Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hatred and Stupidity Worldwide

Several decades ago, George McGovern remarked that sexism and anti-Woman remarks were the last socially acceptable prejudice in America. Today, however, all forms of prejudice are becoming more common and open, but for "socially acceptable" nothing tops the anti-Muslim movement.

Americans have always had an aversion to people from the Middle East - they're just so ... foreign. It usually lies a bit below the surface, but it doesn't take much to bring it out. In 1979-80 it was the Iranian hostage situation and Ayatollah hatred. Since 9/11 and the Iraq war anti-Arab and anti-Muslim feelings are everywhere, unembarrassed, unashamed, and officially sanctioned.

A couple of weeks ago, Raed Jarrar (an anti-war blogger of Jordanian birth, but a U.S. resident) was trying to board a flight from New York to California when he got to experience this trend firsthand. The incident sprang from the t-shirt that Jarrar was wearing: a black T with white lettering that reads in English and in Arabic "We will not be silent."

Security and JetBlue officials asked Jarrar to remove the shirt (his luggage was checked, so he no other shirt to put on) because "other people" were complaining. In the exchange that followed, he asked,
"Isn't this my constitutional right to wear it? I am ready to change it if you tell me why I should. Do you have an order against Arabic t-shirts? Is there such a law against Arabic script?" So inspector Harris answered, "You can't wear a t-shirt with Arabic script and come to an airport. It is like wearing a t-shirt that reads 'I am a robber' and going to a bank."
That the saying was clearly in English as well as Arabic didn't matter. The airport team couldn't guarantee that the Arabic was really the same as the English. Just the presence of Arabic script was enough to mark him as a potential terrorist by both the professional security personnel and the members of the public who initiated the complaint.

After a bit, the JetBlue person offered to buy Jarrar a new t-shirt to cover up the offending one. She asked if he would like an "I heart New York t-shirt?" to which the security person remarked, "No, we shouldn't ask him to go from one extreme to another." Again, the bold assumption that if he speaks Arabic (and refuses to be silent) he must be an extremist who hates New York and America.

He accepted the new t-shirt compromise in order to not miss his flight or be subject to any worse harassment or arrest. As a final insult, his seat assignment was changed from row 3 (which he had reserved online a month previous) to row 24.

Raed Jarrar has experienced this sort of idiocy on all sides of the globe. In the weeks previous to the above incident he was in Jordan and Lebanon visiting refugee camps where he was told to leave because he was an American and responsible for the war. Says Jarrar:
It sucks to be an Arab/Muslim living in the US these days. When you go to the middle east, you are a US tax-payer destroying people's houses with your money, and when you come back to the US, you are a suspected terrorist and plane hijacker.
All Arabs and Muslims (and Sikhs and Persians and...) are made to pay for the crimes of the terrorist few. All Americans are held to answer for the acts of a President that continues to wage a war that 61% of us now oppose. And all Jews are expected to blindly go along with the wars of an Israeli government half a world away that we have no vote or say over.

Yesterday, my wife (Leslie) was caught in the middle of a discussion at work about Israel's latest incursions into Lebanon. One woman started to make negative comments about Israel "bombing everybody," then stopped and said, "I won't say any more because she's one of them."

"One of them?" She's not in the IDF. She's not even an Israeli. Oh, yeah, we're Jewish, so we must be "them." And this woman is a good friend of hers!

People never learn. Like today's final example of racist stupidity. These folks are so dumb they don't even know they're racists or anti-Semites. It's the group in Mumbai, India, who have opened up the Hitler's Cross Restaurant. Featuring posters of the Fuhrer and Nazi flags and colors, the owners see nothing wrong with their theme.
"We wanted to be different. This is one name that will stay in people's minds. ... We are not promoting Hitler. But we want to tell people we are different in the way he was different."
In the way that he was different? So, they want to ruthless killers? They want to inspire people to commit horrendous crimes of hatred? Or do they simply want to be hated and reviled as a symbol of evil themselves? Yeah, I think that will do it.

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