Vietnam 1975; US Muslims 2015

کالم نگار  |  Mowahid Hussain Shah
Vietnam 1975; US Muslims 2015

April 30, 1975 marked the 40th year of the US debacle in Vietnam and its unseemly ouster from Saigon.  Its entry into the jungles of Indo-China was ill-considered and its exit was sloppy.  
Rory Kennedy, the niece of President Kennedy and the daughter of Robert Kennedy, made a gripping 98-minute movie documentary, with hitherto unreleased footage, called "Last Days in Vietnam."  It was shown April 28 on US public broadcasting.  
There are eerie similarities to the botched interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan leaving, as in Vietnam then, the dominant take-away impression of desertion and abandonment.  
Now, Americans (including war veterans) freely visit reunified Vietnam, and relationships with former foes are cordial.  It underscores the folly of miscalculated overseas misadventures with underlying hallucinatory assumptions.
Then, it was the Red Menace.  Now, a military-industrial complex, about which President Eisenhower had forewarned in his farewell speech on January 17, 1961, has chosen the Green Menace to keep the American public busy with fear.
A new article, "The New Enemy Within" by Peter Beinart, in the May 2015 issue of the leading magazine, The Atlantic, substantiates that the word "Muslim" is becoming a slur in mainstream discourse in the US, and how freely and loosely - through hate speech - politicians, mostly on the Republican side, are depicting US Muslims as a veritable Fifth Column.  
The paranoia is now being rekindled, according to the article, "by re-conceiving the Islamist danger as a largely domestic problem."  This focus, the article posits, is reminiscent of the McCarthy era over 60 years ago when US citizens were hounded and targeted because of alleged Communist connections.  Today, it's an action replay, with US Muslims replacing the Communists as the new bogeymen.
The Texas shootings of May 3, during the maliciously offensive and intentionally inflammatory anti-Muslim hate group event, drives home the point.
You can ignore the fire; the fire won't ignore you.
Those demonized before, like gays and blacks, have hit back and have shielded themselves through the tried-and-trusted route of political empowerment.  But not so the US Muslim community, who essentially remain mired in their own world, without striving robustly to broaden their base and appeal. US Muslims may have made themselves invitingly soft targets.  
During the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner in Washington on April 25, President Obama jokingly and yet tellingly alluded to his own middle name, Hussein, which has provoked anti-Muslim attacks on him throughout his presidency.  
Georgetown University, through its Bridge Initiative, has just launched an inaugural report surveying 20 years of Americans' attitude on Islam and Muslims.  The verbatim excerpt cited here makes sobering reading:  "When it comes to 'singling out' Muslims for increased scrutiny, many Americans think it happens and that in many cases say that it's OK.  Since 2001, one-quarter or more of the population has expressed support for specific measures like religious profiling, special IDs, surveillance, and interment.  At the same time, most do not think that Muslims are treated 'unfairly' by law enforcement."
The road ahead is a test of the attitudes and abilities of US Muslims.  It's an exam they cannot afford to skip.