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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"Stars, Stripes, Crescent: A reassuring portrait of America's Muslims"

A "featured article" on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page addressed what has been on the minds of many Americans since the July 7, 2005, London bombings: if "homegrown terrorists" can strike London, then is it possible or likely that American-born Muslim youths will attack the United States?

The authors of the article, Bret Stephens and Joseph Rago, argue that there are five differences between American Muslims and British Muslims that should assuage American concerns that "homegrown terrorism" will strike the United States. (To clarify, American-born terrorists have attacked the U.S. before, e.g., Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph. Therefore, the "homegrown terrorism" that is at issue here is of the Muslim variety only.):
  1. Muslim Americans, like Arab-Americans, have fared well [economically] in the U.S.;
  2. [T]he overwhelming majority of Muslims arrived here legally, and many of those who didn't were deported after Sept. 11, 2001;
  3. 21% of Muslim Americans intermarry.... And because 64% of Muslim Americans are foreign born, there is reason to expect that figure to grow among second and third generations;
  4. [T]he average mosque-goer is 34 years old, married with children, has at least a bachelor's degree, and earns about $74,000 a year. If this is representative of Muslim Americans as a whole, it suggests that the religiously committed among them hardly fit the profile of the alienated, angry young Muslim men so common today in Europe; and
  5. Muslim Americans benefit from leaders who, despite some notable exceptions, are generally more responsible than Muslim leaders in Britain and Europe.

The authors note, in conclusion, that "if it can be said that 'it takes a village' to make a terrorist, the U.S. enjoys a measure of safety that our European allies do not. It is a blessing we will continue to enjoy as long as we remain an upwardly mobile, assimilating--and watchful--society."

A few quick comments regarding these five differences. First, as to point 2, illegal status isn't determinative of whether a person will commit an act of terrorism against the United States (again, e.g., Timothy McVeigh - a natural born citizen). As to point 3, the suggestion seems to be that if more Muslims marry people of other faiths, that they are less willing to be terrorists and conversely that we should be more concerned if Muslims marry eachother. This is pretty offensive on its face. As to point 4, one of the 7/7 bombers had a newborn child, which cuts against the argument that a stable family with something or someone to live for is less likely to end his life through a suicide bombing.


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