September 12, 2003


So somewhere in my comments is a little thread about whether there is a problem with racism against Muslims and Arabs in the United States. Well I still find it hard to believe people can think its not an issue, and unfortunately I had to get my thoughts proven this morning by reading this:

I remember the day I took out the Koran from my bag in order to read it on the way to work. It was, I am ashamed to admit, my first and last day. It took only a couple of stops for someone to make a comment. "You’re making people uncomfortable". I turned to find a man scowling and a couple of people staring blankly at me. I asked the owner of the voice what exactly I was doing that was making people uncomfortable and he told me straight out that it was the Arabic "shit" I was reading and that I should put it away. Anything written in Arabic has to be a threat of course. I did not quite know how to respond to him. I looked around and saw the clutter of newspapers declaring war on innocent Iraqis (is there even such a thing?) I saw women reading their bibles in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Polish. Were the other commuters going to put away the newspapers that make me as an Arab uncomfortable? Were the women around me going to put away their bibles, symbols of the Christian fundamentalist thought that only a holy crusade would save America from the evil of the Arabs?

I was told by friends and family not to read the Koran in public anymore. "No sense in provoking people," they said. And as I mentioned before, I am very ashamed to admit that I have not read it in the subway since that day. I have developed a certain kind of self-censorship that I am not proud of and try to fight daily. My war zone scares me because I do not know what I am fighting against. I do not having anything tangible to battle and do not even have allies. How can I protect myself against something I cannot grasp? How can I reclaim my space?

I am scared. I will not deny it... What one considers a simple subway ride I have begun to consider a daily struggle. I struggle to maintain my identity, struggle to find the strength to stop hiding. I do not want to live in a war zone. I do not want to feel terror. Every moment I spend on the subway I spend FIGHTING for my existence. I have not taken out my Koran; I have not been able to be quite that defiant yet.

The author is Sherien Sultan and you can read the whole essay here.

Let me also add that this is New York City we are talking about, the second most liberal city in the US, and world renown as a cultural melting pot.

The neocons can call it Terrorism all they want, but the truth is its nothing more then a neat remixing of the red scare and racism tactics that have done the right wing so well in this country over the last hundred plus years.

[via Prometheus 6]

Posted by Abe at September 12, 2003 10:36 AM


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