The just assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki was a defining moment for American Muslims. We should have been leading the cheers -- but instead many of our self-appointed "spokesmen" squandered their bandwidth.
This one is personal. As one of us, Awlaki's extreme form of Islamism swayed many Muslims to hate America and the West. Worse -- in flagrant defiance of the central tenets of our Islam -- he taught many Muslims to diminish the value of human life.
Yet where most Americans saw a traitor who turned on his nation in order to fight our sons and daughters on the battlefield, too many American Islamic groups were steeped in denial.
The Dar al-Hijra mosque in northern Virginia, Awlaki's last stomping ground before leaving the US, issued statements defending his pre-2002 interfaith work and insinuating that it was torture in Yemeni prisons that radicalized Awlaki. And while the Council on American-Islamic Relations "repudiated Awlaki's incitement to violence," it also "urged inquiry into the constitutional issues raised by the assassination."
What doe it matter that Awlaki was once a US citizen? Neither by our Constitution nor by Islam am I ashamed to rejoice in his death.
The groups taking this shameful approach, along with the Muslim Public Affairs Council, blame supposed Islamophobia for any anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States. Yet their own hair-splitting is guaranteed to help sour American opinion on Islam and Muslims.
Awlaki left the United States and declared war against our nation. He hid behind our faith, exploited our nation's freedoms, radicalized other Muslims and sent them to die for him. Every Muslim should be asking ourselves publicly and unapologetically -- when do we believe Awlaki actually became a threat? That will separate Muslims who are part of the problem from those who are part of the solution.
In their releases, CAIR and MPAC pointedly note that he left the US before turning violent -- as if violence was his only problem. He did not spontaneously combust into a militant: The insidious, hate-filled Islamism he embraced while still in America provided ample fertile soil for his further radicalization.
Where were the litany of contrite Muslim leaders demanding a public discussion within our mosques and organizations about the signs and ideologies they missed in Awlaki?
Muslims should be the most furious Americans with what radicals like Awlaki have done. His tapes and CDs filled Islamic sites and stores in the past two decades. We need to publicly unravel his hateful ideas from our Islam. Only then will Americans understand how vital our role is as American Muslims.
Let others fret over constitutional nuances. Let us as American Muslims take a strident stand against everything for which Awlaki stood.
Yes, our government should have revoked his citizenship. Yes, we should have formally declared war on al Qaeda. Yes, we might have tried Awlaki in absentia, but the evidence may have been too sensitive and we did not. But none of that takes away the righteousness of killing Awlaki. As an American Muslim, I sleep better at night knowing that the monster is dead and will no longer be a threat to our Muslim children.
Yet so-called "Muslim leaders" react to his killing by suggesting that our government will now feel free to assassinate Muslim citizens at will. This is absurd and obscene. Just who does it help to plant such baseless fears among our fellow Muslims?
We desperately need high-profile organizations entrenched in Americanism and ready to take on Islamism and its agents in the public square. Our faith demands just such a counter-jihad.