Islamophobia and My Near-Death Experience

Among all the chatter and opinionating over the last few weeks about the Ground Zero Mosque and the supposed ugly “Islamophobia” that lurks just beneath the civilized veneer of those of us who think it shouldn’t be built there, a couple of worthy gems stand out.

If you don’t read anything else, check out Jonah Goldberg’s piece over at NRO. And for a welcome laugh, read Greg Gutfield (host of FNC’s RedEye) and his blog post about “Islamophobia-phobia,” which, as he explains, is the fear of being accused of having an irrational fear of Muslims.

You know, at some point the Left-wing media and their sophisticated allies in Washington, Academia and Hollywood may want to rethink their strategy of insulting and demonizing us regular Americans every time a poll reveals we are out of step with our “betters.”

It’s just a friendly suggestion.

You see every time some regular independent swing voter who happens to think it’s a good thing that Arizona wants to uphold U.S. immigration law or a bad thing that a large majority of California voters were just nullified by a gay judge on the gay marriage issue hears that he’s being called a racist or bigot or hater or stupid or a sufferer of some sort of mental disorder–his natural response will NOT be to run into the arms of the liberal aristocracy and beg for forgiveness.

The more the Left belittles and smears the vast common-sense middle of America the more alienated and galvanized that middle becomes.

The horrible story of the Muslim taxi driver who was attacked the other day is just one example. The lefty media jumped on the, “Are you a Muslim?” story as a validation of their premise. Then, as usual, the facts began to dribble out and undermine their point. Turns out the attacker was a drunken lefty tied a number of anti-war organizations. To add to the irony, it turns out the Muslim cab driver is opposed to the building of the Park51 Mosque.

The whole incident brought back an unpleasant memory for me . . . one in which I was in a foreign country and asked, “Are you American?” When I answered, “Yes,” I was attacked with a biological weapon.

Allow me to explain.

Several years ago I had a client that took me to the UK about five times per year over several years. Their offices were in the North of England and I routinely stayed at the same seaside Marriott hotel in Sunderland.

Lovely place. Lovely people. Couldn’t understand a word they were saying. (But then neither can anyone else in England.)

On numerous occasions I ate at a quaint little Italian restaurant on the beach across the highway. Like many of the restaurants I’ve visited in the UK, this one was run and staffed by Middle Eastern immigrants.

On one visit in 2004, I was sitting at table with a couple of colleagues from South Africa and had engaged our young Middle Eastern waiter in some friendly conversation. Toward the end of the meal he was obviously feeling that we had enough of a connection to ask me a question:

“Are you an American?”

Now I’ve been all over this big, diverse world of ours and I faithfully follow a couple of hard-and-fast rules when I’m traveling abroad. Rule one: Never, ever provoke someone who will be preparing or bringing you food. (This rule actually applies in all places and at all times.)

The second rule is, when you’re in a foreign country and the person who has just picked up on your accent eyeballs you and asks where you’re from, the correct answer is:


On this occasion, however, our meal was finished. We were getting ready to leave. And after spending a week listening to the hyper-biased news coming from the BBC, I was feeling particularly patriotic. So I violated rule #2 . . .

“Yes, I am,” I said cheerily.

Then came the follow up question. “What do you think about Bush?”

Here is where discretion, being the better part of valor, should have bound and gagged my patriotic impulses and tossed them in closet. The correct answer was, “I don’t really follow politics.”

“I like him,” I heard myself saying with extra chipperness in my voice. “He has a hard job but I think he’s doing pretty well.”

He seemed sorely displeased by my answer, but just walked away. A few minutes later we left the restaurant and that was the end of it . . .

. . . until about a year later when I happened to re-visit the restaurant with a colleague from Scotland. To be honest I had completely forgotten about the exchange with my waiter the previous year.

He hadn’t. And as it turned out, he was our server on this evening. While taking our order he studied me for a minute and then said, “Are you that American fellow?”

“He’s a Texan!” my Scot companion volunteered helpfully. We ordered, ate, and left.

A few hours later, at the manor house in which I was staying that week, I become more violently ill than I have ever been in my life. I alternated between fearing I was going to die and praying that God would just take me home and end my misery.

Coincidence? Perhaps.

Indeed, I have no idea whether my waiter was a Muslim (although, if memory serves, his name was Mohammad). I didn’t ask his religion because I didn’t care. I didn’t have an irrational fear of Muslims. I do however have a very rational fear of hateful waiters.

I also have a very rational, quite well-founded fear that our nation’s foundations, weakened by liberal cultural self-loathing, are crumbling under an avalanche of illegal immigration, creeping Sharia, and multi-culti nonsense.

Nevertheless, if you’re ever in Sunderland and find yourself in a wonderful little Italian place right on the beach, if a waiter named Mohammad asks if you’re American . . .

Just say “Que?”