Sunday, January 21, 2007

Muslims and 24

I can understand why Muslim groups might be concerned about the potential for ordinary law abiding Muslims to be conflated with terrorists, but the problem is not, as some of them seem to think, dramas about Islamic terror such as this season of 24. The problem is not, as Rabiah Ahmed of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (who says she is now afraid to go to the grocery store) isn't that the public "will be unable to differentiate between fiction and reality." Its not fiction that Ms. Ahmed should be concerned about, it is the fact of Islamic terror around the world.

As the Fox network points out, villians in past seasons of 24 have included "shadowy Anglo businessmen, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, ..., and even the (Anglo-American) president of the United States ...." No one was concerned about violence breaking out against any of those groups because the fact is that we don't have a global problem with German or Anglo terror (and violence in Russia and the Baltics is pretty much intramural).

At least in the four episodes to date, the show has bent over backwards to be politically correct. Jack Bauer is running with a repentent Muslim terrorist (how many of those have there been?) and the unfairly detained head of the fictional equivalent of CAIR has refused release so he can feeding information to the feds. The terrorists are obviously Muslim but, if one was oblivious to the real world, you'd never get the idea that Islam is a motivating factor in the violence. There has been, near as I can recall, any airing of real world terrorist "grievances" - no mention of Israel or the dominance of infidels. Unlike the real terrorists on 9-11, there have been no cries of "Allah Akhbar" or the religious ablutions prepatory to "martyrdom" that are characteristic of suicide bombers.

One of the amazing things about the post 9-11 world (apart from the fact that the U.S., under the leadership of the "worst President ever," has not been hit again) is how little anti-Muslim violence there has been. The FBI reported 128 "anti-Islamic" hate crimes in 2005. There were 848 such crimes against Jews. Even in 2002, the first calendar year after 9-11, there were only 155 incidents attributed to anti-Islamic bias as opposed to 931 anti-semitic incidents.

I think Ms. Ahmed will be ok at the local 7-11. The Muslim community in the United States does not seem to be dominated by extremists and most Americans understand that.

But, if Islamic terror does return to the United States (or increases abroad), there will be a challenge for the Muslim-American community. A disposition toward tolerance will, rightly or wrongly, go only so far. One of the things that groups like CAIR might do is make clear that they are on the side of the angels. While I understand that they have made pro forma denunciations of terror, they have devoted far more energy, as Gabriel Schoenfeld points out in Commentary, to "an oppositional stance vis-a-vis the Bush administration and the war of terror...."

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