and humiliation at being so slandered apparently led them to turn terrorist.

While American Muslims were acting offended, foreign Muslims were either celebrating the attacks as a victory for all Muslims, or concocting elaborate fairy tales about who really was behind it, and why (hint: You Know Who).

Which brings us to nearly a year onward, and this article from the opinion pages of Saturday's Houston Chronicle. It's by Sayeed Siddiqui of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH), and sounds like it's in response to the criticism from Franklin Graham (son of Billy).

Many people in this country have denounced Muslims, particularly Muslim leadership, for not condemning the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon.

I'm sorry it took Graham's stupid screed to get them to notice. Wait, I take that back. Just as long as they notice.

Accompanying this idea is that there is something sinister about Islam to inspire such acts of terror.

Well, it is a little suspicious. After all, aside from FARC in Columbia, the IRA in Ireland, and ETA in Europe, Muslim terrorists (or those who claim to be fighting in the name of Islam) are pretty much the only game going. And unlike those others, Muslims terrorists are spread around the world---fighting in the Middle East, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, besides bringing their little hobby to North America.

To say that the Muslim leadership has been mute is to disregard statements from a formidable list of prominent Islamic scholars and organizations from the United States and around the world.

Now, they weren't exactly mute, but they weren't exactly condemning, either. I guess the "little or no press attention" included all those CNN appearances (see above).

At the local level, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston condemned the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States immediately upon learning about it, as did every other major Muslim and Arab group in Houston.

Now I'd like to believe that. I'd like a cite for it. Because I did a google on this group, and I didn't come up with much.

Their own website does not have a press release for this. The September 20th and 21st press releases announce the formation of the "American Alliance for Justice and Peace", and the fact that (Texas Rep.) Tom DeLay would be speaking to the group at an ISGH mosque. The October 1st press release details some "hate crimes" against two Muslims in two separate incidents (and yes, those are scare quotes---they indicate that the two incidents noted do not fit my idea of a reign of terror). Those three releases are in PDF form only; the remaining three are in HTML. The March 8th release condemns violence (against Muslims) in Gujarat state, India. The March 20 release condemns violence (by Muslims against Christians---finally catching on!) in the church shooting in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The April 4th release, now (the last one) is very interesting. This calls for a "Day of Prayer" outside the Israeli consulate in Houston. It calls for Bush to do something. It calls upon Israel to "end the occupation". It calls upon Arafat to halt the suicide bombings.

Oh, wait. I made that last part up. Sorry, my mistake.

To be fair, there is one instance of full-fledged, honest-to-goodness condemnation from ISGH. Alaa Sallam told a group of school children that terrorism "has nothing to do with Islam. In fact, it contradicts completely the teachings of Islam."..."There are some people who do not understand the true meaning of religion, who do not understand the true meaning of the teaching of Islam, that starts with peace, that prohibits us from touching innocent people."

This is somewhat less than the full-throated roar you see from foreign mosques praying for victory against the infidel, but it was directed at schoolchildren, after all.

So, yay. Extremely well done. Full marks for that. This is the sort of thing I would hope to hear from every Islamic organization. But this was said on October 7. I couldn't find any condemnation from ISGH earlier than that. Shouldn't it have been on their site if so?

But back to the fine whine:

The criminals behind the Sept. 11 attacks violated the basic tenets and most sacred principles of Islam, so when someone demands that Muslims apologize on Islam's behalf, we can't help asking: What for?

Graham's request for an apology and compensation (from random Muslims) for the victims is idiotic. If we're going to do broad-based collective guilt I've got a long laundry list for Christians. But what I want to see, and haven't, is a more vigorous version of what Alaa Sallam said to the children---an insistence that these people have not followed the true path of Islam, that they are a disgrace to Islam, that they have hijacked Islam just as they hijacked the planes, etc etc etc.

Assuming, of course, that Muslims really believe that.

This is tantamount to asking Christian leaders to feel responsible and issue apologies for abortion clinic bombings or for the genocide in Bosnia, which would be absurd. The repentance and contrition that is so often demanded from Muslims is baseless.

Actually, Christian leaders should condemn (as opposed to apologize for, unless they were directly responsible) clinic bombings. None of this "of course bombing is terrible but..." crap. It's important for other people to know that this is unacceptable, but it's far more important that their own people know this. This, I believe, is where Muslim leaders have fallen down.


Any honest person who reads the Quran must come to the conclusion that the evil of Sept. 11 was committed in spite of its teachings -- not because of them.

I'd love to believe that. But there are all those Suras calling for jihad...


For those who insist on spreading religious hate and demonizing Muslims, we ask them to heed the principles of peace, justice and tolerance as enshrined in our democracy.

Those who "insist on spreading religious hate and demonizing Muslims" are Muslims. Not only the actual terrorists themselves, but those Muslims who spend vastly more energy concocting lame excuses and paranoid persecution fantasies than they do condemning terrorism. Only a few Christians will listen (let alone heed) what Franklin Graham is saying.

But most Americans are listening to what Muslims are not saying.

(Here's a news story about a conference of Muslims in DC. Second verse, same as the first.)