no more muslim derangement syndrome, please

I’m not a person of faith, but do feel that as a democratic republic, people in the US should be free to practice or not practice a religion without fear of discrimination, violence, etc. For many years, American Jews, Quakers, Mormons and others had suffered discrimination in the US, and for the most part, such discrimination is a thing of the past, with infrequent instances of outright discrimination and prejudice against these minorities. Muslims aren’t there yet. Just as American Jews and Catholics were often inappropriately viewed as having foreign allegiances (to Israel and the Vatican respectively), since 9/11, Muslims in this country are too often stereotyped as being secret terrorists, a veritable “fifth column” waiting for orders to act against this country. In this regard we’re no better than Israel, where Israelis of Arab descent (20% of Israel’s population) are frequently discriminated against and viewed as working against Israel itself, even though the great majority of Israeli Arabs are peaceful and by any account loyal Israelis. We’re also no better than a number of predominantly Muslim nations that viewed their Jewish population with suspicion and in many cases drove out their Jews after both the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel.

So for many years, American Muslims have been considered suspicious, and despite even George W. Bush’s instructions to behave otherwise, a great number of American Christians and Jews continued to hold unpleasant, even paranoid, opinions regarding their Muslim neighbors and friends. What’s particularly bizarre, at least to me, is that many Christians who decades ago would have been likely to hold frankly antisemitic views now are very supportive of Jews and Israel in part because of their rage against Muslims. Perhaps a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” attitude is driving this, but regardless, many Christians, particularly Evangelicals, are not exactly BFFs with the Islamic community in this country. Many seem to actually hate Muslims, regard any and all of them with suspicion, and at the drop of the hat will espouse all sorts of anti-Muslim rhetoric and hysteria.

In other words, the Muslims have become the new Jews.

What’s particularly appalling to me is that some of my coreligionists think nothing of branding all Muslims as terrorists, as wanting to live under strict Sharia law, etc. To them, anything bad that a single Muslim does reflects poorly on the entire population of US Muslims. Concern about Israel is also frequently brought up, as if to justify their Muslim derangement syndrome. That is, since many Muslims express criticisms of Israel, clearly they must be capable of terrorism within the US, and anything a Muslim does that is not proper or legal justifies whatever harsh collective action Israel does against the Palestinians.

The Ft. Hood killings is a perfect example of how the right-wing media has taken something an individual Muslim does as the starting point for anti-Muslim invectives and a campaign against Islam. Just a month ago, several Republican congresspeople held a press conference to warn against an “infiltration” of the Federal government by Muslim interns under the “control” of the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR). This was nonsense, trumped up by that bastion of truth, World Net Daily. But that pales in comparison with the prejudice being espoused since the Ft. Hood murders. Because the shooter was a Muslim, and (oh horrors!!!) a Palestinian, Fox News, Michelle Malkin (blecch), Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Debbie Schlussel and others from the right-wing hate-sphere just had to opine that this meant Muslims in the military should be viewed with extreme suspicion.

To put it into context, in the run up to the Holocaust, a Polish Jew acting alone assassinated Ernst vom Rath, the German Secretary of Legation. The Nazis immediately used vom Rath’s murder to justify Kristallnacht and the indiscriminate murders of many German Jews along with mass vandalism of their businesses and property. In the US during WWII, Americans of Japanese descent were rounded up and sent to internment camps. In both cases, there was collective suspicion, prejudice, punishment and (in the case of German Jews) mass murder.

I’m not saying that the current anti-Muslim hysteria being whipped up by the right-wing media is going to lead to a Kristallnacht of sorts against Muslims in the US. But I have absolutely no doubt that some law-abiding Muslims who are good citizens of this country will be discriminated against, and even hurt or murdered, as a result of the utter crap and ignorance being broadcast 24/7 against all US Muslims, all because of the act of a single Muslim soldier and physician. Why his religion has anything to do with this is totally beyond me. But it’s given racists like Debbie Schlussel the ammunition to continue her spewing of hate. Why am I singling out Ms. Schlussel over Michelle Malkin and many others? Perhaps its because as an American Jew, she should be more than understanding of where such invective can lead. If she doesn’t, then clearly she is no better than the folks in Nazi Germany who used any excuse to spout antisemitic commentary and whip up violence against Jews.

When Timothy McVeigh, a Christian who was previously in the US military, committed a horrible act of terrorism against the US, no one suggested that Christians in the US military should be viewed suspiciously. Indeed, a Bush-era report on hate groups and violence in the US that appropriately concluded that some White veterans might be capable of similar acts of terrorism was widely condemned by the Republicans in Washington. But let a single Muslim, one who might have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, commit a deranged act of murder, and it’s no longer a workplace killing but an act of “Islamic terrorism.” As if any religion endorses terror.

So I would appreciate it greatly if the media at large and the blogosphere got rid of its Muslim derangement syndrome once and for all. The specific religion of a crime perpetrator is irrelevant unless it has some clear bearing on the incident, as when a Catholic priest is guilty of sexual abuse within the church. The fact that Dr. Nidal Hasan is a Muslim and has Palestinian ancestry has as much to do with his contemptible act against his colleagues at Ft. Hood as his being a doctor, his eye color or whether he was right- or left-handed. No one seems to make much of the fact that the person who assassinated Dr. George Tiller was a fundamentalist Christian, so why does Dr. Nidal’s religion have anything to do with his irrational decision to commit mass murder?

The hypocrisy and prejudice is enough to make me want to scream.