I think Paul Campos' response to the shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum yesterday is worth pondering.
If radical Muslims had carried out terrorist attacks in Kansas and Washington DC over the past five days, we might be trying to pass legislation giving the president the legal authority to place people in preventive detention, and Daniel Pipes would be implying that we need to round up Arab-Americans (correction: Muslims) and put them in relocation camps.
But it was only a couple of old white guys, so our civil liberties remain unthreatened.
There's been a startling trend of fringe-right violence recently, from Richard Poplawski to Scott Roeder and now James Von Brunn. But we view these instances of violence as the acts of deranged individuals rather than of groups because they are white men. Campos' hypothetical isn't mere snark, Michelle Malkin wrote an entire book defending the internment on the basis of race in the case of Japanese internment during World War II. Cliff May argued that torture is justified against Muslims because they're Muslim. Republicans have opposed the transfer of terrorists to American prisons on the grounds that our prison facilities might not be able to hold them, and Ed Morrisey is apparently planning his vacation around avoiding the recently relocated Chinese Uighurs. Imagine what attempting to close Gitmo, banning torture, or even withdrawing from Iraq would look like in the aftermath of three attacks perpetrated by Muslim rather than right-wing extremists.
Campos' post implies an unsettling question. How much of the call for "extraordinary measures" in fighting terrorism has to do with the unique challenges of fighting global terrorism, and how much of it has to do with an irrational, orientalist fear of all things Arab and Muslim?
-- A. Serwer
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