The charismatic American Muslim cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, who now lives in hiding in Yemen and is a target for assassination by the CIA, has predicted: “The West will eventually turn against its Muslim citizens!”
His prediction appears to be coming true.
In the current climate of escalating rhetoric through which hostility towards Muslims is now being unleashed across America, there is a tendency to pay greater attention to the fact that this makes America look bad, than that it reveals real fractures and failings inside American society.
Responding to the Manhattan Islamic-center controversy, Evan Kohlmann, an independent terrorism consultant at Flashpoint Partners who monitors jihadist websites, told the Wall Street Journal: “We are handing al Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup.”
But what if we could be assured that hatred of Muslims did not increase the risk of terrorism? Should we be any less concerned?
A couple of years ago, ABC‘s Prime Time conducted a revealing experiment to see how ordinary Americans respond to expressions of hostility directed at American Muslims. Watch the video below:
As encouraging as it might be to see that twice as many individuals tried to correct an injustice rather than supported it, the silent majority did nothing. And keep in mind: this was in response to the mistreatment of an American Muslim. Muslims born elsewhere who may speak little or no English can only fare worse in similar circumstances.
The pernicious effect of political correctness is that it exaggerates the value of cosmetic changes. A socially acceptable code can prevail, yet barely beneath the surface, bigotry festers both in spite of and to some extent because it no longer finds free expression.
The current up-swell of hatred towards Muslims in America says, I would contend, less about changing sentiments than it does about people’s willingness to express what they previously thought they must conceal. We should be less concerned about what people are now saying than what this reveals about what they think.
Glenn Greenwald comments on the demonstration that took place in Manhattan yesterday, as shown in this video:
The animosity and hatred so visible here extends far beyond the location of mosques or even how we treat American Muslims. So many of our national abuses, crimes and other excesses of the last decade — torture, invasions, bombings, illegal surveillance, assassinations, renditions, disappearances, etc. etc. — are grounded in endless demonization of Muslims. A citizenry will submit to such policies only if they are vested with sufficient fear of an Enemy. There are, as always, a wide array of enemies capable of producing substantial fear (the Immigrants, the Gays, and, as that video reveals, the always-reliable racial minorities), but the leading Enemy over the last decade, in American political discourse, has been, and still is, the Muslim.
That’s why the population is willing to justify virtually anything that’s done to “them” without much resistance at all, and it’s why very few people demand evidence from the Government before believing accusations that someone is a Terrorist: after all, if they’re Muslim, that’s reason enough to believe it. Hence, the repeated, mindless mantra that those in Guantanamo — or those on the Government’s “hit list” — are Terrorists even in the absence of evidence and charges, and even in the presence of ample grounds for doubting the truth of those accusations.
And there’s no end in sight: the current hysteria over Iran at its core relies — just as the identical campaign against Iraq did — on the demonization of a whole new host of Muslim villains.
This may turn out to be one of the most important tests of Barack Obama’s presidential leadership. His inclination and that of his political advisers is likely to lean heavily in favor of weathering out the storm — especially since he appeared to walk back from his initial intervention. But the test of leadership is the willingness and ability to act in conformity with the dictates of the circumstance and not those of political prudence.