Do Americans respect Islam?

Are we at war with Islam?  George W. Bush, author of the “War on Terror,” said this about some American statements critical of Islam, way back on November 13, 2002, after a meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi-Annan:

“Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans. Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others. Ours is a country based upon tolerance and we welcome people of all faiths in America.”

The current controversy over the so called “Ground Zero Mosque” shows that the sentiments of a vocal minority of Americans are not so welcoming of Islam.  They may claim that they only oppose the Islamic Center being built on “hallowed ground,” but you see Americans protesting mosques all over the country.  Is that just NIMBY?  Or, do they have a problem with all Mosques and Islam?

When you have Christians in Florida creating a Burn the Quran day on September 11, it is hard not to see a War on Islam from this vocal minority.  The danger of this rhetoric is that it may be feeding the radical minority of jihadist Muslims from groups like Al Queda.  By grouping those extremist few with the global Islamist whole, the rhetoric may be helping the radicals recruit and fundraise.  The Wall Street Journal, bastion of Rupert Murdoch, seems to agree.  They quoted independent terrorism consultant Evan Kohlman of Flashpoint Partners saying “We are handing al Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup.”

In the same breath, those that view President Obama as a secret Muslim without a birth certificate feed into the same rhetoric.  It shows an America that is intolerant of religious freedom, despite our Bill of Rights and our Constitution.  This whole “controversy” is a disgrace.  David Brooks has an excellent column today in the New York Times, where he talks about the “underlying” problem in America:

“In this atmosphere, we’re all less conscious of our severe mental shortcomings and less inclined to be skeptical of our own opinions. Occasionally you surf around the Web and find someone who takes mental limitations seriously. For example, Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway once gave a speech called “The Psychology of Human Misjudgment.” He and others list our natural weaknesses: We have confirmation bias; we pick out evidence that supports our views. We are cognitive misers; we try to think as little as possible. We are herd thinkers and conform our perceptions to fit in with the group.  But, in general, the culture places less emphasis on the need to struggle against one’s own mental feebleness… There’s a seller’s market in ideologies that gives people a chance to feel victimized…To use a fancy word, there’s a metacognition deficit. Very few in public life habitually step back and think about the weakness in their own thinking and what they should do to compensate. A few people I interview do this regularly (in fact, Larry Summers is one). But it is rare. The rigors of combat discourage it.  Of the problems that afflict the country, this is the underlying one.”

Unfortunately, American attitudes towards Islam are often wrongheaded.  Before the Iraq War, most Americans did not know the difference between a Shiite and a Sunni, let alone a Sufi Muslim.  We tend to view Islam through the lens of the Iran Hostage Crisis, Al Queda, and the violent historical intersections between the minority of extremist Muslims and American foreign policy.  If we are really so serious about the Constitution that we inherited, and the freedoms encapsulated in the Bill of Rights, we need to reaffirm those freedoms by respecting Islam and the Muslim community in America.


Jack, we need you more than ever.

It is a sad day in America.  Last night Jack Bauer retired, probably to pick up a great deal on a subprime-vintage Florida condo.  Now I can understand why Jack would retire; after all, in recent days he was shot and tortured; his daughter was kidnapped; he lost a wife and a girlfriend.  That would be a tough deal for anyone to take.  However, America is in a moment of crisis, and we need Jack.

For one, our country is being invaded.   Some people have the gall to claim that the Constitution says that anyone born in this country is a Citizen.  In fact, they refer to the 14th Amendment, which reversed the Dred Scott decision:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Yes, that is the Constitution.  But listen to what Randy Terrill, Oklahoma Patriot and Republican state representative says:

“Currently, if you have a child born to two alien parents, that person is believed to be a U.S. citizen.  When taken to its logical extreme, that would produce the absurd result that children of invading armies would be considered citizens of the U.S.”

Taking ideas to their logical extreme is as American as Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.  What Terrill is really saying is that all those illegal aliens coming into our country, to babysit our children, to pick our fruit, to clean our offices, well they are an invading army.  See, Jack Bauer never worried about critics who claimed that torture was wrong.  He did what he had to do to protect America.  Well, Jack needs to help Terrill fight back against these invading armies.

Who else needs Jack?  Well, the fine people of Arizona, for one.  John McCain wants to complete the dang fence.  Well, McCain is no Maverick, which for me means that he may not be able to complete the dang fence on his own.  Jack Bauer, however, is the original Maverick.  Not only will he complete the dang fence, but he will use some enhanced interrogation techniques in Congress to nationalize the Arizona immigration law.   That law would require police to determine the immigration status of a person involved in a lawful stop where reasonable suspicion exists that they are in the country illegally, and would criminalize failure to carry alien registration documents.

Sure, the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative, a nationwide group of police leaders pressing for a federal overhaul of immigration law, believes the law will lead to racial and ethnic profiling and threaten public safety.  But Jack Bauer will be there to do what is right for America, so we don’t need to worry about Americans’ rights being violated.

That’s good news for Rhode Island State Representative Peter Palumbo, whose effort to introduce the Arizona law to a vote was defeated yesterday.  Peter could probably use Jack’s help in his re-election campaign, too.  I think we can all agree that America needs Jack now, more than ever.