By Ray Hanania
The absence of our story as Arab-Americans may explain why so many Americans hate Arabs and Muslims, especially in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo Massacre. Most Americans lump Arabs and Muslims into one category of spite because, to be honest, most Americans are uneducated and ignorant about the facts.
I blame ourselves as much as I blame Americans. We Arabs, and Arab Muslims, have not told our story properly to Americans. We haven’t done it in books. We haven’t done it in movies. We haven’t done it even in traditional mainstream news media like features or even in theater or novels. We have written a lot of boring books about the politics of the Middle East reciting rhetoric over and over again without purpose.
I know why this has happened. Arabs come from oppressive countries controlled by tyrants where the very concept of “communication” is discouraged, censored, feared.
Our failure to present who we really are has helped fuel the American rush to champion Charlie Hebdo, the racist French magazine that regularly publishes racist and hateful caricatures of Arabs, Muslims and other races and religions, too.
When the “satire” magazine was attacked and 12 people, including its founder and editors, were massacred by terrorist extremists, the public rage was directed against all Arabs and all Muslims. It even screamed to the level of denouncing Palestinians, who had nothing to do with the attacks at all.
In America, when one or two fanatic criminals declare that they are “Muslim” or “Arab,” and then go on to commit heinous terrorist atrocities, Americans and many people in the West simply believe them.
Why shouldn’t they? Is it the job of the average American to educate themselves on who Arabs and Muslims really are? Or, is it our job as Arabs and Muslims, as I believe.
I do not support violence of any kind, yet for some reason, people are attacking me, other Arabs and Muslims because of what the terrorist fanatics did. I never said those terrorists represent me. I don’t know any Arabs or Arab Muslims who have said those terrorists represent them. Yet Americans eagerly blame us for terrorism. All terrorism.
What the terrorists did was absolutely criminal and disgusting. The unjustified murder of individuals simply because of the victim’s political views is wrong. It is wrong morally and legally, of course.
That doesn’t mean that I am going to celebrate the disgusting and hateful depictions that filled the pages of Charlie Hebdo.
But that’s what Americans and the West are doing.
The magazine’s circulation was only 63,000 before the attack. Since the terrorist attack, the magazine will publish more than 3 million copies, which features another racist caricature of Arabs, Muslims and even the Prophet Muhammad on its front cover, with the help of donors from America and the West.
They want to make a statement. What kind of statement? That racism is acceptable in the wake of terrorism?
The terrorists have changed the dynamics of the Middle East conflict that many Americans interpret when acts of terrorism are committed by Muslims and Arabs. They blame all Muslims. They blame all Arabs. They blame Islam as a religion and denounce it, wrongly, as somehow being more violent and more immoral than, say Judaism or Christianity.
The history of Christianity is written in the blood of millions of innocent people going back centuries to the Inquisition and even to the unjustified war on Iraq. The invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003 was driven by a Christian hatred of Islam. It’s only in hatred and emotion that an American could possibly believe that then dictator Saddam Hussein was complicit in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Americans have empowered the terrorists by their emotional response to terrorist acts. They give the terrorists a “moral right” to represent an entire religion and race which consists of nearly 2 billion people.
Why would they do that? And, why do we allow other opportunists, like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has his own moral and ethical challenges, to exploit this massacre of innocent lives? Netanyahu injected Israel into the terrorist attacks, declaring that only Jewish victims of the terrorists could be buried in Jerusalem, which is a city holy not only to Jews but to Christians and Muslims, too.
What about the Muslim French police officer, Ahmed Merabet, who was murdered by the terrorists as he tried to defend the editorial staff of the racist magazine, Charlie Hebdo? Doesn’t he deserve to be buried in Jerusalem, too?
The racism that drove the Charlie Hebdo murders is being allowed to white wash the racism that exists in our society.
No one should be allowed to exploit the terrorism for his or her own political advantage. And while we should mourn the dead, let’s not deify individuals who have spent their life mocking with racism and hatred others.
I am not Charlie Hebdo. I am not the terrorists either!
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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