In the wake of the Fort Dix jihad plot arrests, the mainstream media featured numerous news articles focusing on the fears of other Muslims in America. An official of the South Jersey Islamic Center, spiritual home of several of the jihadist suspects, also expressed fears that they “are going to face a backlash.”
But none of the backlash reports included news of any actual backlash incidents, because as of four days after the arrests, there hadn’t been any. Richard Sparaco, the attorney for one of the accused jihad plotters, Serdar Tatar, came closest to actually reporting one. Sparaco said that the restaurant owned by Tatar’s father, Muslim Tatar, had suffered a sharp decline in business, and that someone kicked in his door and, according to New Jersey’s Star-Ledger, “shouted a racial slur.” Muslim Tatar, according to Sparaco, had also been threatened.
That was it. The contrast is stark: when cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad appeared in a Danish newspaper, there were international riots, in which several innocent people were killed; when Pope Benedict XVI repeated a medieval emperor’s negative characterization of Muhammad, there were again riots and killings. When a mentally impaired Christian in Nigeria tore a copy of the Qur’an, rampaging Muslims burned ten churches to the ground. But when six Muslims in America were arrested for plotting to kill as many American soldiers as possible, there have been no killings. No mob action. No riots. No mosques have been torched, and no Muslims have been beaten or (with the possible lone exception of Muslim Tatar) harassed.
Of this Americans can be proud. The paucity of backlash incidents after the Fort Dix arrests and other jihad terror arrests — as well as after 9/11 — shows that Americans are still decent people who generally do not victimize people on the basis of their identity or associations. Yet statistics cited by the Des Moines Register painted a very different picture: “a nationwide survey by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations…counted 1,972 incidents of anti-Muslim bias in 2005, up from 1,522 in 2004. The 2005 figure, from the group’s most recent tally, represents the largest number reported to the council, also known as CAIR, in its 12-year history.”
So are Muslims really facing a climate of hostility and harassment in the United States? Unlikely. Daniel Pipes and Sharon Chadha studied an earlier CAIR hate crimes report in 2005 and discovered that “of twenty ‘anti-Muslim hate crimes’ in 2004 that CAIR describes, at least six are invalid.” These included one incident of a bombing outside a mosque for which no police report exists, and which seems not to have taken place at all; one of an arson attack against a mosque that police had determined was a simple robbery, with no “hate” motive; and two incidents of Muslim store owners destroying their own stores.
Why would CAIR trump up hate crimes? Because if American mosques are seen as victims rather than as possible abettors of seditious activity, they won’t face any scrutiny over what they are doing, and not doing, to halt the spread of the jihadist ideology of Islamic supremacism among Muslims in America. It’s worthwhile in light of this to step back and consider some of the media reports we are not seeing. Amid the stream of backlash articles, there has not been even one about Muslims pledging to redouble their efforts to teach against the jihad ideology in American mosques. While many have reaffirmed that Islam is a religion of peace and scolded authorities for linking Islam with militancy, no Muslims have explained how this peaceful religion keeps being so outrageously misunderstood by those who are often its most devout adherents, or what they propose to do to keep this from happening in the future. No reporters — consumed as they are with searching for backlash incidents — are even asking questions like this.
And that makes it likely that the Fort Dix jihad plotters will not be the last Muslims in America to “misunderstand” their religion and think it enjoins them to commit acts of violence against unbelievers.