Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bullies, Islam, and September 11

When I was in junior high school I got picked on fairly regularly by bullies. I did my best to ignore them or stay out of their way hoping that they would eventually leave me alone. It didn't work. There was one particular bully who sat behind me in one of my classes. One day as we were leaving class he got behind me and started hitting me over the head with his book. Something inside me snapped. I turned around, grabbed him by the throat, and pushed him into some desks. Without stopping to see what happened to him I turned and left the room.

The next day he challenged me to a fight. I agreed to meet him, but the anxiety got to me and ended up going home feeling sick. I had one of my friends give him a message that I'd face him the next day. Oddly enough, he never mentioned it again. And he never bothered me again. I suspect my one act of mindless violence was sufficient to shake his image of me as passive and him as tougher than me. It was no longer worth the risk of what I might do next time.

Today we have a couple of situations in the news. One is the proposed mosque not far from the site of the World Trade Center that was destroyed by Muslim extremists nine years ago. The other is a church in Florida threatening to burn copies of the Koran in protest of the aforementioned mosque. These are both fine examples of what is right vs. what is legal.

It is quite legal to build a mosque near Ground Zero. It's their property, and they should be able to do what they want with it. That's how America works. It's a good system. But that does not mean that it's right for Muslims to build there. It shows an extreme disregard for their fellow Americans. Worse, it looks for all the world like another link in the chain of Muslim mosques built on the sacred sites of their conquered enemies. It is simultaneously a deliberate poke in the eye of a people Muslims have considered enemies for decades and a test of will to see how weak that enemy is.

Unfortunately, because we are America, and because our laws ensure certain freedoms--including the right to be deliberately offensive and disrespectful--we have to allow this. It is important that we allow this, because American culture and law are the direct antithesis of Sharia law and culture. Whether we admit it or not, we are in a battle of ideals, and the world is watching. Sometimes adherence to ideals is more important than defending them.

On the other side we have Rev. Terry Jones and his plan to burn copies of the Koran to protest the Ground Zero mosque. They have come under pressure from many angles not to go through with it. Much of that has been from their fellow Americans. Now, I agree that burning copies of the Koran is not the right thing to do. But it is legal. Just as legal as building a mosque on legally obtained property. Rev. Jones--who has announced that they will not go through with it--is well within his rights as an American to burn any religious text he desires, so long as he complies with other appropriate legal statutes (ie. fire code).

What makes Jones' threat wrong is that it doesn't mesh with Christian principles. We (Christians) are supposed to be long-suffering, patient, and turn the other cheek. We are to respect others and their beliefs. We are supposed to love our neighbors, especially those who wrong us. That is what is wrong with the Koran burning, and nothing else.

But what is more disturbing is the number of people who called on Jones' church to stop their plans not because it was against Christian principles, but because they were afraid that Muslims would be inflamed to anger and hurt Americans. This is not some vague, paranoid fear, either. We know there are plenty of Muslims capable of and willing to carry out such violence. Which brings us back to my story of the bully from my youth.

Islam may be a peaceful religion, but it's the violent side of Islam--the bullies--currently in the driver seat. There are quite likely a majority of Muslims around the world who just want to leave their own lives in peace and not offend anyone. But they are keeping silent. They are doing nothing to reclaim control of their religion from the violent extremists. They are complicit through their silence. They are enabling the bully. They are the parents who turn a blind eye to their child's behavior.

Those bullies have chosen the United States and all other freedom-loving nations as their enemy. They know they are not strong enough to defeat us outright, but they are patient. They know they just have to wear us down and break our will to fight. Unlike the bully of my youth, we can't just defeat them once and expect them to go away. If we strike back they will do their best to avoid the blow and await another chance to strike.

The only way to defeat them is to consistently answer every blow with at least as much violence in return. Trying to make peace will not do it. If they were interested in peace they would have made peace long ago. They don't want peace. They want to defeat us, to subjugate us, and build more mosques on our holy sites. To do that they don't need to defeat us in combat. They merely have to beat down our will to fight back.

So that is what is so distressing about the situation with Rev. Jones' church. I'm sure there was plenty of pressure on them from Muslims not to desecrate their holy book. That is understandable and right. But for other Americans to pressure them out of fear of the consequences shows that the Islamist bullies are winning. Some Americans, it seems, would rather voluntarily give up their freedoms and rights than face a violent enemy. They continue to hope that if we don't do anything to offend the Muslims they will leave us alone.

And perhaps for the majority of Muslims that is true. But they're not in control. The bullies are. Laying low and trying not to cause offense will not work with them any more than it did for me in my youth. It's our existence they find offensive. It's our freedom that offends them. When we voluntarily give up those freedoms they are just emboldened to continue. They're making progress toward their goal, so why wouldn't they continue? The only thing they would enjoy more than conquering and subjugating us is for us to surrender, either piecemeal or wholesale.

So as much as I don't want it to be that way, I see no other option than to continue to fight back, meeting violence with violence. We can't afford to worry about the innocents caught in the middle. It's the innocents who are the key to this. Only when the silent, peaceful Muslim majority sees that those in control are only making things worse for them will they rise up and push them out. Until then they can sit on the sidelines, claiming to want to live in peace, but all the time quietly cheering the home team that made the enemy look foolish once again.

Only when Muslims come to realize there are negative consequences to the actions of those they allow to run the show will they do something to stop it. Unfortunately I see no alternative than to make sure every act of violence by the extremists is answered with violence, even if it harms the "innocent."

That is what happened in Iraq. Now that we've pulled out most of our troops the media is admitting that we succeeded in winning the hearts of the people. That could not have been possible, strange as it may seem, without having invaded Iraq in the first place. Our invasion placed extreme hardship on the Iraqi people. It put them in danger every day from other Muslims. But all the while our own troops did their best to play by the rules. They represented American ideals, and they did it well. Yes, there were terrible mistakes along the way, but we also stayed true to our ideals in punishing our soldiers who failed to live up to our ideals. Those failures taught Iraqis as much about who we are as our successes.

The Iraqi people took notice. The extremists were not the ones trying to build up their country and protect their families. It was the Americans. The Americans, they realized, weren't there to conquer, but to protect themselves and others and to leave as soon as that was no longer necessary. The extremists were just there to cause as much death and havoc as possible--to keep the Iraqi people miserable as long as possible.

But they failed. They failed because this was all being played out in their front yard with Iraqi innocents paying the price for Muslim belligerence. They saw Americans living up to their ideals and doing the job Iraqis knew they should have been doing themselves. It embarrassed them, but it also helped them get the guts to start standing up for themselves as well.

Iraq is in miniature what the War on Terror (or are we allowed to call it that now? War on Vague Unnamable Threat?) should be. The Muslim people need to be made responsible for the violence committed in their name. If they truly are a religion of peace, they need to be made to stand up for themselves and deal with the maniacs at their head. But they're not likely to do that until they themselves feel threatened.

What I am NOT advocating is for individuals to start committing violence against Muslims. I am very much against our doing anything at all to persecute Muslims living in our country and abiding by our laws. Those who break the law should be punished through the law. Those who abide by our laws should be made as welcome as possible and encouraged to prosper. That is also an effective weapon against the extremists.

When I speak of violence, I speak only of violence at the national level, instigated by the state against the states responsible for the provocation. I speak of violence as a tool of policy, where specific actions are taken in pursuit of specific goals, and not out of revenge or malice. And in every case we should make it clear we are doing it because we see no alternative, and will protect and support any and all innocents who are willing to stand up and hold their leaders accountable.

It's not a great solution. I don't like having to advocate violence. But the Muslim extremists leave little option. They are bullies, and bullies only understand one thing. Until we make the use of violence undesirable they will continue to use it. That requires violence on our part--perhaps even disproportionate violence.

Some will say that makes us no better than them. They would be naive and intellectually dishonest. We are not seeking to conquer their land or convert them to our religion or even our way of life. Quite the opposite. They are seeking to conquer us and convert us to their religion, which is a way of life. They are seeking to do so violently. We have a right to defend ourselves, both legal and moral. Who are they to not just claim their religion is superior (that's nothing new, and I feel the same way about my religion), but to enforce it through violence? That is unacceptable.

Again, I don't want it to come to more violence. I really don't. I want the peace-loving Muslims to police their own, cut off support for the extremists, and take control of their own religious identity. I want them to be able to do it bloodlessly if they can. But if they insist on sitting idly by while their religion is subverted and used to attack me and my family, I can only be patient for so long before I have to assume that their silence is assent and they are just as much the enemy as the extremists they allow to rule.

I keep hearing there are liberal, secular, and moderate Muslims out there who refuse to accept the violent aspects of Islam. I'd like to think that's true. I'd like to think that the Muslims around me are just such people--they came to America, the heart of secularism, after all. Surely that wasn't an accident. But I very much want more than to hear about them. I want to see them. I want to see them stand up and take back their religion. Soon. Please.

1 comment:

Ronaldo said...

Well said, brother.