Why the Japanese Internment Really Does Matter


In his column in the New York Sun, Dr. Daniel Pipes expressed his feelings of encouragement that 44% of Americans believe that “government authorities should direct special attention toward Muslims living in America, either by registering their whereabouts, profiling them, monitoring their mosques, or infiltrating their organizations.” He also says that it is “encouraging” that the survey found that “the more people follow TV news, the more likely they are to support these common-sense steps.” Now, no where in his column does he advocate hauling all American Muslims into internment camps. Yet, his favorable review of Michelle Malkin’s book, In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror (Regenery), may have made many people believe that he does.

For his part, Daniel Pipes was defending Michelle Malkin, and that is his right. Yet, the Cornell University opinion survey findings are not “encouraging,” as Dr. Pipes put it. They are alarming. Yes, I agree that suicidal militants who call themselves “Muslim” are a threat to this country’s national security. Yes, American Muslims must do everything they can to help in the fight against these murderous militants. Yet, there are other security threats that exist in this country that do not receive as much press.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2003 report, traffic fatalities in alcohol-related crashes totaled 17, 013. That is more deaths than in six September 11 attacks…in one year alone. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2003 of the general driving age public, 97% see drinking and driving as a threat to their personal safety. Should we begin to “re-think” internment for intoxicated drivers? Of course not. Yet, Dr. Pipes is “encouraged” that 44% of Americans believe the government should direct special attention toward Muslims living in America.

Now, let me be clear: I do not belittle the fact that, in one fell swoop, close to 3,000 Americans were viciously murdered by people who claimed to do so in the name of my faith. Any terrorist attack, no matter how large or small, is one too many, and everything must be done to avert another attack on our freedom and security by militant Muslims or any other terrorist. It is by the grace of God that we have not suffered another terrorist attack on our soil since September 11, and I am grateful to Him for His protection of our nation.

Yet, why did 44% of Americans believe what they believed? I have a haunch: they simply do not know their American Muslim neighbors. This is further bolstered by another fact from the survey: the more people follow the TV news, the more likely they are to support increased scrutiny of Muslims. The TV news is probably the least accurate source of information about Islam and Muslims. I was told once that “all the news we ever hear about Muslims is negative.” Well, that is exactly the point. The overwhelming majority of good-hearted, law-abiding American Muslims who contribute greatly to the success of this country are not newsworthy.

The fact that the engineer who helped design and build the Sears Tower, the world’s tallest building until 1996, was Fazlur Khan, a Muslim, is not news. Yet, if Mohammed Khan in Pakistan burns an American flag in a protest rally, that’s news. We hear almost every hour about a new attack in Iraq, but we rarely hear about the good things that are happening there. That has been a consistent criticism of the media coverage of the Iraq campaign. The media is hardly the place I should go to learn more about a specific topic, especially not Islam and Muslims.

If non-Muslim Americans truly knew their Muslim neighbors, they would know that American Muslims are just like they are, except that they profess a different faith. And that faith, by the way, is much more similar to their own than it is different. Americans are a good people. The overwhelming majority of them do not harbor willful hatred. They simply do not know enough about Islam. I mean, I have written basically the same article about Jesus in Islam five or six times. Every time it is published, so many people tell me that they had no idea Jesus was so prominent in Islam. And their good will comes shining through.

People fear the unknown. Once people see American Muslims as part of the American fabric, which they are, that 44% of Americans who believe more scrutiny should be directed toward Muslims will dramatically decrease. The Prophets, when addressing their people, always said, “O my people.” We have to let non-Muslim Americans see that we are among “their people.” And American Muslims have to embrace this concept. They must wholly embrace their American-ness. It is God’s blessing to be an American Muslim. We must show our gratitude to God for that blessing by getting involved in our society, working with our non-Muslim brothers and sisters, and working for the greater good.

So, really, the onus is on us–the American Muslims–to get the word out about the true nature of our faith. Osama bin Laden is not Islam; Al Qaeda is not Islam; Abu Mus’ab Al Zarqawi is not Islam; suicide bombings that kill innocent women and children is not Islam. We Muslims know that. That’s not the important thing. The important thing is, we Muslims have to make sure everyone else in America knows that.

Copyright (C) 2005 God, Faith, and a Pen

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