DallasMorning Views Blog: "A telling moment"
This really happened.
It's a day or two after the 9/11 attacks, and I find myself sitting in a room in Brooklyn talking with about eight young Arab adults. All are Arab Christians, and all are worried that they will be mistaken for Muslims by outraged Americans, and suffer physical assault in the anti-Muslim backlash everybody was sure was coming (but which, in the end, didn't, thank God). All these Arabs in front of me are telling me that they live in a predominantly Muslim part of Brooklyn, and their Muslim neighbors are great guys, just the best.
I ask them if these Muslim neighbors support terrorism. Well, yes, they say, and give examples of things they'd heard the Muslim neighbors say. But really, they insist, you have to realize that these are good people.
Later, I wrap up the interview, and tell them I will be sure to quote their defense of their Muslim neighbors, despite the fact that these neighbors have in the past voiced support for terrorism. Suddenly, the Arab Christians' eyes get wide, and they all insist that I can't quote them. Please, they say, don't do it. Why not? I ask.
Because they'll hurt us, they say. All agree that to publicly criticize anything about their Islamic neighbors would open them up to physical assault. The only one who agreed to be quoted was a Maronite who had fought in a sectarian militia prior to emigrating to the US -- and even he was nervous.
"That's really interesting," I say. "You've all been telling me that we have nothing to worry about from your Muslim neighbors, but you won't allow yourself to be quoted saying that in the same article in which you say you've heard them make remarks supporting terrorism -- because you are afraid you will be physically injured. What does that tell us?"