At war with ‘Granny Fricken’

Television host Bill O’Reilly said on air last year, “We’re not at war with granny fricken, we’re at war with Muslim fanatics… the terror war is driven by them.”

Television host Bill O’Reilly said on air last year, “We’re not at war with granny fricken, we’re at war with Muslim fanatics… the terror war is driven by them.” On the Aug. 16, 2006 edition of his political talk show The O’Reilly Factor, this was part of his argument for profiling Muslims at airports to fight terror. O’Reilly’s view was that it isn’t racial profiling, it’s “criminal profiling.”

How can any American advocate such a concept? Unfortunately, comments and attitudes such as his are merely symptoms of a much larger problem.

O’Reilly may be just one of many in our society that have such an outlook. While running for Congress in Wisconsin last year, Paul Nelson promoted similar views. When asked how to identify Muslims, he answered, “If he comes in wearing a turban and his name is Mohammed, that’s a good start.”

In the years since our awakening to major terrorism, many changes have been made in the United States to accommodate the global environment we face and its threats. But we must be careful that the strategies we use to secure our country don’t include tactics that stray from our American ideals. As advanced as we claim to be when it comes to civil rights and tolerance, it may seem that we are falling back into our shameful old ways, and Muslims are the targets.

A 2004 survey by Cornell University showed that 44 percent of Americans felt okay with restricting the civil liberties of Muslim Americans. Is this the same country that built itself on the foundation that all men are created equal and have a right to life and liberty? To assume that Muslims pose a threat that requires limiting their rights is to also assume that they have a claim on terrorism. Is this true? The 42 bombings and arson attacks on abortion clinics in the United States within the last 10 years refute that assumption. Or the 4,895 racial hate crimes and 1,213 sexual orientation hate crimes committed in our country last year alone. What of the 36 violent school shootings on American soil in the last decade? Is it so easy to forget the largest terrorist attack on the United States before Sept. 11 was in Oklahoma in 1995? The attack was planned and carried out by non-Muslim Americans.

We have followed this path before, where America has intruded upon the lives of its citizens and denied them their liberty. During World War II, as Germany drew scrutiny over its concentration camps, America constructed its own internment camps. This was due to the fear and paranoia caused by an attack on the U.S. by Japan, a nation many had immigrated from. About 120,000 citizens were forced into these camps based on the idea that they posed a possible threat. A total 11,000 German and Latin Americans were also forced into camps because of their ancestry and heritage, without acknowledgment of their American heritage and their rights as U.S. citizens. This was completely unwarranted, and, considering it, one must wonder: have we forgotten the lessons of our past?

Some find it evident that the turmoil seen on TV coming from nations with Islamic influence suggests that Muslims are universally suspicious. To this I quote something a high school teacher once told me: “A frog is green, but not all frogs are green, and not all green things are frogs.” Meaning, some Muslims certainly have committed terrorism, but that doesn’t account for all Muslims. Muslims do not instigate all terrorism, just as all Christians don’t spend their time bombing abortion clinics. All terrorism is not the work of Muslims, and thus it is horrifyingly wrong for America to limit the rights of all Muslims.

Terrorism is a threat and an issue that concerns all living people regardless of religion, nationality or politics. Muslims do not corner the market on terrorism. Acts of violence and terror are caused by a variety of groups. As we continue in the sixth year since the tragedy of Sept. 11, we must be strong in our stance against such threats to us, but in doing so we must also be careful not to repeat history or risk losing the spirit of what makes us the country that we are.