It is the presumption, if not hope, of politically correct media that the American people can be kept safe by a law-enforcement system simultaneously attempting to protect the public and enforce the Times‘ strict codes of political correctness. In that worldview there is no more reason to suspect a Muslim to be likely to commit a terrorist act than there is to suspect the same of a Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Catholic nun. Or if there is, then there should not be: because that would be racist. They seek to be color-blind, and religion-blind. But in being so, they are also terror-blind. Terrorism can indeed come from a large number of directions. But in the U.S. today there is currently more reason to fear violent extremism emanating from certain American mosques than there is to suspect it to come from the average U.S. synagogue or church.
Of course the New York Times is entitled to this form of denial and evasion just as its readers are entitled to decide whether they wish to read a paper that seeks to cover-over the cracks in their society’s security problems. What is unforgivable about the story is the damage it will do far beyond the Times‘ readership.
It takes a great deal of courage to speak out and warn the authorities if you think something untoward is happening in your community. We know from the small number of cases where plots have been thwarted by people from Muslim communities speaking to law-enforcement and seeking their help, that this does not always come easy. Anyone who spends time looking at this subject will also know the intense suspicion that radical U.S. Muslim groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] have whipped up around the question of going to the police. Even were that not so, it is worth conceding that it requires an unusual degree of guts and independence-of-thought for anyone, of any background, to say something which could in the short term lead to the community they have come from to be viewed with greater suspicion. People have loyalties and pulls – other emotions that are wholly understandable.
But we also know how few people have the courage take such steps. The vast majority of people who see something bad happening – even simply a radical preacher or a radical speech – keep it to themselves. They do not go out and speak to law enforcement. Sometimes it is because they do not want law enforcement to know what is going on. More often it is because they think it wrong or unhelpful to “air their community’s dirty linen in public.” Or because they have been taught to doubt the motives of the police and agencies.
For Americans to remain safe, it is vital that fewer American Muslims feel like that. One way media could help is to correct the lies of groups such as CAIR. The media could make it plain that the police are not waging war on Muslim communities, but trying to work with them to keep everyone – Muslims and non-Muslims – safe. But the New York Times has not done that. For the sake of an unenlightening, banal, predictable and badly-sourced piece, it has instead stoked a fire of suspicion that does not need stoking and presented to the wider public the notion that the bare minimum required to keep people safe is, according to the paper, an illicit activity.
Perhaps the New York Times‘ bid for another Pulitzer Prize will be successful. But if and when the next bomb goes off, I hope the American public remembers which paper chose to make law-enforcement’s lawful and necessary work so very much harder.