A Knight-Ridder puff piece on Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), by columnist Leonard Pitts:
You could tell he’d had enough.
I’m talking about Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations and the news media’s go-to guy on issues related to Islam and terrorism.
This particular morning, he was being interviewed on an all-news radio station in Washington when the anchor asked a pointed, predictable question: Why don’t we ever hear Muslims and Muslim leaders condemn terrorist atrocities carried out in the name of their faith?
You could almost hear the vein in Hooper’s temple begin to vibrate. He answered in a frustrated voice that he in fact condemns such barbarity all the time, and that he e-mails statements saying so to a wide variety of news outlets, including this particular anchor’s own station.
He was still fuming when I reached him by phone an hour later. The question, he said, surfaces in every radio interview. “I spend half my time writing condemnations of terrorism,” he told me, “and nobody seems to be paying attention. And when we say something like, `Gee, an Islamic Center in El Paso was firebombed on Friday, isn’t that worthy of condemnation too?’ … it’s almost as if people believe Muslims deserve it.”
Ibrahim, Ibrahim, Ibrahim. You poor guy. Here: I’ll make you feel better. I condemn the firebombing of the Islamic Center in El Paso — not that I had anything to do with it. I believe in due process and the rule of law.
But Ibrahim, my friend, I’ll give you a tip: there are reasons why people don’t seem to register your condemnations, and they don’t all originate in blind prejudice. People are skeptical of your condemnations because there is no significant anti-terror movement within Islam: condemnations are nice, but they don’t stop terrorists, and there don’t seem to be any efforts within the Islamic community to do anything to stop the growth of Islamic terrorism. Even many of the condemnations themselves are plainly inadequate on Islamic grounds, which makes people wonder if they are intended more to reassure non-Muslims than to disarm radical Muslims.
And finally, Ibrahim, people are skeptical of your condemnations because of CAIR’s own record. There is the little matter of the terror ties of CAIR’s Royer, Khafagi, and Elashi. And the doubts aroused by your refusal to answer another series of questions “” which if you did answer in a satisfactory fashion, would reassure many about CAIR.
Pitts goes on:
I support CAIR’s contention that it condemns Islamic terrorism, having frequently seen such statements in news coverage and on the group’s Web site. “I don’t know what more we can do,” Hooper said.
But it occurs to me that maybe we’re debating the wrong question. Maybe it isn’t why don’t American Muslims condemn terrorism. Maybe it’s why should they have to.
I am reminded of a 1985 controversy in Los Angeles. Louis Farrakhan was coming to give a speech, and Jewish leaders were pressuring Tom Bradley, the city’s mayor, to denounce him. Bradley, a black, believed he had negotiated a deal with Farrakhan to moderate his rhetoric, and he refused. If there was an agreement, Farrakhan reneged. In his speech, he called Israel a “wicked hypocrisy.”
Still, some of us were irked by the Jewish leaders’ demand. Bradley enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as a cross-cultural coalition builder; there was nothing about him that indicated even a whiff of anti-Semitism. But in requiring him to denounce Farrakhan, leaders of the Jewish community seemed to say none of that mattered, seemed to say he still needed to prove himself.
It’s a paradigm that’s as old as pluralistic society. It would never occur to us to require that Billy Graham condemn Eric Rudolph, the nominal Christian who allegedly bombed two abortion clinics, a gay nightclub and the Atlanta Olympics.
But the rules are different for minorities, whether religious, sexual or racial. Them we keep on probation, their acceptance conditioned on an unspoken understanding that their loyalty to our mores is always suspect.
It’s not fair, but it is real. So Hooper swallows his frustration and dutifully sends out a statement of condemnation every time some Muslim fanatic misbehaves.
Pitts should know better. He should know that Billy Graham didn’t have to condemn Eric Rudolph because Rudolph, even if he was a “nominal Christian,” was not bombing people based on principles that Graham or any other Christian preacher taught. But in Islam sermons exhorting Muslims to violence in the name of religion have been abundantly documented — at this site many times. If Hooper were working with those imams to get them to cut out the violence, and none were listening, he might have reason to be frustrated. But as it is, if he is really getting the kind of reception that Pitts outlines in this piece, he has no one to blame but himself.