Respect for US Muslims

It's disturbing to hear that a Muslim Army chaplain and an Air Force translator at the Guantanamo Bay detention center have been arrested on suspicion of espionage. But no one should rush to judgment as to what that means.

First, the Pentagon says that, as yet, there is no apparent link between the two, although they might have known each other. Second, as any defendant, each deserves a presumption of innocence. Third, no one should tar the entire American Muslim community as sympathetic to terrorism.

There's a long history of scapegoating minority immigrant groups in this country, as elsewhere. In the 1850s Irish Catholics were suspected of selling the country out to the Vatican. After World War I, Slavic men were accused of Bolshevism and deported. German- and Japanese-Americans were accused of sympathy with Hitler and Tojo during World War II (and the Japanese-Americans herded into camps). American Jews have been suspected of loyalty to Israel over the US. Americans must resist the temptation to repeat these episodes.

The US also has a history of home-grown terrorists: John Brown; Timothy McVeigh; the Ku Klux Klan; tree-spiking and lab-vandalizing eco- terrorists; abortion-clinic bombers.

Even so, Al Qaeda agents and sympathizers are operating in the US. Several have been arrested and convicted; the FBI is watching others. But there's a fine line between surveillance and violating civil liberties. The government must work with respect for the vast majority of innocent, law-abiding Muslims. Muslims can do their part by refusing to tolerate the tiny group of radicals hiding among them.

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