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As I watched the news of the latest terror attack in New York City earlier this month, my oldest daughter asked me a simple question. “Dad, why do people do these things?” The terror attack in New York City prompted a further array of questions. “Some people hate others because they are different,” I say in a sad tone. “But I’m not different,” she says.
It is impossible to convey the mixture of heartbreak and fear I feel for her. This constant stream of jihadist attacks have made it clear that I will teach my daughter the lesson generations old, one that I, as an immigrant from a majority Muslim country, for the most part nearly escaped. I will teach her to be cautious, I will teach her suspicion, and I will teach her distrust. Much sooner than I thought I would, I will have to discuss with my daughter whether she can truly be friends with Muslim people.
Meaningful friendship is not just a feeling. It is not simply being able to share a beer. Real friendship is impossible without the ability to trust others, without knowing that your well-being is important to them.
History has provided little reason to trust Muslim people in this way, and these recent years have put in perspective the pure contempt that people of that faith have for those who hold western values.
Likewise, despite decades of robust evidence of continuing Islamic terror, attacks that occur are met with cries that we must understand why this was done to us.
As against our gauzy national hopes, I will teach my daughter to have profound doubts that friendship with Muslim people is possible. Spare me platitudes of how we are all the same on the inside. I first have to keep my daughters safe, and so I will teach her before the world shows her this particular brand of rending, violent, often fatal betrayal.
Let me assure you that my heartbreak dwarfs my anger. I grew up in a majority Muslim country. With all its faults, it was a happy-childhood. But what’s surprising is that I am heartbroken at all. It is only for Jewish people who grew up in such a place that watching these Islamic extremist groups is so disorienting. I suppose the ridiculous thing was thinking friendship was possible in the first place. It hurts only if you believed friendship could bridge the cultural gorge.
Imagining we can now be friends across this cultural line is asking us to ignore our safety and that of our children, to abandon personal regard and self-worth. Only Muslim people can cordon off the actions of these terror groups and ignore the “unpleasantness” from a position of safety. The past decade or so has fixed the awful thought in my mind too familiar to westerners: “You can’t trust these people.”
It is not ISIS or Al Qaeda itself who has done this; we have seen their type before. Rather, what has truly broken my heart are the ranks of Islam’s many allies and apologists.
But the deepest rift is with the apologists, the “good” Muslims, the Muslims who understand that these terror groups do “unfortunate” things but don’t speak out against them. They bristle at the accusation that their silence supports terror, insisting they have to ignore these Jihadi attacks. Relying on everyday decency as a shield, they are befuddled at the chill that now separates them from western culture in their offices and social circles. They protest: Have they ever said anything supportive of violence? Don’t they shovel the sidewalk of the new neighbors? Surely, they say, their religion does not mean we can’t be friends.
I do not write this with condescension or glee. My heart is unbearably heavy when I assure you we cannot be friends.
The same is true, unfortunately, of those who hold no quarter for Islamic terror groups but insist that westerners need to do the reaching out, the moderating, the accommodating. Imagine the Muslim who dislikes innocent people in western countries being blown up but wished the whole thing would just settle down. However likable, you could not properly describe her as a friend. Sometimes culture makes demands on the soul.
Don’t misunderstand: Muslims and western citizens can like one another. But real friendship? ISIS and Al Qaeda’s horrific mission props up outrageous claims of western devils, threatening the very body of the little girl I love. No amount of shoveled snow makes it all right, and too many imagine they can have it both ways. It is this desperation to reap the rewards of Islamic supremacy without being so much as indicted that Frank Gaffney recognized as America’s criminal innocence.
We have been encouraged to reach across cultural lines. But there is a difference between simple disagreement and fighting for your very survival in the world, the bodies of your children, your humanity.
We can still all pretend we are friends. If meaningful civic friendship is impossible, we can make do with mere civility — sharing drinks and watching the game. Indeed, even in a world where these jihadist attacks occur, I have not given up on being friends with all Muslim people. In fact, having grown up in a majority Muslim country, some of my dearest friends are Muslim. But these are the friends who have rushed in to condemn the latest terror attack or inhumane action by an Islamist state, people who have shared the risks required by strength and decency.
There is hope, though. It falls to us to do better. We cannot agree on our politics, but we can declare that we stand beside one another against this terror; that we live together and not simply beside one another. In the coming years, when my daughter asks her questions again, I pray for more hopeful answers.
****PLEASE NOTE: The above was written as satire. It is not meant to be taken seriously and in no way represents how I actually feel. The article is a response to this op-ed in the New York Times. In fact, some of the sentences are virtually word for word with “Muslim” put in place of “White.” The point of this was to show how ignorant and bigoted the NY Times op-ed was. Hopefully, by seeing what this NY Times op-ed would mean if it had been written about Muslims, you can now see how awful the sentiment behind it truly was.****