I’ve written about this before, (for example, here and here) but the most recent example appeared in the Washington Post kicking off a series on American Muslims pegged to the upcoming 10th 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? President George W. Bush who called Islam “a religion of peace”? President 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?