Islam may truly be a religion of peace and good will. I just would really like to hear that from someone besides Christians.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush has unfalteringly defended Muslims and the religion of Islam. Leading church groups have spoken out on the need to sympathetically understand Islam and have called on their followers to more fully embrace their Muslim neighbors and to work to advance Christian-Muslim relations.
Oprah Winfrey, now apparently a Muslim scholar, has outdone herself in presenting programs whose premise is that Islam is misunderstood by the non-Muslim community. Our civil rights establishment has trolled for every possible incident of "discrimination" against Muslims or people of Arab descent in order to file lawsuits. Books promoting an understanding of Islam are flying off bookstore shelves, and even public schools are going to great lengths to accommodate Muslim students and beliefs. So what does the Muslim American community have to say? Remarkably little.
I do not see leading Muslim Americans, rightly free to practice and advance their religion in the United States, uniting to publicly denounce by name Osama bin Laden, his atrocities and his call for Muslims to "kill Americans." I do not hear America's mullahs consistently explaining how and why bin Laden's evil is a terrible perversion of Islam. I do not observe Arab Americans organizing marches in their communities to declare, "We are Americans first." I do not notice American flags, which fly from every conceivable building and vehicle in the United States, regularly and proudly waving from America's mosques.
I do not find Arab Americans filling radio talk shows with their outrage over the atrocities done in the name of their religion or declaring how they stand with their American brothers and sisters against such treachery. I have looked, but I do not see Arab Americans regularly expressing such sentiments in newspaper advertisements, news stories or columns. Though there may be hundreds of al-Qaida operatives in the United States, and presumably they would attend mosques, I do not hear, or hear of, mullahs volunteering to glean any and all information about those who may be practicing evil among them so that they can be turned over to law enforcement.
Now, maybe all of that and more is there, it's just that somehow I've missed it. Or maybe it's just that all but the remarkably few, general, and often defensive statements I have seen are being completely crowded out by a different kind of outrage pouring out of the Muslim American community, particularly from groups like CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), which since Sept. 11 has focused its attention on vehemently complaining about an "anti-Islamic smear campaign" afoot, even using the term "Islamophobia."
Nowhere was this single-mindedness more evident than in the issue of the Arab American Secret Service agent kept from a American Airlines flight on his way to Crawford, Texas, and his assignment to the president. The agent was armed and his paperwork was not in order. Further, according to the pilot and witnesses, the agent became hostile when confronted. The pilot, with the lives of his passengers at stake and the American Airlines "shoe-bomber" incident fresh in his mind, would not allow the man to fly. (He was put on a later flight once his identity was confirmed.)
Well CAIR, along with the agent himself who has helped to publicize the incident, was outraged. CAIR denounced the airline and backs the move by the agent to hire a lawyer and demand an apology from American and a promise that the airline will never again engage in "racial profiling."
Writer James Taranto said it best: "Apparently the agent was willing to take a bullet for the president — but not get on a later flight for him."
If this was in fact a case of racial profiling, all Muslim and Arab Americans should be outraged. But they should be outraged at those young Muslim men, almost all of Middle Eastern descent, who are trying to kill as many Americans as they can per Osama Bin Laden's order. Instead, they wrongly vent their rage at decent Americans (surely including Muslim Americans) who simply don't want their planes blown up.
I want very much to believe that Islam is a religion of peace and good will. I'm glad that the first, generous instinct of so many Americans, including its Christian and other leaders, is to believe and adamantly proclaim it so. I just would like to start seeing, in word and action, the American Muslim community proclaim the same every bit as loudly.
Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by e-mail at: email@example.com.