Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tasbeeh Herwees: Stop Assuming the Boston Bomber Is a Muslim

"Whether it’s the color of our skin or the way we dress or the God we believe in, Arabs and Muslims will always have an air of suspiciousness. This is the reason we cannot pray in airports or wear religious clothing to work or take the subway without being implicated in some imaginary plot. It’s why our first thought after an attack is “I hope they aren’t Muslims,” and why we aren’t given an opportunity to mourn and grieve like the rest of the country. It’s why we feel compelled to condemn the crimes of madmen.  
It’s also why I didn’t want to leave the house Monday after news of the bombings broke. My headscarf felt like a target on my back. My dark tan seemed like an incrimination. This is how it feels to be choked by systematic racism. This is how it silences you. Collective guilt and punishment are racism’s most loyal henchmen.

If this sentiment sounds familiar, it should. Seventy-one years ago this month, in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, the U.S. Army established the Wartime Civilian Control Agency to direct the forced evacuation of Japanese-Americans to “relocation centers” like the one in Manzanar, Calif. The Manzanar camp contained 445 barracks and could hold as many as 10,000 people. On April 17, 1942, the War Relocation Authority also leased property from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to serve as one of two West Coast reception centers.

Manzanar is now a historical site, and the Manzanar Committee organizes yearly pilgrimages every April to the cemetery there to honor those incarcerated and remember this great stain on the scroll of U.S. history. But forgetting is easier. Shortly after 9/11, Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, suggested that if attacks by terrorists who were Arab continued, “not too many people will be crying in their beer if there are more detentions, more stops and more profiling.” Two years later, conservative author and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin wrote a book called “In Defense of Internment.” The title is self-explanatory. Suddenly, Manzanar didn’t feel so far away.

It does appear, however, that things are not as bad now as they were in those first heedful years after 9/11. For example, on Monday night the “Muslims” trending topic on Twitter was overwhelmed by people who rushed to the defense of Muslims. And Rush’s comments were vehemently condemned until he was compelled to delete them. These are edifying moments and they unite us in favor of a more common good.

I don’t want to live in fear, not of ambiguously drawn terrorist bogeymen, nor of my own countrymen. Fear foments hate and if Monday’s bombings were not the manifestations of unbridled hate than they must have been the products of madness. I hope whoever carried them out isn’t Muslim, but if they are, I wish it won’t matter."
Read the rest of this TruthDig (April 16) article here.

Tasbeeh Herwees is a freelance writer and producer in Los Angeles. She is also the co-founder of Kifah Libya, an independent, online magazine about Libyan political, social and cultural affairs.

Comment: I do not do apologetic politics (ass kissing) very well.  Blame it on my life under apartheid and its legacy or the greater lived experience that kissing ass is not a viable survival strategy in this crazy world.

I see nothing wrong with any Muslim or Muslim association or Muslim leader condemning the Boston bombings.  It is the right thing to do - we are all humans and affected by indiscriminate terror whether it emanates from a lone crazy, Al-Qaeda operatives, fascist white groups, the Obama government or any other deranged entity.

Drawing lines around who is more affected and who is more human is just insane.  We all are.

In that vein it should not be construed that just because I am a Muslim there is a need for me to stand up and condemn any act of terror waged in the West just in case a Muslim is involved.

I refuse to perform for anyone let alone bigots who have condemned me and my kind to perennial terrorist status.

And, in these terms I abhor kiss-ass Muslims and organizations that work to make Islam more friendly by painting happy faces of themselves for the West.  Step-and-fetch politics is not me.

Muslims are under siege whether they like it or not.  It does not matter if you from Afghanistan or Zimbabwe - if you Muslim you are a suspect.

If you 'look' or 'sound' Muslim but hail from Tennessee or the Punjab you are suspect too.

There is nothing new about this racialized profile.  It is racism pure and simple.  It is updated apartheid and it seeks to create/perpetuate a dominant race hierarchy in which me and mine and the rest of the affected Others are firmly under control.

Inside of this mania it is worrying that we stop and deeply regret the death of an 8 year old boy in the Boston bombing by naming him and his people - and rightly so - but most of us turn our backs on 9 Afghan children just like him who will forever be no more than nameless collateral damage in the West's war on Muslims.

Tasbeeh Herwees is right to point to the time when the US relocated Japanese Americans to what was essentially concentration camps.  I wrote (along with Arthur Neal) about this travesty in an academic article in 2006 in which I called for an awareness to avert the politicized racism that led to relocation.  See the article here.

We are not far from relocation if even in amended terms.  The disfigurement of what it means to be a Muslim in America is worrying in the same terms that created the mass hysteria around Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor.

The Internet is being used to foster this disfigurement in much the same manner that mainstream media was used in the run-up to the relocation.  See this despicable anti-Muslim/Islam website for example: Bare Naked Islam.

In response to CAIR's statement condemning the Boston attacks this website offered this image alongside commentary that Muslims - including the Saudi national who was fingered by the New York Post - are all suspects:

Don't write off this nonsense as fringe lunatic politics.  It is not.  Too many folks harbor these irrational and racist sentiments though they may be less likely to be so crass about it.

The same was true during the relocation of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor.

The troubling reality is that if voiced over and over these racist sentiments become a form of commonsense through which all kinds of brutality can be instrumentalized.

For Muslims who stand firm on the premise of an egalitarian dispensation the internment of Japanese Americans offers a moment for reflection and warning; we are suspects and kissing ass is not a reasonable response to what can be an even uglier period in the war on Muslims and Islam.

Working on being compliant (non-threatening) did not work for those Japanese Americans who thought it would stop the internment and near destruction of Japanese American society.

What is needed is a joining of forces of all stripes who will act to push-back in militant non-violent struggle against the tide of Islamophobia and racism directed at Muslims.  And that push-back can't just be local and within the borders of the US.  It must be global and draw on the inalienable notion of universal human rights.

In these terms there is no place for compliant ass kissing that seeks to soothe the racists that would want to intern Muslims and eradicate Islam wherever they please.

And we are not free.

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