Ray Hanania’s Column
Arab Americans did not hesitate to condemn the September 11 terrorist attacks, nor have they opposed the military fight to destroy terrorism or to hunt down terrorists who operate in the United States.
But, we demand also that we be treated like the American citizens that we are, citizens who have proved over the past century without hesitation that we support and defend this country not only in words, but with our lives.
There are too many sources to prove these claims, yet the public, the media and the government continue to focus on those few exceptions of belligerency and extremism while misportraying our Constitutional rights of dissent.
We want to help this fight against terrorism. But we want to do it as Americans who have a rich ethnic heritage that is a part of the fabric of this nation.
We will not support the fight against terrorism as the suspects that we are cast as by ignorantly founded public opinion and hysteria, or misguided government policies that speak to the emotions rather than needs of this country.
There are many differences between what is taking place today and what took place during World War II. We have not declared war on Afghanistan or any Middle East nation, and therefore military tribunals are unjustified.
The record of abuses by the US Justice Department in using racial profiling to single out individuals who become “suspects without cause” is so outrageous that there is enough to justify our fears that these abuses will only become worse under the so-called Patriotism Act” and other measures including the “invitations” being issued to targeted Arab Americans who are in this country on visas.
If an Arab American has committed a crime, treat that person as a suspected criminal, not as an Arab American suspect.
If there is “Nexus” to justify bringing an Arab American into custody for interrogation — that is, reasonable evidence that the suspected person is involved in the alleged crimes other than his country of origin or his race — bring that person in.
The Bill of Rights not only protects Americans who hold citizenship, but also Americans who are here attempting to obtain citizenship. Treating them different may mollify public emotions that are being stoked by an irresponsible news media and politicians who seek to exploit the September 11 tragedies for their own personal goals, but it will not undermine terrorism.
Racial profiling is a quick fix that does not fight terrorism. It relies on emotion rather than on education and information. Terrorism by others outside of the racially defined target group of Middle Eastern men has taken place previously in this country.
We Arab Americans have and continue to denounce Osama Bin Laden. He is a fanatic, not an Arab fanatic. He is a fanatic, not a Muslim fanatic. He is a fanatic who has hijacked Islam, a religion of peace, and who has hijacked numerous justified Arab causes such as the Palestinian drive for independence from a foreign occupation.
We denounce the continued terrorism that occurs in the Middle East, not only the vicious suicide bombings that have targeted Israelis, but the equally vicious state-sponsored terrorism against Palestinians by the government of Israel.
This week’s terrorist attacks by Hamas, a terrorist organization, followed within one week the Israeli government sponsored terrorist attacks against civilian Palestinian targets who were assassinated with their families, friends and colleagues.
We Arab Americans have denounced Israeli policies not because we support terrorists who exploit the suffering of the Middle East. We place the national and international interests of the United States ahead of the interests of foreign nations like Israel. Forcing Israel to make peace with the Palestinian people is the shortest route to ending the violence and strengthening American interests abroad.
We Arab Americans are ready to work with the US Justice Department and the US Military in the war against terrorism.
We are no different from any other American who seeks safety in their homes, their work and while traveling, and we are willing to participate in profiling measures that broadly and effectively seek out all forms of terrorism.
We Arab Americans demand to be respected. We have earned that respect. If the US Justice Department wants us to help them, they need only remove the glasses of suspicion from their faces and look at our community with the vision of respect and acknowledgment for all that we have already done and will continue to do to protect this nation.
(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American writer based in Chicago and a regular contributor to MMN. His columns are archived on the web at www.hanania.com)