May 16, 2011

Arab and Muslim Advocacy Groups: Whose Side Are They On?

The celebration following President Obama’s announcement that Osama Bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy Seals and his body dumped in the ocean was predictably raucous: the mentality of the celebrants identifying them as the same people who still believe 19 hijackers brought down the Twin Towers in the first place. From drunken college kids to old biddies, the simple-minded euphoria spread with no questions asked as to why the story of the operation into Pakistan changes with every passing minute, the real reason as to why no photos were released, the un-Islamic disposal of the body—or bodies—the lack of dialysis equipment in the compound (Bin Laden allegedly suffered from kidney disease) and most importantly, why an unarmed man was shot in front of his family without benefit of an arrest or trial. Over one-third of Americans do not believe that Bin Laden was the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks, well beyond the “shadow of a doubt” necessitating acquittal in a court of law.

Unfortunately, groupthink spread to the very organizations which are supposed to be advocating for the Arab and Muslim communities here in America. The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) issued this statement:

"We join our fellow citizens in welcoming the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been eliminated as a threat to our nation and the world through the actions of American military personnel. As we have stated repeatedly since the 9/11 terror attacks, bin Laden never represented Muslims or Islam. In fact, in addition to the killing of thousands of Americans, he and Al Qaeda caused the deaths of countless Muslims worldwide. We also reiterate President Obama's clear statement tonight that the United States is not at war with Islam."

If the United States is not at war with Islam, someone needs to explain why over 1 million Iraqis are dead, in a country known to have had nothing to do with 9/11. If there is no war on Islam, why—after Bin Laden’s alleged demise—do we now have the capability of flying 54 Predator drone missions at a time, with a goal to increase that number to 65 round-the-clock missions by 2013? In fact, drones have not abated in their slaughter of innocent civilians in Waziristan since Bin Laden’s death. Drone attacks have expanded into Yemen, as seen in a recent botched attempt to murder Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki, whose only apparent crime is to have e-mailed Army Major Nidal Hassan, the Ft. Hood shooter. The strike resulted in the deaths of two Yemenis.

Not to be outdone, Salam Al-Marayati, President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) stated:

"We hope this is a turning point away from the dark period of the last decade, in which bin Laden symbolized the evil face of global terrorism. His actions and those of Al-Qaeda have violated the sacred Islamic teachings upholding the sanctity of all human life. His acts of senseless terror have been met with moral outrage by Muslims worldwide at every turn in the past decade."

It does indeed appear to be a turning point; however it is turning from a “dark period” to an even darker one, both in the United States and abroad. Hate crimes against Muslims have spiked in the wake of Bin Laden’s alleged demise. A mosque in Portland, Maine was spray painted with the words “Go Home,” among other things; the Islamic Center of Minnesota received no less than five hate mails immediately following reports of Bin Laden’s death. A schoolteacher in Texas is currently under suspension for making insensitive remarks to a Muslim student, telling her “I bet you’re grieving.”

Perhaps the most repugnant of sentiments came from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). The Michigan chapter issued a wordy diatribe, abbreviated here in the interest of space:

“ADC Michigan joins fellow Americans and all peace seeking people across the globe in rejoicing over the execution of Osama Bin Laden, head of the Al Qaeda terrorist group responsible for the national tragedy of September 11th as well as mass killings of innocent civilians in various parts of the world…While the death of Bin Laden ends one phase of our war on terror, the execution of the most recognized symbol of terrorism does not eradicate the ideology that Bin Laden represented. Despite this great victory…the threat of terror is still sound and strong. This mandates us to stay on alert and continue to be vigilant in a world that may be safer without Bin Laden. Additionally, the beginning of this new chapter requires our US Administration to re-examine policies and actions in regards to the war on terror… Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist group hijacked the noble faith of Islam and, in its name, committed heinous crimes against us in America, and the rest of humanity, including Muslims. His malevolent actions have unfortunately and unjustly cast a shadow of suspicion over the heads of the Arab and Muslim American communities in the US and abroad. Now is the time to remove this ignorance and doubt and stand united once more as we celebrate our country’s triumph. ADC Michigan salutes President Obama, his administration, and the American heroes who risked their lives for this mission on behalf of peace and humanity.”

Cast a shadow of suspicion? Who are they kidding? Muslims and Arabs have always been portrayed as terrorists in movies and television, years before 9/11. I recall watching then CBS anchor Dan Rather as those nightmarish events unfolded and he advised us “caution” when placing blame. Why did he say that? Because the first thing that came to everyone’s mind was Muslim hijackers. And “heroes?” We’re talking about a group of guys who, by the government’s own convoluted admission—threw grenades into a house full of women and children and shot unarmed people.

It is imperative that Arab and Muslim advocacy organizations start fulfilling their purpose instead of being lockstep with the U.S. administration. It is their responsibility to speak out, condemning in the strongest terms the aggression with which the U.S. has attacked Muslim countries since 9/11, and to hold the government and media accountable for the false statements, half-truths and blatant lies which allow such aggression to continue.