Saturday, October 20, 2007

Explosive irony

I heard from an American Muslim troubled by my September 20, 2007 column, "National security vs. civil liberty in America" My reply to him follows...

"I appreciate your thoughtful reply and I apologize for the length of time it has taken me to respond.

Before I address the points you make below, I should like to make clear that I fully recognize that the overwhelming majority of Muslims (American and otherwise) are peaceful, decent, people of faith. Radical Islam represents only a small fraction of the one billion-plus Muslims in the world. Unfortunately that small fraction still equates to a large number of people that we must monitor and defend ourselves from, in order to preserve our freedoms.

As for the incident that took place at the Minneapolis airport in 2006, it is obvious that you are troubled by my use of the word “suspicious.” If the 6 clerics involved were simply and quietly praying as you maintain, the flurry of events that made their presence so newsworthy, would not have developed. After all, thousands of Muslims travel through American airports every day without the same type of fallout. Your benign characterization of their actions during the whole ordeal does not at all comport with statements from eye witnesses, the gate agent, or excerpts that I read from the police report.

Whether one chooses to describe the activities of the clerics as suspicious or merely provocative, misses the point.

In this day and age, after what we have all been through, greater sensitivity on the part of the clerics would have been highly advisable. People are understandably on edge, particularly in airports. By saying that, I do not in any way, shape, or form, suggest that anyone should refrain from public prayer and again, I do not share your view that all that occurred that day was harmless prayer misunderstood by ignorant Americans. I am fully aware of and greatly respect your practice of praying five times a day. I am also a person of faith and most Americans are not as woefully ignorant of Islam, as you believe.

After this whole sad episode, the clerics elected to sue not only the airline, but also the passengers that shared their concerns with authorities. Therefore, in the future, some who would be inclined to alert authorities to potential danger, will have to weigh the possibility of being incorrect and then becoming the recipient of a fresh lawsuit. I find that conundrum more than a little troubling.

Should you receive this message in time, I’d invite you to watch a local television program called 4th Street Forum, tomorrow afternoon @ 3PM, on Channel 36. The topic of my last column (that you take issue with) is explored during a panel discussion and I was privileged to participate. Within hours of taping that program, I learned that bombs exploded in Pakistan killing 134 people. The latest reports indicate that it was more death coming from the evil hand of al Qaida.

The timing of that tragedy and the taping of the aforementioned TV program was sad irony for me, but I draw no comparison between decent people like you and people who celebrate the murder of Western children, so please do not paint me with such a broad brush. I argue to preserve freedoms not just for myself, but for people like you as well.

That is why I sometimes get discouraged by reactions like yours. Yet I become encouraged when I read and hear other American Muslims like Muqtedar Khan who fully recognize where to place their energy and advocacy. If you are not familiar with Dr. Khan’s work, you may wish to read one essay in particular called “Memo To Mr. Bin Laden: Go to Hell! It can be found at http://www.ijtihad.org/BinladenII.htm

All of this notwithstanding, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to write to me. I wish you well.

- John J. Maddente"