Five days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush made a
remark that sent a chill through America's six million Muslims. "This
crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while," he declared.
The following day, after the State Department was besieged by anguished
calls, the President made amends. "The face of terror is not the true faith
of Islam," he said. "That's not what Islam is all about."
Since then the Government has been careful to distinguish between the creed
of hatred espoused by al-Qaeda and the benign religion of peace-loving
Muslims. However, there remains a widespread suspicion of Muslims in
America, a wave of misgiving that is about to be given a boost by Kingdom
of Heaven, a new film by the British film-maker Ridley Scott, the director
of Blade Runner.
Kingdom of Heaven tells of the bloody war to drive out Christian forces
occupying Jerusalem waged by a young Arab, played by Orlando Bloom; the
parallels with the American occupation of Iraq are hard to avoid…
Despite the President's insistence that Muslims should not be treated
differently to other Americans, the search for terrorists within the United
States has been directed at them. Muslims complain of being unfairly
discriminated against by government officials and airport screeners simply
because of their appearance or because they have Muslim-sounding names.
Their anxiety has been fuelled by a series of recent events. In July it was
revealed that the Census Bureau has supplied the Department of Homeland
Security with the location and national origin of all Arab-Americans,
sensitive information that the department claims, bizarrely, is needed to
provide more Arab-language signs at airports.
While the Administration appears to be genuinely concerned not to invite
public hostility towards Muslims, the same cannot be said of many of the
President's most ardent supporters. Jerome R. Corsi, co-author of Unfit for
Command, which challenges the accuracy of John Kerry's military record, has
been accused of posting hateful anti-Muslim slurs on the internet…
While it is hard to distinguish much difference in their attitude towards
Israel and Islam of either the President, who is strongly pro-Israel, or
John Kerry, whose grandfather was Jewish, there is a ready alternative for
Muslims in the third-party candidate Ralph Nader. Although not a Muslim, Mr
Nader, who is of Lebanese-Christian descent, has backed three policies that
Arab-Americans prefer: withdrawal from Iraq, the repeal of the Patriot Act
and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The effect of Mr Nader attracting a large proportion of Muslim voters may
make all the difference between whether Mr Bush or Mr Kerry wins in November