The Decline of Contemporary Islam
The Islamic civilization that produced such tolerance, knowledge, and beauty throughout history is now only able to produce terrorists. Extreme acts of violence, such as the September 11 terrorist attacks, test the mettle and moral depth of societies-the society that is targeted by the violence and the society that generated it. For instance, the Japanese stealth attack on Pearl Harbor tested both the aggressor and the victim. Pearl Harbor challenged the moral integrity of Japanese normative values, but also tested us-the victim. On our part, we responded to an extreme act of aggression with another extreme act-we interned our Japanese citizens in concentration camps, all of which resulted in great damage to our constitutional and civil rights.
We do not have a very good record when responding to aggression-as a society we tend to vent our anger and hurt at our own citizens and then spend decades expressing regret and talking about lessons learned. Considering the scale of what has been called the second Pearl Harbor, unfortunately, I fear that there is already an explosion of hate crimes against Muslim and Arab-Americans, both by common citizens and police enforcement agencies. Islamophobic experts started splattering the airwaves with endless talk about the Islamic threat and "I told you so's." Anticipating the backlash, Muslim and Arab organizations have rushed to issue condemnations against terrorism and hate-motivated violence, and have gone to great pains to explain that terrorists who happen to be Muslim, do not represent Muslims at large, or Islam. But, ultimately, this did not matter, and several Arab-looking or Muslim-looking people have been killed or beaten in several places in the United States.
This is distressing because terrorism is first and foremost a hate crime. Hate crimes, and terrorism, rely on a symbolic communicative act of violence that is intended to terrorize a third party. Like terrorism, hate crimes assume guilt by association, target a group as a whole, and indiscriminately select a victim-often the selection of the victim is a factor of opportunity, visibility, and perceived symbolic value more than anything else.
It is important to approach the reality of terrorism from this perspective because such an approach enables us to squarely reflect upon the ways that we, and others around us, inadvertently contribute to this crime. Hate crimes, such as the recent terrorist attacks, call for a serious introspective pause by all. It is imperative that aggressors, victims, and so-called bystanders stop to consider the ways in which our behavior patterns, discourses, and attitudes contribute to the perpetuation of such extreme acts of hate and vengeance.
For instance, as Americans we ought to reflect upon the ways that our own Middle East policies and the arrogance by which we deal with dark-skinned people we collectively refer to as Arabs contributes to the...