Sunday, August 08, 2004

Americans need accurate information on US Arabs 8-06-04

By Ray Hanania
August 6, 2004

The government says it needs the U.S. Census data on where Arabs and Muslims live in order to fight terrorism. Some see this as a civil rights abuse issue. But I disagree and I am Arab American.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. I am against it because I know the Census data is flawed. It's the worst way to find out where Arabs and Muslims live in America.

Arabs and Muslims have been demanding to be counted in the Census for more than a decade, but it's the government and our elected leaders who have said no. In the last Census, Arabs and Muslims had to write in their category or identify as "White/non-Hispanic," "Asian" or "Other."

Our government could get a better idea of where Arabs and Muslims live by finding out where I gave speeches or performed my Arab American stand-up comedy act over the past year.

Or, maybe I could just give them the answer myself and save them a big expense. I know where Arabs and Muslims live. Key locations include Detroit's suburbs, Chicago's suburbs, Houston, Texas, Patterson, N.J., the New York area, Central Ohio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

And that was free!

There are smaller communities in Knoxville, Tenn., South Florida, Kansas, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, D.C., southern Illinois, and some areas of northern Indiana.

How did I do it? A well-kept Arab and Muslim secret. I used the list of 60 major Arab and Muslim American newspapers and magazines. What is truly amazing to me (as an American, and not just as an Arab or someone often mistaken for a Muslim because I have olive skin and support Palestine) is that the government doesn't waste time reaching out to Arabs and Muslims through the existing Arab and Muslim media.

That would be too much common sense for any government, I guess, or for the Department of Homeland Security. It's not color coded.

Instead, this country spends more money trying to reach out to Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East than they do trying to reach out to Arabs and Muslims in this country. They spend millions on propaganda efforts like publishing an Arabic language magazine and running their own Arabic language TV and radio stations.

Hey, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge! I may be Arab and mistaken for Muslim, but I am also American. I am patriotic, too, even though I don't like our foreign policies toward the Palestinians and I oppose the war in Iraq.

More than 3,500 Arab and Muslim Americans are serving in our military today. Doesn't that put us in the category of being "patriotic," or at least American?

Get your act together. You're starting to scare me. Don't waste your time with the U.S. Census. Do your homework. There are many Arab and Muslim organizations that are not based in Washington, D.C., or funded by foreign governments that you could be talking to, like the National Arab American Journalist Association with its 147 members nationwide.

Or maybe, you might try getting your message out to Arabs and Muslims by reaching out to the 60 major Arab and Muslim media organizations that already operate in this country.

And certainly, before you request data from the U.S. Census, you might insist they do a better job by conducting a complete census of Arabs and Muslims. I'd like to know if the frequently quoted statistics like "7 million Muslims in America" and "2.5 million Arabs in America" are in fact true.

Or, are they like everything else in this country, exaggerated, faulty and a lie?

I don't want to become a victim of terrorism. I don't want to see planes hijacked and flown into our buildings. I want us to be more vigilant for real security threats, not politically motivated threats used to move election polling.

I think it is about time that Americans stopped relying on the negative and exaggerated stereotypes portrayed in dozens of movies produced each year by Hollywood, or anti-Arab and anti-Muslim portrayals by America's publishing houses.

Shouldn't we insist on the truth for once?

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC

No comments: