November 19, 2015
After 9/11, I was waiting, hoping for some Muslim of note to publicly state that the dirty looks and suspicious glances from non-Muslims were justified, and that Muslims should stop playing the victim card. Finally, two weeks after 9/11, a Muslim-American named Marlon Mohammed spoke up in the op-ed section of the L.A. Times in a piece titled “U.S. Muslims Should Tolerate the Stares.” It was a blunt, straightforward concession, exactly what I”d hoped to hear:
We know for a fact that Osama bin Laden publishes a handbook on how his terrorists can “blend in” by pretending to be average Muslim immigrants. They”re instructed on how to make friends, talk sports, get work, all in the name of fooling the community into thinking they”re someone they”re not…. I don”t begrudge non-Muslims their suspicions right now. How can they tell if that friendly Muslim sitting next to them on the plane is for real or not? Yes, suspicious gazes can cause hurt feelings, but American Muslims should temper their anger with the understanding that hurt feelings mend, but the thousands of lives lost in the Sept. 11 attacks are gone for good.
Marlon’s sober assessment resonated with many people. His piece was reposted on hundreds of websites and online forums. Marlon’s words of wisdom were even immortalized in the 2006 book Of Thee I Speak: A Collection of Patriotic Quotes, Essays, and Speeches, alongside quotes from Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, and Albert Einstein.
How refreshing to hear a Muslim eschew claims of victimhood in favor of a blunt admission that Muslims should buck up and put the blame where it belongs”not on “mean” non-Muslims, but on the murderous fanatics in their own flock. Well, it would have been refreshing, had a Muslim actually written it. I suppose it’s high time to admit that the author was yours truly. Marlon Mohammed was a crackhead I went to high school with in the early “80s. He robbed me blind and died in a ditch several years later. I figured he owed me, so I used his name to write a piece that I knew the Times would never accept from a non-Muslim (in those days, I was a semi-regular contributor to the Times, so I knew the editors” rules quite well). My goal was to break the ice, so to speak. Perhaps American Muslims were just waiting for one of their own to say what needed to be said. Maybe a piece in the Times would open the floodgates, at least a little.
“Marlon’s” op-ed was so popular, the Times ran another one in April “02. However, if my objective had been to make it easier for Muslims to express self-criticism, I failed. The innumerable “fan” emails the Times forwarded to me (and the one it published in the paper) were all from non-Muslims thanking “Marlon” for speaking common sense. None were from Muslims thanking him for articulating their views.
If there is a “silent majority” of Muslims who reject self-pity in favor of self-examination, they stayed pretty damn silent after my op-ed.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, the West is left with two options. We can continue to believe that we have the power, through our actions, to eradicate Muslim extremism. We can continue to buy that line even in the face of decades of evidence to the contrary. We can continue to remain blind and deaf to the fact that there’s no action the West can take that hasn”t already been blamed for “radicalizing” Muslims. We”re told that we radicalized them by engaging in “nation building” in Iraq (“it’s our fault; we meddled in their internal affairs”), but we”re also told we radicalized them by not engaging in nation building after helping the Afghans defeat the Soviets (“it’s our fault; we just walked away without meddling in their internal affairs”). We”re told we radicalized them by attempting to remove a dictator by force (Iraq “03) and by sanctions (Iraq in the “90s), but we”re also told we radicalized them by not attempting to remove a dictator (“they hate us because for decades we backed Mubarak!”). We”re told we radicalize them domestically via intrusive government policies that “harass” their communities, but we”re also told we radicalize them by leaving their communities completely alone (“the Muslim slums of France are hotbeds of extremism due to years of government neglect!”). We”re told it’s all about the West’s support for Israel, even as Muslim terrorists attack nations that are hostile to Israel. We”re told it’s not about religion, merely foreign policy, even though the Muhammad cartoons led to protests throughout the Muslim world that were larger and more violent than any protests about Western foreign policy.
So sure, we can continue to believe that it’s all on us, or we can face the fact that it’s not us, it’s them. The Muslim world is afflicted with a sickness, a pathology, and whatever foreign-policy choices the West makes”and, no question, the West has made some very poor foreign-policy choices”it won”t stop radicalization. That will have to come from the Muslims themselves, and considering the appalling lack of introspection in the Muslim world, such internal healing is many, many years away.
In the meantime, the best course of action for the West is to severely limit Muslim immigration. That’s a no-brainer (so of course it won”t happen). And regarding Muslims who reside legally in the West (or who are native-born), we cannot allow ourselves to be guilt-tripped into believing that our healthy suspicions are “frightening” them into radicalization. Radicalization will continue whether we look out for our best interests or not, so we might as well look out for our best interests.
As a wise crackhead involuntary posthumous front named Marlon once pointed out, hurt feelings pass, but the lives lost due to Muslim terror are gone forever.