Muslims living in America face bias, discrimination, and persecution. That is the mainstream media’s story and they’re sticking to it — despite the fact that there is no evidence to back it up. You might call it a faith-based narrative.
I’ve written about this before, (for example, here, here, and here), but the most recent example appeared in the Washington Post, kicking off a series on American Muslims pegged to the upcoming tenth anniversary of the atrocities carried out by self-proclaimed Islamic holy warriors on Sept. 11, 2001. Marc Fisher, a veteran journalist whose work I generally admire, profiled Fawaz Ismail, proprietor of a thriving Virginia flag-selling business. Prior to 9/11, he felt so all-American that he called himself “Tony.” But after 9/11, “Ismail felt his adopted homeland pushing him away.”
In what manner? Did people threaten him? Did they hurl racial or religious epithets? Did they boycott his business? Did they throw garbage on his lawn? Did they tell him to get out of the country? Did they call for a ban on Muslim immigrants? Trust me: If anything like that had happened, Fisher would have included it in the story.
But all that happened was what Fisher reports: Ismail had a bad feeling about his fellow Americans. So he “decided to push back.” He stopped calling himself Tony. “A lot of people use a nickname to make it easier for Americans to pronounce,” he says, “but now, I don’t care. They’re going to have to pronounce my name. It’s not that hard — Fah-wahz.”
There was, Fisher explains, “pride in that decision but also a real and still-growing anger” — though not, curiously, directed at the terrorists who incinerated thousands of Tony/Fawaz’s fellow American citizens, justifying such barbarism in the name of his religion and thereby staining it.
No, he is angry at “Americans who assume that anything Islamic is shorthand for terrorism” Who are these Americans? Pres. George W. Bush, who called Islam “a religion of peace”? Pres. Barack H. Obama, who went to Cairo to pay his respects to “the Muslim world”? The many Christian and Jewish groups that have initiated outreach and inter-faith programs in recent years?
Ismail says only: “It’s hard hearing your faith put down all the time as this scary, evil thing.” Fisher helpfully adds: “And hard to endure the cloud of suspicion that American Muslims feel has grown rather than dissipated over the past decade.” There’s that word again: feel. This is all about a feeling, a free-floating sense of victimization, humiliation, and self-pity — its basis in fact is not substantiated in a story that is almost 4,000 words long.
We learn instead about Ismail’s Muslim friends who resort to “sleeping pills and antidepressants . . . I smoke because I’m stressed. Sometimes I wish I was born a Swede.” Yes, who has ever heard of a Swede suffering from angst? They’re all cheery and giggly — you know, like Ingmar Bergman.
Fisher asserts that “every day” American Muslims must cope with “stares, cutting comments, airport humiliations.” And as Washington Post readers surely know, evangelicals, Mormons, and Jews never suffer such indignities. For non-Muslim Americans, the procedures put in place at our airports in response to the jihadi threat are an absolute delight.
Fisher does note that “over the past 18 months alone” American citizens who subscribe to a militant reading of the Koran did carry out a massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, and did attempt to bomb Times Square. Also, there have been “sting operations that led to the arrests of alleged Muslim proto-terrorists” in several cities.
The consequence of all this: “U.S. Muslims have felt compelled to explain.” If that were true, would it really be so cruel and unfair? And, anyway, who has explained what to whom? In Fisher’s story, no one even discusses the links between fundamentalist Islamic theology and bloodshed.
One American Muslim interviewed by Fisher reveals how her family has suffered. In a Virginian supermarket “a woman looked at Sadaf Iqbal’s oldest daughter, 4-year-old Asiyah, and said: ‘She has such beautiful curly hair. It’s a shame she’ll have to cover it up.’ Iqbal, 30, who has covered her hair in public since she was 11, reacted with stunned silence. . . . Iqbal’s husband, Ibrahim Moiz — a 31-year-old Fairfax City lawyer who handles small-business and family cases, often from Northern Virginia’s large, rapidly growing Muslim community — would not have stayed silent. His anger, he says, would have ‘taken control of me.’”