I just watched “Straight Outta Compton,” the N.W.A. biopic that’s topped national box office sales the past three weekends.
It’s the tale of five street toughs in south central Los Angeles who rose to stardom 27 years ago by bringing authentic gangsta rap to a mainstream audience.
Their anger-filled lyrics and thumping bass glorify a life of violence, drugs and incarceration – all while directly challenging authority. “Fuck Tha Police” is among their most well- known songs. But there’s something else Americans ought to know – and why it’s important.
After skyrocketing to fame, the group’s most famous member, “Ice Cube,” converted to Islam. And this ultra-cool, hip hop icon, a.k.a. O’Shea Jackson is not alone. Over the past 50 years, countless other Americans picked up a Koran and literally turned towards Mecca, many erasing their given names for ones like Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Ahmad Rashad.
The film provides some insights… charges of racism, police brutality — specifically the Rodney King beating, and L.A. Riots are all major sub-themes.
Yet the civil rights movement provides an even clearer link. Since the 1960s, there were two distinct tracks towards equality… the non-violent path, championed by Martin Luther King, Jr. with fellow church leaders. And the “by any means necessary,” approach pushed by Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam.
As outrage grew nationwide over the harsh backlash against civil rights, the pendulum of public opinion swung dramatically towards supporting the activists. So much so that those openly hostile to our society were barely challenged. That interpretation of political correctness continues today.
Many activists viewed Islam as an alternative way of life in a primarily Judeo-Christian country. And a way to “fight the power,” to borrow a phrase from Public Enemy. That’s because Islam has challenged Judaism and Christianity for most of its existence.
So why should we care?
Well, because violent jihad is spinning out of control once again and many Americans are becoming radicalized to kill.
Nearly 200 have volunteered to fight alongside Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. So-called “lone wolf” terrorists keep emerging with deadly rampages. Europe, Asia, Canada and Australia all have the same problems.
New jihadists include Muslim immigrants from war-torn regions, some on humanitarian and student visas. Some have family ties to the Middle East, though were born and raised here. Others have zero connections to Islam – just lost souls looking for a cause to give their lives meaning.
So how do we stop vulnerable Americans from this fatal attraction?
First, we must hold the White House and Congress accountable for facing facts. Making excuses for jihadists and denying the role of religion in their “violent extremism” must end. In order to protect ourselves, we’ve got to correctly identify the threat, and then work with moderate Muslims to stamp it out. Global jihad shouldn’t be viewed as the international civil rights movement.
Second, Americans ought to re-define “politically correct.” It ought to mean saving our lives, not pushing moral relativism which gives legitimacy to supremacist ideologies and overlooks brutal subjugation of women and girls. Hollywood and the music industry could help.
Third, local communities need to be more proactive in stopping radicalization. Religious and civic leaders should focus on assimilating Muslim populations into the mainstream, and not tolerate those who promote hate speech, intolerance and division.
Fourth, law enforcement and intelligence authorities must be empowered with all the tools they need to stop jihadist recruiters in cyberspace, on the block and within prison walls.
Fifth, high schools and universities must stop fueling anti-American sentiment by continually obsessing over the sins in centuries past. Sure they should be taught, but do we really need daily reminders?
And lastly, those who have already converted to Islam like Ice Cube could help by using their talents and influence to loudly condemn the radicals, showing there is no such thing as “jihadi cool.”
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy Commander and former Pentagon spokesman who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-2009.