Jewish World Review Oct. 28, 2003 / 2 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Stanley Crouch

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War shuts borders, and this is war | One of the problems with the way cultural relativism has fallen upon us in our time is that we are only supposed to be critical inward. Any criticisms of other cultures or other systems of belief or other modes of social conduct are dismissed as expressions of some sort of bigotry. There was merit to this thinking at first.

After all, the history of conquest and colonialism was thick with examples of how native peoples had been abused and exploited, sometimes exterminated, on the basis of the claim that their beliefs were "primitive" or "savage," meaning that it was all right if the people themselves disappeared from the Earth.

It seems to me, however, that almost all human endeavors have a bright and a dark side. The dark sides of activities and beliefs beyond our shores should be examined with the same intensity as we have examined our American dark sides, almost from the start of the nation itself, and with ever increasing - and enlightened - intensity.

In our present war, we are up to our necks in this problem, primarily because any criticism of Muslims can be interpreted as bigotry toward all its believers. The upshot is that we seem to continue pussyfooting around our troubles and not making it clear to the public what is going on and how we have to handle it.

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I have been writing for a while in this space that I believe we should have a moratorium on immigration from anywhere in the Islamic world because the nature of destructive technology is such that even very small numbers of immigrants - 19, for instance - can kill large numbers of people if that is their mission. War always shuts down borders, and we are, ladies and gentlemen, in a war.

This has always been responded to as a bigoted idea when, according to critics, we can easily see that Islam is a religion of peace and the great majority of Muslims are not terrorists. I'm not concerned about the great majority of Muslims outside America, but I am sure that within that great majority are thousands of believers who would gleefully bring off any version of Sept. 11 if they could.

So it seems to me that we have no choice. Circumstances are such that we should not be manipulated by arguments that do not obtain in our present situation. We have to move with resolve, with good sense and a sensitivity to the dangerous potential for hysteria that can result from focusing on any group.

We also need to understand that the American Muslim community has been of virtually no help at all in our war against urban terrorism. Perhaps they fear, as other minority groups have so often, that if they turn in, even anonymously, some suspicious person or group, hell will come down on all who share belief in the same religion. I think the response would be the reverse.

What American Muslims need to understand, however, is that this is not a Muslim country, or else they would have probably been slaughtered in the thousands after Sept. 11. The public hysteria would have been parallel to the sort Americans saw from Southern redneck whites who were always ready to string a Negro up, cut off his fingers and toes for souvenirs and burn him, dead or alive, feeling more white and righteous with each puff of smoke they inhaled.

Gone are those days. So we need to face what we have to face and do what we have to do.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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