Recently, a group of Muslim clerics met in New York purportedly to address the growing problem of Islamophobia. I say purportedly because what has these clerics all wee-weed up is not Islamophobia but antipathy toward Muslims, which is something quite different.
If you think back to your freshman psych course in college, you will recall that the term phobia describes an irrational fear. Someone afraid of water suffers from hydrophobia, of heights, acrophobia. Thus Islamophobia is, by definition, an irrational fear of Islam or Muslims. But even that word does not perfectly capture the current mood since not all fear of Islam is irrational.
Just ask Ducth filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Actually, you can’t ask him because he was brutally murdered in 2004 by a Moroccan Muslim extremist who was insulted by van Gogh’s work highlighting the well-documented violence practiced by Muslims.
You can’t ask cartoonist Molly Norris either, because she is in hiding following a call for her assassination by American-born Yemeni-based terror suspect Anwar Awlaki. The motivation for his fatwa against Norris was the same one that “justified” van Gogh’s death.
So who are the true Islamophobes? I maintain it is that very segment of the population that continues to deliver stern sermons on the importance of religious tolerace to, for example, the nearly 80 percent of Americans who oppose building a mosque near Ground Zero. The great irony that seems to be lost on these Islamophobes is that fear of brutal retaliation for even the tiniest of perceived slights against the "religion of peace" is precisely what whets radical Muslim appetites for more acts of violence. Mark Steyn sums it up nicely:
It is a basic rule of life that if you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. Every time Muslims either commit violence or threaten it, we reward them by capitulating. Indeed, President Obama, Justice Breyer, General Petraeus, and all the rest are now telling Islam, you don’t have to kill anyone, you don’t even have to threaten to kill anyone. We’ll be your enforcers. We’ll demand that the most footling and insignificant of our own citizens submit to the universal jurisdiction of Islam.
The only way to end this rash of lunacy is to stand up to it and meet it head-on. That is what the country is attempting for better or worse on two war fronts in the Middle East. But we can also take a step to combat the threat here at home by enacting social legislation to protect the Molly Norrises and their Constitutionally protected right to free expression.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch parliament and current resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has published an article in the Los Angeles Times proposing such a law. “A federal law would do two things,” she writes:
First, it would deter violent tactics, by focusing national attention on the problem and invoking the formidable enforcement apparatus of the federal government. Second, its civil damages provision would empower victims of intimidation to act as private attorneys general to defend their rights.
Passing such a law would send an unequivocal message to the world community that we are indeed the United States, emphasis on the adjective in the name—that if you threaten one of us, you threaten us all.
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