The current dispute between Republican candidate for president Donald Trump and the family of a Moslem American soldier killed in combat in Afghanistan is a losing proposition for both sides.
When Khizr and Ghazala Khan decided to appear to tell their story of their son’s sacrifice for his country on the Democratic Convention broadcast, they were making it a political issue. They then cannot claim immunity when Trump attacks them for doing that.
Their excuse, of course, is that Trump’s earlier pronouncements on Moslems, his initial advocacy of banning all Moslem immigrants, had called them into the debate. They argued they had no alternative but to rebut the accusation that Moslem Americans were not loyal citizens. And the fact that they, as well as their son, were born abroad strengthened their argument with Trump.
The discussion has gone downhill ever since. Trump questioned the position of Mrs. Khan who did not speak initially, in effect, hinting it was the traditional repression of women in Islamic societies. Her physical aspect in the initial interview, including wearing a traditionl hijab [partial veil] seemed to confirm Trump’s hint. But she has since responded denying her submission to any restriction but offering the credible argument that any mention of her son made it almost impossible for her to control her emotions.
The whole affair, of course, points up the extreme difficulty of dealing with the problem of Moslems, most of all American Moslem citizens, in the current atmosphere. Any criticism of them is taken in some liberal quarters, including the Clinton presidential campaign, as islamophobia, a blanket prejudiced attack on a religious group.
But the fact remains that in the several instances of terrorism in the U.S. perpetrated by Moslem immigrants, often citizens, the question has hung in the air about how much their family and friends knew about their activities. Blanket denials that anything remotely connected with their terrorist acts was unforeseen seem dubious; can bomb-making and weapons practice take place in a home without the other members of the family knowing it is happening?
We can only guess that the source of much of the information which the FBI tells us has come into their hands and prevented many other attacks likely has come from fellow Moslems. They would be the first to sniff such activity. It is also apparent that what could be construed as sentiment among Moslems for the traditional acts of violence against kafirs [unbelievers or non-Moslems] which traditional Islam justifies is not shared by most American Moslems. But they are also likely to be intimidated if their lives are not actually threatened by the terrorists.
As the terrorists continue to strike out, not only in their base areas in the Middle East, but increasingly in Europe and the U.S. as they are being hammered by American and allied forces, this problem will become even more difficult. An honest discussion of Islam and whatever justification the Islamic terrorists claim derives from its ancient tenets is absolutely necessary.
It requires the kind of intellectual discrimination and honesty which paralleled The Cold War and the long fight to defeat Communism. The Communists claimed a progressives” role as sponsors of solutions to the contemporary world’s many problems, many of them part and parcel of the capitalist system. Often those arguments for reform appeared the same – if originating in quite different logical concepts – as those proposed by American liberals [not to be confused with European “liberals”]. It was always a moot point whether liberal spokesmen were indeed simply expressing similar goals or using subterfuge to cover their real loyalty to Communist goals.
The appellation of “McCarthyism”, the blanket condemnation of opponents as Communists simply because of their difference of opinion, has become a part of our political language. And not so unusually its origin is confused and its meaning misinterpreted. The fact is that many of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s targets were indeed Communists who concealed their real identify. His excesses arose in no small part precisely because of that fact.
Today terrorism, Islamic terrorisms and Islam present elected officials and their supporters with a similar set of subtleties. But ignoring an open discussion of Islam and its relationship to the Islamic terrorists is not the answer to the problem.