Why American Muslims Stay Silent
Stephen Schwartz asks the titular question, “Why American Muslims Stay Silent.” The column under that headline is interesting but only obliquely answers the question.
Four years after September 11, 2001, numerous non-Muslim Americans repeatedly ask, Ã¢€œWhy do American Muslims stay silent in the face of extremism and terrorism? Why do they not act to cleanse their religion of the reputation it has acquired?Ã¢€
Paradoxically, Muslims in the US and Great Britain are, today, far more dominated by Islamist extremism than their counterparts in various Muslim countries. In many lands where the majority follows Islam, a struggle is underway between mainstream moderates and radicals inspired by the ultra-Wahhabi preachers of Saudi Arabia, the agitators of the Muslim Brotherhood in various Arab countries, and the virulent and volatile adherents of Pakistani jihadism. In some places, from Bosnia-Hercegovina to Indonesia and from Morocco to Mozambique, the moderates are winning. Yet the Islamic communities of the U.S. (dominated by the Saudis) and Britain (run by radical Pakistanis) suffer under a totalitarian regime of thought-control.
What happens when ordinary Muslims rebel against radical domination in America? They are ostracized, thrown out of mosques, and subjected to extraordinary public insults and threats. I myself was harassed in a Long Island mosque in 2003, as noted in this article. Shia mosques are excluded from Ã¢€œSunni,Ã¢€ i.e. Wahhabi-controlled bodies, and numerous incidents of expulsions of individual Shias from Sunni mosques in the U.S. have been reported to the Center for Islamic Pluralism, which I have established.
That Muslims in the United States tend to be more radicalized than those in preominantly Muslim societies is not surprising. For one thing, radicalism is a luxury of those with enough to eat and quite a bit of free time. For another, the major sponsors of Islam in the United States are the Wahhabist Saudis and the Nation of Islam.
Schwartz’ answer does not seem to be, however, “Because the silent majority of American Muslims think Osama bin Laden is a hero.” Rather, he seems to be arguing that the majority of American Muslims are cowards who lack the gumption to stand up to the Ã¢€œWahhabi Lobby.Ã¢€ Neither of those are particularly satisfying answers.
Update: Schwartz responds extensively in the comments below. Much of what he says is in reaction to comments but two things are in direct response to my rather glib post. Let me clarify briefly.
The fact that I do not credit American Muslims with loving Bin Laden and therefore being silent is not a matter of being oblique, but of rejecting such a claim.
I didn’t mean to imply that he does. Michael Scheuer, of Through Our Enemies’ Eyes and Imperial Hubris fame, does make the argument that a preponderence of Muslims idolize OBL and I was tossing it out as the most obvious answer.
[A] person who has been intimidated by a powerful machine of money and thuggery is not a coward. He or she puts his family’s security first. There is nothing wrong with that.
Perhaps “coward” is too strong a word, although people who will not stand up to be counted when horrible things are being done in their name are not exactly brave. Schwartz’ point that there is concerted pressure, including violence, mitigating against bravery is well noted, however.