It appears at first glance that we have lately become a nation of protests. Whenever I hit the “enter” key on my computer or turn to the news print or to television, there is, in some part of the nation a protest, and always with the hope that it will be nonviolent.
What appears to be in the forefront today in the United States is those protests “demanding justice” for a slain black person killed by a white officer. What appears to be in vogue today in Western Europe are the protests against the flooding of immigrants into France, German, and England. To those in the United States all the European immigrants are the same. We don’t have an immigration problem that can’t be fixed with rational politicians listening to the vast portion of our population. But that is another article.
One of this nation’s pressing issues is how we cope with extremists. A serious issue that has been silent long enough. Al Qaeda and ISIS and their violent, gruesome, inconceivable evil are paraded over and over again across the top of Africa and the Mideast. And their barbaric acts are shown in great detail in every home in the United States.
The evil they commit in the name of Islam is unspeakable in its raw images.
Our president does not want to talk about Islam, the “religion”, when he condemns the heightened form of terrorism; on the other hand, anti-immigrant groups want to paint an entire religion with the deeds of ISIS; the rest of us voice our concerns by yelling at Congress, writing op-ed pieces or mumbling with our elbows on the bar tops across America.
When all of this began to push my pen, I learned that we have always been a nation of protests and marches on our nation’s capital from the late 1800s until today. There have always been marches for or against something. In 1894, there was a march on Washington to protest unemployment. In 1913, there was women’s suffrage, and in 1925 the KKK marched in support of its activities. In 1948, Rabbis marched to stop the destruction of European Jewry. Think of a topic and there has been either a march or protest in some town or city or calls for mass protest in support or against “something”. Bus caravans are organized; huge numbers of people are organized for trains to carry protesters to Union Station in central Washington.
The Million Man March in 1995, caused untold complaints from the discredited person who organized the march to the petty conflict as to how many persons actually attended. But the March did take place and was seen across the nation. Notwithstanding a fusillade of criticism, it did not stop the marches to end the war in Vietnam, against the Iraq war, against guns and for gay rights. Protests are the voice of a community of like thought.
There is one mass protect or collective outcry that I am waiting for. There is one group of Americans whose voice is silent. In January, I was in Europe when sixteen people were slain in attacks which were carried out by Islamic extremists. I was in London and felt the public blunted with the announcements of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Not a sound out of White House, not a sound in America. I still wait for that one crucial march in my own country. In a recent Atlantic article, its author said that ISIS is no mere collection of psychopaths. If not that what are they? They are not as the President initially defined them.
I still wait for that one group in America that truly counts in this fight against extremists in the name of Islam, and they have remained strangely silent. A group of persons who profess to be Americans, who profess to be loyal Americans, who profess to be patriotic Americans. Americans period.
Almost one year ago the Washington Post published an article by Yasmine Bahrani, a professor of journalism at American University in Dubai, she is a native Iraqi who calls herself an American Muslim. She notes in her article that Muslims have marched across London, Paris and other major cities protesting the treatment of Muslims by the Israelis. But there have been no large scale, significant demonstrations –anywhere in the world — by Muslims against the violence committed by ISIS against Christians, Yazidis and other Muslims, especially the beheadings of non-combatant innocents. If Muslims can organize, she wonders, with relative ease as they have demonstrated in their protests against Israel, why not against ISIS? It is not as if they are impotent as a society. Why not in the United States, the home of over six and half million Muslims, a number greater than the entire population of Arizona? A nation that provides them with the democratic process, citizenship, education, health, the ability to vote and grow and in a country that has provided a safe haven. Sure there are instances of bigotry—no group is immune to that fact of life, but as a pragmatist factor, the Muslims are the third largest religion in the United States and prospering. They have the freedom to protest, they have the freedom to march on the White Houses, they have the freedom to vote for the President of the United States, they have the freedom to send their children to school. Why not protest the atrocities of ISIS?
Here and there you do hear an isolated Muslim voice denouncing the violence of Muslim extremism. But that is not the voice of a people.
You do hear the rejoinder that ISIS is not Islam. But that is an excuse not to face reality of who and what is ISIS, what it represents, how it conducts is rhetoric. Professor Bahrani wrote: “Don’t Muslims have a responsibility to speak out more loudly than others? We need the world to see anti-Islamic State marchers taking to the streets with the passion that we saw at the Gaza rallies in London and Paris….To much of the world, the Islamic State, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and other such groups do represent the Muslim community. Today, say the word “Islam” and few think of the glories of our history and culture. Rather, they picture masked men with knives.” Sadly, a poll conducted by the BBC in England found that more than a quarter of British Muslims sympathized with the terrorists who committed the atrocities at Charlie Hebdro in Paris.
Who is the face — who becomes the poster image—of Islam? The key question: Where is the shame and anger within the Muslim population in the United States against ISIS? Where is the communal anger –the million person march –of the Muslims in the United States against the violence of ISIS? When will they standup, with one voice, and condemn ISIS? Their silence is deafening.
Could there be some primal, unrealized connection seeking vindication for some past wrongs? Unhappily, is the answer that there is no anger at these extremists?
There is prompt, vocal and united anger at the reach of Israel. Those protests are large in number, seemingly spontaneous and carry the full banner of the Muslim world and Islam. Is the failure of that Muslim voice allowing ISIS to become the face of Islam?