THE SPINE DECEMBER 16, 2009
Not so long ago, the proliferation of internet technology and even of literacy was thought to be a boon to democracy and freedom. On that calculus, the more web sites and web addresses there were, the more the business of society would be accomplished through the franchise of reason and discussion. We are long since past that illusion: The urban bomb is the instrument. Contemporary Islam is the setting for this just dawning realization, and it is the setting whatever the president says to the contrary. Yes, of course, there are Muslims who are quite like Quakers ... and Christians and Jews, Hindus and Baha’i, just to name some of the designated enemies of Mecca.
But the truth is that it is other Muslims who right now are the most victimized by the reign of terror raging in Islam. Of course, what reached its one-stroke crescendo on 9/11 has continued virtually everywhere and virtually every day since. Not just in Dar al-Islam, to be sure. Still, it is there that the killing is so routine that only the papers of record note their happenings. On page 18 of today's Times, four out of five articles report yesterday's bad news.
1. At least 20 people killed and at least 50 people wounded in a marketplace in the town of Dera Ghazi Khan, Pakistan. Bombs.
2. At least eight people killed and 40 wounded at a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. Car bombs.
3. Four people killed and at least 14 others wounded in Baghdad. Bombs. Victims on their way to work or to school.
"At least" is a very important modifier. The news on "others" is hardly ever reported.
The fourth dispatch was about the five American Muslims from the Virginia suburbs of Washington who went to Pakistan, according to the Times, seeking training to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan. This is not the first or the fifth or the 25th incident of American residents and American citizens charged "with planning a criminal conspiracy..."
Maybe tomorrow's paper will carry less of such news. And maybe not.
One thing that Tom Friedman is not is an alarmist. He's got a column, also in the morning Times, titled "www.jihad.com,'' and it is a truth teller.
I'm actually not so sure about his habit of assuring us that the jihadists are actually a minority. How does anyone know? Maybe this is a way of making his argument more tolerable. One thing is for sure: Those who volubly and openly support violent jihad are more audible and visible than those like that Harvard graduating senior who seized the occasion of the 2002 Commencement to do propaganda for the personal jihad he did not mean (he was chosen by a committee of the goofiest university faculty who saw in the nasty provocation something "healing" and "non-confrontational.") I suppose those young Arab Americans from Dearborn who left for "home" in Somalia were also on some elevated personal journey. It's too bad some of them are dead.
Minority or not, here are excerpts from Tom's column:
Islam needs the same civil war. It has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims — “infidels,” who do not submit to Muslim authority — but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate.
What is really scary is that this violent, jihadist minority seems to enjoy the most “legitimacy” in the Muslim world today. Few political and religious leaders dare to speak out against them in public. Secular Arab leaders wink at these groups, telling them: “We’ll arrest if you do it to us, but if you leave us alone and do it elsewhere, no problem.”
How many fatwas — religious edicts — have been issued by the leading bodies of Islam against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Very few. Where was the outrage last week when, on the very day that Iraq’s Parliament agreed on a formula to hold free and fair multiparty elections — unprecedented in Iraq’s modern history — five explosions set off by suicide bombers hit ministries, a university and Baghdad’s Institute of Fine Arts, killing at least 127 people and wounding more than 400, many of them kids?
Not only was there no meaningful condemnation emerging from the Muslim world — which was primarily focused on resisting Switzerland’s ban on new mosque minarets — there was barely a peep coming out of Washington. President Obama expressed no public outrage. It is time he did.
Read the entire column.