Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Fighting the Wrong Enemy:
Why Americans Hate Muslims
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July
Americans protesting Trump's ban on Muslims
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 back room, 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 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 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 my
taxes, obeyed the law and contributed to society in myriad ways are 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, firsthand, 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 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.
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 Muslim sentiments in the US have been around
for generations, but it has risen
sharply in the last two decades. Arabs and Muslims have become
an easy scapegoat for all of America's failed wars and counter-violence.
Terrorist threats have been
exaggerated beyond belief to manipulate a frightened, but also a growing
impoverished population. The threat level was assigned
colors, and each time the color vacillated towards the red, the nation
drops all of its grievances, fights for equality, jobs and health care
and unites in hating Muslims, people they never met.
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 being
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 Economist 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 the 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 ISIS and
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
Liberty.' The English philosopher, had a tremendous impact on
I read his famous book soon after I arrived
in the US. It took me a while to realize 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 whistleblowers 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
A big fan of hating Edward Bernays’ work, yet
appreciating his honesty, I realize the question is not that of Trump
alone. Bernays, whose writing on propaganda influenced successive
governments and inspired various military coups, was versed on
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 a few.
outcome of his ideas, which influenced generation 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, demonizing and humiliating brown skinned men and
women is certainly not the way out of the economic,
political and foreign policy quagmires which 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
- Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle
East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a
media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of
books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and
his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His
website is www.ramzybaroud.net.
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