Tuesday, September 12, 2006


An Arab-American Apology...

...and call to arms:
The only time I raised my voice in protest against these men who killed thousands of innocents in the name of Allah was behind closed doors, among the safety of friends and family. I did at one point write a very vitriolic essay condemning their actions, but fear of becoming another Salman Rushdie kept me from ever trying to publish it.

Well, I'm sick of saying the truth only in private - that Arabs around the world, including Arab-Americans like myself, need to start holding our own culture accountable for the insane, violent actions that our extremists have perpetrated on the world at large.

our extremists and our culture. Every single 9/11 hijacker was Arab and a Muslim.
The author, a New Jersey-based freelance writer named Emilio Karim Dabul, does not advocate any specific action. But at this point, he doesn't have to. The important point is that he's sounding the call:
For as long as I live, the image of those towers falling, as I watched in horror and disbelief from the corner of 40th and Fifth, will be for me my Pearl Harbor, for in that instant I recognized that not only was our city under attack - so was our freedom.

It still is. And will continue to be for years to come. And the threat is not from within, but from Islamic fascists who desperately want to destroy the freedom and opportunities that millions the world over still seek.

Five years after that awful day, it's time for all Arab-Americans, and Arabs around the world, to protest against Islamic fascism, to raise our voices - and, where necessary, our arms - against these tyrants until their plague of terror has been driven from the face of the earth forever.
Bravo, Mr. Dabul -- bravo.

A science-fiction writer named Frederik Pohl once claimed that your freedom is useless -- unless you use it to free someone else. I've thought a lot about that idea, particularly with respect to American Muslims in this day and age. After all, while the threat of a fatwa is certainly real and terrifying, if one is safe anywhere from such things, one is safe in the United States. If it is safe anywhere to voice one's opinions freely, it is safe to do it here. And if Britain could protect Salman Rushdie from the fatwa calling for his death -- now almost twenty years! -- surely the United States can protect Americans as well.

I can easily understand Middle Eastern Muslims refusing to criticize the brutal regimes under which they must live. To a certain extent, this is also true with respect to American Muslims, living in freedom, who still have relatives living under despotic regimes overseas. But this does not -- and cannot -- apply to all Muslims. And Muslims in general have a responsibility -- to themselves, if nothing else -- to denounce the terrorists, and make it clear that the terrorists do not represent them.

I'm impressed and pleased to see this. I hope we see more of this; some of us have been waiting a long time.

(For more of the same, have a look here.)

UPDATE: Just as we need more Muslims willing to speak out against terror, we need more non-Muslims willing to set high expectations:
The Howard Government's multicultural spokesman, Andrew Robb, yesterday told an audience of 100 imams who address Australia's mosques that these were tough times requiring great personal resolve.
Mr Robb also called on them to shun a victim mentality that branded any criticism as discrimination.

"We live in a world of terrorism where evil acts are being regularly perpetrated in the name of your faith," Mr Robb said at the Sydney conference.

"And because it is your faith that is being invoked as justification for these evil acts, it is your problem.

"You can't wish it away, or ignore it, just because it has been caused by others.

"Instead, speak up and condemn terrorism, defend your role in the way of life that we all share here in Australia."

I've long believed in the value of setting high expectations. In my experience, people rise to meet high expectations -- and settle comfortably at low expectations. When we fail to make it clear to people that some kinds of behavior are unacceptable, we are setting low expectations, and implicitly saying that such behaviors will be acceptable from them in the future.

Or, as Glenn Reynolds is fond of pointing out, you get more of the behavior that you reward (or fail to punish), and less of the behavior that you punish (or fail to reward). That's the way human behavior works, and that's the way expectations and incentives work.

The thought of Australia having a "multicultural spokesman" has me scratching my head. But I must say, this one is doing his job in a way that appeals to me.

(And no, I certainly do not mean that Muslim immigrants to Australia must become homogenously Australian in all respects. I do mean, however, that they must obey the laws of the land -- and live as Muslims, if they choose, within the confines of Australian law. In a similar vein, if Australian Muslims refuse to condemn the jihadists in their midst, they have no business complaining when non-Muslim Australians see all Muslims as potential jihadists. If the Muslims don't treat the jihadists any differently from peaceful Muslims, then how could non-Muslims be expected to do so?)

UPDATE II: The SF author I quoted near the beginning was Theodore Sturgeon, not Frederik Pohl. I apologize for the error.

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