John Leo

Why do CAIR and other groups push the "bias" button so hard? Well, the victim stance works. It attracts press attention and has made the "bias against Muslims" article a staple of big-city dailies. It encourages Muslims to feel angry and non-Muslims to feel guilty. It raises a great deal of money, garners a lot of TV time, and gets the attention of Congress. And by pre-positioning all future criticism as bias, it tends to intimidate or silence even the most sensible critics. From a lobbying point of view, who would want to give up a set of advantages like this?

I have an answer right here: anybody who thinks the future is more important than strumming the same old bias guitar for several more years. The obsession with bigotry is delaying the honest discussion Muslims have to have with non-Muslims in America. Here's one conversational topic: In light of the threat from Islamist terrorists, what kind of heightened scrutiny of Muslims in America is appropriate and fair? By insisting that all such heightened scrutiny is illegitimate "racial profiling," the Muslim lobby and its allies have in effect banned rational discussion. In response, the government has opted for a broad policy of hypocrisy, denouncing racial profiling in public while encouraging it among workers who have the job of guarding against terrorism. Officially, it is committed to the notion that a Swedish nun is as likely to set off a bomb as a young male visitor from Iran.

Another important conversation, currently frozen by the bias issue, is the role of national identity. Many people around the world are downgrading their national identity and looking for supranational or subnational identities-- like John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban. What is the impact of this trend on Muslims, who are historically more focused on a religious identity than a national one? And when Muslims abroad want to know how you feel about being both American and Muslim, what are you prepared to say? We notice that CAIR's new ad campaign, "Islam in America," has virtually nothing in it about living in America, feeling American, or sensibilities shared with people of other faiths and no faith. So how about it? Can we get beyond bias and talk about this?

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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