A couple of weeks ago I wrote here about a recent piece in the Nation, "Fear and Loathing of Islam," in which one Moustafa Bayoumi argued that the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are just ordinary people who want to live ordinary lives, and that any doubts about their loyalties, concerns about their potential radicalization, or official efforts to investigate the ideas spread in their mosques and other gathering places are nothing but manifestations of a poisonous and ignorant Islamophobia. The key word throughout Bayoumi's article was "ordinary": out of all the Muslims in America, only a few dozen – those, that is, who have been talked into joining terrorist groups – are a legitimate cause for worry; the rest, in all the ways that matter, are more or less just like the rest of us, and – most important – share our love of American and our devotion to its constitutional values.
First of all, there is ample reason to question Bayoumi's very low estimate of the number of domestic Muslim terrorists and would-be terrorists in the U.S. Reading recent news reports from Britain, about the arrest of six men (including a Muslim convert and a former police community support officer) who had been plotting a terror attack in that country, and from Norway, about a former member of the radical-left group Blitz who converted to Islam after marrying the daughter of a North African diplomat and has since been prepared by al-Qaeda to carry out a terrorist attack involving an American passenger plane, one cannot help suspecting that these men, and others like them who, over the years, happen to have been detected and arrested by the authorities in their respective countries, are only the tip of a very large and menacing iceberg.
In any case, as I argued in my earlier article, the more serious jihadist threat, in America and throughout the West, is not terrorism – which, after all, usually proves to be counterproductive, in that it reminds infidels of the ever-present danger of triumphalist Islamic ideology – but rather the phenomenon that has been described as "soft" or "stealth" jihad.
Meet André Carson. When people like Bayoumi write articles designed to convince the rest of us that American Muslims are overwhelmingly moderate, successfully integrated, and thoroughly harmless, it is standard practice for them to point to the high proportion of American Muslims who are respected doctors, prosperous businessmen, and the like – the premise being that well-to-do professionals can't also be terrorists, a ridiculous notion which (even in the wake of the involvement of Muslim physicians in the attempted 2007 car bombings in London and the attack at Glasgow Airport the same year) somehow continues to be taken seriously.
On the face of it, Carson would seem to be the epitome of this kind of exemplary American Muslim. The grandson of an Indiana congresswoman, he earned degrees in in Criminal Justice Management and Business Management, worked as an investigator for the Indiana State Excise Police, led anti-terrorism efforts under the auspices of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, then became a marketing specialist for an architectural and engineering firm in Indianapolis. In 2008, after a stint in local politics, he was chosen in a special election to succeed his recently deceased grandmother in the House of Representatives. And, yes, he is a Muslim – one of two currently serving in Congress, the other one, of course, being Minnesota's Keith Ellison. After his first election to the House, Carson served-up a self-description that perfectly articulated the ordinary-Muslim mantra: "I'm a proud Hoosier….I'm an Indy 500 Hoosier, I'm a Covered Bridge Festival Hoosier, I'm a Black Expo Hoosier, I'm a state fair Hoosier. I just happen to be a Hoosier of the Muslim faith."
Then, the other day, a video surfaced of a speech Carson gave on May 26 in Hartford, Connecticut, at the annual convention of the Islamic Circle of North America and Muslim American Society. "America," Carson told his congregated coreligionists, "will never tap into educational innovation and ingenuity without looking at the model that we have in our madrassas, in our schools, where innovation is encouraged, where the foundation is the Koran…..America must understand that she needs Muslims."
In short, Carson was giving a thumbs-up to Koran schools – schools that, as a rule, scarcely deserve to be described as schools, because they do not open minds but close them; they do not teach young people to engage in independent critical thinking but instruct them to engage in reflexive criticism (sometimes in the form of high-tech explosives) of independent thinking. Typically, a madrassa focuses chiefly on one thing – the memorization of the Koran. This all-important activity may, in some cases, be supplemented with training in such subjects as sharia law, the sayings of Muhammed, and the Arabic language. The objective of this indoctrination (for it is certainly not education) is to turn out perfectly brainwashed orthodox Muslims – people who are constitutionally incapable of questioning any aspect of the faith. This, then, is what Congressman Carson was recommending for America.
By the time you read these words, to be sure, he may already have made a public statement insisting that he misspoke or that he has been misunderstood. I frankly don't care what kind of statement he comes out with; it is perfectly clear to me that, in the company of his fellow Muslims, Carson quite simply said what he really thought. Perhaps, caught up in the excitement of the moment, it did not occur to him that his words might be transmitted beyond that auditorium. Or perhaps, fired up by the passion of his faith, he didn't even care, for the moment, whether his words went public.
In any event, it is not as if his comments in Hartford are entirely at odds with his previous record. "Some of them in Congress right now with this Tea Party movement," Carson told his audience at a "job tour" that was arranged in Miami last August by the Congressional Black Caucus, "would love to see you and me…hanging on a tree." This is, note well, also the man who, in March 2010, informed reporters that Tea Party activists protesting against Obamacare on Capitol Hill had shouted racial slurs at him and Congressman John Lewis as they walked past the crowd. Lewis himself never corroborated the claim; videos taken at the time of the alleged incident seemed to disprove it; when Andrew Breitbart offered to pay $100,000 to anyone who could produce a video substantiating Carson's charge, nobody came forward.
Oh well – so it goes. The mask falls from yet another loyal American who "just happens to be" of the Muslim faith. And once again those of us who dare to wonder about the true convictions and loyalties of many purportedly "ordinary" Muslim Americans are forcefully reminded that our concerns are, indeed, amply justified.