an area of the map for world news.
December 2001 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 48, No. 12)
Stereotypes of Arabs and
Islam Fuel Anti-Americanism
Allaf, The Daily Star (independent, English-language),
Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 3, 2001.
enough hours in the day to read, let alone individually respond
to, all the recent offensive commentaries in the media pretending
to analyze the mentality and psychology of Arabs or Muslims.
At best, one can only attempt to counter an aggregate of condescending
attitudes. These attitudes that must be countered are composed
of a holier-than-thou mind-set which seems to have
made some commentators deem themselves capable of evaluating
whole populations thought processes, while ignoring obvious
geopolitical and historical issues.
|The other face of the Arab world:
A boy eats ice cream in Cairo.
Trying to understand the causes of an act does not mean justifying
the act. When a murder is committed, detectives look for a motive
to guide them to the culprit. Mass murder, in all its horror
and perversion, also has causes. Needless to say, they can never
be a validation for committing despicable acts of terror. As
they embark on Operation Enduring Freedom, Secretary of State
Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, as well
as many other U.S. officials, are well aware of the matters
which may have influenced the horrendous terrorist attacks of
Far from being a sleeping giant, and perhaps unbeknownst to
the majority of American people, the U.S. government has been
extremely active in international affairs, putting tax dollars
to use in the most bewildering political scenarios and toward
the most brutal injustices.
According to some commentaries, however, the terrorist attacks
are in no way related to the U.S. governments actions
over the past three decades. Apparently, this was really the
result of Islams jealousy of the West, of poor peoples
envy of rich America. In other words, innocent civilians supposedly
died because they lived in a rich country; terrorists killed
some 6,000 people because they were jealous of the American
way of life. Even President George W. Bush, in a statement that
went practically unchallenged by anyone, explained that those
attackers cant stand the freedom.
CBS anchor Dan Rather summed up this simplistic discourse in
his recent appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman,
saying that people from the Middle East felt anger because they
see themselves as the worlds losers. They would
never admit that. They see us, we have everything. We win everything.
They see themselves and think, we should be a great people but
were not. It drives them batty. They hate us for who and
what we are.
It is precisely because of batty statements like these that
resentment develops, and certainly not because Americans are
hated for who or what they are! The American people, still in
shock and in mourning, are being led into believing the most
ridiculous claims by some prominent figures in the media and
the establishment. They are further led to believe that a few
terrorists speak for entire populations, that criminals are
enacting the wishes of whole ethnicities or religious groups.
Nothing could be more untrue.
Very real attempts to fit this tragedy into a grandiose and
pre-existing theory about a clash between cultures is not even
naive: It is stupid, it is misleading, and it is dangerous.
By spreading the hearsay that the American people as a whole
are resented by the Arab/Muslim people as a whole, would-be
analysts either demonstrate an astonishing ignorance of the
world, or, even worse, a calculated effort to widen the gap
of mistrust between different peoples.
Globalization indeed! If one could encapsulate the essence of
resentment toward the United States, it would have to be the
blatant double standards of successive U.S. administrations,
with their active support of oppressors and occupiers when it
suits their own political and geostrategic interests, and their
violent repression of those who dont serve Americas
global interests. Hating American people has never come into
the equation because there is no reason whatsoever to hate them.
Its as simple as that.
In fact, typifying this tragedy as a mere hate crime is exactly
what would breed hate from all sides. It is a practice that
has been used ad nauseam by Israel for five decades, as it has
tried to convince the international community that the only
reason for Arab animosity and attacks against Israel is plain,
baseless hatred and racism.
Capitalizing on the rationale of the ultimate victim, Israel
has justified its every revolting crime against humanity as
self-defense against unfounded loathing. The custom-made claim
of anti-Semitism has in this way become a vital
tool in their peddling of the image of Israel as a victim of
Since the Israeli disinformation strategy has worked so well,
some are now trying to apply it elsewhere to support their ultimate
goals of dominance. Those who are relating this hate-crime reasoning
to the attacks on America have hidden agendas; they are not
looking to defuse terrorism, advance international understanding,
or achieve any kind of justice. As a first step, they are hoping
to convince the masses that there are irreconcilable differences
between East and West, and between Islam and the Judeo-Christian
world (ignoring the practically identical tenets of the respective
holy scriptures), forgetting that people are people.
We have read over and over again about how some Arabs and Muslims
have cheered the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11; not only was
this minority portrayed as being representative of over a billion
people, but their celebrations were analyzed as
being rooted in a deep hatred of the American people. In fact,
these miserable cheerers have many reasons indeed to resent
not the people, but the U.S. government, who alone is responsible
for arming their oppressors and allowing their agony to continue.
It is simply their inability to differentiate between government
and people that induced them to ignorantly celebrate the death
Meanwhile, few commentaries have mentioned that some Americans
have also at times brashly celebrated the mass killing of civilians.
As CNN showed bombs raining on Baghdads helpless population
in 1991, it also showed American people loudly cheering in bars
and streets across the country. I wonder how this explanation
justifies the killing of innocents anywhere, or the accompanying
cheering. I also wonder why this logic is not applied to Israels
invasion of Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian lands, to Israels
decimation of refugee camps, to Israels bulldozing of
Palestinian makeshift homes by the thousand, or the mass murder
of Palestinians under a brutal military occupation.
In the past couple of weeks, there have been many references
to Pearl Harbor, but hardly any to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There
have been numerous allusions to attacks on American forces and
interests in various countries, but hardly any to U.S.-led (or
U.S.-backed) foreign incursions, coups, assassinations, and
By showing only one side of the coin, by spreading the most
ignorant theories, people in positions of influence are adding
fuel to an already fiery situation and creating feelings of
mutual resentment between ethnicities. It remains to be proven
how this will rid the world of terrorism.
Just as we must make a distinction between a few terrorists
and the majority of their compatriots, we differentiate between
the minority of Americans who dictate foreign policy, and the
majority of Americans who are normal, peaceful human beings.
Clearly, the American government is not going to admit that
it has been playing chess with peoples lives for years.
It is also not going to admit that the attacks on U.S. soil
were most certainly instigated by its long tradition of unjust
interference in world affairs, prolonging a vicious circle of
violence which has claimed countless innocent victims to whom
those of Sept. 11 must sadly be added. It is up to the American
people to seek the truth, and up to the media, which bears immense
responsibility, to ensure that this truth is delivered.