Every group of people - at least political and religious groups - has its crazies. I use "crazies" for lack of a better term; "extrements" doesn't adequately describe them. By "crazies", I mean people who either do or say things that are deliberately harmful to others (an inadequate description, but. . . ), or who exhibit behavior based on perceptions not grounded in what could reasonably be considered "reality". Some examples of "crazies": 1)Islamic extremists who seek to kill American civilians just because they are Americans; 2)Left Wingers who think George W. Bush is comparable to Hitler or Dick Cheney to the AntiChrist (although I think my friend was kidding about that one); 3)Right Wingers who claim that Obama is a Communist or a Moslem; 4) Virtually anyone who believes in long running secret historical conspiracies such as the Illuminati, 5) Anyone who believes that the commandments of their religion or God or political beliefs should automatically be accepted as true by those who do not share those beliefs. There are many other potential examples, and I realize that we all have our own classifications.
Anyway, one hears a lot from the conservative press about the alleged failure of the Islamic Community to disown its crazies (much less control them). I think the conservatives have a point here, but not much of one. What I have heard from the Islamic Community in the United States is that terrorists who attack the United States are the bad guys. In other words, our own Islamic Community has disowned these guys, as they certainly should. There is some dithering about Hamas, the PLO, and the situation in the middle east, but, as far as I know, Hamas, while certainly a terrorist organization, has not directly attacked the United States. Elements of the IRA were certainly terrorists who attacked our allies, and I do not remember any of our politicians demanding that the Irish-American Community speak out against the IRA.
The international Islamic Community is neither adequately disowning or controlling their crazies. Frankly, I do not think the more responsible elements of that community have the power to do so. Indeed, I suspect most of the harm done by Islamic crazies is to other Moslems. This is not surprising; fundamentalists always hate Heretics more than mere Unbelievers. Where the "moderates" seem to be in control (Indonesia?), there are certainly not a lot of terrorist training camps, but not necessarily a lot of condemnation either. While regrettable, I would suggest that this is entirely understandable.
Any group with a shared system of belief is hesitant to turn against its own members at the behest of outsiders. This is particularly true if the group in question sees itself as being either historically or currently oppressed or in danger of being oppressed. The general thinking is that "you either have to be for us or against us, maybe because we are in "danger" or, to put it another way, "we will either hang together or hang separately". In the case of the Moslems, some may also fear being killed if they speak out against the terrorists.
For example, take my fellow Jews [as Henny Youngman would say, "Please"]. I support the existence of the State of Israel, but if and when the Israeli Government takes what I believe to be an ill-advised action or fails to restrain its own crazies [and there are a lot of them, although they generally seem to avoid civilian massacres], I will tell those few who may ask what I think that I disapprove. However, if I made my disapproval public [this Blog does not count as "public"], I would risk being branded by other Jews and/or other organizations as anti-semetic or anti-Israeli. Even Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama were and are often accused of being anti-Israeli if they voice any criticism of the actions of the Israeli Government. Why should we expect the Moslems, or the members of the Tea Party - who certainly see themselves as marginalized, ignored and even oppressed by their own government - to behave any differently? [Aha. Didn't expect the Tea Party there, did you? In the words of Monty Python, "No one expects the Tea Party!"]
It seems that groups psychologically secure in their position are less inclined to "circle the wagons" when one of their own is attacked. The most recent example of this is the crazy Minister at the Dove Church in Florida who was going to burn as many Qurans as he could obtain. It seemed to me like most main line Church leaders in the U.S. were very public in their negative reaction, although it might be partly because of an identification with organized religions and their sacred texts as part of their own "group".
Standing up for one's group is natural, but it may also be a luxury that we cannot afford. The phrase that comes to my mind, at least when it comes to Israel, is "friends don't let friends drive drunk" (although we Americans do not and should not have the power to "let" the Israelis do anything. It's their county, and their survival. But that should not stop me from telling my "friend" when I think he's being really stupid). When members or our "family" take actions which we believe to be destructive to the interests of the group as a whole, and possibly to themselves as well, we owe it to ourselves and to them to call them on it. Privately, if practical; publically, if necessary.
Some will see this as naive. It may be. After all, what if I criticize my own crazies [for example, certain Israeli groups and certain liberal politicians], but the other groups stand by theirs [for example, Hamas and Rush Limbaugh]? Not likely to lead to a good or "fair" outcome, is it? Perhaps one needs to fight fire with fire.
However, when I see a political commercial from a liberal politician filled with misleading statements about his opponent - who has himself been running similarly misleading commercials about the liberal for weeks, my first reaction is not to think of the "payback" as fair; it is sadness and disgust. My attachment to what I perceive to be truth - or at least the absence of silly lies - is probably irrational, but it's there. I think those who claim to be the leaders of our groups - both political and religious - need to speak out, and , in the words of my 22 year old Son, "Call Bullshit" when they see it, and the rest of us have to disown rather than reward ideological purity for its own sake [more on that in a later Post, I hope]. I saw John McCain tell the truth when a questioner at a rally in 2008 claimed that Obama was a Muslim. McCain said, in essence. "no, he's not." McCain did not weasel. The contrast between that and the Republican leadership in 2010 is pretty disgusting.
Just remember, if our leaders tolerate "big lies" on the grounds of political expediency [and they will if it works], and if we let them do so, that's when we may wind up with someone who really does resemble Hitler [dramatic hyperbole, but I couldn't resist it]. Enough.