Thursday, July 28, 2005

So Many Variations of Condemnation 

President Bush is mocked for having stated that one is either with us in the fight against terrorism or with the terrorists.

This does not mean one is automatically labeled a terrorist simply for not having condemned them. But it is clear that to defeat terrorism, we must stand united against it, with no room for bystanders giving it their hidden or silent assent. The terrorists consider any failure to actively oppose and condemn them and their acts as a boost to their cause. It is their goal to create, through intimidation and obfuscation, a reticence to resist their violence. At this stage in the conflict it's all about choosing sides. This is most critically true for those in whose name the terrorists shoot and bomb and behead.

Unfortunately, with some exception, the response of the "moderate Islamic community" is not yet sufficient to convince terrorists, and many of the rest of us, that terror lacks mainstream support. While listening for condemnations, mere words, that would meet this goal, sadly, I find all too frequently certain common patterns of evasion that undercut the credibility of the speaker.

I'd like to start with what I would like to hear, notwithstanding the risk of CAIR spokesmen googling to my site and calling me racist for presuming to dictate. Actually, they probably wouldn't be so heavy-handed as to come right out and say that, but the implication, while deniable, would be clear. But I am not telling them what to say. I'm only doing them a service, basically handing over to them a gift-wrapped template for what it would take to convince me they have chosen a side in this fight, the right side. That should save a lot of intellectual struggle and guesswork when it comes time to prepare for the press-release and speaking engagements after the next attack.

What I'd like to hear goes something like this.

The "Condemnation" Condemnation:

We unreservedly condemn all terrorist attacks. There can be no justification whatsoever. None. We call on anyone who shares our faith in Allah to stand up and fight back against these criminals who would kill in our name. Let us not shy away from helping the police fight this scourge, including refusing support to anyone with terrorist intentions and reporting suspicious information, for the terrorists are not our "brothers" as they claim. They attack all of us, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, for we are all citizens of (this country) and we will stand together.
Not Churchillian by any means, but we don't need Churchill here, at least not yet. As long as the statement stops there, short of the "but", and actions follow, I believe it is enough. We just need widespread, consistent, unqualified, believable statements. I'm sure there are spokespeople who find my benchmark burdensome and probably Islamophobic, and sadly but cynically, I think I can understand what would lead them to say that.

To give credit, I do come across statements along these lines from time to time, sometimes even unadorned by the "but". More typically though, a few nice elements of the condemnation are used merely as a bridging device, a segue to the "but":

The "Threat Amplification" Condemnation

Yes, we condemn terrorism and yadda yadda, but, America occupies Iraq, and Israel occupies, well, Israel, and until these problems are fixed, there will be no peace.
Statements that say "Yeah but...." followed by a reiteration of the supposedly condemned terrorists' demands remove the need for the terrorists to even have to write their own ransom notes. Obviously, in the hands of a pro, this comes out much more delicately than I've managed here.

The "Too Tired of Condemning to Condemn" Condemnation:

We've condemned every act of terrorism, again and again. Why we Muslims continue to be singled out for this burden after every attack is beyond me.
This line can either appear in place of a condemnation, or accompany it so that the focus is on the burder carried by the speaker, rather than the value of the condemnation or its likelihood of making any difference.

The "Of Course We'll Condemn (Israel)" Condemnation:

We condemn all terrorist acts, wherever they are committed, including by the Israelis when they blow up innocent Palestinians using American-supplied advanced weaponry, and occupy Palestinian land...
This hearty condemnation can go on for quite awhile.

The "Inflate in Order to Pop" or "Not Gonna Condemn It" Condemnation:

I’m Not Going to Apologize
These are but a few examples that could be mentioned. I could go on and on. However, what I would like to ask is why are we told that we have not done enough to condemn the terrorist attacks? Why have not our clerics come out in full force and vilified the perpetrators of terror? They ask us to come out in full force against suicide bombers in Israel. They ask a whole nation to accept the guilt for Sept. 11. They ask us to atone and pray for sins committed by our young men. They ask that we wring our hands and show remorse — maybe go a step further and flagellate ourselves. In short, the principle of collective guilt is being applied to Muslims the world over.
Hey, no one was asking you to apologize, self-flagellate, or, God-forbid, engage in hand-wringing. We just want to know that you believe it is wrong to blow people up and that you will help stop or discourage your (few, misguided, fringe) co-religionists from doing so whenever you find it in your power to do so. No one has asked every Muslim to admit guilt, rather to seize the opportunity to be a part of the problem's solution. No hand-wringing required whatsoever.

The incredible proliferation of variations on these themes is what makes the field of "Islamist Terror Apologetics" such an exciting growth industry. I hope that will change, so that someday soon it will be clear to everyone that all terror deserves only one answer, and zero support.

Update, Jul 28, 7:57 PM
this looks like a step in the right direction. Based on what is reported in the article I'm very encouraged and my hat is off to them. I'll even disagree with one concern expressed in the article:

Islam has no central authority and the council serves an advisory role for American Muslims, who could number as high as 6 million. But some question whether the panel’s statements would sway extremist.
I don't expect their fatwa to stop the extremists in mid-detonation. But this is still a very good thing if it provides cover and support and courage to the great mass of Muslims who aren't speaking up. One fatwa won't change things over night. But one billion vocal Muslims might make an impression. Well done, Fiqh Council of North America, may others follow your example.

Updated Update, Jul 29, 2:00 PM
Then again, maybe not. While the fatwa sounds good, it apparently comes from people with terrorist connections. So let's just say it sounds good, and hope that others pick up the ball and run with it legitimately, even if these guys are trying to pull one over on us.

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