...The firing of Williams, who is also a paid commentator with Fox News, sparked a heated argument over political correctness -- and calls for the public "defunding" of NPR -- that is, in part, obscuring a more necessary debate: How do you approach the problem of Islamic militancy in the West and in the Middle East? President Obama, who has had innumerable briefings on the threats posed by al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups, has chosen to dial down American rhetoric (it was actually pretty tame under President George W. Bush) in the hope that average Muslims, wherever they may be, will view the United States as more friend than foe, and help Washington combat "violent extremism."About the author of the above:
This friendly approach is probably, unfortunately, counterproductive.So far, it's unlikely that Muslim self-criticism -- our ultimate salvation from Islamic holy warriors -- has improved under Obama. Judging by the satellite channel Al-Jazeera, a vibrant hodgepodge of all things Arab, the opposite current, fed by Western self-doubt, appears to be gaining force. By being nice, we suggest that nothing within "Islam" -- by which I mean the 1,400-year-old evolving marriage of faith, culture and politics -- is terribly wrong. By being kind, we fail to provoke controversy among Muslims about why so many Muslims from so many lands have called suicide bombers against Western targets "martyrs" and not monsters. Worst of all, by being considerate we fail to echo the great Muslim dissidents, deeply religious men such as the Iranians Abdolkarim Soroush and Mohammad Mojtahed Shabestari, who see that something has gone very wrong within their country and their civilization. The president would do well to be more nuanced in his outreach to the Muslim world, giving more sustenance to those who see its systemic problems.
It is not surprising, however, that some Westerners are having a more vivid debate about Islam's travails than most Muslims are having. Williams may not be a student of Islam, but he's got good eyes and a decent heart. Would that the executives at NPR were as perspicacious and liberal.
Reuel Marc Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and author of the forthcoming book "The Wave: Man, God, and the Ballot Box in the Middle East."Could it be that the firing of Juan Williams from NPR will backfire on Obama too?