The Canadians — five of them teen-agers — accused of plotting the most horrific terrorists acts against a tolerant government are a perfect example of how peaceful western Muslims have failed miserably to protect themselves, their children, their religion and the rest of us from insane radical preachers and their ridiculous calls for Jihad.

If decent, law-abiding Muslims have any hope of preventing the stigma of murder and mayhem from being permanently attached to Islamic culture, they need to act quickly, ferreting out and removing those who preach treason and sedition to juvenile congregations. They have to understand that while a constitutional republic allows and even safeguards dissent, that does not extend to acts aimed at its overthrow or destruction.

No place of worship here or in Canada can be a sanctuary for the creation of such evil. No religion in this so-called age of enlightenment can be interpreted as sanctioning the bombing of buildings, the lopping off of heads and the attacks on the people’s chosen representatives apparently planned by these alleged nitwits. Alarmingly, these aren’t young men raised in the turmoil and bloodshed of the Middle East. They are Canadian citizens, born and raised in one of the more progressive societies on earth.

What is it that they are being urged to carry out a Jihad against? Is the object of their wrath the ability to lead a safe and sane life, to be able to talk about anything they wish? Is their anger aimed at being allowed, within civilized limits, to shelter, even cloister their wives and to raise their children without fear of having a hand or arm cut off or tongue removed for some minor infraction? They allege that their planned incivility against their neighbors was in retribution for Canadian support of the Iraq invasion, even though Canada did not support the invasion and Canada is not part of the coalition forces.

One begins to wonder if this isn’t just an excuse. Perhaps they think in their teen and immediate post teen ignorance that it is romantic and masculine to adopt these vicious causes.

It’s a pity this same radicalism, this outrage didn’t exhibit itself during the murderous, barbarous regime of Saddam Hussein or the oppressiveness of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Where are the wails of anguish for all those innocent Iraqi civilians now being butchered by “insurgents,” who are basically thugs and cowards hiding in anonymity while waging war on women and children?

This is a rant that has been too long suppressed. Label it hysterical if you wish, but the daily diet of mindless tragedy assaults one’s senses to the breaking point. It is difficult to rise every morning to the threat of devastation to principles of living held dear for a lifetime without an eventual visceral reaction. No God worth the title would authorize what these men plotted and please, please don’t offend our intelligence by claiming otherwise.

The ultimate victim of all this is bound to be the freedom under which all of us live and thrive. Already those freedoms have been crimped by the need to guard against the kind of horror we underwent on Sept. 11, 2001 and the potential for a repeat of that tragedy. Every time a new threat like the one in Canada takes place there is another suggestion for tougher laws. The danger for us all lies in the willingness of angry people to adopt stringent, sometimes draconian measures that help accomplish the goal of the jihadists, the destruction of our democracy.

So what is to be done? It is up to those who bend daily to Mecca in this country to start being Americans first. It is paramount that they understand that the promotion of hate and violence is unacceptable. They should take their young men in hand and openly and forcefully rebuke the mindless radicalism that has infected so many of them and caused so much pain. Mullahs who spew this bile should be relieved of their positions and sent packing.

If responsible citizens here who follow Muhammad do not do this, they will face increasing suspicion and potential harassment. They will be more and more ostracized. Already Americans are increasingly skeptical of their loyalty to this country whether they were born here or chose this continent as their home. Under these circumstances, we all are worse off. A major link in the chain that has bound us together and protected us throughout our history, religious tolerance, will have been broken.

(Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.)