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Fighting the wrong enemy: Why Americans hate Muslims

Jul 11,2017 - Last updated at Jul 11,2017

Two officers sought me from within a crowd at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. They seemed to know who I was. They asked me to follow them, and I obliged. Being of Arab background often renders one’s citizenship almost irrelevant.

In a backroom, where other foreigners, mainly Muslims, were holed for “added security”, I was asked numerous questions about my politics, ideas, writing, children, friends and my late Palestinian parents.

Meanwhile, an officer took my bag and all of my papers, including receipts, business cards, and more. 

I did not protest. I am so used to this treatment and endless questioning that I simply go through the motions and answer the questions the best way I know how.

My first questioning commenced soon after September 11, 2001, when all Muslims and Arabs became, and remain, suspect. “Why do you hate our president?” I was asked then, in reference to George W. Bush.

On a different occasion, I was held in a room for hours at JFK International Airport because I had a receipt that revealed my immortal sin of eating at a London restaurant that served halal meat.

I was also interrogated at an American border facility in Canada and was asked to fill out several documents about my trip to Turkey, where I gave a talk at a conference and conducted several media interviews.

A question I am often asked is: “What is the purpose of your visit to this country?”

The fact that I am an American citizen, who acquired high education, bought a home, raised a good family, paid his taxes, obeyed the law and contributed to society in myriad ways is not an adequate answer.

I remain an Arab, a Muslim and a dissident — all unforgivable sins in the new, rapidly changing America.

Truthfully, I never had any illusions regarding the supposed moral superiority of my adopted country. I grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza, and have witnessed, first-hand, the untold harm inflicted upon my people as a result of American military and political support of Israel.

Within the larger Arab context, US foreign policy was felt on a larger scale. The invasion and destruction of Iraq in 2003 was but the culmination of decades of corrupt, violent American policies in the Arab world.

But when I arrived in the US in 1994, I also found another country, far kinder and more accepting than the one represented — or misrepresented — in US foreign policy. While constantly embracing my Palestinian Arab roots, I have lived and interacted with a fairly wide margin of like-minded people in my new home.

While I was greatly influenced by my Arab heritage, my current political thoughts and the very dialectics through which I understand and communicate with the world — and my understanding of it — are vastly shaped by American scholars, intellectual dissidents and political rebels. 

It is no exaggeration to say that I became part of the same cultural zeitgeist that many American intellectuals subscribe to.

Certainly, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments in the US have been around for generations, but they have risen sharply in the last two decades. Arabs and Muslims have become an easy scapegoat for all of America’s failed wars and counterviolence.

Terrorist threats have been exaggerated beyond belief to manipulate a frightened, but also a growing impoverished population. The threat level has been assigned colours, and each time the colour vacillates towards red, the nation drops all of its grievances, fights for equality, jobs and healthcare and unites in hating Muslims, people they have never met.

It mattered little that, since September 11, the odds of being killed by terrorism are 1 in 110,000,000, an extremely negligible number compared to the millions who die as a result of diabetes, for example, or shark attacks, for that matter.

“Terrorism” has morphed from a violent phenomenon requiring national debate and sensible policies to combat it, into a bogeyman that forces everyone into conformity, and divides people between being docile and obedient on the one hand, and “radical” and suspect, on the other.

But blaming Muslims for the decline of the American empire is as ineffective as it is dishonest.

The Economic Intelligence Unit had recently downgraded the US from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy”. Neither Muslims nor Islam played any role in that.

The size of the Chinese economy is soon to surpass that of the US, and the powerful East Asian country is already roaring, expanding its influence in the Pacific and beyond. Muslims are hardly the culprits there, either.

Nor are Arabs responsible for the death of the “American dream”, if one truly existed in the first place; nor the election of Donald Trump; nor the utter corruption and mafia-like practices of America’s ruling elites and political parties.

It was not the Arabs and Muslims who duped the US into invading Iraq, where millions of Arabs and Muslims lost their lives as a result of unchecked military adventurism.

In fact, Arabs and Muslims are by far the greatest victims of terrorism, whether state-sponsored terror or that of desperate, vile groups like Daesh and Al Qaeda.

Americans, Muslims are not your enemy. They never have been. Conformity is.

“In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service,” wrote John Stuart Mill in “On Liberty”. The English philosopher had a tremendous impact on American liberalism.

I read his famous book soon after I arrived in the US. It took me a while to realise that what we learn in books often sharply contradicts reality.

Instead, we now live in the “age of impunity”, according to Tom Engelhardt. In a 2014 article, published in the Huffington Post, he wrote: “For America’s national security state, this is the age of impunity. Nothing it does — torture, kidnapping, assassination, illegal surveillance, you name it — will ever be brought to court.”

Those who are “held accountable” are whistle-blowers and political dissidents who dare question the government and educate their fellow men and women on the undemocratic nature of such oppressive practices.

Staying silent is not an option. It is a form of defeatism that should be outed as equally destructive as the muzzling of democracy.

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws,” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Barring citizens of Muslim countries from travelling to the US is a great act of immorality and injustice. 

Sadly, many Americans report that such discriminatory laws already make them feel safe, which itself is an indication of how the government and media manipulate consent in this country to produce the desirable results.

A big fan of hating Edward Bernays’ work, yet appreciating his honesty, I realise the question is not that of Trump alone. 

Bernays, whose writings on propaganda influenced successive governments and inspired various military coups, was versed in manipulating popular consent of Americans nearly a century ago. 

He perceived the masses as unruly and a burden on democracy, which he believed could only be conducted by the intelligent few.

The outcome of his ideas, which influenced generations of conformist intellectuals, is in full display today.

America is changing fast, and is certainly not heading in the right direction. 

Shelving all pressing problems and putting the focus on chasing after, demonising and humiliating brown-skinned men and women is certainly not the way out of the economic, political and foreign policy quagmires that American ruling elites have invited upon their country.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear,” wrote George Orwell.

No matter the cost, we must adhere to this Orwellian wisdom, even if the number of people who refuse to hear has grown exponentially, and the margins for dissent have shrunk like never before.

 

 

The writer, www.ramzybaroud.net, has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally syndicated columnist, a media consultant, author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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Comments

So i think I understand this gentleman. All Americans hate Muslims/Arabs. He knows this because he ha run into some instances of tighter security at airports. You know, where they fly those pesky things that terrorists flew into the WTC and Pentagon. Oh, and he seems to know the hearts of everyone in his adopted homeland. I have been in Jordan some 11 times in the past 10 years or so, and have never felt anything but respect and no hate such as this fine person has just expressed for me. Maybe as Josh mentioned, he should consider going somewhere else where he feels more welcome. i have many friends who have immigrated to the US and we have spoken several times about how they are accepted here. None have ever mentioned the obvious dislike for America that Mr. Baroud puts on display here. Maybe his attitude towards the US colors his view so much that he only sees what he wants to see, but that is his issue, not mine. I am sure Saudi Arabia would love to have him come and join their community. And what is a Persian/Arab? I thought they ere different based on the Iranians/Persians I know, who would never allow anyone to call them Arabs. ???

As an American, I assure you that America does not hate muslims. Would you say that Jordan hates americans because the country's policy deny USA citizens married to Jordanian women any form of civil rights? Never- Jordanians are loving people, open minded and peace loving men and women. Public policy of any nation is independent of the the relationship between the people of these nations. Let us continue to love and respect one another -irrespective of policies and politics.

With all due respect, the author appears to be having a one-sided mind. We need to admit that there are certain religions, customs, and beliefs that originate from the East and they do not quite hold a positive view of the West. Shall we start with a certain group of Muslims who view non-Muslim westerners as "kafirs"? What were the consequences? Well, we know the rest of the story.

Lack of genuine respect for multiculturalism, diversity, and tolerance is what playing a fine role in dividing the world in halves.

Okay, let me get this straight. The author of this article finds American foreign policy to be reprehensible and Americans themselves to be stupid and intolerant. Yet, he chose to voluntarily become an American citizen.

Why didn't he find a country that he likes and become a citizen there? Probably because he wants to benefit from the economic advantages while conveniently despising the average American working stiff who holds up the economy on their aching shoulders.

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