Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding

Opinion Editorials, November 2009


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Fox News Culture in the US:

The Myth of the Muslim Terrorist

By Tammy Obeidallah, November 14, 2009


According to the majority of Americans, the “War on Terror” began September 11, 2001 when 19 Muslims hijacked four planes, crashing them into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.  While this official version of the story, fueled by policymakers and mainstream media, ignores concrete evidence of other—distinctly non-Muslim—fingerprints on the tragedy, let us assume for the time being that these men were Islamic radicals aiming to destroy prominent American symbols  and inflict mass casualties.   

One of those killed in the World Trade Center was a young man named James Gadiel whose hometown of Kent, Connecticut wanted to commemorate a plaque in his honor. Since Gadiel’s father demanded the words “killed by Muslim terrorists” be engraved on the plaque, it was rejected by town council members. Ruth Epstein, one of the town leaders who voted it down, correctly pointed out that such language is disparaging, detrimental to the town’s image and hurtful to its Muslim residents.

However, “killed by Muslim terrorists” is not so offensive in that it is insensitive or promotes a negative stereotype:  it is just plain inaccurate.  A “Muslim terrorist,” is a myth, a fictional character based in part on the hypocritical definition of terrorism that Western policymakers and the media have used to promote their own agenda and partly due to territorial and political conflicts being erroneously framed in a religious context. Most of the “terrorist groups” and “state sponsors of terrorism,” so named by the US State Department are reactive, formed as organized resistance in the face of oppression. 

During her recent visit to Pakistan, Secretary of State Clinton condemned marketplace bombings as terrorism, while stating in a town hall meeting that US drone attacks on villages were not, even though such attacks have resulted in civilian casualties and the destruction of madrasas, religious schools for children.

Throughout the world, Muslims have had no choice but to form organized resistance to the myriad injustices committed against their communities and institutions. The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran was a reaction to the Shah’s bloody regime and the CIA’s now admitted role in the coup which overthrew democratically elected (and secular) Mossadegh to put him in power.  The Abu Sayyaf movement in the Philippines formed as a result of the government’s policy to encourage Catholic settlers to move from the north to Mindanao, which was richer in natural resources. Poorer Muslim communities were subsequently displaced and marginalized. Abu Sayyaf’s desire for an independent state in the southern Philippines has more to do with historical injustice (along with Spanish and American colonial influence) than religion.

The same false religious context is ascribed to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a fight between Muslims and Jews. In reality, Zionism begin as a secular movement, later establishing a state atop the mass graves of Deir Yassin, Ramleh, Acre and countless other villages decimated by the western-backed Irgun, Stern and Israeli military.  In the 61 years following that disaster, the United States—founded on the principles of religious equality and freedom—has become the greatest ally of a state who has co-opted religion to justify the wholesale slaughter of Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, while turning survivors into the world’s largest refugee population.

Recent weeks have seen Islam’s third holiest shrine, Al-Aqsa Mosque, fall under a siege by the Israeli police, attacking worshippers therein with tear gas grenades and rubber bullets. If we really lived in the alternate universe of FOX News and AM talk radio, Muslims would be carrying out daily spectacular attacks to avenge this desecration; instead Al-Aqsa is defended by a band of youths with rocks while there is silence from Islamic countries, most of whom boast corrupt western puppets as heads of government.

The assault on Al-Aqsa is the latest outrage Muslims have endured; from genocide and strangulation by the Israeli assault on Gaza to the humiliating maltreatment suffered in Guantanamo Bay, Bagram and elsewhere. According to Newsweek, tactics used in US military prisons in Iraq include the use of loud music during interrogations; one of the most frequently played songs is entitled “F-k Your God” by Deicide, attacking their very faith itself. 

However, the persecution of Muslims does not just take place overseas. On October 28, FBI agents shot Detroit imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah during a botched arrest in which they loosed a police canine on him. Abdullah fired at the dog and was subsequently shot 18 times, dying at the scene. The dog was airlifted to a medical facility where it was pronounced dead. According to the FBI, Abdullah was allegedly dealing in stolen goods and was “anti-government.”

Now as the latest violent incident involving a Muslim unfolds, Arab and Islamic advocacy groups are tripping over each other to condemn the Ft. Hood shootings.*  Koreans did not feel such urgency when Seung-Hui Cho murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007.  The difference is, Koreans have not been the victims of a sustained media campaign to define alleged criminals on the basis of their religion or nationality. Muslims have.

For far too long, our politicians and the media have preyed on an uneducated public, attempting to turn us all into Islamophobes, fearing a Muslim takeover that will turn the United States into a caliphate.  For those misguided individuals, rest easy:  Muslims worldwide are too busy fighting for their very existence in a war the West declared long ago.


* Examples of reaction by Arab and Muslim Americans, added by Editor:

Arab American Institute grieves for Ft. Hood

By James Zogby,

President of Arab American Institute

We at the Arab American Institute are horrified by this tragic and senseless act of violence committed by a disturbed individual. We grieve with the families of those who died and those who were wounded. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Thousands of Arab Americans and American Muslims serve honorably everyday in all four branches of the U.S. military and in the National Guard. Additionally, many of our sons and daughters have willingly stepped forward to fulfill their duty with their fellow soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations around the globe. Indeed, many are today currently deployed in both countries, honorably serving each and every day.

Please contact your local Red Cross and volunteer to give blood. If you are looking for a loved one from Ft. Hood, please contact the Red Cross' "Safe and Well" program at You will need the telephone number or address for the person you seek. For more information on how to help through the Red Cross in this crisis:

For more information about Arab Americans in the military, please visit the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in the Military.


U.S. Muslim Group Urges Calm After Fort Hood Shootings
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/5/09) –

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) tonight reiterated the Muslim community’s condemnation of today’s deadly shootings at Fort Hood in Texas and urged the nation to remain calm as Americans nationwide react to the tragic events.
At a news conference tonight on Capitol Hill, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:
“We reiterate the American Muslim community’s condemnation of this cowardly attack. Right now, we call on all Americans to assist those who are responding to this atrocity. We must ensure that the wounded are treated and the families of those who were murdered have an opportunity to mourn.
“No political or religious ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence. The attack was particularly heinous in that it targeted our nation’s all-volunteer army that includes thousands of Muslims in all services. We again offer our thoughts and prayers for the victims and sincere condolences for the families of those killed or injured.
“The motive of the attacker is not yet known. We urge all Americans to remain calm in reaction to this tragic event and to demonstrate once again what is best about America –- our nation’s ability to remain unified even in times of crisis. We urge national political and religious leaders and media professionals to set a tone of calm and unity.
“Unfortunately, based on past experience, we also urge American Muslims, and those who may be perceived to be Muslim, to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves, their families and their religious institutions from possible backlash.
“We ask that individuals and institutions review advice on security procedures contained in CAIR’s ‘Muslim Community Safety Kit,’ which is available online at”
SEE: CAIR Muslim Community Safety Kit
Along with innumerable condemnations of terror, CAIR has in the past launched an online anti-terror petition drive called “Not in the Name of Islam,” initiated a television public service announcement (PSA) campaign against religious extremism and coordinated a “fatwa,” or Islamic religious ruling, against terrorism and extremism.
SEE: CAIR’s Anti-Terrorism Campaigns
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726,
E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787 or 202-341-4171, E-Mail:




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