In recent weeks a startling revelation has come to me. Still nine years after 9/11, we’re losing the “war on terror.” Not on the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan, and not because we have not caught top Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. We’re losing because we are still being propelled by fear.
Today, I live in a country more afraid of people who are not white Christian Americans than I can recall in my lifetime. Whether it’s Hispanic immigrants, Muslims or even a black man in the White House. White people are freaking out. The stories just keep flooding from the news. It all began with those of us on the “loony left” electing a “Kenyan-born Muslim Communist” President. The fear in conservative white America was at a fever pitch. I have never seen so many rational people dissolve into babbling, conspiracy-theory spewing nutcases in my life. Then, while Obama was converting the youth to Marxism the Muslim invasion began. Or we noticed it. Most Muslim Americans didn’t just show up 4 months ago after all. Suddenly, mosques have become the target of vandalism, and anit-Muslim rhetoric has skyrocketed. Not just from regular people, but well-known and respected leaders in politics and religion. TIME reported recently that Newt Gingrich, who’s name is floated as a potential candidate for President, compared Islam to Nazism. Franklin Graham, the well-known evangelist , called Islam “a religion of hatred.” Even Sen. John McCain, a former presidential candidate, said we shouldn’t give Faisal Shahzad, the “Times Square Bomber, his Miranda rights because his crime was linked to militants in Pakistan. Never mind that Shahzad is an American citizen and to deny him Miranda could get his case thrown out of a court. I could go on and on. A simple search of Google News for the term “Islamophobia” finds 1,288 articles in the past month.
The problem with all of this is that we are beginning to act wholly un-American. Al-qaeda and other extremist operate through fear. Osama Bin Laden can never defeat the U.S. militarily. Even with all the armies from Muslim nations (there are 57) he would be hard pressed to destroy the U.S. He knows that. He also knows what he can do. He can make us afraid of something that we shouldn’t fear. In that he is succeeding, because we think that on 9/11 we were attacked by Muslims. We weren’t. We attacked by 19 violently insane men using a twisted version of Islam to justify mass murder. That’s what America needs to remember. Osama Bin Laden is no more a devout Muslim than a person who bombs an abortion clinic in the name of Christ is actually Christians. They are both twisted individuals using religion to justify acts of unjustifiable violence.
Every act of violence, vandalism, and hatred directed at Muslims by Americans is Al-Qaeda succeeding. They are trying to turn us into what they say we are, an imperialist power bent on the destruction of Islam. The only way we truly win against the extremism of militant Islam is to embrace a relationship with moderate Islam. If America shows the Muslim world they are accepted and celebrated here then Bin Laden has no power. That’s how we win.
I fear we a have a long, long way to go.