Society’s double standard when it comes to Muslims and Arabs

In his letter to the editor last week, Malik Mossa-Basha expressed his displeasure at a student organization’s decision to bring a hateful speaker to campus (IDEA’s choice to bring Eldad to campus offensive, 09/26/2008). However, he neglected to mention the Daily’s responsibility for broadcasting that hateful message and facilitating its spread throughout campus. Aryeh Eldad’s bigoted rhetoric was once limited to a handful of members of some obscure group, but thanks to The Michigan Daily, thousands of students woke up to read about how Eldad said, “The (Arab) culture does not sanctify life, but death.” Replace “Arab” with “Jewish” or “African American” and we would rightly condemn it as hate speech. But for some reason, it’s OK to portray Arabs and Muslims in that offensive light. How does that make sense?

We like to think that we have made great strides as a society in overcoming hatred and intolerance. We are asked on a daily basis to forget the wrongs of the past and to look ahead to a brighter future — a future where all people are treated as equals regardless of their faith or background. Yet, if any group lives in constant fear of being discriminated against, it is Muslim Americans. Even Barack Obama shudders at being associated with us; in fact, for many of us, the motto of his campaign might as well be, “I am not and have never been a Muslim,” replayed in a sickeningly endless loop. In a society when even the rock star candidate for “change” is unable to speak up in our defense, what can we to look forward to?

In an age when so many have been brainwashed by the false rhetoric of the “war on terror,” it takes courage to reject the black and white labels forced upon us and to respect each other for our differences as well as our similarities. I hope that our generation, as the leaders of tomorrow, might be able to demonstrate such courage, even though the leaders of today have failed in this monumental responsibility.

Hamdan Yousuf
School of Public Health

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