Sunday, August 29, 2004

Disenfranchised Arabs driven by sermons and also American bias, August 31, 2004

Disenfranchised Arabs driven by sermons and also bias
Creators Syndicate Tuesday August 31, 2004
By Ray Hanania

It started out as screaming headlines that swept the country last week, but ended up on the back pages of most newspapers by the time the true facts were revealed. Two terrorists plotted to blow up a New York subway to cause economic chaos during the Republican National Convention.

It's far from what we have all feared, nothing close to the terrorism of Sept. 11th. But it sure helps when in an age of anti-Arab hysteria and paranoia and anti-Arab violence, that there is at least some evidence to justify the fears that "those people" are actually doing something.

Actually, "those people" in this case are Shahawar Siraj, 22, and his "terrorist" co-conspirator, James Elshafay, 19. They were caught taking pictures and planning. They had no explosives. When caught, they declared their anger against "Zionism" and "Israel."

For President Bush, the "terrorist" arrests couldn't have come at a better time. The headlines make Bush look even more the great protector of post Sept. 11 America. Up until now, he has had to rely on media and political strategists to make him look good more than on effective policy and leadership.

All of the stories about these two Muslim men seem to end on another important note. They were driven to this "almost," "pretty close to" and "maybe" acts of terrorism by rantings and anti-American hysterics of Islamic fanaticism. Some attributed their conduct (terrorism) to "listening to sermons preaching jihad."

It is true that more and more Arabs, Muslims and people often mistaken for them because they look Arab or Muslim, are feeling anger at America.

But, if America really wants to know the truth about this growing anti-American anger, animosity and even hatred, or the real reasons behind why people who fled the repression of the Middle East would suddenly turn on the very country that invited them in, one might consider another reason: growing anti-Arab hatred and bigotry in American society, and one-sided American news media coverage.

The fact is if you are an Arab or Muslim or any one of dozens of ethnicities who "look Middle Eastern," you have more than enough reason to hate this country rather than wasting your time listening to the incomprehensible rhetoric and rantings on some cassette tape. Just read your local newspaper or watch your local TV. Or listen to your local radio station.

America's media is beyond biased. It is pure hate when it comes to Arabs and Muslims. This American media wages valiant wars against hateful practices such as anti-Semitism, but seems to become anti-Semitic itself when the subjects -- or targets -- are Arabs and Muslims.

Arabs and Muslims are routinely excluded from the media. You rarely read their opinions. News stories about them almost seem intentionally restricted to negative stories involving Arabs and Muslims accused of violence.

Pro-Israel fanatics, anti-Muslim activists and rightwing Christian and Jewish promoters of hate are given yards of space to express their viciousness, explaining from their skewered perspective why Arabs and Muslims should be rounded up, branded, jailed and tortured into confessions.

So what if the Arabs die?

The media merely reflects American society attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims who are routinely denied jobs, excluded from government and business positions, battered by racist talk, both open and behind closed-doors, and vilified daily non-stop.

For many Arabs and Muslims, American society is nothing that it claims to be. It is neither free nor open, neither fair nor just. Equality is a relative term that applies only to certain minorities and ethnic and religious groups.

Fourteen people who were or looked Middle Eastern were murdered in the six months after Sept. 11th. Every excuse was used to explain why they were not hate crimes. Post-Sept. 11th utterances of anti-Arab hatred didn't seem to matter more than other evidence suggesting they just didn't like the victims.

Arabs and Muslims live in an American society built on hatred, hysteria and cruelty. American leaders who urge restraint do so mainly to convey fairness, not achieve it.

In the ugly real world of American hatred and bigotry, it shouldn't be surprising that some people who are or look Middle Eastern lose control and do something extreme.

I fear that the way this country is acting, far more violence and threats will come from Arab and Muslim victims.

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