Shortly after the London Tube bombings in 2005, a reader of Tim Blair, The Sydney Daily Telegraph's columnist wag, sent him a note-perfect parody of a typical newspaper headline:
"British Muslims Fear Repercussions Over Tomorrow's Train Bombing."
Indeed. And so it goes. This time round – Mumbai – it was the Associated Press that filed a story about how Muslims "found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed linked to their religion".
Oh, I don't know about that. In fact, you'd be hard pressed from most news reports to figure out the bloodshed was "linked" to any religion, least of all one beginning with "I-" and ending in "-slam." In the three years since those British bombings, the media have more or less entirely abandoned the offending formulations – "Islamic terrorists," "Muslim extremists" – and by the time of the assault on Mumbai found it easier just to call the alleged perpetrators "militants" or "gunmen" or "teenage gunmen," as in the opening line of this report in The Australian: "An Adelaide woman in India for her wedding is lucky to be alive after teenage gunmen ran amok."
Kids today, eh? Always running amok in an aimless fashion.
The veteran British TV anchor Jon Snow, on the other hand, opted for the more cryptic locution "practitioners." "Practitioners" of what, exactly?
Hard to say. And getting harder. For the Wall Street Journal, Tom Gross produced a jaw-dropping round-up of Mumbai media coverage: The discovery that, for the first time in an Indian terrorist atrocity, Jews had been attacked, tortured and killed produced from the New York Times a serene befuddlement: "It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene."
Hmm. Greater Mumbai forms one of the world's five biggest cities. It has a population of nearly 20 million. But only one Jewish center, located in a building that gives no external clue as to the bounty waiting therein. An "accidental hostage scene" that one of the "practitioners" just happened to stumble upon? "I must be the luckiest jihadist in town. What are the odds?"
Meanwhile, the New Age guru Deepak Chopra laid all the blame on American foreign policy for "going after the wrong people" and inflaming moderates, and "that inflammation then gets organized and appears as this disaster" in Mumbai.
Really? The inflammation just "appears"? Like a bad pimple? The "fairer" we get to the, ah, inflamed militant practitioners, the unfairer we get to everyone else. At the Chabad House, the murdered Jews were described in almost all the Western media as "ultra-Orthodox," "ultra-" in this instance being less a term of theological precision than a generalized code for "strange, weird people, nothing against them personally, but they probably shouldn't have been over there in the first place."
Are they stranger or weirder than their killers? Two "inflamed moderates" entered the Chabad House, shouted "Allahu Akbar!," tortured the Jews and murdered them, including the young rabbi's pregnant wife. Their 2-year-old child escaped because of a quick-witted (non-Jewish) nanny who hid in a closet and then, risking being mowed down by machine-gun fire, ran with him to safety.
The Times was being silly in suggesting this was just an "accidental" hostage opportunity – and not just because, when Muslim terrorists capture Jews, it's not a hostage situation, it's a mass murder-in-waiting. The sole surviving "militant" revealed that the Jewish center had been targeted a year in advance. The 28-year-old rabbi was Gavriel Holtzberg. His pregnant wife was Rivka Holtzberg. Their orphaned son is Moshe Holtzberg, and his brave nanny is Sandra Samuels. Remember their names, not because they're any more important than the Indians, Britons and Americans targeted in the attack, but because they are an especially revealing glimpse into the pathologies of the perpetrators.
In a well-planned attack on iconic Mumbai landmarks symbolizing great power and wealth, the "militants" nevertheless found time to divert 20 percent of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city's poor in a nondescript building. If they were just "teenage gunmen" or "militants" in the cause of Kashmir, engaged in a more or less conventional territorial dispute with India, why kill the only rabbi in Mumbai? Dennis Prager got to the absurdity of it when he invited his readers to imagine Basque separatists attacking Madrid: "Would the terrorists take time out to murder all those in the Madrid Chabad House? The idea is ludicrous."
And yet we take it for granted that Pakistani "militants" in a long-running border dispute with India would take time out of their hectic schedule to kill Jews. In going to ever more baroque lengths to avoid saying "Islamic" or "Muslim" or "terrorist," we have somehow managed to internalize the pathologies of these men.
We are enjoined to be "understanding," and we're doing our best. A Minnesotan suicide bomber (now there's a phrase) originally from Somalia returned to the old country and blew up himself and 29 other people last October. His family prevailed upon your government to have his parts (or as many of them as could be sifted from the debris) returned to the United States at taxpayer expense and buried in Burnsville Cemetery. Well, hey, in the current climate, what's the big deal about a federal bailout of jihad operational expenses? If that's not "too big to fail," what is?
Last week, a Canadian critic reprimanded me for failing to understand that Muslims feel "vulnerable." Au contraire, they project tremendous cultural confidence, as well they might: They're the world's fastest-growing population. A prominent British Muslim announced the other day that, when the United Kingdom becomes a Muslim state, non-Muslims will be required to wear insignia identifying them as infidels. If he's feeling "vulnerable," he's doing a terrific job of covering it up.
We are told that the "vast majority" of the 1.6 billion to 1.8 billion Muslims (in Deepak Chopra's estimate) are "moderate." Maybe so, but they're also quiet. And, as the AIDS activists used to say, "Silence=Acceptance." It equals acceptance of the things done in the name of their faith. Rabbi Holtzberg was not murdered because of a territorial dispute over Kashmir or because of Bush's foreign policy. He was murdered in the name of Islam – "Allahu Akbar."
I wrote in my book, "America Alone," that "reforming" Islam is something only Muslims can do. But they show very little sign of being interested in doing it, and the rest of us are inclined to accept that. Spread a rumor that a Quran got flushed down the can at Gitmo, and there'll be rioting throughout the Muslim world. Publish some dull cartoons in a minor Danish newspaper, and there'll be protests around the planet. But slaughter the young pregnant wife of a rabbi in Mumbai in the name of Allah, and that's just business as usual. And, if it is somehow "understandable" that for the first time in history it's no longer safe for a Jew to live in India, then we are greasing the skids for a very slippery slope. Muslims, the AP headline informs us, "worry about image." Not enough.
Mark Steyn: Jews get killed, but Muslims feel vulnerable