Refuting the Myth of Moslem Victimization
by Lorna Salzman
Why American Moslems Need to Support Secular Democracy
Since the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center by Islamist terrorists, some Moslems and minorities from middle eastern countries have experienced acts of violence, discrimination and intimidation from individuals and from the US government, in what are random and overheated responses to fears of terrorism.
But they are not the only ones who have suffered. Because of the Patriot Act, and illegal government spy programs that have invaded the privacy of millions of Americans without justification, the civil liberties of all Americans are threatened. Added on to the attempts by the radical right to oppose reproductive choice, gay rights, and the teaching of evolution, there is justifiable fear about whether secular democracy can survive in this country.
The vast majority of Americans, from Left to Right, agree that these intrusions and curtailment of our basic freedoms and constitutional rights, must end. Until now, this country has been the most protective of minority rights and freedoms of all countries in the world, and the flow of immigrants from abroad is proof of this fact. We should be proud to say to Moslems and those of all religions that we not only respect their right to worship as they please but will defend that right in our civil institutions and daily lives.
Unfortunately there are outside forces with different agendas and objectives who are taking advantage of Moslem fear and the traditional reluctance of Moslems to become active in secular civil society. These forces preach beliefs and objectives that are antithetical to secular democracy and civil liberties, to religious tolerance, and especially to women's rights. These forces preach religious authoritarianism; they are ideologically opposed to any notion of separation of religion and state and to personal freedom and democratic decision making. And because of this, they have aligned themselves not with ideologies of peace but with those of coercion and violence.
Their most successful strategy has been to portray Moslems as victims of bias and persecution, even in the wake of 9/11, even though all Americans are victims and even though Moslems repeatedly die in acts of terrorism here and abroad. Moslems are not victims except of the acts of their own misguided associates, who have cleverly convinced many nonMoslem liberals that their demands and political objectives must be obeyed so as to prove that there is no bias against Moslems.
The most egregious of these strategies has been to appeal to the radical American left (to which radical Islam has historically been violently opposed) which in turn is now carrying out these strategies by inserting themselves into traditional American progressive organizations, most notably the US Green Party. The Green Party, at the behest of these outside interests, enacted an anti Israel boycott/divestment resolution without reference to Palestinian violence or consultation with the party membership or peace groups from the middle east or Israel.
The leading objective of these authoritarians, who purport to represent the Moslem community, is to whip up fanatic anti semitism and opposition to the state of Israel and its existence as an independent state.In so doing, they are acting not alongside the forces of nonviolence and peace in the middle east, but in the service of those who preach violence and accommodate terrorism throughout the world.
Sadly, many liberal Americans, whether anti Semitic or not, naively believe that the end of violence between the Palestinians and Israel can only occur if Israel disappears, and that this in turn will bring an end to Islamic terrorism everywhere. This ignorance and self deception, which provide cover to anti Semitic groups and tendencies, are what stand in the way of real peace. In fact it is arguable that they indirectly promote violence by turning a blind eye to the real sources of terrorism, which lie not (as they naively believe in their hatred for the US) in US foreign policy but in their own history and societies.
The only way for American Moslems to shake themselves loose of those who purport to represent them is to assert a vocal public role in the defense of basic civil liberties and of the secular society that is best qualified to defend their own beliefs and practices. When they speak out against the Patriot Act, as most Americans of all faiths do, they must also speak out against anti Semitism and against anti- Israel propaganda because these are both clearly intended to deflect attention away from the authoritarianism and oppression of women in Moslem countries.
This in no way undercuts the need for Israel and Palestine to forego violence and reach a peace accord that recognizes the right of both parties to their independent states. But it will put the radicals who secretly preach violence and recruit the unwitting to do their dirty work for them out of business.
(Salzman was a candidate for US Green Party presidential nomination in 2004, and a NYS Green Party candidate for congress in 2002. She presently serves on the State Committee of the NYS Green Party.)