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Answering the lack of education of Americans
By Ray Hanania
Americans are the most educated people in the world but the least educated about the world. It’s something I say at every public speech I make when traveling across the globe addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict and the rising threat of religious extremism to the disappearing Christian minority in the Middle East.
What that means is that Americans know a lot about everything except the one thing they are most concerned about, foreign policy, especially when it comes to events in the Middle East.
I get emails from readers often. This morning I received an email from a very respectful reader who expressed some views I felt were not only wrong but incomplete. I think many Americans share similar concerns but I don’t believe the American Arab and Muslim community do a good job in helping to educate mainstream Americans about the truth of the Middle East, Muslims, Christian Arabs and Palestine.
American Arabs need to do more to educate Americans and help them understand the truth of what is happening. We also need to stand up and confront the religious extremists in the Arab World, including the Islamic extremists. Oftentimes, moderate Muslims would prefer not to bring up the issue of the small group of fanatics that sometimes dominate the public discussions with their hatred and fanaticism. The far Christian right also needs to be confronted in the United States. But the real threat is to the Christian Arabs who are slowly disappearing from the Holy Land where Christianity originates.
Hashtag alerts: #SaveArabChristins #SaveMidEastChristians
Here is his email and here is my response.
Dear Mr. Hanania
I would like to know why I hear about Muslim oppression. I see how women are treated as less than human. I’m not looking for a fight, just understanding. Sunni kill Shiites and vice versa, why? I know the Arab sentiment about how Israel should not exist. Jihad has nothing to do with internal stuggle. I figure radical islam is to pretend to be peaceful but take over slowly over time. I was a Soldier. I would never kill because my beliefs weren’t the same as my enemy. It simplistic I would only kill because somebody is trying to kill me, you know just to survive. Personally for me I do have a belief in God but no belief in religion. Religion to me seems to be a tool that is utilized to control people. In the end I’m just wondering why people kill in the name of God (this covers all religions) I hope I did not impress you as hostile.
(Name withheld, from Florida)
Here is my response:
Hi [NAME WITHHELD] … I appreciate your views very much and the tone in which you express them.
Here are some of my thoughts on the important issues you raised:
1 — The United States oppressed women and children for generations until only in the middle of the 20th Century … Women were denied the right to vote, own property for the entire existence of the United States until a Constitutional amendment was finally adopted. The US also supported slavery and discrimination against Black People, also through the end of the 19th Century and the middle of the 20th Century. Eventually, the issues were addressed, but did that make the US a bad country?
Arab countries are in transition and I am one of the voices demanding that Democracy be implemented, that extremists be confronted and challenged and that women be given equal status.
2 — The Arab sentiment about Israel is completely different than what you state. For example, the Arabs wanted a Country where everyone, Jews, Muslims and Christians could live with equal rights. That is not what Israel does. My relatives are Christians and some live in Israel as Israeli citizens and some live under Israel’s brutal military occupation. The Israelis discriminate against Christians and Muslim citizens and deny them many rights including restricting land ownership and censoring them, threatening them with prison if they express views that are not accepted by the Jewish population (such as saying that Palestine deserves to be a state.)
My mother is from Bethlehem and her family land was stolen by the Israelis in 1967 when Bethlehem was occupied. Her family and the Palestinians in the occupation are oppressed and killed by Israelis. The Israeli settler fanatics — the true Jihadists in the Middle East — are nuts and hate Muslims and hate Christians, too, but most American Christians don’t care about Christians being oppressed by Israel. They only talk about Christians being oppressed by Muslims, and that does happen, too.
I think Christian American should be standing up and defending Palestinian Christians and criticizing Israel for stealing their lands and homes and property. They are routinely expelled, falsely arrested, beaten, attacked and threatened. That’s wrong and no one speaks out against that.
3 — There is a difference between defending yourself as a soldier — I served during the Vietnam War (and by the way my brother was a US Marine, and my father and uncle served during World War II enlisting right after Pearl Harbor and fought until the end of the war — and killing innocent civilians. I think SOME (not all) but some American soldiers have murdered, intentionally, civilians. In some cases, it was mistake through bad military planning and incorrect intelligence. Killing innocent civilians and refusing to own up to it is a crime and is wrong. Intentionally killing civilians is a war crime. No American soldiers have been prosecuted for war crimes against civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan, with the exception of only one or two soldiers — and the US has given the Blackwater mercenaries immunity against any prosecution for warcrimes as well as accidental killings or destruction of private property. That’s wrong.
4 — Torture is wrong and illegal. I don’t want foreign prisoners tortured or water-boarded because I don’t want American prisoners of war tortured or water-boarded. Soldiers who engage in torture should be prosecuted. Soldiers and prisoners, in and out of uniform should be treated as prisoners with respect that our nation claims it stands for. We shouldn’t make exceptions to satisfy our anger, or make excuses. That’s not what being an American is all about.
Yes, the Arab and Muslim Worlds have problems … but do you think that we, as Americans, don’t have problems? That we don’t have fanatics and killers, here, too? It’s ridiculous to have two standards, one for them and one for us. We should live by one principle of justice and fairness, and we shouldn’t break the law for any reason. But the majority of Muslims are good people. Islam, as a religion, is a peaceful religion. It is twisted and distorted by a small minority of extremists and fanatics who distort the principles of Islam to push their own fanatic agendas.
Americans need to better understand the Arab and Muslim Worlds and stop stereotyping. There are good and bad everywhere. But to hold hostile views against Muslims, and to ignore the serious challenges facing Christian Arabs, is wrong.
That’s me being an American Arab.
I hope that helps
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and for TheArabDailyNews.com, and TheDailyHookah.com.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com www.arabnews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
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