I was startled to learn that manipulation of federal "no-fly" lists takes place simply as a means of recruiting potential informants: Young Moslem men are from time-to-time placed on the lists by federal authorities and then given a choice: Want to be treated as no threat? Then act like one. Tell us about your friends at the Mosque. We'll let you fly if you cooperate.
Many of you reading this won't be outraged the practice. We're at war with some part of Islam right? We need to take extraordinary measures in a war without end.
Arun Kundnani's The Muslims are Coming! (Verso, New York, 2014) is an account of how, and why, this war is being waged, primarily in Britain and in the United States, although he says plenty about Western Europe, as well. He makes a persuasive case that the West is blowing it, destroying the very liberties in whose names we say we act, creating conditions of dangerous frustration for others, and ignoring signs that the rest of the world might not be a willing participant in our fantasies of world leadership.
From the right come dire prognostications about a clash of civilizations, with Islam being portrayed less as an historic faith than as a totalitarian ideology bent on destroying Western democracies. The left doesn't do much better: it seeks to identify radical Islam, offering a hand of peace to "good" Moslems prepared to behave in ways we can accept. Both left and right are shadow boxing, creating an image of Islam as a dark peril that must be managed, and perhaps, extinguished.
We've revived the very worst of the old COINTELPRO programs once used against the Black Panthers, Martin Luther King and the left, and inspired thousands of new federal intelligence agents and their informants to fan out across the country keeping track of who says what to whom, all in the service of policing dangerous thoughts.
Stirring hatred of Islam is big business. According to the Council on American-Islamic relations, some 37 Islamophobic groups had revenue of $119 million from 2008 to 2011. That's a lot of hate money. Hate bloggers such as Pamela Geller, who apparently believes President Obama is a secret agent for Islam, are Internet stars. And it's too easy to be convicted of a crime if you have contributed to an Islamic charity - when everyone is a potential jihadist, you've got be careful to whom you give material support.
The result of this war on Islam is a generation of marginalized young people threatened, intimidated and afraid to express views that might place them on the radar of law-enforcement officers throughout the West trying to spot terrorists in the making. Flawed social science has created models of radicalization that cast criminal suspicion on mere dissent. Begone Protocols of the Elders of Zion - there's a new demon to hate, Islam.
The book is not particularly well written and could have used the hand of a deft editor. I struggled through the first few pages wondering if the book was worth the effort -- by the end of the first chapter, I was hooked. This is a convincing portrait of the genesis of a new form of hatred with harmful consequences not just to the scorned, but of those who find satisfaction in hatred.
Kundnani persuaded me we've lost the war on terror. The nation's roughly six million Moslems are a people under siege. Sure, there are probably a few terrorists lurking among them, as there are in White supremacists groups.
This sensible and well-reasoned book inspires a desire to extend a welcome hand to Islamic community. We've marginalized them and driven them undercover. We can win the war of terror by stop creating bogeymen we find such pleasure in hating.