Monday, July 11, 2005

Enemy At The Gate: The Minority Dance

Aside from military endeavors abroad to attack the ideology of fanatical, nihilist Islamist and exporting the idea of liberal republic democracies, within our own borders, the danger exists.

It should be clear that what many have said is true: we have a large Muslim minority within the United States. Three million, by most estimates. This minority has demonstrated what many immigrants have done in the United States, to be independent, prosperous and productive citizens. This is hardly a plattitude or wink towards mulitculturalism. It is a fact. If it weren't a fact and a large part of the population was in anyway bent on joining their extremist brothers across the sea in destruction, it would be a bloody country right now with vigilantism, internments, mass deportations and destruction.

But they aren't. What there is, however, is a multitude of ideas and practices that, in many ways, reflect American society` and many immigrant populations before, as a whole. Some citizens do not practice their faith at all. Some simply recognize holy days and time to spend with their families. Some practice the basic tenets of their religion, but intersperse their lives with liberal living, free association and living within the frame work of open society. Some are more traditional, adhering as strictly as they can to Islamic tenets and prefer to associate within their own communities. From within these multitudes, a political voice has sprung up in the population represented by such entities as CAIR, MAS and other smaller organizations.

It is unfortunate that it is within all of these differing communities that extremism and potential violent threats can arise from an even smaller, even minute, part of the minority.

Many have pointed to the origins and conduct of the original 19 hijackers from September 11 as proof that it is not within these communities that extremism comes, but from the outside and that these hijackers made special effort to not associate with the Muslim communities or portray any real adherence to their own religious practices. This is quite true and the men went out of their way to hide themselves, not within the Muslim community, but totally separate and behaving as a secularized liberal citizen of our country.

But, history tells us that this is an abboration and that extremists can and do exist within constructed Muslim communities. The first World Trade Center was perpetrated by men who immigrated to the US on false passports, took up residence within large Muslim enclaves and used a residing Islamist cleric and mosque in Brooklyn as their center for coordination. Men already in country were to be the co-conspirators and one was arrested for for killing Rabbi Kahane with an assualt rifle also procured by a local as well. The killing of Rabbi Kahane has never been associated with Islamist terrorism but has always been reviewed as "murder" regardless of the perpetrator's ideology or purpose.

The reason, of course, that Ramsi Yousef and Shiekh Rahman were classified as "criminals" was because we had failed to recognize the danger and. certainly, no one wanted to inflame differences within the two disparate communities.

As time has gone on, and discounting the deep cover which the September 11 hijackers operated under, many of the terrorist rings and actual terrorist attacks within Europe have evinced from established, insular, traditionalist Muslim communities.

It does not mean 9/11 type cells cannot be present within the US, but it does mean that the threat does not eminate from these types of organizations alone.

There is danger in recognizing this threat and voicing it outloud in any security statement or official release. That danger is the possibility of alienating these communities and lending to prejudicial and persecutorial activities against them, regardless of how small the threat may be and how few the numbers involved. Even experts cannot agree on how large the threat is, how radicalized any part of the population may be and whether inflammatory rhetoric within these enclaves has actually created, on any notable scale, persons willing to act. Unfortunately, we know that it takes very few people to kill tens if not thousands of our citizens.

In free, liberal republican democracies, it is a natural act to secure the safety and liberty of even its minority populations, protect their political rights such as free speech. At the same time, these natural inclinations abutt the over all government role of securing the nation and the rest of its citizens.

To ignore the possibility or play it too low also presents its own negative connotations such as allowing extremist rhetoric to expand within these communities and possibly render a larger more insidious problem as time goes on.

The most obvious answer would be to engage these communities and Muslim citizens directly with awareness programs that highlight extremist ideology and the dangers to their youth, children and community as a whole, much as what has been attempted with drug awareness and anti-gang prgrams. Unfortunately, these programs with drugs and gangs have their own problems that bleed into the Muslim communities, as is highlighted by the existence of such organizations as "CAIR". Communities where police and other authorities are not looked upon as protective organizations to keep order and assist the citizens, but instead are looked upon as persecuting those citizens in these communities for ethnic or other prejudicial reasons.

With crime from gangs and drugs still high within the United States, these programs must be seen as less than successful and highly incomplete. Outreach programs and information programs do not receive as much time, budget or thought. Further, there is a fear that "targeting" these communities with information via regular channels, such as TV and radio, may actually incite prejudice and hate crimes from without as such information would be seen by non-community/ethnic/other religionists as possibly re-enforcing their own bigotry.

It is a fine line that free societies that are ideologically set up to protect minorities are loath to walk.

The question is, what is the United States doing to openly engage these communities?

CAIR and other organizations are on the offensive as they feel that any activity by the government to undertake such activities in any form outside of "channels" established by these larger political groups are, on their face, prejudicial and persecutorial already, "demonizing" the minority, thus hamstringing the government and causing an even narrower funnel through which communication passes, slowing the effort and possibly even sowing a greater disconnect from citizens, guests and government. This is even further complicated by organizations such as CAIR having their own political agenda directly related to the Palestine-Israel conflict, Afghanistan and Iraqi wars, and immigration among other foreign and domestic policy issues.

These issues are also apparent in reverse. CAIR's political aspirations and agenda often complicate their message from the Muslim community to the greater American citizenship, lending to discontent with Muslim reaction and suspicion of motives or allegiance.

Thus we continue in the post 9/11 world and in the wake of terrorist attacks around th world, doing a delicate minority dance while we look for answers to our security.


Anonymous said...

Your son is an infantry officer, shipping out soon for Iraq. How do you feel about that?

Pride, of course -- great pride. And fear. And an occasional burning in the gut, a flare of anger at empty pieties and lame excuses, at flip answers and a lack of urgency, at a failure to hold those at the top to the standards of accountability that the military system rightly imposes on subalterns.

It is a flicker of rage that two years into an insurgency, we still expose our troops in Humvees to the blasts of roadside bombs -- knowing that even the armored version of that humble successor to the Jeep is simply not designed for warfare along guerrilla-infested highways, while, at the same time, knowing that plenty of countries manufacture armored cars that are. It is disbelief at a manpower system that, following its prewar routines, ships soldiers off to war for a year or 15 months, giving them two weeks of leave at the end, when our British comrades, more experienced in these matters and wiser in pacing themselves, ship troops out for half that time, and give them an extra month on top of their regular leave after an operational deployment.

It is the sick feeling that churned inside me at least 18 months ago, when a glib and upbeat Pentagon bureaucrat assured me that the opposition in Iraq consisted of "5,000 bitter-enders and criminals," even after we had killed at least that many. It flames up when hearing about the veteran who in theory has a year between Iraq rotations, but in fact, because he transferred between units after returning from one tour, will go back to Iraq half a year later, and who, because of "stop-loss orders" involuntarily extending active duty tours, will find himself in combat nine months after his enlistment runs out. And all this because after 9/11, when so many Americans asked for nothing but an opportunity to serve, we did not expand our Army and Marine Corps when we could, even though we knew we would need more troops.

A variety of emotions wash over me as I reflect on our Iraq war: Disbelief at the length of time it took to call an insurgency by its name. Alarm at our continuing failure to promote at wartime speed the colonels and generals who have a talent for fighting it, while also failing to sweep aside those who do not. Incredulity at seeing decorations pinned on the chests and promotions on the shoulders of senior leaders -- both civilians and military -- who had the helm when things went badly wrong. Disdain for the general who thinks Job One is simply whacking the bad guys and who, ever conscious of public relations, cannot admit that American soldiers have tortured prisoners or, in panic, killed innocent civilians. Contempt for the ghoulish glee of some who think they were right in opposing the war, and for the blithe disregard of the bungles by some who think they were right in favoring it. A desire -- barely controlled -- to slap the highly educated fool who, having no soldier friends or family, once explained to me that mistakes happen in all wars, and that the casualties are not really all that high and that I really shouldn't get exercised about them.

There is a lot of talk these days about shaky public support for the war. That is not really the issue. Nor should cheerleading, as opposed to truth-telling, be our leaders' chief concern. If we fail in Iraq -- and I don't think we will -- it won't be because the American people lack heart, but because leaders and institutions have failed. Rather than fretting about support at home, let them show themselves dedicated to waging and winning a strange kind of war and describing it as it is, candidly and in detail. Then the American people will give them all the support they need. The scholar in me is not surprised when our leaders blunder, although the pundit in me is dismayed when they do. What the father in me expects from our leaders is, simply, the truth -- an end to happy talk and denials of error, and a seriousness equal to that of the men and women our country sends into the fight.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

If it were an all-out conflict between all of Islam and all of non-Islam, that would be too easy. All it would take would be to spot the hijabs and take 'em out before they can spawn. 12 y/o kids playing a video game could then win the GWOT.

This is exactly why the murderous cancer eating out the substance of Islam from the inside, doesn't want that. They NEED the human shields of innocent Muslims because they cannot and will not fight toe-to-toe with real men, like real men. They are weak and cowardly and hide in shadows, in spite of their boasts of "bravery". They need the smokescreen of the innocent among them for their protection.

The interesting thing is, because they are also walking instances of absolute evil, disgusting monsters from nether dimensions, they will also find it impossible to resist raping, torturing, and murdering those same innocents among their number, simply because they are innocent. In destroying their own human shields as they indulge in their demonic nature, they will eventually make it easy to squash them like the slithering bugs they are.

So just wait for the right moment, after they'll have car-bombed the last innocent ones among them.

Then declare open season.