Welcome to the Middle East.
Ah! So you''ve heard about Islam.
It is not only a religion that deserves protection in a multi-cultural world, but supports clusters of inspired fighters who feel they are serving some higher end by killing their rivals.
It may help to think of Islam being now at the time point of medieval Christianity, burning heretics to the cheers of the crowd, or early Biblical Israel, demanding the liquidation of the Amelikites to the last man, woman, infant, ox, sheep, camel and donkey." (1 Sam. 15:2-3).
If Judaism abandoned its thirst for wrongdoers'' blood after being smashed by the Romans, and Christians renounced past sins after the Holocaust, there are Muslims are still at it.
Not all, to be sure. Some of my Muslim friends are as secular as I; some are religious, but do not appear to be hateful.
Who are the targets of the fanatics?
Israelis are on most lists, but those calling for our destruction must reckon with the IDF. More relevant to what is happening, especially in Syria, but also in Iraq, Afghanistan, and perhaps Egypt and Lebanon are rival Muslims. The Sunni-Shiite enmity is most prominent, but does not account for all the intra-Muslim carnage. Also targeted are Alewis, about whom there is doubt as to whether they are Muslims and/or a distinct ethnic group; as well as Christians, Druze, and various factions viewed by one another as wrongheaded politically.
The US and European countries welcomed Muslims migrants, some of them refugees from Muslim warfare, and some of them refugees from poverty wanting opportunities to have a better life than available at home.
Unlike earlier waves of migrants who sought to assimilate into the cultures they aspired to join, fervent believers have sought to remain apart.
They aspire to keep their faith, and to teach their children appropriately.
American and European officials are noticing that some of those migrants have gone to the present wars in the Middle East, to fight on the side of those they see as expressing the truths they absorbed from their families, religious leaders, and teachers.
Islam has also attracted native born Americans and Europeans, with no family ties to the faith.
Some of the immigrants and their children, and some of the converts have become dangerous to their homelands.
A few months fighting in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan provides training and increased inspiration. They go elsewhere, maybe back home, to carry the message and act against those perceived to be the enemies of the Islam they have adopted.
The British media is headlining the first Brit to have died as a suicide bomber in Syria. It is not clear if he was a Muslim from birth, or a convert. The shoe bomber, who attracted some attention a few years ago, was a Brit from a non-Muslim family who converted.
American intelligence analysts have identified several dozen Americans fighting with one or another group in Syria.
What to do?
Radical activists demand expulsion of the migrants from their new homes. Send them back where they came from.
Some European extremists include Jews in their list of who must be expelled, without noticing that there aren''t many left in their countries. Others concentrate on Muslims, or speak about foreigners, presumably concerned about Africans whether or not they are Muslims.
While the skinheads of Europe would deal with their frustrations by ethnic cleansing, better dressed and politically correct policy analysts are pondering the possibilities.
Among the most pressing questions are which, if any groups to aid in Syria, and what to give them--money, lethal or non-lethal equipment, or even the sending of troops? And who among the more than two million refugees ought to be granted entry to Europe or the US?
Among the problems is the fluidity of the fighting and the questionable loyalties of one and all.
Three of America''s allies--Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar- are already providing assistance, but to different groups, which have proven to be unstable in regard to their aims and allegiances.
It''s someone else''s civil war, with all the problems of language, religion, and several foreign cultures complicating any capacity to understand or predict who is likely to do what.
The American Civil War, especially when simplified by 150 years of myth building, is of little guidance. That was never so clear a fight of slavery versus freedom as hindsight may suggest. And while there were religious motives in behalf of Abolition on one side and the rights of slave holders on the other, there was nothing like the organized crusades supported by infrastructures of mosques, schools, and a millennia and one half of Sunni-Shiite enmity apparent in the various streams of Islam that have converged on Syria.
Among the themes in American discussions are the reluctance to become involved, against the possibility (some say the likelihood) of a looming catastrophe that will eventually demand action.
While some, including President Barack Obama, would ease immigration restrictions to allow the entry of Syrian refugees, the critics ask "how can we be sure of not providing entry to who will become the next cadre to perform a 9-11 against American infidels.
Somewhere in the mix is the Obama Cairo speech demanding democracy and equality throughout the Middle East, and the applause for Arab Spring, led prominently by Thomas Friedman
And is this the time to press Israel and Palestinians to ignore the chaos just over the border, make peace and create another Muslim country that is already in full incitement against Jews? Or to let both hunker down and wait for any great settlement of their own disputes, while concentrating on defending themselves from a spreading contagion? Gaza already provides a home for enthusiasts who delight in firing missiles against Israeli civilians, and both Palestinian and Israeli security forces have been working against some of the same in the West Bank.