A Further Perspective

Remember Times Square

What are American Muslims so afraid of?

By 3.9.11

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On a rainy Sunday afternoon, several hundred protesters gathered in New York City to make their displeasure known with Long Island Republican Congressman Peter King's impending hearings on "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response" which are due to commence on Thursday.

The most peculiar aspect of this rally was not the presence of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons nor was it the display of signs that read, "I am a Muslim, too." Rather the most peculiar aspect of this rally was where it took place. After all, it was a mere ten months ago that Faisal Shahzad attempted to set off a car bomb in Times Square and if not for an alert street vendor there might not have been a Times Square at which to hold the rally much less for Dick Clark to bring in a new year.

While Shahzad was not born and raised in the United States (although he did become an American citizen in 2009) the man who inspired him to carry out the plot most surely was. In the absence of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki is arguably the most powerful voice al-Qaeda has to offer. The fact that Awlaki was born in this country and spent a good part of his early childhood and early adulthood here makes him invaluable to al-Qaeda and that much greater a danger to the United States. Consider what Awlaki said during an audio recording he made in March 2010:

I could not reconcile between living in the U.S. and being a Muslim, and I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding on every other Muslim.

So let us not forget that it was Awlaki's literature that helped inspire the American born Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad (formerly known as Carlos Leon Bledsoe) to carry out a drive-by shooting in front of a military recruitment center in Little Rock, Arkansas in June 2009. The shooting spree resulted in the death of Private William Long while wounding Private Quentin Ezeagwula. When authorities in Little Rock detained Muhammad he said, "It's a war going on against Muslims, and that is why I did it."

So let us not forget that it was Awlaki's e-mail correspondence with the American born Nidal Malik Hasan that helped spur him to shout "Allahu Akbar!!!" as he killed twelve of his fellow soldiers and one civilian at Fort Hood in November 2009.

And let us not forget it was Awlaki's e-mail correspondence with the American born Abu Talhah al-Amrikee (formerly known as Zachary Chesser) that provided him with the inspiration in April 2010 to post an online message threatening South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone if an episode depicting the Prophet Mohammed was aired. Last month, Amrikee was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his threats to Parker and Stone as well as for his support of the Somali terror organization, al-Shabaab. While no one lost their lives, the threat prompted Comedy Central to not only pull the two-part episode after its initial airing but also pull a nearly decade old episode which also depicted Mohammed.

So let us also not forget that when cartoonist Molly Norris attempted to show solidarity with the South Park creators by organizing "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," it was Awlaki himself who called for Norris to be killed. The FBI advised Norris to change her name, give up her livelihood and go into hiding, which she did last September.

Now one could make the case that Awlaki's influence only reaches but the thinnest sliver of America's Muslim community. But when that thin sliver is enough to result in a person having to change her identity, a television network having to jettison its programming -- and results in the deaths of American soldiers on American soil -- then we have a problem that warrants governmental attention. You would think American Muslims would be eager to denounce those who commit such acts in their name and would welcome such scrutiny. But alas the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) states that King's hearings "on the alleged 'radicalization' of American Muslims" have "sent a shudder through our community." In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Georgetown University professor John Esposito (a convert to Islam) all too predictably likened King and the hearings as "a successor to Senator Joseph McCarthy and a new neo-McCarthyism."

Quite frankly, I don't know what American Muslims are so afraid of. Representative King will have his hearings. Those hearings will likely result in a report with recommendations and those recommendations will be ignored by Congress, dismissed out of hand by the Obama Administration and be left to gather dust on the shelf. I suspect that by the time the dust is blown off King's report it will be after someone has succeeded in turning Times Square into ash.

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About the Author
Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.