Since the events of September 11, 2001, the United States and its allies have taken a strong stance against Islamic fundamentalists and their actions against the Western world. Although the various conflicts taking place in the Middle East are important topics to discuss, there is one important dimension of the War on Terrorism that is usually neglected: the treatment of Arab Muslims.
The Fort Hood shooting that took place on November 5, 2009 really brings this issue back into the spotlight. Even though the shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, was the sole perpetrator, it is easy for the actions of one man to reflect an entire demographic. Hasan’s actions were also compounded by the fact that his actions were during a time of war against terrorists, who just so happen to be Islamic fundamentalists.
Mass media also takes it upon itself to associate the word “terrorist” with people of Arab descent. Furthermore, the media has interpreted the entire religion of Islam as containing only fundamentalist beliefs that have anti-American ideals. The truth of the matter is that Islam, like all of the world’s major religions, has variations in its belief system. In other words, not everyone who believes in Islam is a suicide bomber. In spite of this, however, our society refuses to use its better judgment and say that not all people who are Arab Muslims are terrorists.
Many Arab Muslims hide within their own communities for fear of what might happen to them on the outside. Some refuse to fly for fear of racial profiling and others have tried to Americanize themselves by changing their names. Sometimes, Arab Muslims are afraid to speak on the phone for fear that someone is listening in on their conversation. There are even fears that they might be sent to internment camps, much like Japanese-Americans during World War II.
There are a multitude of cases involving discrimination against Arab Muslims. For example, Farooq Al-Fatlawi was a bus passenger en route to Chicago but was kicked off the bus when he told the driver that he was from Iraq. Another case involved civil rights activist Raed Jarrar, who wasn’t allowed to board a plane for wearing a shirt that said “We will not be silent” in Arabic and English.
The most important thing people should take out of the plight of Arab Muslims is that it is counterintuitive to exile an entire group of people from society. If our society really fears that Arab Muslims are anti-American, perhaps we should include them instead of excluding them. Allowing Arab Muslims to feel included will bring goodwill instead of the alleged “resentment” they all have. Like any other demographic, all Arab Muslims want is inclusion within our society and to do that we need to stop holding the entire group responsible for something they did not do. In short, discrimination will destroy our society, not any one demographic.