The Wages of Fear: Alibis and Lies

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Had it been a Christian or a Jew who slaughtered thirteen people in one mad frenzy, I doubt there would have been much psycho-analysis of the murderer and his motives. It was a ghastly criminal act, period.

But the murderer is a Muslim, and rather than examining his crime as a possible terrorist act, some of our home-grown gurus psychobabbled about Nidal Hasan's personal distress: unhappy, loveless, angry, afraid. (As if being unhappy gives you a license to kill.) Now we are discovering how much of Hasan's "unhappiness" was linked to his Islamic convictions.

There is a strong trend these days, particularly in America, to pussy-foot around ethnic and racial issues under the banner of political correctness. Yet it wasn't so many decades ago that minorities ("negroes" and Jews especially) were fiercely segregated and persecuted. Today, going to the other extreme, we are very careful not to insult or irritate Muslims. Is this a sign of tolerance, or fear?

Muslims living in America (and in Europe, too, for that matter) were not brought here as slaves or prisoners of war. It was their choice to come and to stay, so it is their responsibility to respect American laws and it is America's responsibility to expect that respect, no alibis provided. A Muslim who kills is still a killer; race and religion are not mitigating factors.

But they may be contributing factors. If Hasan's monstrous crime was truly motivated by fervent Islamic beliefs, as it appears, let's not pretend otherwise. For then there is a real problem facing America: radical Islam within our borders. That is not something that can be explained away by suave talk show pundits.

Interestingly, a very different but very sensitive case erupted nine years ago in France, also involving Islam and the media. A seasoned French-Israeli journalist, Charles Enderlin, reported an incident in Gaza in which Israeli soldiers allegedly fired on a Palestinian and his son, killing the 12-year old boy and wounding the father. The story, first reported on France 2 (state television) went around the world, unchecked and unverified. Arab nations had a field day: posters, postage stamps, and even stone memorials were created in the boy's honor....yet his death was never actually proven.

An astute Frenchman, Philippe Karsenty, questioned the story, called on medical and ballistic experts to examine the scraps of film and photos, and claimed the story was fabricated, a complete hoax. Karsenty, in turn, was sued for defamation. Now, years later, after endless legal battles, Karsenty has won against the defamation charge. But France 2 has never issued an apology or rectification, and Enderlin was awarded the prestigious Légion d'Honneur last summer!

These two cases are years and continents apart, but they are evidence of a disturbing trend: the Western world is falling into an abyss of fear and confusion and disinformation. Our "War on Terror" should be directed against ourselves, for we are allowing ourselves to be manipulated and terrorized, subtly and surely.

Undeniably, much has happened since 9/11 to undermine our confidence as a nation. American democracy, under the recent Bush presidency, has been tarnished by injustice and deceit, trampled by corruption and greed. But unless we can take a fresh look at our values, our principles, our ideals, and our goals -- and assert them -- we will be sucked into this quicksand of ambivalence and compromise and equivocation. And worst of all -- devastating, debilitating fear.