It's a tossup which event was more worrisome -- a thwarted car bombing in Portland or a retaliatory arson at a Corvallis mosque. The first tested our nation's domestic defenses. The second challenges our faith in America's self-image as a tolerant and diverse society.
Early news coverage suggests the FBI passed the first test. The feds deserve praise for uncovering the alleged plot and blocking its execution. The suspect, 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, will face America's justice system.
We must hope that whoever torched a mosque in Corvallis is likewise brought to justice. Although some Oregonians may silently endorse the weekend's vengeful act, such thoughts cheapen the ideals that shape America's identity.
Mohamud reportedly had embraced the extreme ideology of jihad -- the holy war against the enemies of Islam. Whenever such a person appears in the news, Americans renew a familiar debate. While some Americans draw a careful distinction between peaceful Muslims and radical Islamists, more strident voices declare that even moderate Muslims are closet jihadists.
The real question is not about the nature of Islam, but the nature of America.
The arson at the mosque was a not-so-subtle statement that all Muslims somehow share blame for the Portland bomb plot. The culprits basically declared religious war against Islam. That's a war America shouldn't wage.
Sectarian and ethnic violence is common throughout the world: Jew versus Muslim, Protestant versus Catholic, Serb versus Bosnian, Tutsi versus Hutu. America aspires to be different. Our culture and our political system rely on tolerance for dissent and diversity. If we decide all of Islam is our enemy, we abandon a cherished ideal.
If we let that happen, the terrorists will have inflicted far more damage than any car bomb could.