On Monday, America’s Right published an article by John Pratt which posed the question: Can One Simultaneously be a Good Muslim and a Good American? Today, the editors of America’s Right would like to answer that question directly.
The answer: Yes.
Anyone seeking insight into the relationship between Islam and American patriotism may want to consider a trip to Arlington National Cemetery. As they walk among the fallen, they will find something perhaps unexpected: crescents among the crosses.
The most famous of these crescent-adorned gravesites belongs to Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. In the picture at right his mother, Elsheba Khan, cradles his headstone. Kareem served in the Stryker Brigade combat team of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division. In August 2007, Ms. Khan received word that Kareem had been killed in Iraq, along with three other American soldiers, when a bomb exploded while they were searching for explosives in a house.
Kareem was motivated to join the army after the attacks of September 11, 2001. He was just 14 years old at the time, but after waiting years for his chance he shipped out for basic training within a month of graduating from high school.
A close look at Kareem’s headstone will find that he was only 20 years old when he was killed by that improvised explosive device. It will also show that he earned a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq, as well as a Purple Heart after being injured during combat in an incident which preceded the one which brought about his death.
Kareem’s crescent-adorned headstone does not stand alone. On a stroll through Arlington National Cemetery you might pass the grave of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who lost his life while saving others by diverting a suicide car bomber away from his men. Perhaps you might also find the final resting place of Army Spc. Omead Razani, the son of Iranian immigrants, who also died in Iraq. There are more–plenty more–but at this point you have to wonder: just how many dead Muslim heroes does it take to prove a point?
There can be no question that Kareem and other American Muslims who gave their lives in services to this nation were good Americans. That part of the question is settled. So are we left with another question? Should we debate whether or not they were good Muslims?
The fact is that Kareem Khan was born a Muslim, he lived as a Muslim, and he died as a Muslim. He left behind a twin legacy of patriotic service to our country and devotion to his faith, a legacy that his family carries on in his memory. Of his son’s Islamic faith, Kareem’s father Feroze Khan said: “His Muslim faith did not make him not want to go. It never stopped him. He looked at it that he’s American and he has a job to do.”
Because Kareem was motivated not only by his allegiance to this country but also by his devotion to his faith, we can know two things are true: The first is that Islam enhanced this young man’s patriotism. It did not detract from it. He died to prove that.
The second is that it is nothing short of sacrilege to question the faith of a fallen hero. Be it evangelical Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, Catholicism, or secular humanism, the living have no right to twist the legacy of those who gave their lives in defense of ours. Abraham Lincoln said that it was impossible for the living to consecrate the ground where fallen heroes sleep:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
If ordinary dirt can be made sacred ground purely by becoming the resting spot of American veterans, how much more sacred must the deeply held convictions of those veterans be? Lincoln also said that “the world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” We can write all the blog posts we want about the nature of Islam in America, but none of our words matter next to the actions taken by Kareem.
This is not about political correctness. There are many unresolved questions regarding tensions between Islam and the West. We will seek to dig deeper into those questions in coming pieces here at America’s Right over the next few days. But among the questions that remain unsettled, “Can a person be simultaneously a good American and a good Muslim?” is not to be found. That question has been finally and irrevocably answered. That answer can be found six feet underground at Arlington.
In addition to questions about the relationship between Islam and the West, another issue that needs to be addressed is the boundaries of admissible discourse. Writing in today’s New York Times, Ross Douthat addressed some of the extremist beliefs that appear prevalent in American society:
To some extent, partisans persist in these arguments — “your side encourages extremists!”; “no, your side encourages extremists!” — because America really is rife with wild and crazy sentiments. The belief that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim (apparently held by nearly 20 percent of the country) gets the headlines. But as the George Mason law professor Ilya Somin has noted, national opinion polls reveal support for numerous far-out or noxious-seeming notions.
There’s the 32 percent of Democrats who blame “the Jews” for the financial crisis. There’s the 25 percent of African-Americans who believe the AIDS virus was created in a government lab. There’s support for state secession, which may have been higher among liberals in the Bush era than among Republicans in the age of Obama. And there’s the theory that the Bush White House knew about 9/11 in advance, which a third of Democrats endorsed as recently as 2007.
Douthat concludes that there can’t really be that many nutcases in America, and cites libertarian writer Julian Sanchez:
… it’s worth taking all these polling responses with a substantial grain of salt. For all but the hardest-core conspiracy theorizers, they may express what Sanchez calls “symbolic beliefs.” These are “propositions you profess publicly” but would never follow through on, because they’re adopted as a kind of political and cultural statement rather than out of deep conviction.
The idea that Islam and Americanism are diametrically opposed belongs in this category of beliefs that are so outrageous we can only hope that those who espouse them do so symbolically – whether or not they admit it. It was a mistake to run Pratt’s piece here at America’s Right precisely for that reason. We will never know exactly where to draw the lines between what is admissible and what is not when it comes to faith, religion, and politics, but defacing the memory of America’s veterans is never acceptable. For that reason, and for the hateful rhetoric, it was a mistake to run Pratt’s piece here at America’s Right and we apologize for doing so.
Just as there have been tolerant and intolerant Christians, there have been and continue to be tolerant and intolerant Muslims. Just as Christianity has seen faith spread at the business end of a sword, Islam has seen and continues to see the same. And while reality certainly dictates that all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists certainly seem to be Muslims, and while this weekend we will certainly remember the lives of three thousand innocent men, women and children of all faiths snuffed out at the murderous hands of radical Islamists, sweeping generalities do nobody any good.
Sweeping generalities are what makes all Tea Party activists bigoted and racist. Sweeping generalities are what makes all Christians abortion clinic bombers. Could our daily discourse benefit from featuring more and more moderate Muslim voices? Absolutely. But in their unfortunate absence, it only takes a single glance at a crescent-adorned tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery to show that actions speak louder than words ever could.
This isn’t about apologizing, somehow, for the murderous actions of radical Islamists. This isn’t about going soft on Islamic terrorism and forcing willful blindness toward the threat it presents. This isn’t about political correctness. Political correctness is what allowed Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to slip through crack after crack after crack, as part of a protected class because nobody wanted to challenge or even document his radical views, until 13 American soldiers lay dead and 31 more lay injured at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Political correctness is what empowers radical Muslims while simultaneously stifling the already too soft voice of moderate Muslims. Instead, this is about correctness itself, about how a man’s relationship with his God is his own to define.
One of the major problems with a politically correct view that refuses to acknowledge the role that Islam plays in terrorism is that it rewards radical extremists for co-opting the Muslim faith. By refusing to acknowledge that Al Qaeda and others abuse religion and twist it to their ends, defenders of political correctness in effect reward people for hijacking Islam. “If you operate under the guise of religion,” goes the implicit message, “We will leave you alone.” That sentiment certainly applied to Maj. Hasan.
Does fundamentalist Islam comport with traditional American values? Of course not. Does the subjugation of women in Islamic countries across the Middle East comport with traditional American values? Of course not. However, conflating one of the world’s largest and most widely spread religions with one specific ethnicity–Arabic–and subsequently imputing the mysogynistic values and rampant violence inherent to that the socioeconomic circumstances of that ethnicity to an entire religion is more than inequitable.
Those kinds of blanket generalities, blind to billions of non-Arabic Muslims who do not practice Islam in the same manner as those who stone women and strap bombs to the torsos of the mentally handicapped, are not appropriate here at America’s Right. Those very same kind of blanket generalities are exactly what we fight against every day when it comes to the mischaracterization of the American political right by the mainstream media.
The American political left is in the middle of a fight for their lives, and a lynchpin in their strategy is to make the Tea Party seem as repugnant as possible. The primary thrust of the attack is to tar everyone concerned about federalism, limited government and out-of-control spending as an ignorant, racist, redneck bigot. As a result, there is tremendous pressure from the left to characterize anyone who says anything remotely negative about any aspect or Islam as a xenophobic hate-monger.
Undoubtedly, had new or old media types cared to do so yesterday, that’s exactly how they would have described John Pratt. A “hatemonger,” they would call him. He’s “a bigot,” they would say. Why give them the opportunity? A little bit of nativism is perfectly healthy so long as the nativist has his or her facts straight — in this case, imputing the realities of radical Islamic jihad on even those who fight and die or are prepared to die for this country was nativism mixed with an impassioned and egregious mischaracterization of an entire faith.
This meaningless polarization is detrimental to our civil society. It eats away at the common fabric of our society and distracts from legitimate policy discussions. Reasonable voices are drowned out in an escalating shouting match of increasingly hysterical and bizarre fantasies. On the one hand, we have Eric Holder refusing to even say the word “religion” in the same paragraph–let alone sentence!–as “terrorism”. On the other hand, we have a lunatic Christian pastor out to hold a good old-fashioned book burning and ignite some Korans. Meanwhile, we have others who disregard all context and find themselves more incensed about charred Korans than about beheaded infidel contractors or the three thousand innocents lost nine years ago this weekend. We have the left pretending that Muslims are all angels, the right pretending they are all devils, and everyone on all sides so mired in the shouting match that good, old fashioned common sense is simply lost in the scuffle.
Is there any room left for sanity?
America vitally needs a serious, honest, and open discussion about Islam and the West, and that’s exactly what we will deliver.