The last article I'd read about Somalis in America was a March 16, 2009 New York Times piece by Donald G. McNeil Jr. The report was about a small epidemic of autism among Somali immigrant children in Minneapolis, the kind of human interest story that tugs at your heart-strings while revealing your lack of understanding of common phenomena. Well, it wasn't such a small epidemic. But still...
This Sunday's Times actually had a truly dispiriting and exquisitely detailed story by Andrea Elliott also about Somali immigrants in Minneapolis. Except that the principals in the dispatch are not children with autism but young men who had joined an Al Qaeda faction and then returned to Mogadishu. Some of them are dead now, some alive. All had been in the terrorist underground. Actually, not so underground, at least not in Somalia.
I am sensitive to these stories about American Muslims having turned to terrorism because about three and a half years ago TNR ran a story titled precisely "Why American Muslims Haven't Turned to Terrorism." This was a story that I considered cockamamie and wished never appeared in print, certainly not in our pages. But I chose not to wage much of a fight over it.
Now, The New York Times is not an index of everything. But its online front page is a pretty accurate measure of what is important in the world now. Which, of course, also means the future.
By repudiating the Bush administration's "war on terror," President Barack Obama is certainly asserting that America is not itself a target of any international Muslim conspiracy, however primitive. I hope he's right. I doubt he is.
There were 12 lead-ins to 12 articles on the Global Edition of Sunday's Times at about 9 p.m. Fully five of them were about Muslim violence, one of them about the aforementioned Minneapolis contingent of murders in Mogadishu. Three were about the killing of marines in Afghanistan, a relatively new "insurgency" in Baluchistan (where all those beautiful asymmetric carpets come from), and bomb blasts and deaths at Christian churches in Iraq. Which makes four. The fifth was about Maoist rebels in India, called Naxalites, who the Times neglected to point out have forged an alliance with fanatic Muslim groups in the country, the Godless in tandem with those who serve God out of sustained panic.