Since Sept. 11, I have been supportive of every homeland security measure used to single out for close scrutiny those with Islamic backgrounds and those from Islamic countries. I supported measures like annual registrations, periodic checks and a policy of refusing to allow such immigrants onto these shores.
None of that support had anything to do with hating Muslims or disrespecting Muslims or profiling Muslims. It had to do with war and how differently one expects a society to go about protecting itself during a war.
For those who did not notice it, the destruction of the World Trade Center and the murder of nearly 3,000 people was an act of war by an Islamic group of terrorists bent on killing as many Americans as possible.
So I am opposed to the recent decision by Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft and the homeland security team to back away from such close scrutiny. The argument behind the decision is that only 11 of the 85,000 Muslims who were checked turned out to have connections to terrorist organizations.
Only 11? That is more than half the number of those who went on the Sept. 11 murder raid that ended with the Pentagon aflame, a plane crashed in Pennsylvania and the largest single act of mass murder in the history of this nation.
Those who oppose putting the spotlight on Muslims seem to think that in a time of so much high technology 11 people is a small number. It is not. The kinds of things that small groups of people can now do are far different from the kind of devastation small groups of fanatics could bring off in the past, when the machines were much less powerful, the explosives were much less deadly and we were not connected to one another by an Internet that is surely a terrorist target.
I do not think, therefore, that arguments about the preferential immigration policies that once favored certain Europeans or the bigoted attitudes that Irish, Italian, Jewish and Latino immigrants once faced in this country have anything to do with the present war. This is very different from state troopers stopping people for no other reason than being black.
If the most that Muslim immigrants had to do was show up and register once a year, so what? Whatever bureaucratic discomforts they experienced would have ceased when this war ended.
Those discomforts were also quite different from what they would have experienced in the countries from which they came had they been Christians residing there immediately following a terrorist attack by Christian fanatics that murdered 3,000 Muslims. They would have been slaughtered in frighteningly large numbers, no questions asked. Anyone who has a television knows that.
So, John Ashcroft and the homeland security team, boo-boo on you. You punked out.
Stanley Crouch's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.