Don’t take the media images for gospel regarding Islam

By February 1, 2011


In my letter published in the Mountain Democrat dated Dec. 22, 2010, I tried to clarify my beliefs regarding Islam and Arabs in the United States. The letter attracted a good deal of attention. Some of it positive and enthusiastic, some of it uncomprehending. But most of it (as was to be expected), very hostile.

It has never been more evident than in our time, with the mobilization of fear, hatred, disgust and resurgent self-pride and arrogance, much of it having to do with Islam and the Arabs on one side. “We” westerners on the other.

Nevertheless, it is still a source of amazement to me that my letter continues to be discussed among people. Thanks to the effort of the Democrat for publishing my viewpoint. In any case, it gives me great pleasure to note as a writer who had never dreamed of any happy fate for his work that interest in what I tried to do in my letter hasn’t completely died down.

I wish I could say, however, that general understanding of the Middle East, the Arabs and Islam in the United States has improved somewhat, but alas, it really hasn’t.

Today bookstores in America are filled with books bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror. Islam exposed the Arab threat and the Muslim menace, all of them written by political polemicists pretending to knowledge imparted to the heart of these strange Muslims over there who have been such a terrible thorn in our flesh. Accompanying such warmongering expertise have been the omnipresent CNNs and FOX News channels of this world, plus myriad numbers of evangelical and right-wing radio hosts, plus innumerable tabloids and even middlebrow journals, all of them recycling the same unverifiable fictions and vast generalizations so as to stir up America against the foreign devil.

Worse yet, education is threatened by nationalist and religious orthodoxies often disseminated by the mass media as they focus on the distant wars that give viewers the sense of surgical precision but that, in fact, obscure the terrible suffering and destruction produced by modern “clean” warfare in the demonization of an unknown enemy, for who the label “terrorists” serves the general purpose of keeping the public stirred up and angry. Media images command too much attention and can be exploited at times of crisis and insecurity of the kind that the past 9/11 period has produced.

Speaking both as an American and as an Arab I must ask my readers not to simplify their view of the world that a handful of Pentagon civilian elites have formulated for U.S. policy in the entire Arabic and Islamic worlds, a view in which terror, preemptive war, and unilateral regime change, backed by the most bloated military budget, prevail.

These are the main ideas debated endlessly by a media that assigns itself the role of producing so-called “experts” who validate the government line.
El Dorado County Jail

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