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July 10, 2005

Stuff Only A Liberal Can Say: Muslims Must Restrain Their Crazies, Or We Will Do It For Them -- Crudely and Cruelly

Thomas Freidman spends a lot of time burbling gauzy happy-talk, but he's on the right track here, with the right more-in-sadness-than-anger tone:

Yesterday's bombings in downtown London are profoundly disturbing. In part, that is because a bombing in our mother country and closest ally, England, is almost like a bombing in our own country. In part, it's because one assault may have involved a suicide bomber, bringing this terrible jihadist weapon into the heart of a major Western capital. That would be deeply troubling because open societies depend on trust - on trusting that the person sitting next to you on the bus or subway is not wearing dynamite.

The attacks are also deeply disturbing because when jihadist bombers take their madness into the heart of our open societies, our societies are never again quite as open. Indeed, we all just lost a little freedom yesterday.

But maybe the most important aspect of the London bombings is this: When jihadist-style bombings happen in Riyadh, that is a Muslim-Muslim problem. That is a police problem for Saudi Arabia. But when Al-Qaeda-like bombings come to the London Underground, that becomes a civilizational problem. Every Muslim living in a Western society suddenly becomes a suspect, becomes a potential walking bomb. And when that happens, it means Western countries are going to be tempted to crack down even harder on their own Muslim populations.

That, too, is deeply troubling. The more Western societies - particularly the big European societies, which have much larger Muslim populations than America - look on their own Muslims with suspicion, the more internal tensions this creates, and the more alienated their already alienated Muslim youth become. This is exactly what Osama bin Laden dreamed of with 9/11: to create a great gulf between the Muslim world and the globalizing West.


Because there is no obvious target to retaliate against, and because there are not enough police to police every opening in an open society, either the Muslim world begins to really restrain, inhibit and denounce its own extremists - if it turns out that they are behind the London bombings - or the West is going to do it for them. And the West will do it in a rough, crude way - by simply shutting them out, denying them visas and making every Muslim in its midst guilty until proven innocent.

And because I think that would be a disaster, it is essential that the Muslim world wake up to the fact that it has a jihadist death cult in its midst. If it does not fight that death cult, that cancer, within its own body politic, it is going to infect Muslim-Western relations everywhere. Only the Muslim world can root out that death cult. It takes a village.

What do I mean? I mean that the greatest restraint on human behavior is never a policeman or a border guard. The greatest restraint on human behavior is what a culture and a religion deem shameful. It is what the village and its religious and political elders say is wrong or not allowed.

Spot on.

Friedman hits the politically-correct notes about what a tragedy it would be were Western governments forced to essentially quarantine Muslim populations due to the murderous viral epidemic running through them, but...

Sometimes selfishness is reason enough to act.

True enough, an end to Muslim immigration to the West would impose hardships on many Muslims seeking little more than an adequate avenue for economic success. But there are other hardships that must be considered as well-- the hardships we all experience when our daily lives are disrupted -- or, more than disrupted: snuffed out like a candle-flame by a blast of explosive-driven shockwave wind -- due to our continuing attempts to do the "right" thing rather than the "easy" thing.

But we will not persist in doing the "right" thing if we do not sense some serious attempts in the Muslim communities to do the right thing as well. If Muslim communities continue to softly support these murderers, the easy thing to do will in fact become the right thing to do.

Even us backward, racist conservatives do have some attraction to the liberal dream of different races and religions living in harmony and forging a better future together. But this is looking more and more like just that -- a dream, and only a dream -- and if Muslims cannot or, more likely, will not restrain their most vicious thugs and butchers, than the non-Muslim host populations will feel less obligation to restrain their own most selfish impulses.

A Fair Attempt By A Muslim To Do Just That: But more please... and it cannot come from merely the most assimilated and Western-oriented Muslims. It has to come from the clergy and less-assimilated adherents as well:

To make a difference in the world, we have to make meaningful change in ourselves. There is little point endlessly complaining about how misunderstood we are when by sheer thoughtlessness some of the good and decent people talk and behave in ways that confirm the very prejudices and stereotypes we object to. There is little point in insisting Islam is a religion of peace, whose central principle is justice, when the traditional language of religion we use and the way we operate invokes images of war and defiance, emphasises exclusivity, and prejudicially stereotypes non-Muslims.

As Muslims we decode what lies behind these messages. We know that what sounds like blood curdling rhetoric intends to teach us peace, tolerance and numerous virtues. You might call it the “onward Christian soldiers” syndrome, “marching as to war”. What it means to those in the pews is “follow the path of the Prince of Peace”. But in whichever religious tradition it occurs – and it afflicts them all – eventually such language has to be jettisoned. It always gives aid and comfort to those who would pervert the message to their own malicious, brutal ends.

To be peaceful and tolerant and to implement the values our religion teaches, we have to find new language and fresh ways appropriate to our condition here and now in Britain. And that means as Muslims we have to resolve the dilemma of tradition. We have to reason our way beyond our past.

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posted by Ace at 03:05 PM

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