Muslim-Americans Believe In This Country

Joshua Holland has an important piece up at The Nation. I think he does a good job of framing a point that the president tried to make in his address to the nation.

For years, American Muslims have been told by many Christians—and Jews and “new atheist” types—that Islam is incompatible with Western democracy. Last month, the American Values Survey found that 76 percent of Republicans believe Islam to be “incompatible with the American way of life,” despite the fact that Islam has been part of the fabric of this country since before its founding. At the same time, they’ve been told by Islamic fundamentalists that democracy is incompatible with Islam. And they might well have come to believe that given the discrimination they suffer and the toxic Islamophobia they often see around them. They might have accepted the idea that the West is at war with Islam when we invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq—after all, experts say the invasion of Iraq provided an enormous boost to terrorist groups’ recruitment efforts. And yet with a few scattered exceptions, Muslim Americans have proved both the Islamophobes and the Islamic extremists wrong.

There are a few ways to look at Holland’s piece, but one of the important ones is that we’re asking Muslim-Americans to be loyal citizens but we’re not cognizant enough of the impact it has when both radical Islamists and American politicians tell them that their religion is incompatible with our values and our way of life. Holland makes a good point when he basically gives them extra credit for rejecting this view no matter who proposes it.

It stands to reason, though, that at least a few individuals will be convinced when there seems to be such a consensus on the issue. And all it takes are a few individuals to commit an act of terrorism that makes our whole political system wet its pants and start talking about closing mosques and banning Muslim immigration.

Since it’s impossible to stop every small-bore terrorist attack, even with the most repressive tactics that can be conceived, the best we can do is to stop making them more likely. There’s nothing in the record that supports treating Muslim-Americans as a disloyal fifth column. The record indicates the exact opposite, actually. Why we would want to do our best to make them lose their faith in our country is beyond unclear. It should be obvious that this is doing the Islamic State’s work for them.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.