A while ago the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) presented the findings of a study on American attitudes towards Muslims. (I watched this on C-Span). According to the survey almost one in four Americans harbor ill feelings toward Muslims, and when asked to think of an image associated with Islam, Americans were 16 times more likely to respond with something negative than positive. In sum, a significant minority of Americans have strong negative views of Islam; a large majority have at least some antipathy to Islam. Hardly good news for America's 4-6 million Muslims or for our relations with the wider Muslim world. But, unfortunately, CAIR fell into a rhetorical trap of its own making when describing these results. Why do many people dislike Islam?--well, of course, it must be due to "negative images in the media," "ignorance" and "lack of education."
So don't show a video of the Twin Towers falling--something I see so little of in media nowadays (can you say "pc" anyone?)--because that is a hurtful, "hate" image of Muslims.
And CAIR's definition of "ignorance" about Islam is, tautologically, disagreeing with any tenet of the faith. They also implied that Southerners and evangelicals were the most ignorant of us infidels. (This, coming from an organization whose Chairman once announced: "Islam isn't in America to be the equal to any other faith, but to become dominant.")
In contrast, when surveys show many Muslims hating America, well, of course, that must be due to our behavior--our foreign policy.
This is CAIR's logic: when Muslims hate America, we deserve it because of what we have done; when somebody dislikes Muslims, it's because they are ignorant bigots. That's a form of hate speech itself; it also does not win you friends in non-Muslim America.
CAIR officials also said that it was a "myth" that the Muslim community was "not doing enough" against terrorism. They are partly right: there are many individual Muslims who have bravely spoken out and acted against Muslim terror. After the Beslan massacre of schoolchildren in Russia, Abdulrahman al-Rashed, general manager of Al-Arabiya television wrote in a column startlingly titled, "The Painful Truth: All the World Terrorists are Muslims!" that "Our terrorist sons are an end-product of our corrupted culture...Most perpetrators of suicide operations in buses, schools and residential buildings around the world for the past 10 years have been Muslims." He concluded that the world will not hold a favorable view of Islam until "we admit the scandalous facts" and not offer justification or blame others.
His, sadly, is a minority voice. The record of the major Muslim organizations on counter-terrorism, in word and deed, is poor. They seem unable to make statements against Muslim terrorism that do not include veiled or overt blame on the actions of the West. In the wider Muslim press, this theology of "denialism" becomes downright kooky: like when Saudi Royals blame terrorist attacks in the Kingdom on "Zionists."
So what should CAIR do to really improve American-Islamic relations?
First, educate Muslims about their own past. Whether Islam is a religion of peace or not is a philosophical issue, but the facts of history are that Muslim armies conquered the Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Pagan lands of the Middle East, Near East, North Africa and central Asia. And Islam invaded Europe long before any Christians "colonized" a single Muslim land. Nobody should blame today's Muslims for these crimes of war: but before any Tunisian, Iranian or Pakistani Muslim (or leftAmerican intellectual) decries European colonialism, he should recognize that Islamic imperialism came first.
By example, I noted with sadness the BBC story a few days ago about a young English Muslim woman missing after the train bombings. Her father's comment when asked about the attackers was: "These people are not human beings, they are not doing anything for Islam. They may call themselves Muslim but there is no such thing as a Muslim killing people."
I agree with his first sentence; I feel sorry for this man's loss: I pray for his daughter. But if moderate Western Muslims can reach adulthood and know nothing about the sorry history of 1300 years of Muslims killing us infidels, well, what hope have we to educate the boys of the streets? Dear CAIR: it is not ignorance about Islam that causes prejudice against Muslims; it is ignorance about their own history that causes Muslims to become terrorists or condone terrorism. Your mission should be to educate yourself and your own people. Ignorance is deadly, for you and us.
(Aside to Liberals reading this: Would you approve of an U.S. education system that never mentions the sorrows of the American Indian or black slavery? How about a German school system that glosses over the Holocaust? Or Japanese schools ignoring the World War II rape of China? Should the Russian schools pretend the Gulags never existed? Present day Muslim education is worse than in any of those "what ifs." No wonder the Muslim of today feels victimized: he is never taught about his forefather's victimization of others).
Second, stop the silly game of crying "persecution." Admit that Muslims in modern Europe and America don't suffer any oppression whatsoever. Really, would you rather be a Muslim in Detroit or a Jew in Yemen or a Christian in Pakistan? You have it better here than any "dhimmi" had it in any Muslim country in history.
Likewise, challenge the double standard of many "Islamic" leaders who, demand that Muslims in the west enjoy "tolerance" but never encourage it for non-Muslims in the East. As example, consider the following exchange from the 2004 meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos. A "Council of 100" consisting of "religious, business, and political leaders" seeking a "dialogue between Islam and the west" met. In the first session, the co-chair Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury asked the other co-Chair Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom a question "in a spirit of friendship." The question was: "Why doesn't Saudi Arabia allow churches?" The program reports dryly that "A few minutes later, al-Faisal gave a response that took aback many in the room: 'Christians and Jews ought to be content to worship in mosques. That's because Islam accepts both Jesus Christ and Moses as prophets.'"
Revealing, yes? (And this came from a Diplomat!) Translation: kneel before our God and we will tolerate you.
Next, eliminate the suspicion that Muslim organizations within the United States are but fronts for Saudi interests. Why not announce that henceforth no American Muslim group will accept funding from any foreigner or foreign government? For example, why not return the $500,000 given to you by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud? Your sister organization, the American Muslim Anti-Descriminiation Committee might also refund the $6,000,000 he gave them. If you are going to be funded by foreigners, why not just register as foreign agents? No point in even accusing CAIR et al. of dual loyalty: your funding stream reveals whose interests you serve and they have nothing to do with "American" anything.
Last, take to the streets--for peace. The most positive image possible that CAIR and its sister groups could offer is the sight of hundreds of thousands of Muslims marching on Washington all carrying signs that express some variation of: "There is no justification for Muslim terrorism against Non-Muslims!"
On that day, American attitudes toward Islam will start to improve: but CAIR's present "decry and deny" strategy only makes them worse.
I believe that all people of good faith can work toward avoiding a global religious war: but honesty is the bedrock of any accommodation. When Muslim leaders start admitting the "scandalous facts" of reality, then we will have some hope for true good "relations."
Sounds 'bout right to me.
Read the whole thing here.