By Abdeslam Elferrane
By Abdeslam Elferrane
Morocco World News
New York, September 18, 2012
This morning started like almost every other morning, with me holding a big mug of coffee and watching my favorite morning show, Morning Joe, a show I have been watching for almost 5 years. I like the show because you invite Democrats and Republicans. You talk politics, art, economy, and even news you can’t use. While I really enjoy this show, it is not the only political show I watch – I watch them all. I am a political junkie. I watch CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and Evening News. I have watched liberals and conservatives duke it out while both insult the Muslims and Arabs. It never made me angry because I always understood the need for politicians to cater to their base. Muslims did destroy the World Trade Center, after all. While the mass majority of us Muslims don’t agree with terrorism, we should expect little bit of animosity from our fellow Americans.
I convinced myself that anti-Muslim sentiment would be temporary. After all, Japanese Americans were put in camps for Pearl Harbor with the help of the Supreme Court. It sure could be lot worse for us Muslims. When they poked into our mosques and deported our religious leaders, I said to myself, “So what?” When they spied on us illegally, I said, “We didn’t do anything wrong so we should fear nothing. Safety trumps freedom!” When they rallied to stop us from building mosques to keep up with our population growth, I said, “I understand the wound is still fresh.” When they accused us of Islamizing the western world when we try to bridge the gap and correctly introduce our religion, I said, “We need to learn how to communicate better.” When they questioned our patriotism, I said, “Just give them time, they will realize that we are normal human beings with real emotions just like them.”
Today’s show was different. Mr. Scarborough, you said something that not only made me angry – it made me feel hopeless. You are convinced that the reason Muslims hate America is because of our religion and who we are as people. The host of the most successful political show on TV squashed everything I have believed in and worked for in the last 24 years. In your mind, in order to be an American, I can’t be Muslim. I have loved the United States for as long as I can remember. In my teenage years while living in Morocco, I loved America through the lens of Hollywood. My friends and I always romanticized about coming to the United States and living the American dream. After getting my high school diploma, I was one of the lucky ones – I got a visa to come to the United States. My dream came true.
After I arrived, America was even better than I expected. It is truly a beautiful country with really wonderful people. While I loved the landscape of the United States, I didn’t fully appreciate what America really meant until I went to college. I learned about what America meant at an intellectual level. I understood that America is not perfect but it always strives for that perfect union. America’s past is full of blemishes yet it always reflects on its actions and corrects them when they are wrong.
I came to the United States after the Reagan years. What I read about him made me fall in love with political conservatism. Small government, pro life, pro gun, a system that rewards hard work without forgetting the poor and needy, and not being apologetic for one’s religion are values many still love about his era. These are all values that one can argue are also embedded in the Muslim culture.
I also loved the Clinton years. I debated my republican friends in college hoping to turn them into Clinton republicans even before I had the right to vote. I learned that in order to be successful, you have to be inclusive. Just like Reagan, he could convince voters from the other party to join his cause. He stood for his beliefs even when Republicans hated everything about him. The more they hated him, the higher his approval ratings got. He was not afraid to be on the right side of history. He stood up for what was right by sending troops to save Muslims in Kosovo while Republicans accused him of a wag the dog phenomenon. He could do no wrong in my eyes. I bet he would win if he ran now.
Even after 911, when many blamed all Muslims for the horrific crime, George Bush stood up and told us that the fight was not against Muslims but against Muslim extremists. With all the rhetoric of the political climate, George Bush made sure that people like me still felt American. His White House paid to defend the right of little Muslim girl to wear hijab in her school while France yanked the right of French women to wear Niqab.
In 2004, I listened to a young senate hopeful from Illinois, Barak Obama, give a wonderful speech about his journey in the United States. It is truly a moving story that can only happen here. His story confirms why the US is arguably the best place on earth. In his 2008 campaign, I was truly wishing he would become president. Although I believed he was the right guy for the job, I supported him for a selfish reason – I wanted to be able to tell my kids that anything can happen in this great country. He was called a Muslim as an insult, and that his religion alone should disqualify him from being our President. Truth is, Obama is not even a Muslim – he just happened to have a Muslim middle name. Ultimately, American values prevailed and Obama was elected president by a landslide.
Throughout American history, we have always had a few citizens who truly contributed to American Exceptionalism by standing up for what is right. From those who occupied high places, like Lincoln and FDR, to regular citizens like Rosa Parks and Gloria Steinem, these few have left a huge imprint on our journey for that perfect union. Colin Powell who, on an appearance on “Meet the Press” pointed out that even if President Obama is a Muslim, he is still an American. Mika’s father, Dr. Brzezinski, on your show, warned us of the backlash if we continue to bash Muslims and Arabs. Mr. Scarborough, I hope you can be one of these icons and defend American values by standing up for what is right and not what some of your right wing viewers want to hear. You see, Islam and American values are not contradictory. Misinterpreting their meanings to serve our prejudices and egos is what amplifies their differences.
The reason why the rioters behaved savagely is not because they are savages by nature but because they don’t have a voice. Babies cry, the uneducated swear, and the voiceless behave unpredictably all because they lack the tools to express their frustration. No one condones storming the US embassies. They don’t hate us because of who they are and what their religion represents. They don’t hate us because they hate our freedoms. I watched your show during the Arab spring and I remember how enthusiastic you were about these people fighting for their freedom without burning American flags. This new conversion in your thinking is a dangerous one that is used to justify genocide. You fault the people themselves as a whole versus the behavior of some of them. I have been watching your show for a long time and I know you are not an ideologue. What is disappointing about your remark is that you used an American value, free speech, as a pretense to make your dangerous attack. I understand the argument of freedom of speech and how it needs to be protected but that jump was too steep. What you said is very offensive to any Muslim. Show hosts got fired for comments lot less offensive. This should prove to you how voiceless Muslims are in this country.
What is weird and un-American is that your Republican party criticizes President Obama for not defending the American value of freedom of speech while they are making the case that America didn’t make the right choice by removing Hosni Mubarak. Isn’t Democracy an American value? This partisan un-American argument will push both parties to be more hawkish on the people from the middle east thus causing them to react in an unpleasant way. The mature thing to do is to remove the video from the internet and ask our middle eastern allies to force their media outlets to do the same.
We refused to remove a horrible movie from the Internet because of freedom of speech although we knew its ramifications. Google removes many articles and videos from its servers. Please tell me how many of those removed movies and posts caused riots in 23 countries and the death of an American Ambassador, none. Yet, Google felt a duty to remove them from its servers. It is much easier to deal with the Arab street anger than deal with the American public one. If removing this video from the Internet will threaten the continuity of our freedom of speech, why did Google remove it from Egypt and Libya. The Muslims argue, “why does the west hates us and our religion so much?” not the other way around.
What is really ironic is that President Obama changed lot of hearts in the Muslim world before this incident. Americans were standing on the side of freedom in all the Arab countries during their Arab spring while Russia and Iran were on the dictators’ side. Now we are debating if getting rid of dictators was a good idea. It is extremely offensive to tell the Egyptian people that we should never have ousted Mubarak. This only confirms to them that America is the empire they should fear and fight.
American foreign policy should always be pragmatic and not ideological. It is very hard because we have to influence American public opinion here and stop playing politics with our foreign policy. If Republicans have to fault Obama for this incident, which I know they will, they could have faulted him for his slow aloof reaction, which fits their narrative about his domestic policies. They could have accused him of squandering all the political capital we gained with the Arab streets during the Arab spring, not accuse all Muslims of savagery and hating us because of who they are.
Libyan people died defending the American embassy in Benghazi yet the President failed to mention their names in his speech during Chris Stevens Eulogy. That really could have helped. Our approval rating in Libya is as high as the one in Israel. I know we missed a huge opportunity to bridge the gap when I saw riots in Kuwait. I was there a few years ago and spoke to locals. America was truly loved in that part of the world.
Successful people bridge gaps and include more people in their tents, not the other way around. Before we change the way Muslims feel about us, we have to work on changing the way we feel about them. This is nothing but a blemish in our history that will be corrected in the future.
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