On March 3, Mohammed Taheri-azar, a 22-year-old graduate of the University of North Carolina,
rented an SUV and drove it into "the Pit," an area between two libraries on the UNC campus in
Chapel Hill where students congregate, injuring nine.
Mr. Taheri-azar told police he made the attack "to avenge the deaths of Muslims around the
Mr. Taheri-azar smiled and waved at his arraignment, and told reporters he was "thankful for
the opportunity to spread the will of Allah."
Attitudes and actions like those of Mr. Taheri-Azar explain why 46 percent of Americans
expressed a negative view of Islam in the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll.
According to the poll, the proportion of Americans who believe Islam helps to stoke violence
against non-Muslims has more than doubled since 9/11.
Since the poll was taken in the aftermath of the rioting over the Danish cartoons, the Hamas
victory in the Palestinian elections, and an upsurge of violence in Iraq, one could argue this
percentage is remarkably low. If you'd taken a poll in 1943 about American attitudes towards
the Germans or the Japanese, substantially more than 46 percent would have expressed
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said the negative attitudes were a
product of the "demonization" of Arabs by politicians and media commentators.
The truth is most politicians and journalists have been stretching the truth to distinguish
between Muslim extremists and the religion of Islam itself.
Consider how delicately the New York Times dealt with Mr. Taheri-azar. His assault was
reported on page A-18, in a story which somehow never got around to mentioning that Mr.
Taheri-azar is a Muslim.
In Chapel Hill, university officials have refused to characterize Mr. Taheri-azar's assault as
either a hate crime or an act of terror. When some students protested the attack, there was a
"By calling it religious violence, you are telling people that Muslims are violent," sophomore
Johnathon Pourzal told the Durham Herald Sun.
Gee, I wonder what would give people that idea?
Taheri-azar's attack "has exposed not only the continuing danger of domestic terrorism but also
the inability of some leaders and communities to recognize that danger and take it seriously,"
wrote Shannon Blosser in National Review.
The ludicrous lengths to which many in the Establishment go to avoid drawing any connection
between Islamic terror and Islam itself is causing a backlash among Americans, one which is
causing otherwise sensible people to overlook critically important distinctions.
The backlash was evident in the debate over the attempted acquisition by Dubai Ports World of
the British firm which operates commercial terminals in some U.S. ports — if Democratic
demagoguery and Republican cowardice in the face of xenophobia can be characterized as
The rejection of the ports deal is a self-inflicted wound, one based on the assumption that all
Muslims are untrustworthy.
I said in my column March 5 there are genuinely moderate Muslims who support liberty and
democracy. I received a distressing number of erudite emails — many quoting from the Koran —
from people who said no, the problem is Islam itself.
People like Mr. Taheri-azar fuel this assumption. He was, according to classmates, a friendly
guy who drank and smoked pot. His murderous radicalism seemed to appear out of the blue.
"This is what I have dubbed the 'Sudden Jihad Syndrome,'" wrote Daniel Pipes. "It has the
awful but legitimate consequence of casting suspicion on all Muslims. Denouncing these views as
'Islamophobia' is as baseless as accusing anti-Nazis of 'Germanophobia.'
"Instead of presenting themselves as victims, Muslims should address this fear by developing a
moderate, modern and good neighborly version of Islam that rejects radical Islam, jihad, and
the subordination of 'infidels,'" he said.
Sheikh Abdul Palazzi, secretary general of the Italian Muslim Association, agrees:
"Muslims should be in the forefront of efforts to refute the Islamists and to counter their
abuse of Islam," Sheikh Palazzi wrote. "Unfortunately, either from fear or for other reasons,
Muslims are doing virtually nothing to distinguish authentic Islam from the counterfeit image
presented by the Islamists."
Muslims — and liberals — have got to stop making excuses for Muslim violence, or an ugly
situation will get uglier still.