March 12, 2006
This week's Voldemort Award goes to the New York Times for their account of a curious case of road rage in North Carolina:
"The man charged with nine counts of attempted murder for driving a Jeep through a crowd at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last Friday told the police that he deliberately rented a four-wheel-drive vehicle so he could 'run over things and keep going.' "
The driver in question was Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar.
Whoa, don't jump to conclusions. The Times certainly didn't. As the report continued:
"According to statements taken by the police, Mr. Taheri-azar, 22, an Iranian-born graduate of the university, felt that the United States government had been 'killing his people across the sea' and that his actions reflected 'an eye for an eye.'"
"His people"? And who exactly would that be? Taheri-azar is admirably upfront about his actions. As he told police, he wanted to "avenge the deaths or murders of Muslims around the world."
And yet the M-word appears nowhere in the Times report. Whether intentionally or not, they seem to be channeling the great Sufi theologian and jurist al-Ghazali, who died a millennium ago but whose first rule on the conduct of dhimmis -- non-Muslims in Muslim society -- seem to have been taken on board by the Western media:
The dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle. . . .
Are they teaching that at Columbia Journalism School yet?
A fellow called Mohammed mows down a bunch of students? Just one of those things -- like a gran'ma in my neck of the woods a couple of years back who hit the wrong pedal in the parking lot and ploughed through a McDonald's, leaving the place a hideous tangle of crumbled drywall, splattered patties and incendiary hot apple-pie filling. Yet, according to his own statements, Taheri-azar committed an act of ideological domestic terrorism, which he'd planned for two months. He told police he was more disappointed more students in his path weren't struck and that he'd rented the biggest vehicle the agency had in order to do as much damage to as many people as possible. The Persian car pet may have been flooring it, but the media are idling in neutral, if not actively reversing away from the story as fast as they can. Taheri-azar informed the judge he was "thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah," and it was apparently the will of Allah that he get behind the wheel of Allah.
Meanwhile, a new Washington Post/ABC poll finds that, in the words of the Post, "nearly half of Americans -- 46 percent -- have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Muslims were often targeted for violence."
"Often" targeted? Want to put some hard numbers on that? Like to compare the "violence" Americans perpetrated on Muslims after the slaughter of thousands of their fellow citizens in the name of Allah with, say, the death toll perpetrated by Muslims annoyed over some itsy-bitsy cartoons in an obscure Danish newspaper? In September 2001, 99.99999 percent of Americans behaved with remarkable forbearance. If they're less inclined to give the benefit of the doubt these days, perhaps it's because of casual slurs like the Post's or the no-jihad-to-see-here-folks tone of the Times.
Ronald Stockton of the University of Michigan doesn't see it that way: "You're getting a constant drumbeat of negative information about Islam," he told the Post. By "negative information," Professor Stockton presumably means the London bombings, and the Bali bombings, and the Madrid bombings and the Istanbul bombings. But surely it's worth asking why in 2006 the Washington Post needs a man with a name like "Ronald Stockton" to explain Islam to us? The diversity bores in the media go out of their way to hire writers of color, writers of gender, writers of orientation. Yet, five years after 9/11, where's the New York Times' Muslim columnist? Where's the ''Today Show's'' Islamic weather girl? Why, indeed, are all the Muslim voices in the press broadly on the right -- Amir Taheri in the New York Post, Stephen Schwartz in the Weekly Standard, Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal?
If Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar is not a free-lance terrorist, then what is he? Who is he? What's he thinking? In the absence of any explanatory voices from the Muslim community, all we have are the bare bones of his resume: He's a 22-year old UNC psychology major who graduated in December. And what's revealing is the link between Taheri-azar's grievance and his action.
Take him at his word: He's upset about "the treatment of Muslims around the world" -- presumably at the hands of Israelis on the West Bank, of the Russians in Chechnya, the Indians in Kashmir, the Americans in the Sunni Triangle and the Danes in the funny pages. So what does he do to avenge Islam? He goes to the rental agency, takes out the biggest car on the lot, drives it to UNC and rams it into the men and women he's spent the last few years studying with and socializing with -- the one group of infidels he knows really well.
How many Muslims feel similarly? Not many in America, perhaps -- if only when compared to Europe: For all the multiculti blather, the United States still does a better job assimilating immigrants than France or Germany. A recent poll found that 40 percent of British Muslims want sharia introduced in the United Kingdom and 20 percent sympathized with the "feelings and motives" of the July 7 London Tube bombers. Or, more accurately, 20 percent were prepared to admit to a pollster they felt sympathy, which suggests the real figure might be somewhat higher. Huge numbers of Muslims -- many of them British subjects born and bred -- see their fellow Britons blown apart on trains and buses and are willing to rationalize the actions of mass murderers.
"East is east and west is west/And ne'er the twain shall meet," wrote Kipling. Obviously, they meet every moment of the day -- the cabbie driving you to your appointment in Washington, the affable fellow at the corner store. But proximity isn't the same as understanding: Taheri-azar and that 20 percent of British Muslims think they know "the west" and they don't like it.
By contrast, the New York Times and Co. insist they like "the east" but go to an awful lot of trouble to avoid finding out anything that would ruffle their illusions. The twain would never meet, said Kipling, "till Earth and Sky meet presently/At God's great judgment seat."
I'd rather find out before then. Five years after Sept. 11, it's astonishing how little we still know about the West's Muslim populations.
©Mark Steyn, 2006