TCS Daily

Fear Factor

By Ralph Kinney Bennett - July 14, 2005 12:00 AM

Concerning the "paralysis of modern Muslims" in the face of Muslim extremist terror, which fellow TCSer Arnold Kling wrote on recently, I would suggest that a big reason for Muslim silence is, simply, terror.

Steven Schwartz in a recent TCS article points to a type of spiritual renewal and reinforcement of traditional Muslim principles sans the "bloody stain" cast upon them by the Islamic terrorists. But the state of fear in which many Muslims find themselves is a formidable barrier to such a transformation.

Americans and Britons have mainly shown anger and contempt for the Islamofascist terrorists. The Spanish? Well, their government proved a bit wobbly, but a lot of individual Spaniards were not intimidated and were indignant at their new government's swift knuckle-under to the murderous fanatics. The sad reality is that Muslims, who are bearing the brunt of the terror, are also the ones most disposed -- by a shared religious/cultural experience -- to be terrorized.

While it is true that fewer Muslims now openly cheer for the terrorists, many may still do so secretly, and many more appear to condone them with silence -- a silence born of fear.

It may have taken the Western public a while to really believe the blood vengeance of Islamic radicals against "infidels" and "apostates" (we couldn't quite bring ourselves to believe all that stuff about the fatwa that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding, for instance), but the Muslim faithful have known it all along.

They have reason to believe the threats of the terrorists are not idle. They have been exposed constantly in their communities and often in their schools to the blood-drenched rhetoric of jihadists. Having been too familiar with incidents like, say, the humiliation and harassment of those women who do not wear the veil, they have an uneasy sense that the sliding scale from mere humiliation of a teenage girl to histrionic decapitation of a young Iraqi policeman slides upward very quickly.

We are not talking, after all, about an Amish congregation "shunning" someone who has drifted from the faith, or a "good Catholic" girl being harassed at the dinner table for dating a protestant. We are talking death and destruction.

Many Muslim clerics are vociferous aiders and abettors of the terrorists. But many more, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, are compliantly silent lest they be killed. Just last Saturday, in Afghanistan's Paktia province, a cleric who had been supportive of the new Afghan government, was murdered in his home along with his wife by Taliban terrorists.

Recently I wrote about the power of hatred -- hatred of the West, hatred of the "crusaders," hatred of democracy or progress -- which spurs Osama bin Ladin and various others like his gangster ganymede Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. That hatred holds real power because of the atmosphere of many Muslim communities -- an atmosphere of isolation from the world in which a subtle and not-so-subtle coercion to conformity is an everyday reality.

Monday's Wall Street Journal carried a report on how "political Islam" is preaching intolerance in France. Its message in the burgeoning Franco Muslim ghettoes.

"People who are different are held in contempt. Mingling with mainstream society is frowned upon. Society should be founded on one religion: Islam."

Imagine yourself as a decent, law-abiding Muslim citizen of Iraq. Do you dare speak out against the bombings or tip off the police or the American troops to the whereabouts of terrorists? Many have, bravely. But it seems that many more have "thought twice" and chosen not to risk death to themselves or their family.

And while Muslim clerics of any stature have been among the most mealy-mouthed or silent, they know that they are in a position very like front-line officers vis-à-vis snipers.

It is easy for us to call for greater courage on the part of moderate Muslims, but if we have not lived in the fear-drenched atmosphere in which many Muslims find themselves, we cannot understand how they may see their silence as a proper and even logical element of simple survival.

As Iranian expatriate and Islamic terrorism expert Amir Teheri wrote recently, these "ordinary" Muslims, whether devout, moderate or "nominal." are dealing with fanatics who "cannot be talked into reason through anger management or round-table discussions."

While moderate Muslims might like to simply be left alone to live their lives and interact with other humans, the fanatic, notes Teheri, wants "to take full control of your lives, dictate every single move you make around the clock and, if you dare resist, he will feel it is his divine duty to kill you."


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