Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab Americans Call for a National Dialogue, Unity in Fight against Hate

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab Americans Call for a National Dialogue, Unity in Fight against Hate

Article excerpt

Electoral politics and terrorism are a dangerous mix when it comes to the safety and liberty of Arab and Muslim Americans. With the 2016 elections less than a year away, opportunistic politicians have used the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino to defame Muslims and push for new, discriminatory laws. Islamophobia has, once again, reared its ugly head in the "land of the free."

In an effort to confront the recent wave of hateful remarks and bigoted legislation, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) hosted a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Dec. 10.

ADC President Samer Khalaf slammed the far-right for initiating the latest round of anti-Muslim sentiment. "The rhetoric coming from the far-right, including presidential candidate Donald Trump, has painted Arabs and Muslims with a broad brush," he charged. "Through the lens of folks like Trump, Arabs and Muslims are all terrorists. Trump has gone so far as to suggest that the U.S. should not allow Muslims into the United States, and has advocated for the forced registration of Muslims. His statements advocate for the mass violation of both constitutional and human rights of Arabs and Muslims, and cannot be tolerated."

Dialogue and cooperation, not defamation, will solve the terrorist threat, Khalaf stressed. Elected officials must "engage with the Arab and Muslim American community," he said, and work together to help protect the national security interests of the United States. "Arab and Muslim Americans are perhaps the greatest allies the government could ask for," he stated.

Muslims as allies? That's certainly not the message most Americans get from the mainstream media. Seeking ratings, television networks give constant voice to the likes of Trump, allowing him and like-minded individuals to spread their lies and hate far and wide. "It seems more and more the only voice being heard is that of the fanatics, while the voices of reason are drowned out or pushed to the side," Khalaf said.

This must change. To spur momentum towards understanding, ADC is calling for a national dialogue to discuss the issues facing our country and the Arab- and Muslim-American communities. "We need to stand united as one country against the intolerance, bigotry and hate we are seeing in this country," urged Khalaf.

The first step is fighting against discriminatory legislation. Just as after 9/11, Congress has rushed to file legislation that will allegedly enhance national security, but in reality will only serve to isolate Muslim Americans. "Just recently two bills have gone through Congress, one was anti-Syrian refugees and the other was a bill to exempt Syrians and Iraqis from the visa waiver program," Khalaf noted. "Those bills do just as much harm as the rhetoric coming from Donald Trump. Those bills do nothing for our national security. What they do is highlight a group of Americans and say these are the people you have to watch out for. That is the sort of rhetoric coming out from ISIL. That's the way ISIL recruits. They tell Muslims and Arabs that 'you cannot live in the West. The West hates you. The West wants to exclude you.'"

The smart answer to countering radicalization and fanaticism is not exclusion, surveillance, and continued profiling. The true antidote is inclusiveness, acceptance, understanding, unity and opportunity for all people. Many studies have shown that a lack of opportunity often leads to extremism. The U.S. government must take action to eliminate poverty, decrease the wage gap, enhance public education and provide better opportunities for all Americans. …

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