On Arab Profiling and Arabophobia

In light of the comments posted under the article on Republican Congressman Paul Broun’s call for profiling on ‘Arab looking’ folks a move to a Note is in order, as well as a shift from the personal to the general.

Although the views expressed in agreement with Broun’s move are offensive, they are by no means unusual: in this respect I disagree that it is a disgrace: rather, it is a sad reality that racism and discrimination are rife in all aspects of society.

I have many issues with Broun’s notions, not in the least that it is a gross abrogation of human rights and a wanton display of idiocy to target individuals based on their faith and appearance.

Foremost, how do we define ‘Arab-looking’? The idea that there is a ‘look’ is a result of stereotyping by the Western media: I am loathe to justify such an elementary point, but part of what makes the Arab (and Muslim) world so wonderful is that it encompasses all the beauty of the human race: from blonde to black, tall to short, and yes, mean and kind.

Rendering Islam synonymous with terror is a vile and inaccurate move; that politicians presume to move seamlessly between the two leaves scant hope for cohesion in future.

It is not just the absence of understanding demonstrated by the West towards the Arab world, but the very reluctance to engage.

Not only is it conducive to misunderstanding and the bigotry that emanates from ‘othering,’ but to a loss of the opportunity to engage in a culture and with a people that have brought and continue to bring inspiration and innovation to this jaded old world.

The Arab world has suffered enough: that the West is not willing to acknowledge the continued tragedy of the Iraqis and Palestinians (and others) is augmented by the intolerance exhibited not only in Western host states towards these communities, but by those in authority who perpetuate such hate.

It is in effect, a spit in the eye that has just been poked.

And the very notion that Islam and the Arab world are synonymous with terror is flawed to its core: starting in the Middle East, the first act of terror was enacted by the Zionist Irgun gang in Jerusalem in 1946.

Over 90 internationals were killed: is this not terror?

I mentioned ‘internationals,’ as though that renders the plight of Gaza and Iraq non-terroristic; it is, but that debate can be saved for another day.

It was noted that Buddhists have not engaged in terror: in response I indicate Sri Lanka, where Sinhala Buddhist militias committed violence against local Christians and Tamils.

For the Jewish case, refer to the Irgun gang and more recently, one could cite the IDF. Or the settlers attacking Palestinian taxi drivers with axes.

Terror does not always involve a plane – it is present in many forms, but only one people are persecuted en masse for the actions of a few: the Arabs.

On the issue of profiling, I will bring a personal instance: in 1983 my grandmother was interrogated in her home to the point of having a stroke that rendered her incapable of speech for several months.

Living in Naples and as the mother-in-law of a British serviceman, the fact that she hailed from behind the Iron Curtain was enough to terrorise her in the name of security.

Quite what threat a 56-year-old grandmother, now Italian national living in Naples posed to the British military is unknown; the fact remains that profiling on the basis of ethnic origin is an inaccurate and harmful act.

On a gender note, the stereotypification of Eastern European women has prompted a resurgence in feminism in the region: widely deemed as easy, countries such as Russia and the Ukraine have become destinations for stag parties seeking a quick sexual fix before marriage.

Afterall, aren’t Eastern European women all prostitutes and strippers who would be delighted for a grope from a beer-soaked, fag-reeking pot-bellied tourist?

The answer is a resounding ‘no’ – and the follow-up: ‘is such stereotyping then fit for others?’

The crux is this: there is no justification for racist stereotypes, be it in the name of security or otherwise.

I would conclude that there is no place for bigotry in academia either, but sadly, we are fighting a losing battle on that front.

But if we can, we must continue to.

Instead of avoiding the woman in the burqa trust and interact: there is so much to gain through understanding and acceptance, and too much to lose through hate, persecution and avoidance.

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This entry was posted on June 1, 2011 by in Middle East and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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