- - Monday, August 1, 2016


Donald Trump is a remarkable gift to television news. He says something outrageous for every news cycle, which keeps the 24/7 cable-TV newscasts current. But for the Donald, the “anchors” and their correspondents might still be talking about the disappearing Malaysian airliner, Hurricane Katrina or the missing Chandra Levy.

Mr. Trump’s dispute with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of the American soldier of Muslim faith who died a hero’s death in Iraq, will keep the cameras grinding for a week. There is other news, of course. Hillary appeared on the Sunday talk shows to tell an enormous new whopper in the endless saga of her email crimes, claiming that she was cleared by the FBI of all suspicion that she played fast and loose with the nation’s secrets. That appears to be an important story everywhere but on TV news.

The Khans should have known — the Clinton campaign certainly wouldn’t have told them — that they were inviting the storm when they appeared at the Democratic National Convention to confront Mr. Trump’s criticisms of radical Islamic extremism. Mr. Khan’s challenge to Mr. Trump, that “you have sacrificed nothing,” invited an angry reaction. Donald Trump never lets a challenge go to waste. The Khans’ story of their son’s sacrifice was but fodder for the Clinton campaign. Hillary’s handlers knew exactly what they were doing, putting the Khans before the cameras at their convention; they knew what would happen next, and how to exploit it.

The Khans, innocents in a media-made maelstrom, argued they had no alternative but to rebut the impression that Muslim Americans are not loyal citizens. Mr. Trump, with a supersensitive skin stretched around an ego the size of a barn, eagerly answered tit with tat, and the discussion went quickly downhill.

The Donald suggested that Mrs. Khan’s traditional Muslim dress and her silence on stage was enforced by the traditional repression of women in Islamic societies. The later explanation that she cannot easily control her emotions while talking of her son was entirely credible, but so was Mr. Trump’s assumption. Can anyone deny that women are told to stand meek and mute in Islamic society, or that women who don’t often pay dearly for their courage?

This episode points up the difficulty of talking about anything relating to Muslims in America. Any criticism of Muslims or the effects of their faith is quickly ascribed to “Islamophobia,” a blanket attack on a religion. The secular media, which has its own religious prejudices, sees to that.

Suspicion of Muslims in America and the West is sad and unfortunate, but inevitable. When a perpetrator of a mass killing is identified everyone assumes that his name will be a variation of Muhammad. The question that hangs in the air afterward is about how much the killer’s family and friends knew about what he was planning. Such questions will grow more insistent as radical Islamic terrorism becomes more familiar on the city streets and in the shaded lanes in America.

An honest discussion of Islam and Islamic terrorists and what ancient teachings drive them, will require the intellectual discrimination and honesty employed during the Cold War and the long struggle to defeat communism.

Those who recognized the threat were often dismissed as hysterics and kooks and accused of “McCarthyism,” the blanket condemnation of opponents simply because of an honest difference of opinion. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s reckless accusations ruined reputations and lives, but some of Mr. McCarthy’s targets were in fact Communists, who concealed evil goals and hid themselves among honest dissenters.

Americans, including candidates for high office, should choose their confrontations and words carefully, but vigilance is not bigotry.

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