Letter to My Arab Comrades

The holiday season is over but hardly anyone I know was in a very festive mood considering what had occurred on 9-11. As for me the events of that day doe not bother me. At first they did. For a week or so I was all jittery and anxious about was to come, who was going to start what and with whom, those sorts of things. Two images are forever etched on my mind. People holding hands, jumping to their deaths or a group standing in front of a window, faces twisted in fear and panic, trying to find an escape route that didn’t exist. This entire situation makes me weep and shake my fists in impotent rage because of the unconditional support the United States gives to Israel and the ignoring the suffering of other people in the region, we have opened ourselves up to terrorist attacks.

As the causalities mounted I knew that America would retaliate. It had to. Something like this could not be ignored. What saddened me was Afghanistan would bearn the brunt of this anger. A country that had little in the way of anything, was going to be unmercifully blasted in order for Americans to “feel good” about themselves. Which is another example of things not needing to happen. Had the US remained in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, bringing order to the chaos and helping to remove land mines, the Taliban would never have existed. Unfortunately this isn’t the way America does things. Once the dirty work has been done she beats a hasty retreat. Afghanis were governed by a group of religious fanatics whose focus was on themselves. In their view they were right and to hell with the rest. Now such nonsense has emerged here. Reason and logic are out of fashion as Americans have become more xenophobic, paranoid, and intolerant. Americans flags are displayed not in memory of the victims but as a way to show American power and superiority.

Being a super patriot may be the “in thing” to be but here is one American that refuses to shut up, line up and blindly follow the hordes. The sanctioning of physical attacks on Arab Americans, racial profiling and strip searches at airports, and the hounding of Arabs off of university campuses are reminders of what had occurred in China between Chinese and African students. During the Iranian Hostage Crisis I tried very hard to be patriotic but after a white female called me” nigger” when the news that Khomeni had ordered the release of the black and female hostages (they’ve got enough problems to deal with) was heard on the nightly news, patriotism is no longer in my vocabulary.

As a result of these terrorist attacks I am supposed to forget the kindness, joy and the feeling of community that you, my Arab comrades, had given to me. During my illness you were there, doing what you could, assisting me in going to the bathroom and bringing me meals from the dorm cafeteria. There were few Americans (none of them black) that gave a damn. Those were great days, huh? Along with our studies did make a difference. Together we labored strenuously during the anti-apartheid struggle and the disinvestment campaign. We partied together and together we celebrated your weddings. Finally it became my habit to attend services at the mosque in Bloomington that evening after attending afternoon Mass. Followed by reading several chapters of the Bible and Koran. Am I to show my patriotism by abandoning a part of my life that continues to give me comfort?

Like it or not Radical Islam and Fundamentalist Christianity are very similar. Both are reactionary conservatives that long for the “good old days” of order, repression, and ignorance. They are hostile to religious and racial diversity. Religion is just a tool to be used to achieve their political and economic ends. Neither can tolerate dissent, preferring to take the” it’s our way, or the highway” attitude. Both have a fear of the people. This is especially true of Islamic extremists because their position is very precarious. A majority of Arabs are poor and have not shared in the region’s oil wealth. Add to this the existence of corrupt and repressive governments (supported by the US) it’s no wonder that terrorism exists.

Problem: who is a terrorist? A man that straps a bomb to his chest, picks up his rifle and detonates it at an army check point or military base, is a soldier and revolutionary. His actions, like them or not, are legitimate. However the same man who does the same thing at a disco, on a bus or at a pizzeria is nothing more than a thug and a murderer. Under these circumstances Radical Islamists are under intense pressure to deliver on their promises. Rhetoric and factual distortions no longer work. Like customers at department stores these people want to see and feel the products that they buy. As fundamentalists spout off their crap about saving Islam from the infidels, people turn away, thinking: Sounds great. But what about my needs? Work, access to health care, etc. What you say sounds good but I have no time for this. If you can provide me with what I need to live, then I will think about it. Otherwise go away. Their people are demanding democracy and opportunities. Which is why Osama et al attacked New York and Washington.

As a result of these attacks the Bush Administration has succeeded in pushing through the so-called Anti-Terror Bill, which gives the government unprecedented control over our lives. The government says that we are in a war but refuses to say who the enemy is. I don’t know what these people are up to nor do I care. Facts are facts. Fact: with the adoption of this bill the foundation has been laid for the establishment of an authoritarian government. Fact: with the establishment of military courts to try non-citizen suspects, setting aside the rule of law, it is only a matter of time before other minorities are rounded up and denied due process. As a member of a minority I am wary about the government’s “good intentions”.Some of the provisions in this law are so blatantly racist and illegal that it is surprising that the thing passed at all. Another version was much better written and focused on the right issues, yet it was not granted a hearing. Lawmakers, most Democrats, were so afraid of being labeled un-American voted for it anyway. To get shafted by our enemies is bad enough; getting fucked by our friends is bullshit.

With all of this mess happening Americans have been changed forever. And so has your friend. Hopefully for the better. Although I won’t harm America, my patience with it has died. I refuse to blindly follow the policies taken by this government. God didn’t put me here to just sit and remain quiet. Due to bigotry and ignorance Americans are on a slippery slope to no where and I refuse to go along for the ride.

Finally I want to tell you how I will choose to live my life from now on. I read passages of my Bible and the Koran. Sometimes I read a few passages after supper or on my days off. Yet my loyalty to our friendship is unwavering. Since I loathe rhetorical question take heart in the following. Which is aimed at the perpetrators of 9-11, the Bush Administration and to this blinkered and ignorant population. I know who you are and what you are. And I am not afraid of you.