Obama proclaimed on the ninth anniversary of 9/11: "As Americans, we are not — and never will be — at war with Islam." Yet Manhattan's memorial service was marred with protests against a proposed Islamic centre near Ground Zero. Earlier this summer, a young man who'd been to Afghanistan knifed a Bangladeshi taxi-driver in New York, and an Islamic centre was vandalised in California. Famously, a renegade Florida pastor planned to celebrate 9/11 as International Burn a Koran Day — a designation worthy of Private Eye and impossible to say with a straight face.
Yet these are high-profile aberrations. According to an FBI report in August, "hate crimes" against Muslims since 2001 have been rare — numbering far fewer than those against gays or Jews. This is cause to be thankful, especially considering a certain numbing consistency to leading news items post-9/11. While no prejudice is strictly rational, a bit of an eye-roll regarding Islam these days is at least understandable.
Only a tiny fraction of the 1.5 billion Muslims constitutes a huge international headache, and I feel profoundly sorry for reasonable, decent US Muslims who sometimes draw unjustified glares. But this decade's onslaught of bad news inevitably invites the fuzzy perception that Muslims create more than their share of bother, sometimes stirring the fleeting, admittedly rather silly thought that life would go so much more smoothly without Islam.
Let's nimbly skip over 9/11 itself out of sheer exhaustion; ditto 7/7. What religious faith can we link with the following? The US major who went on a shooting frenzy in Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 and wounding 30, while screaming "Allahu akbar." The hapless Times Square bomber, awarded US citizenship only months before, who had a funny way of embracing his new nationality. Underpants Man, who concealed explosives on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in a place that mostly ensured he won't have kids. The conspirators who plotted to simultaneously explode ten transatlantic planes with liquid explosives.
Add the bigger picture. Afghanistan — a money pit, and run by a government rated second only to Somalia in corruption, so it's up for grabs whether the Muslims we support or the Muslims attacking our troops are the bigger pain in the neck. Iraq — another money pit, which cannot be bothered even to form a government because in the meantime America will take care of everything, and where after the US has squandered $750 billion you still can't refrigerate a pint of milk. Somalia — where Muslim pirates are paralysing vital shipping lanes with impunity, since on the few occasions they're caught they're simply let go, like nursery-school kids who after a "time out" have learned their lesson. Pakistan — where when Muslims are blowing each other up it's hard to escape a mean little thought: at least now you know how it feels. And there are violent Muslim insurgencies in Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria and Yemen, to name a few.