As Brits stiffen their upper lips and politicians hustle to reiterate that Islam is not the problem, cognitive dissonance grips the planet.
If Islam is not the problem, what is? And are we not inviting self-defeat by refusing to recognize that Islam is at least part of the problem?
Now that xenophobes are licking their chops, let me offer the requisite disclaimer. Most Muslims despise the barbaric tactics of radicals who have hijacked their religion in order to justify killing innocent civilians. The majority of Muslims don't deserve contempt from non-Muslims any more than infidels deserve "justice" administered by maniacs.
To their credit, Muslim organizations are swift to condemn each new terrorist attack. They also are quick to point out that fanatics are a tiny minority and account for only about 1 percent of Muslims worldwide.
These are comforting thoughts unless you happen to be riding the bus with a constituent of that 1 percent. Or unless you're mathematically inclined, in which case you easily see - as Arnaud de Borchgrave recently pointed out - that 1 percent of the world's estimated 1.2 billion Muslims is 12 million Muslim fanatics who consider the U.S. and other Westerners operatives of Satan.
That's roughly the population of Ohio. If everyone in Ohio adhered to radical Islam, we'd likely conclude that we have more than a small problem, and we also might observe that Islam is closely associated with that problem.
For our second disclaimer, we note that Islam doesn't have a corner on fanaticism. Sometime next year, South Carolinians can look forward to an influx of "conservative Christians" who intend to migrate and saturate the state with voters whose aim is to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Ten Commandments. Or urge secession.
Leader Cory Burnell (christianexodus.org) has conceded that "People are going to call us crazy," and he's right. But so far, he's only urging that followers adhere to the Ten Commandments, which among other things forbids killing other people. When he starts urging teens to strap on bombs and blow up children, we'll get back to you.
Meanwhile, he's unlikely to have much effect as Americans - even South Carolinians who, admittedly, have a higher-than-average threshold for eccentricity - don't hesitate to call a wacko a wacko. "Sit down and shut up" rolls off the tongue in our self-correcting culture, especially when the targets are white Christians.
We seem to have more difficulty speaking up when other religious or ethnic groups are involved. Our diversity training, our cultural predisposition for tolerance, our heritage of immigration and America's characteristic good nature make criticism of minorities and minority beliefs unpalatable.
Which is why moderate Muslims must be unrelenting in (ITALICS) eliminating - not just condemning - Islam's bad actors. When a Muslim cleric urges jihad against infidels, it falls to fellow Muslims to clean out the mosque, to rid Allah's kingdom of radicals. Otherwise, it becomes increasingly difficult for non-Muslims to wrap their minds around "Islam isn't the problem."
It's not enough to assert that 12 million hate-filled zealots who advocate murdering Americans and Europeans are a minority and then, feeling virtuous, return to the business of registering Muslim voters and issuing press releases about insults to Islam.
Fifty years ago when American "radicals" burned crosses and lynched blacks in organized, choreographed acts of terror, the Ku Klux Klan was only a tiny minority of white Christians. The vast majority of whites, like the vast majority of Muslims, would never do such a thing. And yet for too long, decent whites weren't activist enough in purging the evildoers from their midst.
Zero tolerance is what we're looking for here.
After the bombings that killed some 50 in London, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a statement that said in part: "These vicious acts of terrorism deserve the strongest possible condemnation by all civilized people."
That's nice, but we've heard these words before. At this point - after 9/11, 3/11 and now 7/7 - they are background noise, providing no comfort and little assurance other than that cliches are indiscriminate. We also know that in Muslim nations around the world - as well as in mosques elsewhere - the susurration of prayer is often silenced by the sound of celebration when a terrorist takes out another busload of "infidels."
Until the hatred that breeds that kind of cultic dementia is eliminated by the moderate Muslims who insist on the West's understanding, Islam has a problem.