Stoking Hate Toward Arabs and Muslims
British authorities grabbed headlines on August 10, claiming to have foiled Muslim terrorists harboring incriminating liquids in their homes -- sending U.S. and British airports into an anti-terrorist frenzy.
But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was simultaneously zeroing in on another alleged conspiracy: men of “Middle-Eastern descent,” who were scooping up cell phones at Wal-Mart stores in Ohio and Michigan.
On August 8, two such suspects, Ali Houssaiky and Osama Sabhi Abulhassan of Dearborn, Mich., were arrested in Marietta, Ohio, after a traffic stop -- when officers discovered 12 cell phones, $11,000 in cash and “airplane passenger lists” in their car.
The men claimed the passenger lists were left by a relative who worked at an airport and said they were buying cell phones to resell them at a profit. They were nevertheless charged with supporting terrorism.
Within days of the Ohio arrests, three Palestinian men from Texas -- Adham Othman, Louai Othman and Awad Muhareb -- were arrested in Caro, Mich., with 1,000 cell phones and digital photos of the Mackinac Bridge, linking Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. They also were charged with terrorism.
The men claimed they merely took photos of the bridge as visiting tourists. But CBS News informed viewers that the alleged “Texas Trio” had been charged with “collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes.”
Within days, the government’s allegations quietly unraveled, when all of the accused were proven to have told the truth and all terrorism charges were dropped. But the damage had been done.
Although George W. Bush denied in the months after the September 11 terrorist attacks -- having declared “either you are with us or against us” -- that the world’s Muslims were enemies of the U.S., he has seemed less concerned with this matter as the U.S.’s Middle East war aims continue to backfire, from Iraq to Lebanon.
Indeed, Bush has used the term “Islamic fascism” to describe America’s enemies on at least two occasions in recent weeks.
Bush argued on August 14 that Lebanon is a front in the “global war on terrorism.” He continued, “Hezbollah terrorists kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, Hamas kidnapped another Israeli soldier... We must not allow terrorists to prevent elected leaders from working together toward a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East.”
By invoking the war on terror abroad, Bush has emboldened the cause of racial profiling against Arabs and Muslims at home. Fox News’ Bill O'Reilly asserted just days ago, “All young Muslims should be subjected to more scrutiny than Granny [at U.S. airports]. And we should blend some Israeli screening procedures with our own.”
A significant minority of Americans apparently agree. A USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted in late July showed nearly 40 percent of Americans said they felt at least some prejudice against Muslims. The same percentage favored requiring all Muslims, including U.S. citizens, to carry a special ID “as a means of preventing terrorist attacks in the United States.” Nearly one in four -- 22 percent -- said they wouldn’t want to have Muslims as their neighbors.
Recent U.S. polls tail trends in Israel, where an October 2005 Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies’ opinion poll showed 46 percent of Israel’s Jewish population favored “transferring” (i.e., ethnically cleansing) Palestinians from Israel’s occupied territories, and 31 percent supported transferring Israeli Arabs out of Israel’s borders.
Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization. Hezbollah is not. It is a genuine resistance movement against Israeli occupation.
Nor does Hezbollah seek to establish an Iranian-style Islamic state in Lebanon. In an interview with Adam Shatz for the New York Review of Books in 2004, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stated: “We believe the requirement for an Islamic state is to have an overwhelming popular desire, and we’re not talking about 50 percent plus one, but a large majority. And this is not available in Lebanon and probably never will be.”
Israel, ostensibly the only “democracy” in the Middle East, is now detaining five Cabinet ministers of the Palestinian Authority and has captured more than two dozen elected members of the Palestinian parliament.
Not surprisingly, an early-August poll by Near East Consulting, based in Ramallah, showed that 97 percent of Palestinians support Hezbollah -- including 95 percent of Christian Arabs in the Palestinian Authority.
It is time to make a clear distinction between legitimate resistance movements -- against imperialist invasion and occupation -- and so-called “terrorism.”
With civil war looming in Iraq, the media has paid much less attention to the Iraqi resistance, but the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi troops has doubled since January.
According to the New York Times, “An analysis of the 1,666 bombs that exploded in July shows that 70 percent were directed against the American-led military force, according to a spokesman for the military command in Baghdad. Twenty percent struck Iraqi security forces, up from 9 percent in 2005. And 10 percent of the blasts struck civilians, twice the rate from last year.”
The U.S.’s military strategy in the Middle East may be in tatters, but its culture war against Islam is advancing spectacularly -- on the domestic front, at least.
Sharon Smith is a columnist for Socialist Worker and author of Women’s Liberation and Socialism, a new collection of essays that will be published by Haymarket Books. This article first appeared on the SW website: www.socialistworker.org. Thanks to Alan Maass.
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