In his remarks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore a few days ago, President Obama pointed out that Islam and Muslims are not newcomers at all. They’ve been a part of America for almost as long as the country itself has existed.
Many of the slaves brought here from Africa were Muslim. Jefferson and John Adams had their own copies of the Koran. Benjamin Franklin wrote admiringly of Muslims. Bringing the Muslim trajectory into the present, the President asked a number of Muslims serving in the military to stand and take bow, he introduced a Muslim woman who, in her hijab - or veil - will be on the next US Olympic team, and he pointed out that the skyline of Chicago was designed by a Muslim.
Yet today, Muslims in America are going through a quintessential American rite of passage: they have become the latest target of hate, fear, and prejudice, fomented by firebrands, including, regrettably, some of the candidates for the highest elected office in the land.
It’s a passage through which other newcomers to this great country have had to pass - Chinese, Catholics, Jews, and Irish, to name a few. In time the newcomers are no longer new, they become absorbed into the great and on-going experiment that is America, and the country moves on.
But the current wave of hate-mongering against Muslims is different. It comes at a time when high-profile acts of terrorism are being committed by a few radicalized, extremist Muslims. And while they’re only a small fraction of the world’s billion and a half followers of Islam, using affordable technologies allow these terrorist to pursue their deadly agenda throughout the world, including in America. And sometimes they succeed.
A report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center shows why it is reprehensible and irresponsible for those who wish to exploit Muslims and Islam for their own selfish ends, to exaggerate the few acts of violence committed by extremist Muslims in the U.S. and make them appear to be an existential threat to America.
As the report’s results clearly show, since 2007, though there has been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots, most of them originate from individuals and groups belonging to the far right of American politics, not from Muslims.
Muslims, the President might have said, are as American as Apple Pie. And that’s about as American as you can get!