October 11: Afghanistan/Immigrants
LONDON (Reuters) -- The United States has put a face on terrorism -- and that face is Arabic: just the sort of action analysts fear will pit the West against Islam.
They say the new U.S. "most wanted" list is more dramatic than diplomatic and risks inciting racial hatred, for all the West's insistence that it is fighting terrorism and not Islam.
"The irony is that by personalizing and demonizing you alienate. Despite all the attempts to show that its battle is not against Islam, (U.S. President George W.) Bush is making it all about Islam," said George Joffe, a Middle East expert at Cambridge University.
"All the indicators, the simplifiers -- the head dress, the beards, the appearance -- all indicate a particular group, associated with a particular culture. All this goes against the attempts by the U.S. administration to de-demonize Islam."
Bush's list, unveiled Wednesday, smacked of the same kind of Wild West imagery as his vow to capture "dead or alive" the Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. landmarks that killed more than 5,500.
While the list might alienate Arabs, Bush needs to show the U.S. public he is alert to all threats at home.
Since so many of those appearing on Wednesday's "most wanted terrorists" posters -- which offer a $5 million reward -- were Arab in appearance and all had Muslim names, many Arabs and Muslims fear they will now become targets of racial attacks.
Guilty by opinion
"Terrorism has a face, and today we expose it for the world to see," Bush said as he broadened the hunt beyond bin Laden.
Amnesty International said the United States must be careful not to violate basic human rights in its pursuit of justice.
"The U.S. is obviously entitled to bring to justice those responsible for the September 11 attacks ... but there should be no suggestion of conviction through public opinion," Amnesty spokesman Claudio Cordone told Reuters.
Diplomats from the Middle East in London say the United States is in danger of denting already shaky support from moderate Arab allies who themselves fear reprisals from Islamic dissidents.
"This situation is very sensitive for my country. We are behind the United States in this war on terror but they have to take a softer approach," said a senior Gulf envoy.
Analysts say anti-U.S. sentiment could harden following the release of the posters and the continuing military strikes on Muslim Afghanistan for harboring bin Laden.
Surely white Christians could make a U.S. most-wanted list?
"Why pick on Arabs? Are there no South Americans, Irish, Serbs, Japanese among the most wanted? This will increase the bitterness people here feel against the West," Hussein Amin, a writer on Islamic affairs and former Egyptian ambassador to Algeria, told Reuters.
Some Arabs say this growing divide between the West and Islam is just what the perpetrators of the attacks had intended.
"Now Americans think all Arabs are bad men and many Arabs now think Americans all hate them. This wasn't the case before," said Muhareb al-Emezi, a Kuwaiti businessman visiting London.
Emezi and others said they feared being victimized by their Arab appearance and language.
"The story has become more about looks and complexion than substance. People will be scared of Arabs and Muslims," a well-traveled Lebanese businessman said.
"We are likely to be mistreated or arrested. If I am there (Europe or America) I will avoid talking Arabic in public. I am sure if I take a bus, go into a restaurant or on a plane, people will turn to look at me in a strange way," he said.
Others were more sanguine.
"We Saudis are used to stereotypes in the West," said Mohammed al-Awwam, deputy editor of pan-Arab daily newspaper Asharq al Awsat.
"Before taxi drivers would say 'Oh a Saudi, oil, money' and hassle me for a big tip. Now they give me a hard time at immigration at the airport."
Hi in reading a lot of flyers, press releases and points of unity from different organizations I have come across a minor problem.. and I would like to make a suggestion... a lot of postings the word "Arab" is only used, excluding a lot of other people from the middle east for example one flyer from a major organization states
">Stand Up For The Civil Rights
>of Arab-Americans and Muslims
>Anti-Arab Racism is
Another : "We condemn Anti-Arab Racism"
Another : "Fight Against Anti-Arab Racism in your community"
I would like to point out that statement leaves out a lot of people and races that are being attacked right now. the fact is that Afghans, Armenians,Iranians and people from Pakistan, Kazakhstan are NOT Arabs or , they are NOT of the Arab race and at times are not even muslim.. BUT they are also being targeted heavily right now.
The word Arab seems to exclude a lot of other groups and races
who are facing a huge backlash and racist terror in this country. I would
suggest using the word like "People of middle eastern/South Asian decent
and Muslims" or something similar to that basically covers everyone,
because a lot of Afghans and Armenians are NOT even muslim but actually Christian
of the Bahai faith.. these are facts that I just stated that anyone can look up in a middle eastern History book.
so please think about it and don't take this email as any type of attack, it's a very very HONEST mistake to make when so many people want to do something and help combat racism. consider this as an open proposition when printing flyers, putting things on websites, writing essays, or doing press releases. It's generalizing a lot of countries, nations, races and groups of
people into one big clump. It's basically like calling everyone from East Asia, Chinese.. or calling everyone from South America, Mexican... some people might take a lot of offense to that. It's an honest mistakes for many to make, Once again I know it's not done by anyone intentional in any sort of way, it was just a bit of the concern from myself and from few of the Islamic Centers and Mosques Ive been working with, that has seen or been shown flyers, they felt like it excluded a lot of their members who have been getting a lot of threats or had been attacked. I just wanted to bring it to peoples attention, again it's a simple honest mistake made by many, so don't feel too bad or take me saying anything about it in a personal way. it's not meant to be.
Also I would like to point out after meeting w/ Mosque directors,
members and Islamic schools of education and middle eastern culture many of
times during the past 4 weeks, in general most of the people I have come across
would like for me to pass on a message and thank Everyone is doing such a
great job, and honestly I would personally like to say that as a Lil Iranian
girl im very very touched by the outpouring of support from so many towards
the Middle Eastern/ Muslim community, it's unlike anything i have experienced
before, and everyone is doing such a wonderful job. I have had Mosque directors,
and just church/mosque goers, Islamic Center Teachers, tell me that they had
no idea so many Americans cared about them in this
way, and that they can't believe that so many activist would come to them during this time and extend a helping hand to them. They have told me that they can't even believe Americans would come to their service, or call to offer support and volunteer for tasks, they can't believe that 2 hrs. after the bombing huge groups all over the country of not just middle eastern/muslim people but of AMERICANS were out in the street protesting the war. They are truly AMAZED and greatful for everything small or big that people are doing. So thank you all for being the voice for so many that don't or can't have one right now out of fear of violence and persecution. Thank you, keep doing what you guys do best.