I've spent the last few months watching the BBC's 1973 mini-series titled, "The World at War" about World War II. It's a fantastic study of the war. It doesn't demonize the Axis; it doesn't revere the Allies. It recognizes that the vast majority of participants were just everyday people trying to live their lives as best they could in unbearable circumstances. It would be great to have a production of this quality done today with all of the information we know from after the fall of the Soviet Union and the declassification of many documents.
I bring this up because one of the important threads from WWII was the persecution of minority groups and how the general population was led from (often) having some underlying negative feelings towards these groups in general to willingly rounding them up and shipping them off to their slaughter.
With these lessons fresh in my mind some of the rhetoric I'm seeing in the news as it relates to Muslims is concerning. Do I think the U.S. is on the verge of rounding up Muslims in to concentrations camps like we did U.S. citizens of Japanese descent during WWII? Not today. I hope not ever.
Nevertheless, rhetoric that riles up emotions of anger, mistrust, and fear will inevitably escalate to calls-to-action. Fearful members of the public will lash out in their own simple-minded ways. Activities like these people attempting to intimidate Muslims by standing outside their mosque with firearms and following around people who come and go will increase. Without some calming influence I fear it's only a matter of time before one of these people murders a Muslim and believes they are "protecting America."
I am heartened, however, by the counter-protesters who are calling out this dangerous activity. So long as counter-protesters keep showing up and are willing to defend those targeted by anger then I believe we can avoid national disgrace--and unmitigated bloodshed.
Last year, as part of obtaining a graduate certificate in national security affairs, I took a graduate course on the history of terrorism and counter-terrorism. One thing Americans seem to be playing directly in to is one of the recruiting tactics used by Islam-based terrorist organizations. The recruiting message is that the West is at war with Islam and that God (Allah) is calling them to fight. Anything we do as a country and as a people that provides evidence that this is true amplifies their message.
We need to be the calming influence that prevents these events from spiraling out of control. We need to show that we understand the difference between religion and violence that uses religion as an excuse.
Terrorism is a parasite that, throughout history, has infected one ideology after another. The current ideology that it infects is extremist Islam. It will eventually move on to find another host. When it does, how are we going to view ourselves and how we handled it?