Sunday, January 18, 2015

After Paris, Listening to the Excuses Here at Home

This first appeared in Eagle Rising.

Just in the past week after the events of Paris, I have attended two Islamic events in Orange County, California in which a panel of Muslim leaders has attempted to explain the attacks to their audiences. The first was at the Islamic Center of Orange County, and the second was at the Pacifica Institute of Irvine. If one could summarize, the panelists condemned the attacks and informed us that they had nothing to do with Islam since the religion prohibits these kinds of acts. From the links, the reader can read the reports and view the entire videos of the events themselves. In a third example, the LA Times sent a reporter to interview UCLA Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, a man with a long and documented history of blaming everything on Islamophobia.

The pattern is all too familiar by now. The speakers condemn the acts (How could they defend them?), and state that the perpetrators are not representing Islam since Islam is a religion of peace and their prophet was a kind, peaceful and forgiving man. Third, they assign reasons for the perpetrators choosing the path of terror. They are disadvantaged, disaffected from society, poor, misinformed about Islam, or just plain crazy. Sooner or later, these apologists raise the specter of Islamophobia against those who speak out. In short, Muslims are the victims even though it is they who are doing the killing and they who are persecuting innocent religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries.

Granted. It would be wrong to blame all Muslims or say that they are all terrorists or even terrorist sympathizers. Yet, aside from the killers themselves, there is another segment of Muslim society that either shares some degree of sympathy with the jihadists or wishes that one day the rest of the world would become Muslim and live under sharia law. Another segment is simply afraid to speak out against the extremists either out of physical fear or  because they know they could not win a theological debate. There is also the segment that are also Islamists but prefer to work peacefully through the system to bring about an Islamic victory short of violence. We call them stealth jihadists.

Last week, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi spoke to his countrymen and said that Islam needed a reformation. I wish I had heard something similar said this past week in the events I went to. Of course, the speakers I heard are hardly sympathetic to El-Sisi because he overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood, thus, incurring their wrath-not to mention the wrath of President Obama. But how can you reform what is perfect (Islam)? Keep in mind, when Martin Luther began the Reformation, he was not rebelling against the Bible or Jesus Christ; he was rebelling against the corruption of the Vatican. For a true Reformation to take place within Islam, much of the Koran and much of the life and the sayings of Mohammad would have to be repudiated. That is not going to happen.

Instead, what I heard at the first event was the Southern California director of CAIR, Hussam Ayloush, complain that while everybody was talking about American Muslims who go to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, nobody was talking about young Jewish Americans who go to Israel to join the Israeli Defense Forces "killing the people of Gaza". He literally compared the IDF to ISIS and in a rhetorical twist, compared the Jewish State to the Islamic State. It was anti-Semitic and outrageous.

In plain simple English, the Muslim establishment, which badly serves its larger community, is in damage control. The horrific attacks are coming more rapidly and are becoming more and more horrific. What we are getting at home is a steady dirt of excuses, denials, and attempts to blame the victims-even while necessarily condemning the acts. What these spokespersons are refusing to do is apologize because in their words, Islam is innocent. It is all wearing very thin.

At the first event described above, in which Ayloush spoke, he used the US Government figure of some "12-20" Americans who had gone off to join ISIS in comparing that number to the thousands of American Jews who had gone to join the IDF. That inspired a question I wanted to ask him during the q and a. Unfortunately, they used the tactic of having the audience write down their questions on cards and pass them up front so they could choose the most vanilla questions. My question asked how many cases had been recorded where US Muslims had gone off to Syria or Iraq to fight against ISIS?

Of course, that question was never selected.

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