Friday, November 13, 2009

Islam: The Enemy Within?

The tragic Fort Hood shootings has generated some interesting recent correspondence. Being a pastor and all, I've somehow gotten onto the email lists of a series of organizations that assume I think the same way they do.

The most recent message was from a place proclaming itself the Freedom Center, which appears to be mostly a guy by the name of David Horowitz. He informs me that "radical Muslims have infiltrated America's Military." He likes to use boldface when something is really important. I suspect he uses the same approach while talking. There is , according to Horowitz, a "vast internal threat in this country, and we need to fight it."

That threat is Islam. Well, he calls it "radical Islam," but given that objective research shows that American Muslims are moderate and well-adapted to our pluralist society, I think he's casting his net a little more broadly. In fact, once you read his website, it's clear: all Islam is the threat. It is, for Horowitz, an inherently bad religion. Every Muslim is a potential threat. Having attempted to ratchet up my panic level, Horowitz then hits me up for money to support his organization, which is, as he describes it, a voice in the wilderness that needs my $25. Or perhaps that's a voice in the wilderness. Lord help us if he ever discovers the caps lock key.

Were it just him shouting, I might not worry. But all of the American Right is beginning to take up that hue and cry. Krauthammer was on about it yesterday in the Post...the idea that namby pamby liberals aren't aware of the terrible threat posed by Islamic jihad. About how the Fort Hood shootings were enabled by the politically correct folks who just lack the testicular fortitude to come right out and say that the problem is Islam. Not in Afghanistan. Right here.

Unlike many of my liberal brethren, I struggle occasionally with Islam. Not with Muslims. Not with what most Muslims are today, living lives of charity, humility, and submission to God. I also don't let the fanatics define Islam for me. Every faith has it's nutjob fringe, and the ignorant hatred of the mullah-fired mobs who protest and stomp around has more to do with political oppression and poverty. My greatest struggle has been with the Qu'ran itself, which I have pored through intentionally seeking commonality with the ethical heart of the Christian faith, and have been disappointed. But that's another post for another time.

What I see happening on the American Right now is a hunger for an enemy. Major Hasan was not a fifth columnist. He was a nutjob who glommed on a hateful ideology that has no real purchase in this nation. He's not part of a "vast internal threat," any more than the Holocaust Museum shooter was representative of a significant neo-Nazi resurgence in America. As Americans continue to struggle economically, and paranoiac populism takes hold in the core of one of our two political parties, there's real danger that neo-cons and political infotainers will seize on the fears of many.

If America's economy starts to badly tank, and we start looking for scapegoats, that poison will spread. It already seems familiar, cut from the same cloth as another American movement that bellowed and fretted over an unseen enemy within. Lord help us if it takes hold.