The other day, as the “Underpants Bomber” was pleading not guilty to the Christmas Day attempt to blow up Northwest flight 253, a group of American Muslims were demonstrating outside the federal courthouse in Detroit “to show the world,” as a newspaper report explained it, “that the terrorists don’t represent Islam.”
The demonstration was organized by a Dearborn, Michigan lawyer, a brave soul named Majed Moughni, who said, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the accused would-be bomber, “landed in the wrong place — he’s going to be met by the natives today. We’re going to take our religion back.”
As they marched outside the courthouse, the demonstrators chanted, “We are Americans.” Many of them carried American flags or signs with messages that said, “Not in the name of Islam.” In times of crisis, it’s important to state the obvious.
Moughni told reporters, “We are Americans, and we will never allow anyone to use Islam to commit terrorist acts. … This is serious. We’re putting our faces in front of the world. We’re telling the terrorists we’re Americans. If you want to kill Americans come kill us.”
All of this, of course, is the good news. Long overdue, in my view, but very good news nonetheless. The bad news is that only 50 people showed up for the demonstration.
According to one news report, Moughni said he was expecting hundreds, maybe thousands, to march outside the courthouse. Perhaps it was the cold that kept other Muslims away. Maybe they didn’t know about the demonstration. Maybe they couldn’t get away from their jobs. Or maybe there were only 50 or so Muslims in the Detroit area who weren’t afraid to speak out. Maybe only 50 cared enough to show up.
It is an oft repeated truism that that while most terrorists these days are Muslims, most Muslims aren’t terrorists. Most Muslims, we hope, deplore the violence committed in the name of their religion. But most Muslims, here in America and around the world, haven’t seen fit to stand up and say what those 50 demonstrators said in Detroit: We’re going to take our religion back. You are not doing this in our name. You bring shame on our religion and we are not with you.
I work with a young Muslim woman, very bright, very decent, who complained to me that official policy or no official policy, she and her brother are often “profiled” at airports because of how they look. “Take it up with the Muslim terrorists that have brought this on you,” I told her, “not with the TSA.”
But how? You can’t expect American Muslims to jump on airplanes, confront terrorists in the world’s hell-holes, and lecture them on common decency. But you can expect them to stand up and speak out, just as the Detroit demonstrators did. That’s why we need a Million Man (and Woman) Muslim March on Washington.
A few years ago I wrote a book called Crazies to the Left of Me Wimps to the Right, in which I asked, “Why should American Muslims march if they’re not blowing anybody up? Is this guilt by association? No. Muslims should march not to prove their innocence but to let the terrorists know that good Muslims will not support them – or even try to understand them – simply because they share the same religion. Muslims should march to isolate the radicals who kill in the name of Islam; to tell them that they are alone in their dark world; to make sure the fascist who pray to Allah know that they have no allies here in America.”
At the time, I told a friend about my idea and after he stopped laughing he said, “If you get a Five Muslim Man March, you’re lucky.”
Well, 50 showed up in Detroit. Okay, not five thousand or even five hundred, but 50 is more than five. It’s a start.
Yes, it’s true that much of the Arab world is an incubator for pathology where too many kids learn how to hate before they get out of kindergarten. Still, my idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Something like it has actually worked before – right here in America.
In Crazies, I wrote that, “In the bad days of the Old South, there really weren’t a lot of white people who went out looking for black people to lynch or beat up or run off the side of the road. In reality, there were very few terrorists in places like Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana.
“But there were millions of other white folks in those places, who just didn’t want to get involved. These were the so-called ‘moderates’ – the ones who would never actually commit violence but just looked the other way.”
At some point, they stopped looking the other way. They understood that life could not go on the way it had been going. Many were tired of looking like bigots in the eyes of the rest of America. Maybe they realized their silence was acquiesence. And for whatever reason, whatever actual words they used, they sent out a message: No More, You are not doing this in OUR name. And that’s when America changed.
Just as our home-grown bigots needed to be isolated, so too do today’s terrorists. Anyone who wants to play it “safe” and not get involved, anyone who wants to simply “look the other way” is part of the problem. A big part. That’s why we should be encouraged by that little demonstration in Detroit the other day. And it’s why we need more of them. Lot’s more. With lots more brave Muslims shouting — Not in Our Name.