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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Security or Prejudice?

We'll start with this quote from Raed Jarrar, from a September 1st interview by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

...I went to the airport in the morning, and I was prevented to go to my airplane by four officers, because I was wearing this t-shirt that says “We Will Not Be Silent” in both Arabic and English. And I was told by one of the officials that wearing a t-shirt with Arabic script in an airport now is like going to a bank with a t-shirt that reads, “I am a robber.”

Sometimes, the idea of profiling muslims is shown for the ridiculous idea it is. Wisconsin Congressional candidate, Paul R. Nelson, said that 'racial profiling' would be a good idea at airports. Two problems -- 'muslim' isn't a race and, given that truth, how do you tell who's a muslim? Nelson's answer showed half-bakedness of his idea; "Well, you know, if he comes in wearing a turban and his name is Mohammed," he said, "that's a good start."

Yeah, look for the guy dressed like Aladdin.

These are not isolated incidents. A Gallup poll released August 10th showed that anti-muslim feelings are disturbingly common:

Substantial minorities of Americans admit to having negative feelings or prejudices against people of the Muslim faith, and favor using heightened security measures with Muslims as a way to help prevent terrorism. Personally knowing someone who is Muslim -- which 41% of Americans say they do -- corresponds with more favorable attitudes on these questions. These are they key findings of a July 28-30, 2006 USA Today/Gallup Poll focusing on U.S. attitudes toward Muslims living in the United States.

22% said they would not want a muslim neighbor, 18%, say they would feel nervous if they noticed a muslim woman flying on the same airplane as themselves, and 31% say they would feel nervous if they noticed a muslim man on their flight. Only 49% believe muslims are 'loyal to the United States' and 34% believe they are all 'sympathetic to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization'.

Why do we feel this way? Mostly because idiots tell us to. The rightwing blog Little Green Footballs has referred to Islam as the 'Religion of Beheading'. Associated Press tells us that 'at the campaign event with Bush, [Montana's Republican Sen. Conrad] Burns talked about the war on terrorism, saying a "faceless enemy" of terrorists "drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night."' Recently, Pat Robertson told viewers of The 700 Club, "Osama bin Laden may be one of the true disciples of the teaching of the Quran."

And, in a shocking triumph of bigotry over common sense, the message is sinking in. A candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates Saqib Ali, found a anti-muslim moron on his lawn. Volunteer Sally Hand writes in Ali's campaign blog (and confirmed by the Washington Post):

Friends and Supporters,

I am writing to tell you about a disturbing event that occurred at the campaign's Gaithersburg headquarters yesterday [Ali runs his campaign from his home]. As usual, the office was buzzing with activity; volunteers were working away, distributing literature, assembling mailings, making phone calls, etc. I stepped out briefly to retrieve something from my car. What I saw shocked and horrified me. I was faced with a protester seated on a lawn chair. He displayed a sign reading "Islam Sucks" and he was wearing an equally offensive t-shirt. The protester repeatedly made anti-Muslim slurs and an obscene gesture.


While I fully support Mr. Truett's right to voice his opinions, I was baffled, perplexed and scared that in this day and age anyone could still hate anyone else on such a base level simply for their faith.

My grandparents came to this country to escape religious persecution. As Jews leaving Tsarist Russia, they believed that everyone should be judged on their merits. They instilled this belief in my parents and in turn my parents taught me and my siblings to look at each individual, not to judge anyone by the color of their skin or the religion they practice. Saqib's campaign stands for civil rights for all. I believe that Mr. Truett, and persons like him, want to limit all of our civil rights; That is what we are up against in this campaign and that is why I am asking for your help in Saqib's campaign for Delegate.

Would it be OK to sit outside a candidate's house with a sign that read 'Judaism sucks'? Or catholicism or buddhism or any other religion? Whether you aim this ignorance and bigotry at muslims or jews or christians or hindus, it's the same damned thing.

It'd be nice if that were only as bad as it gets, but it's not. Chicago's ABC 7 ran this story:

A peak in hate crimes after nine eleven has not subsided; in fact according the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the number of incidents remains much higher than before 9-11.

These hate crimes are an added burden to Americans already made to feel like outsiders in their own country as we explore the lingering effects of misperceptions and misunderstanding in: The Muslim American Reality.

A simple game provides endless entertainment for father and son. It's what every parent wants for his children -- to be happy and feel safe. But since 9-11 Abbas Salmi feels his family's safety is in jeopardy.

"People who would say hello to you wouldn't say hello. People who you'd see walk past everyday would now give you a dirty look," said Salmi.

Kastem Salmi - the matriarch - left Jerusalem as a teenager in search of a better life. In the southwest suburbs, she raised a family and now grandchildren. She was sitting with her grandchildren in 2003, when a neighbor firebombed the family's van outside.

"I hear the bomb...the bomb is loud," Kastem Salmi said.

Eric Nix was convicted of a hate crime and sentenced to fifteen months in federal prison.

"This became our culture. This became our home and it was all taken away," said Abbas Salmi.

Reuters reported August 25:

The earnings of Arab and Muslim men working in the United States dropped about 10 per cent in the years following the 9/11 attacks, according to a new study.

The drop in wages was most dramatic in areas that reported high rates of hate crimes, according to the study due to be published in the Journal of Human Resources.

How bad do we have to allow things to get before we call a spade a spade? This is hatred, racism, and bigotry and it's plainly unamerican. When Robertson or Michelle Malkin are treated like valid experts on Islam, these things will happen -- it's inevitable. As long as we don't recognize the 'pundits' for what they are, we continue to tacitly endorse their twisted worldview. It's a worldview were every muslim is either a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer -- as if Muhammad Ali and Dave Chappelle are ready to become suicide bombers at any minute.

Until we treat these idiots the same way we treat the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan or the head of a neo-nazi group, we'll have people discriminating against americans, insulting them, and committing crimes against them.

I'm not saying these 'pundits' shouldn't be allowed to speak, but much of the media treats them as legitimate. These people don't belong on CNN and MSNBC and FOX, they deserve the same treatment we reserve for hateful bigots like Fred Phelps -- out on the sidewalks, screaming obscenities and raving.

The radical Islam of al Qaeda is not the Islam of all muslims -- al Qaeda's a cult and has as much to do with Islam as David Koresh had to do with Christianity. By allowing anyone to paint all muslims with such a broad brush, we become complicit in hate crime.

We need to call these anti-muslim voices in the media on their hate speech and we have to do it every time they make their bigotted pronouncements. At the very least, they're not helping.

At the very worst, they're changing America for the worse.


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Bret said...

I have to commend you for a well researched and documented article; however, it only goes half way in showing the view you are against.

Honestly, what response would you expect when almost every single terrorist attack against American soil, both on the continent and abroad, has been conducted by Muslim males between the ages of 17-40?

Couple this with an outspoken view by those Muslims who practice terrorism; CAIR is more focused on the I of their relations than the A - they won't even condemn kidnappings, beheadings, or other heinous actions done by Muslims. And that's the point, no one will or does.

So what then is the average American supposed to do and think? Your post is an example of contrary thinking, instead of, as you said, common sense in the face of such bigotry - is it not bigoted to hijack planes and fly them into towers? Or would it, instead, be more common to think of self preservation against a somewhat apparent enemy? Where is your condemnation of those actions - which are obvious and not an attempt to read into someone else's head?

There is a quote that is highly ironic in your post: "I was baffled, perplexed and scared that in this day and age anyone could still hate anyone else on such a base level simply for their faith."

That's really surprising considering that what we face now is an extension of the conflict between the Christian and Muslim ideologies. In case you weren't aware, these terrorist actions are, themselves, "hate crimes", if you need such a classification. They hate us, and do all they can to express that pure vitriole through jihad (literally "holy war or struggle").

In the end, your post was well written, but I fear it comes dramatically short of an adequate conclusion - hoping, wanting to blame us and our pundits for the effect, instead of an ideology of hate and violence for the cause.

Wisco said...

Thanks for the feedback, bret.

I left a comment on your post at your blog.

The Mac said...

Bret is a spineless and cowardly LIAR. CAIR has condemned acts of terrorism in all its forms. This right wing slime ball just hates all Muslims but doesnt have the nuts to say it plainly.