Western Muslims and the Nexus of Loyalty and Militarism
August 26, 2011 12 Comments
In the midst of Peter King’s congressional inquisitions into the purported radicalization of American Muslims and against the backdrop of rising domestic hysteria over the supposedly subversive intentions of Islam in America, a recent Gallup poll provided insight into how Muslims actually view themselves and their place in the United States. Overwhelming majorities say they consider themselves to be loyal U.S. citizens and feel confident in their future as Americans. Greater than 90% of Muslims say that they reject the ideology of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, and Muslims are the most likely of any religious group to believe that violence against civilians is always unjustified, regardless of the perpetrator. Despite their general feelings of confidence in and loyalty towards America, Muslims as a community continue to be subjected to indiscriminate scrutiny and harassment from law enforcement agencies and government, as well as from significant minorities among other ethno-religious groups within their own country. 48% of American Muslims report to have been target of discrimination within the past year, a figure which has no doubt been influenced by hatred and mistrust resulting from a full decade of war and conflict between the U.S. and Muslim majority countries.
One of the consistent criticisms levelled by critics against the American Muslim community is that Muslims are “not American when it comes to war”; the implication being that they have not been unquestioningly supportive and compliant with the past decade of war and occupation to a degree satisfactory to those who have advocated for these actions. Aside from the troubling assertion that within a democracy dissent is somehow undesirable or inherently suspect, it can be observed that those purportedly “loyal” to America have in fact led it down a path of self-destructive behaviour from which it is not able to easily extricate itself. How “loyal” were the Americans who consciously fabricated information, invented false narratives, and maliciously stifled opposing viewpoints with the intention of terrifying their fellow citizens into waging an unprovoked war of aggression? What fealty do those who wish to cut the lifelines of the most desperate Americans show to their country today?
It should be taken as given that in a healthy democracy the freedom to voice dissent without recrimination upon ones loyalty is an absolute necessity. Muslim Americans are twice more likely to say that distrust towards the U.S. from Muslim-majority countries is a result of U.S. actions and not “because of who we are”; an extremely convenient and juvenile explanation which a cadre of unscrupulous U.S. leaders fed to a susceptible public. The demonstrably sound and logical advice that a foreign policy which disregards human rights and international law may engender anti-American sentiment abroad has been demonized and cast as a disloyal and un-American suggestion of itself. Muslims who are American yet still capable of providing insight and understanding of the sentiments of their countries of origin have been discouraged to do so for fear of appearing as a subversive fifth column. This has been to the significant detriment of democracy and to the robust marketplace of ideas which should filter out poor ideas such as imperialism and endless, ever-expanding war.
Slavish adherence to narratives used to justify open-ended global war without clearly identifiable goals or metrics of success is neither loyal nor beneficial to America’s future. The conflation of militarism with patriotism has proceeded to such a degree that now entire ethnic groups within American society can be demonized and targeted by the state for their reluctance to unquestioningly support policies which are inherently destructive to America itself. A decade of war with the Muslim world, combined with the conscious and deliberate demonization of Muslim-Americans by unscrupulous and opportunistic politicians and media figures has helped to turn a segment of society, which statistics have shown to be overwhelmingly loyal to the ideals of America, into an “enemy within” in the eyes of many of their fellow citizens.
While there does exist a threat from extremists in the Muslim community, this threat has most often emanated from solitary individuals, similar to the terrorist threats which have emanated from other religious communities. Study upon study has shown that the threat of terrorism against the United States from these individuals is not commensurate to the level of scrutiny and suspicion which Muslims in general receive, and that the strongest defense comes from developing trust between Muslim groups and the broader community itself. It is unlikely and unrealistic to expect that American Muslims will ever engage in the cheerleading for militarism that many find them lacking in, and some will continue to view this as grounds for charges of disloyalty or worse. The best antidote for this increasingly fraught situation is to call for an end to the perceived conflict between the United States and the Muslim world at large. Hatred and demagoguery is the necessary by-product of prolonged war; the United States has a Muslim population which is overwhelmingly well-integrated, productive and socially engaged. Sacrificing this relationship on an altar of hatred and demonization, and most importantly, in pursuit of ill-defined, self-destructive goals which are causing huge detriment to the American citizenry as well to the global standing of the U.S. is both morally and strategically questionable. Inasmuch as the acid test for “loyalty” in society will continue to rest upon the degree to which individuals support nihilistic militarism, America can only maintain its generally cohesive and harmonious society by putting to an end the prolonged wars which are slowly tearing at its diverse social fabric; one of its most unique features and one of its greatest sources of strength and moral authority.