Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I was at Chicago's O'Hare Airport this week waiting to board a flight home to southern California. In the departure lounge, I saw a couple of young Muslim girls-probably college age- also waiting to catch a plane. One was wearing a headdress. The other, who was not, was wearing a sweatshirt with the words,"Got Rights?" on the front, a take-off on the "Got Milk?" commercial. On the back was was printed, CAIR, Southern California. It got me to wondering to myself about the "Rights" that this young lady thought she was lacking.
First and foremost, does this young lady have the right to practice her religion (Islam) freely in the US? Yes, she most certainly does. Does she have a facility in the form of a mosque in which to worship? Of course. There are mosques a plenty in this country, following in the American tradition of freedom of religion. Does she have the right to propagate Islam and attempt to convert others to her faith. Yes.
Next, in the wake of 9-11, does she have the right to get on an airplane and travel around the country? Absolutely, as evidenced by the fact that she was at O'Hare Airport waiting to board a flight. Does she have the right to board without being checked? No, but then again, neither do I. In fact, airport security personnel, anxious not to be accused of racial profiling, are going to subject Swedish grandmothers to the same scrutiny as this young lady. Of course, if she decides to engage in provocative behavior (like the "Flying Imams") deliberately designed to bring attention to herself, then she will be subjected to closer scrutiny.
Does she have the right to speak out to defend Islam and to question whether Muslims "rights" are being violated? Seems to me that was exactly what she was doing, making a statement with her sweatshirt. Does she have the right to engage in demonstrations at her university, and in the name of free speech, defend suicide bombers in Israel, bring in radical imams to speak at her school, who condemn Israel, Jews and the US in the process? Well, if she attends the University of California at Irvine (where I teach part-time), then that is exactly what happens at that school and dozens, if not hundreds of others around the US, courtesy of the local Muslim Student Associations.
Does she have the right to belong to a Muslim advocacy group like CAIR? Yes, she does and apparently she is, indeed a member.
Now let's talk about our rights and why Islam is under suspicion among Americans (and among non-Muslims everywhere). I am sure this young lady, if I had engaged her in conversation, would have explained to me that all Muslims should not be condemned because of the actions of a few fanatics. All well and good, but I'm not sure we are talkng about a few. We are talking about a worldwide movement to impose Islam on the rest of the world through terror and violence. If only 5% of all Muslims in the world subscribe to this vision, we are talking about many millions. That is a lot to be concerned about.
The message of CAIR (at least publicly) is that most American Muslims are loyal, decent, and law-abiding people, and that CAIR will defend their rights, in court if necessary (witness the "Flying Imams"). Yet, CAIR, in spite of its moderate rhetoric is a suspect organization, named as an "Unindicted Co-conspirator" in one terror case prosecuted within the US. They also seem to be adopting the mantle of the "NAACP of Muslims" in the US. In my opinion, this is a bad comparison. The NAACP came into being in the dark days of segregation in the US, when African-Americans were denied their basic rights as citizens (at least in the South), rights such as eating in restaurants, voting, using public facilities. The actions of the NAACP in the years prior to and during the Civil Rights era were necessary and noble. (I would argue that the NAACP of today is another matter, but that is off topic.)
I would suggest that American Muslims are missing the point if all they do is proclaim that Islam is really a peaceful religion and they should not be associated with terrorists. What they should be doing is loudly proclaiming to the rest of the Islamic world that they are Americans, and that they will fight the terrorists and preachers of hatred to defend America. They should be getting on planes and going back to their mother countries to spread their message of support for America in the War on Terror. Up to this point, the silence has been deafening.
I would also suggest to the young lady at the airport that she should, in fact, defend Islam, which is her religion. However, it isn't necessary to defend it from the rest of us. It is necessary to defend it from the Al-Quaida's, the Hizbollahs, the Hamas', the Mullahs in Iran, the preachers of hate in the mosques of London and elsewhere. She needs to defend it against those who wish to impose Shariah on the rest of the world whether we want it or not. She needs to defend it against the so-called Jihadists around the world, who are disgracing the religion in the eyes of non-Muslims everywhere. She needs to defend Islam from the rule of those who would kill Salmon Rushdie and others who criticize the religion. She needs to defend it from the suicide bombers, the beheaders and other assorted killers everywhere. Ultimately, she needs to defend it from all of those who murder innocents in the name of Allah. Yes, even if she puts her own life in peril, she needs to defend Islam against these murderers.
The young lady also needs to recognize that, whatever the dark pages in the history of other religions, today, there is only one major religion engaged in such wholesale salughter in its name-Islam. Finally, she needs to recognize that we non-Muslims are correct to question the true nature of this religion that is causing so much havoc in the world. Yes, we fear Islamic terrorists who would perpetrate another 9-11 on our soil. Yes, we are suspicious, especially when some Muslim passengers deliberately bring attention to themselves on airplanes. When we hear words of hate coming from Muslim Imams on our college campuses (as I have), we do question the nature of Islam.
Most of us, since 9-11, are trying to make up our minds about true Islam. Given what has happened, we have every right to our doubts and suspicions. Under our law and Constitution, we have every right to express these doubts (even in the form of cartoons) and ask these questions, and we will not be silenced.
So I would suggest to the young lady that she does have rights. If she hears voices that criticize her religion, I would remind her that Christianity takes hits every day in the US. I feel that Muslims here would make a huge mistake if they think confrontation and litigation is the way to go. They should not compare their situation with that of our African-American fellow citizens.
It is a false comparison. If we suffer further terror attacks here and the American Muslim community does not speak out loud and clear in its support of America, then they will find themselves further alienated- and the criticism of Islam will reach a crescendo.
Young lady, you have the same rights I do. Enjoy them.