Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser was right to speak out on the terrorist attacks in Paris. Washington and Paris have been sister cities since 2000. Those heinous acts against freedom of speech, Bowser noted, only strengthen the bond between the two capitals.
Washingtonians know what it's like to fall victim to cowardly acts. D.C. public school children were on board American Airlines Flight 77 when it plowed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. As Bowser said, "The District stands in solidarity with the people of France."
Another similarity: The response to Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris and 9/11 in the United States.
After news broke about the Paris slaughter, I received an email from the Muslim Times condemning the attack and stressing Islam's peaceful nature. "We condemn every act of terrorism. Human life is sacred and killing one innocent person is like triggering genocide," the message said.
Likewise, the Grand Mosque of Paris announced: "We strongly condemn these kind of acts and we expect the authorities to take the most appropriate measures. Our community is stunned by what just happened. It's a whole section of our democracy that is seriously affected. This is a deafening declaration of war. Times have changed, and we are now entering a new era of confrontation."
The post-attack narrative is always the same: Radical Islamists do not represent Islam's true nature, which embraces justice, equality and compassion; those who believe their barbarism is divinely sanctioned are, at best, misinterpreting Islam or, worse, using it to justify acts of violence for their own ends; and it's wrong to fear, hate or condemn a religion because of the misguided actions of a few.
Among my many limitations is a lack of an in-depth knowledge of Islam. Frankly, it's all I can do to deepen my understanding of my own faith.
Consequently, I defer to mainstream Muslim clerics and their followers who contend that radical Islamists carrying out bombings, beheadings and massacres of innocent men, women and children represent a minority that has hijacked and politicized a religion of peace.
Still, there's no denying that there are Muslims who regard it as their duty to subjugate non-Muslims and other Muslims with whom they, for theological reasons, are in conflict. Consider Christian persecution in Egypt and the internecine strife Iraq.
So how to assess the situation today? Muslim extremists who embrace the idea that their faith justifies committing violent acts are, indeed, a problem for Islam. When, however, those extremists, aggrieved by modern society with its emphasis on diversity, tolerance and gender equality, take it upon themselves to make things right by committing unspeakable atrocities, then they become a problem for the wider world.
A stipulation: History records that Christendom oppressed and degraded Muslims and Jews by the millions in the name of the Gospel. Christianity was behind the Crusades and the ghettoes of Europe, the persecution and the pogroms. Speaking for myself, our halos are, indeed, badly tilted.
Another stipulation: Not all terrorists are Muslims. Far from it. Terrorism is as abhorrent to most Muslims as it is for most of us.
But that doesn't mean we can turn a blind eye to Islamist-inspired terrorism.
Faith-based terrorism fueled the deadly April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing; the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood and in Little Rock; Richard Reid's attempt to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes on his flight from Paris to Miami in 2001; or Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempt to set off plastic explosives in his underwear on board a Christmas 2009 flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
What else is driving Boko Haram to establish a "caliphate," or Islamic state, in northern Nigeria? The same Boko Haram that is linked to more that 10,000 deaths, including that of a 10-year-old girl strapped to a bomb that exploded last week, killing at least 16.
They all base their actions on their faith. So, too, have many perpetrators of foiled terrorist plots — some hapless — since Sept. 11.
Which gets us to the present moment.
Within the Obama administration, "Islamic terrorism" is an offense that dare not speak its name. The administration referred to the Fort Hood massacre, where Nidal Malik Hasan, a self-identified "Soldier of Allah" who shouted "Allahu Akbar" while shooting dozens of people, as "workplace violence." Why? Whose feelings are being spared?
Certainly not Hasan's or those of groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State, which proudly take credit for the mayhem they cause.
A plea to the White House from potential victims and targets of Islamic terrorism here in Washington, Paris and beyond: Call it what it is. Dispense with safe words and focus on the real foe.
As Aretha Franklin sang, "Who's zoomin' who?" Who's being fooled?
Parisians and Washingtonians know better.